In two nights -- on November 28 -- we'll see the official tree lighting of the massive Christmas tree at New York's Rockefeller Center. It's the unofficial kickoff to New York's holiday season -- a magical time of year with lavish window displays on Fifth Avenue, snow dusting Central Park, holiday markets popping up around the city, ice skating rinks for bundled-up children to twirl around.
It's also, of course, the very epicenter of holiday shopping. And while there's a certain joy and excitement to braving the Manhattan crowds of eager gift seekers, there's a point at which you just need to get off your feet and grab a bite to eat, or a drink to take the edge off. Here are our recommendations of where to eat around Rockefeller Center.
Bill's Bar and Burger: Right in the epicenter of Rock Center, Bill's is a sprawling restaurant which, while it can be chaotic, is a great destination for an excellent burger and perhaps a tall, frosty beer. The "Fat Cat," with caramelized onions and American cheese on an English muffin with special sauce, is our go-to.
Bar SixtyFive: Don't want to leave the action at all? Want one of the best views in Manhattan? Just hop on the elevator and zoom up to the sixty-fifth floor for the gorgeous lounge that's the sister venue to the Rainbow Room. Expect truly elegant cocktails, beautifully composed small bites, and a refined ambience equal to any in New York.
Empellón: Any fan of modern Mexican fare should know Alex Stupak's Empellón. From its start in the West Village, the powerhouse restaurant has moved up to Midtown with its stunning flagship location. Any meal there should start with their guacamole and seven unique salsas -- whether you move on to pastrami tacos with mustard seed salsa, or octopus salsa with celery and salsa verde. And don't overlook the cocktails -- whether a more conventional spicy cucumber margarita, or a "Sketches of Spain" with the agave spirit raicilla, gin, vermouth, and Koch Espadín mezcal.
Margon: Want a real hole-in-the-wall where you can just grab a great bite? Margon is your ticket, a counter-service spot with one of the best Cuban sandwiches in town. A plate of pulled pork, rice, and black beans does the trick, too.
[Photo: Rockefeller Center]