New York

Catch a Fish, a Flick, or DJ Tricks at NYC's Best Experiential Dining Destinations

Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Do it often enough, and dinner dates can become a bore. The evenings start to follow the same rhythm and bleed together: Negotiate what to start with and share, order one of your reliable staples as an entrée, talk about your day, eat, signal for the bill, wonder later if the experience was really worth the price tag, then do it all again. Maybe this could be solved by expanding your palate, or by entering couples’ counseling, but there’s another surefire way to liven up dinners away from the kitchen at home: Don’t just get dinner. 

Combine your meal with another activity, or break bread in a very particular set of circumstances, and suddenly you’re more engaged than you’d be otherwise. Try eating dinner while wearing a blindfold or VR headset, or singing karaoke over Korean BBQ — the experience will stay with you longer than that small talk you had at the usual spot about which Netflix series to start next. Cynics decry interactive dining as mere gimmickry, and perhaps they’re right; but is a gimmick really so bad if it works? After all, there’s no denying the simple pleasure of helping to put together a dinnertime playlist, or the intrigue of catching your own fish and having it cooked to order. 

New York City’s filled with all types of experiential dinners, ranging from the relatively passive to the more interactive. Peruse the recommendations below and decide which ones are your speed. At the very least, you’ll have something to reminisce about over future dinners. 

Noah Fecks
Noah Fecks
Noah Fecks

Tokyo Record Bar 

Greenwich Village
If you’re the type to commandeer the music at a party, Tokyo Record Bar is your ideal dining destination. Customers sit down for a seven-course prix fixe meal at this 18-seat, izakaya-inspired joint, and they each select one song from a decades-spanning list of hundreds. A DJ then weaves together a bespoke playlist on the spot. Keep an ear out for your contribution while scarfing down gyoza, and spend the rest of the evening learning to let go of soundtrack duties.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Zauo 

Chelsea
Catch your own fish in Chelsea, without having to go anywhere near the Hudson. At Zauo, customers are handed a fishing rod and some trick bait, and allowed to cast their line in one of three specialized tanks (freshwater, saltwater, and crustacean). Once you’ve snagged a live one, let the kitchen know how you’d like your meal prepared (grilled and tempura are among the most popular possibilities), then feast. Cute as the hook might be (sorry), there’s a guiding principle behind this Japanese eatery’s schtick. Says general manager Rui Higuchi: “The whole purpose of this restaurant is to teach the meaning of being grateful for the fish.”   

Nitehawk Cinema - Williamsburg
Nitehawk Cinema – Williamsburg
Nitehawk Cinema – Williamsburg

Nitehawk 

Williamsburg
Nitehawk’s original location may not be the biggest dine-in movie theater in NYC, but that’s precisely why it’s the best. The cozy screening rooms make every showing feel intimate, there aren’t too many servers moving about to distract you from the feature presentation, and the kitchen’s able to fill orders without sacrificing quality. The burger’s always a solid bet, and the ever-changing marquee cocktails complement any flick, regardless of genre. Current pairings include menu items fashioned after Birds of Prey, The Lodge, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Guadalupe Inn Brooklyn
Guadalupe Inn Brooklyn
Guadalupe Inn Brooklyn

Guadalupe Inn 

Bushwick
Envisioned as a successor to the supper clubs of the 1940s, Guadalupe Inn features a stage in its dining room, where burlesque performances and live Latin music are regular occurrences. Take in a show while splitting a beer-battered squash blossom, or hang back by the oak-wood bar and sip any number of tequila- and mezcal-laced cocktails. Just be sure to check the calendar when planning your visit — between the stage shows, private events, Taco Tuesday specials ($3 tacos at the bar all night), and vinyl giveaways on Thursdays, this throwback keeps busy.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

The Poni Room 

NoHo
To access the Poni Room, you’ll have to enter through its sister establishment, Saxon + Parole, and be led down to what was once the wine cellar. There you’ll find seating for about 30 and a tap room where, for $25, guests can enjoy light bites and serve themselves unlimited rosé on tap from 6-7:30pm, Tuesday-Friday. You’re welcome to one pour-your-own at all other times. Feel free to taste-test a couple of options, but don’t abuse the privilege: Oversampling is frowned upon.

Insa
Insa
Insa

Insa 

Gowanus
Trips to Manhattan are not necessary for top-notch karaoke. Operating within a warehouse-like space, Insa has enough square-footage for both a cafeteria-style dining area and a series of private rooms where you and friends can enjoy a “Wonderwall” singalong. The karaoke menu offers a wealth of choices, and the house fried chicken is ideal for sharing. To help folks overcome performance anxiety, order the scorpion bowl, which contains a mix led by gin, dark rum, and cognac, and will, true to its name, sneak up on you.

