November through New Year’s is typically a cheery time to visit New York City, abounding with holiday markets, tree lightings, magical window displays, uplifting concerts and shows. This year’s season promises to be more heartwarming than last, with the City’s Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s traditions returning with their usual energy. For those looking for a place to celebrate the season with family and friends over food and drink, we’ve got 10 ideas spread out across all five boroughs. All are great for groups, and some, such as Melba’s in Harlem, Hudson Smokehouse in the Bronx, M. Wells in Queens and Dagon on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, will be offering special holiday menus. Check websites for details and read on for more.
31-31 Thomson Ave., Long Island City, Queens
Long Island City’s Adda was a sensation when it opened in 2018. Still sensational, it’s no longer a difficult place to get a reservation, unlike its new sister restaurant, Dhamaka, on the Lower East Side, where tables are booked up 30 days out. The Indian canteen is lively and raffish, supplemented by a semi-enclosed outdoor dining room. Intoxicating scents of garlic, cumin, cloves and ginger waft by, stimulating the appetite for fiery chili cheese toast bites and crunchy kale pakoda, the green leaves battered, deep fried and slathered with sweet-spicy yogurt and tamarind and mint chutneys. Tender goat biryani steamed under a lid of dough is a must to share. Choose from craft beers, wine and cooling mango lassi to accompany the meal.
252 Schermerhorn St., Downtown Brooklyn
The black and white doughnut, bean, egg and chorizo focaccia, burrata with poached pear, short rib burger and chocolate layer cake with milk chocolate mousse are all delicious reasons to frequent Downtown Brooklyn’s Ace Hotel, whether or not you’re an overnight guest. As You Are, the boutique hotel’s all-day bakery and gently lit restaurant, was exquisitely designed by Roman and Williams and holds 130 seats. A chic lobby upstairs is open to the public, offering an additional menu of food and drinks and multiple settings for groups to comfortably gather.
1115 Richmond Terrace, Randall Manor, Staten Island
On the north shore of Staten Island is a sprawling Mediterranean restaurant whose windows afford views of Kill Van Kull, the working waterway separating New Jersey from the borough, an intriguing parade of cargo ships trailed by tugboats. Warm pita bread and olives arrive for free while you’re debating the wide-ranging menu: chicken parmigiana or shrimp parmigiana? Fried artichokes or fried calamari? What about a seafood pot brimming with cherrystone clams, mussels, shrimp, ginger, garlic and oyster mushrooms? Yes, to all. Go with a group since portions are huge. Drinks are generously sized too.
2454 Broadway, Upper West Side, Manhattan
This stellar Middle Eastern restaurant is exactly what the Upper West Side needed: adventurous yet soothing food served in a polished, vibrant dining room. There is plenty of outdoor seating, an open kitchen and a long, curving bar featuring innovative cocktails. To get the most out of the experience go with a group and share whipped eggplant with preserved lemon, Sasso chicken liver mousse sweetened with date syrup, pomegranate-glazed salmon, harissa barbecue chicken and delectably crisp, roasted lamb. The fresh-baked flatbread and Jerusalem bagel are also divine.
372 Fulton St., Downtown Brooklyn
Gage & Tollner was a popular steak and seafood restaurant in the same Downtown Brooklyn location from 1892 to 2004, whereupon the address sadly devolved into a series of fast-food chains and retail stores. Today, diners are again reveling under the original brass chandeliers in an elegant, glowing dining room, its resurrection thanks to tenacious partners St. John Frizell, Ben Schneider and chef Sohui Kim. Private parties can be booked upstairs with family-style menus. Cheat sheet tips: get the hot, pull-apart Parker House rolls; sherry-laced she-crab soup; mighty steaks; and baked Alaska, a real showstopper.
37 Bruckner Blvd., Mott Haven, the Bronx
The premier spot for barbecue in the Bronx is Hudson Smokehouse, kitted out in your typically rustic wood and brick decor. The bar features several beers on tap and pendulous light fixtures fashioned from faux barrels. Pitmaster Kenneth McPartlan is truly a master when it comes to sweetly crusted pork rib tips and smoked chicken wings packing heat from a saucy coating of jerk seasoning. On the weekends, when McPartlan’s got extra hours for smoking, he turns out spectacular beef ribs and pastrami. Don’t miss the moist, cakelike square of corn bread, the top deftly soaked in honey and sugar, maybe the best in the City.
43-15 Crescent St., Long Island City, Queens
M. Wells is a hideaway worth finding, where Queens meets Quebec in hearty, imaginative dishes fit for feasting. Chef Hugue Dufour, a French-Canadian, and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, a Queens native, have created a warm, spirited hangout within a former car repair garage. French onion soup is the gold standard, enriched with bone marrow and pork. Salmon pot pie is so much more than what it sounds like, topped with a runny egg and glistening with salmon roe. Steak frites is straightforward and satisfying, but branch out for Dufour’s creative spins on fluke, foie gras and duck. A private room holding long farm tables and cozy booths can be booked for larger groups. Through December 31, head here for jumbo savory pies to-go, stuffed with smoked capon, braised beef, ground pork, potatoes and mushrooms, ready to bake at home and please a crowd.
300 W. 114th St., Harlem, Manhattan
Melba Wilson’s namesake comfort food restaurant has been a Harlem hub since 2005. The casual space is enlivened by contemporary art depicting Black culture and frequent gospel renditions of the staff singing “Happy Birthday.” A second dining room can be reconfigured to accommodate groups of 30. Melba’s is most storied for its Southern fried chicken and eggnog waffles (what Prince Harry relished when he and Meghan Markle paid a visit in September 2021), but lightly fried catfish, meltingly soft short-rib sliders, crab-heavy crab cakes, a tangy chunk of mac and cheese and spicy collard greens with turkey are also worthy of attention.
649 E. 9th St., East Village, Manhattan; 13 First Ave., East Village, Manhattan
A potent way to make merry over the holidays is by hoofing it to two festive East Village pop-ups, Miracle on 9th Street, at The Cabinet, and Sippin’ Santa, converting the bar Boilermaker into a tiki-style winter wonderland. Both late-night spots will keep up the boughs of holly and twinkling lights until January 1. The themed drinks at Miracle (Snowball Old-Fashioned, Christmapolitan) arrive in whimsical glassware and can be supplemented with bar snacks like bacon-caramel popcorn and sweet potato hummus. Sippin’ Santa plays up its own amusing libations as well as good drinking fare like burgers and chicken tenders.
259 W. 19th St., Chelsea, Manhattan; 284 Mulberry St., Nolita, Manhattan; 953 Second Ave., Midtown East, Manhattan
Nowhere else in New York City can you find such an abundance of the best part of paella: the crusty, caramelized rice at the bottom of the pan (soccarat, in Spanish). At Soccarat’s three locations, family-style dining is championed, the restaurant’s specialty served in shallow, hubcap-size metal pans bestrewn with combinations of seafood, meat (short ribs, free-range chicken, chorizo) or vegetables. Tapas great for sharing include sizzling garlic shrimp and crunchy croquetas with lusciously creamy centers. Pitchers of sangria and jalapeño-infused margaritas help heighten festivities.