Complementing the famed Theater District of Manhattan is the epicurean’s delight, Restaurant Row. Jam-packed with at least two dozen restaurants, Restaurant Row was officially designated in 1973 by then-mayor John Lindsay to be “the best restaurants collected in such a short strip of land.”
Restaurant Row is West 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. In that one city block, a foodie could enjoy a taste of Thai, infusions of Italian, enjoy Japanese cuisine, along with Irish, French, and traditional American fare.
What makes New York so unique is the same thing that makes Restaurant Row such a pleasure: it feels like the crossroads of the world.
One example is Barbetta, a pre-theatre Italian restaurant still owned and operated by the family that founded it over 100 years ago, in 1906. Laura Maoiglio took over for Sebastiano, her father, and helped ensure that the restaurant earned and maintained its prestigious record as the first restaurant in America to be designated a Historic Establishment by the selective Locali Storici d’Italia association of local historians.
The chefs of Barbetta have consistently brought new items to Italian cuisine in America, including being the first to offer fresh truffle dishes and the Italian version of “hot-pot,” where raw vegetables are dipped in anchovy olive oil sauce.
Barbetta’s elegance lives in its decor, too, in large part due to owner Laura’s taste as a collector of 18th century Piemontese antiques, Piemont being a region of northern Italy with 4.6 million people. The restaurant features a chandelier from an Italian royal family and a harpsichord built in 1631.
FireBird shares in Barbetta’s elegance in food, wine, and decor but from a Russian angle. Rare Russian books and family collectibles adorn the dining room at this Restaurant Row icon. The double-townhouse intends to transport the restauranteur to 1912 by the vision of Baroness Irina von der Launitz, whose husband alleviated her longing for her homeland with the opulence of a restaurant.
FireBird’s food is fitting for the green and gold China Room, or the LV room with its private roof deck garden. Honey-infused vodka with champagne is as common here as the FireBird Kiss, an Absolut Raspberry-based drink sprinkled with chocolate shavings. Most notably, the chef puts together a fine array of zakuska, or “small plates” in Russia, that start the meal deliciously and lightly.
O’Flaherty’s is loudly and proudly Irish in the midst of New York’s fancy theater district, featuring billiard tables, large-screen TV’s, and live music nearly every night. The restaurant maintains some intimacy with a cozy fireplace area and a backyard garden for warmer nights, all complementary to its reliable Irish fare.
Whether leaving the theater to feed your hunger or gearing up for a night on the town, it’s best to make reservations at any Restaurant Row establishment. Calling to speak directly with the maitre d’ is your best bet when looking for a last-minute dinner save or if you’ve got a week or two before your planned night out and want to make sure you get the best seat in the house.