Abigail's Kitchen
Abigail’s Kitchen
Abigail’s Kitchen

Abigail’s Kitchen: Dinners in the Dark 

Greenwich Village
Let your other senses do the work at Abigail’s Kitchen, which hosts twice-weekly Dinners in the Dark. Patrons are given blindfolds and ushered in, conga-line style, to a private dining room to savor a secret menu. Don’t get skittish, though: The program highlights aromatic foods and those with interesting textures; it’s not meant to test your personal boundaries. “It’s not like your introduction to eating insects or lots of organ meat,” says chef and owner Abigail Hitchcock. Tickets cost $125 (plus tax), the event runs about two-and-a-half hours, and accommodations can be made for any dietary restrictions. Just don’t peek. Sign up here for our daily NYC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun New York has to offer.

Kyle McGovern is a contributor to Thrillist.

New York

Scavenge for Peeps Cookies and More Fun Treats in NYC This Easter

The best Easter desserts in NYC this spring include Easter Bunny Churros and Carrot Cake Macarons.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

As spring makes its way through New York City, not only do we get to enjoy beautiful weather, stunning cherry blossoms, and cool activities priced at $Free.99, but it’s also the perfect time for some limited-edition desserts.

With Easter fast approaching, bakeries are filling their shops with tons of chocolate eggs, carrot cake-flavoured everything and all types of flavours that offer both nostalgia and innovation within the city’s dessert landscape. After you’ve picked up a cake from the city’s best new bakeries, from Easter Bunny Churros to Carrot Cake Macarons, here are 8 Easter desserts to try in NYC right now.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery

Throughout April
Various locations
There’s great news for devotees of Magnolia Bakery’s Classic Banana Pudding: For Easter, the spot is mixing up the iconic dessert’s vanilla pudding with some carrot cake. The Carrot Cake Pudding is filled with freshly grated carrots, coconuts, pineapples, raisins, and walnuts. And if both bananas and carrots aren’t your thing, they’ll be offering their Classic Vanilla Cupcakes in pastel colours with a Cadbury chocolate egg hidden inside.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

Funny Face Bakery

Through Easter Sunday
NoHo and Seaport
Known for their celebrity face and meme-worthy decorated cookies, fans of Funny Face Bakery know that a new fun design is always just around the corner. For Easter, they’ve created the adorable Hoppy Easter decorated cookie that resembles a classic box of marshmallow Peeps. Along with that, they also have the return of their fan-favourite Caramel Pretzel Chip cookie flavour, plus a set of three mini-decorated cookies perfect for gifting.

The Doughnut Project

Friday, April 7 through Easter Sunday
West Village
With the ever-changing flavours at The Doughnut Project, it’s super easy to miss out on trying out a new debut. But this Easter weekend, there will be two new flavours available. One is of course, a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cream cheese glaze, and the other is known as the Doughnut Nest-a French cruller “nest” with a cream-filled doughnut hole “egg” in the centre.

Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour

The Fragile Flour

Wednesday, April 5 through Easter Sunday
East Village
For stellar vegan desserts this holiday, head to The Fragile Flour, a plant-based bakery and dessert wine bar. They’re known for going all out for each holiday with a variety of new pastry options that you can pair perfectly with a glass of wine. This Easter, they’ll have a whole dessert menu that’s both delicious and gorgeous for posting on IG. The menu includes Stuffed Carrot Cake Cookies, a Lemon Cake (whole or by the slice), some festive cupcakes, and specialty macarons.

Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Through mid April
Midtown
For a luxurious take on Easter chocolates, browse the selections available at Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate. You can even pick the Easter Signature Chef’s Selection for a special box curated by award-winning chefs. For something other than chocolate, choose between the Carrot Cake Macarons or the cake flavored Easter Marshmallow Trio, both of which are almost too cute to eat.

La Churreria

Throughout April
Nolita
This churro-centric spot is putting the cutest Easter spin on their crispy cinnamon churros by twisting them up into bunnies and bunny ears. At Churreria, choose from a Bunny Churro Lollipop topped with your choice of chocolate or dulce de leche and sprinkles, or the bunny ear churros in the Ube and Matcha ice cream sundae or the Ube Milkshake, both of which are made with ice cream from il laboratorio del gelato.

Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci

Lafayette

Throughout April
NoHo
You’ve surely seen this croissant tons of times while scrolling through IG or TikTok, whether it’s the Pain au Chocolat one or the latest of the month. Known as Supr√™mes, these filled croissants went viral and continue to live up to the hype each time a new flavour comes out. April’s flavour-sour cherry amaretto with a Luxardo custard and toasted almonds. While you’ll have to be super early and wait in line during one of their three drops of the day to get a taste, we promise you it’ll be worth it.

Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain

Levain

Seasonal
Various locations
We all know the iconic cookies from Levain-they’re gigantic, perfectly crispy and chewy, and well worth the long lines. For spring, the shop is launching a new flavour: Caramel Coconut Chocolate Chip. Filled with gooey caramel chips, fresh shredded coconut, and melty dark chocolate, it’s one you’ve got to try while it’s still around. To further celebrate the new season, all of Levain’s storefronts will be decked out in spring floral displays, serving as the perfect backdrop for pictures.

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Alaina Cintron is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Her work can also be found in Westchester Magazine, Girls’ Life, and Spoon University. When she’s not at her desk typing away, you can find her exploring a local coffee shop or baking a new recipe.

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