Manhattan is home to some of the world’s best dining and drinking destinations. Even more impressive, however, is the iconic skyline that lures visitors from all corners of the world. Together, these qualities are unbeatable—there’s hardly a better way to appreciate New York’s stunning architecture and bustling streetscape than by seeing it from hundreds of feet in the air with a cocktail in hand.
Countless rooftop venues pair creative libations and bar bites with aerial perspectives of snow-covered sidewalks in winter and blooming greenery in the warmer months. Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of sites like the Empire State Building, Central Park and the Hudson River at these six restaurants, bars and lounges high above the city.
Upstairs at The Kimberly
Upstairs at The Kimberly hotel does more than serve elevated dishes and specialty cocktails—it’s also part of the surrounding neighborhood’s transformation into a must-visit locale.
“The growing popularity of Midtown as a destination for entertainment and nightlife has certainly helped our business grow and has brought new life to the neighborhood,” says Jordana Maurer, director of sales and events at Upstairs at The Kimberly. “Upstairs was just a vacant building roof before it was transformed into one of Midtown’s most frequented year-round lounges, and we like to think other venues followed in our footsteps and revived the neighborhood even more.”
The 3,000-square-foot venue with three indoor/outdoor spaces—perfect for large crowds—has 360-degree views, and the Chrysler Building serves as an iconic backdrop. The lounge features retractable glass ceilings and walls, as well as heated floors that keep patrons as cozy in the winter months as during the springtime.
In the kitchen, the restaurant whips up plates like baby lamb lollipops with ratatouille, and also offers a weekend brunch to enjoy the open air in the daylight. The creativity extends to the cocktail menu; try the Rum Service, which is hailed as “the manliest drink alive” with spiced rum, honey, fresh pear and lime. The menu also pays tribute to Manhattan, and guests can raise a glass of The Chrysler—Champagne, cognac, honey, lemon and lime—while toasting to an evening out in the city. (212-888-1220; upstairsnyc.com)
Breathtaking views. Artisanal cocktails. Playful porch swings. A fun youthfulness permeates this dining destination atop the Refinery Hotel. Located at West 38th Street and Sixth Avenue in the city’s Garment District, Refinery Rooftop is part of the renaissance breathing new life into the neighborhood.
“Originally built as a high-end millinery factory and tea salon in 1912, Refinery Hotel’s design draws on the building’s past, combining raw elegance in the guest rooms with refined public spaces,” explains Terence Tubridy, president of In Good Company Hospitality, which operates Refinery Rooftop.
The chic restaurant, with its distinct rustic-meets-industrial ambience, is divided into three separate sections. The indoor area’s cozy fireplace is perfect for enjoying a hot mulled cider on cooler evenings, while an outdoor terrace beckons in the spring and summer with colorful chair cushions and bright greenery. Finally, for the indecisive lot, a combination space with a retractable glass roof allows visitors to gaze up at the skyline year-round.
Complementing the 13th-floor location is a menu of shareable gastropub food, including cheese boards, flatbreads and sliders. The food, created by Executive Chef Jeffrey Forrest, is simple with a hint of Southern flair—for a taste of his signature style, be sure to order the conch fritters with a spicy dipping sauce. Temper the heat with one of a dozen handcrafted cocktails, including the popular Luster, which marries gin, muddled cucumber and Pimms No. 1 with white cranberry and lime juices. (646-664-0372; refineryrooftopnyc.com)
Eataly is a food lover’s dream with seven sit-down restaurants that use ingredients supplied by shops in the market. For those who don’t like cocktails but want to enjoy the Flatiron District’s rooftop scene with a beverage in hand, Dogfish Head, Baladin and Birra del Borgo collaborated to create Birreria, a brewery enclosed under a retractable glass dome on the 14th floor. The high walls somewhat obstruct the sightseeing opportunities, but patrons can still lay eyes on the Flatiron Building, just across the street at East 23rd and Fifth.
The fresh air and beers brewed on-site more than make up for the lack of skyline. Birreria, Italian for “brewery,” is known for its unfiltered, unpasteurized and naturally carbonated cask ale. The stout, witbier (Belgian wheat) and biere de miele (a honey brown ale) can be an acquired taste, however, so those who want a more familiar option can choose from a handful of beers on draft, including a couple of refreshing India pale ale varieties.
Aside from beer, diners flock to Birreria for cured meats and cheeses. Soft, mild cheeses like the ricotta fresca offer a nice contrast to the firm, aromatic Parmigiano-Reggiano, complementing the salumi plate choices of speck, mortadella, cacciatorini, coppa and soppressata. Also a noteworthy menu category is the house-made sausage, featuring three seasoned pork options.
Birreria is a diversion from the Italian-themed Eataly, but with its cask ales and adherence to the market’s motto of serving what they sell, it’s worth the trip upstairs. (212-937-8910; eataly.com/nyc-birreria)
Eighteen stories above Soho, Jimmy at The James New York features an intimate pub atmosphere inspired by 1970s New York that showcases the best of Lower Manhattan from its post at Grand and Thompson streets.
“The cocktail menu at Jimmy features signature and seasonal cocktails that are all expertly crafted using syrups and bitters made in-house and garnishes that are picked straight from The James’ organic garden,” says David Rabin, partner at Jimmy. “Each cocktail was custom-created by [mixologist/partner] Johnny Swet, who has developed each recipe based on classic American inspirations with an added modern twist.”
The cocktails are designed to surprise patrons, from the clever names (take the Legal in Vermont or Sid & Nancy) to imaginative ingredients. A prime example, the Vanilla Ice Ice Baby garnishes the flavored liqueur and Zu Bison Grass Vodka with a cherry lollipop. Snacks are also available for patrons to nibble on between drinks, with options like Kobe franks in a blanket and shareable sweets.
The bar’s terrace is open throughout the year, though the indoor space offers warmth and comfort with blue upholstered benches and barrel-shaped tables surrounding a fireplace. Still, head outside for views of Wall Street, the Hudson River and the bridges spanning the East River. (212-201-9118; jimmysoho.com)
The Empire State Building and Midtown stand majestically in the background of The Skylark roof deck. Located in the city’s Garment District at 30th Street and Seventh Avenue, the cocktail lounge has a 30th-floor open-air rooftop terrace that wraps around the building. Modern furnishings, including plush seating and wood-topped tables, add to the clean ambience of the outdoor space, which is equipped with heaters to keep patrons comfortable.
Guests can also warm up inside while enjoying cityscapes courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows. A natural gathering place is the classically designed bar. Consulting mixologist Johnny Swet created a dynamic list of cocktails that caters to a diverse range of tastes—and all are served with a generous splash of spirits, as the bartender believes in the power of a heavy pour. His Rio Bravo—inspired by the John Wayne film of the same name—combines reposado tequila with ancho chili liqueur, muddled grilled tomatillos, agave, cilantro and lime. Or, opt for the namesake cocktail, a sweeter option with gin, vodka, St-Germain liqueur, blue curacao, fresh lemon and a brandied cherry.
The cocktails and height are the stars of this Midtown lounge, but a small plates menu gives The Skylark a competitive edge. Sample the trio of warm apple cobbler a la mode, served in miniature skillets, or one of the many savory bar snacks like the crispy mac ’n’ cheese cupcakes topped with tomato chutney and kale. (212-257-4577; theskylarknyc.com)
Salon de Ning
Overlooking Midtown from the 23rd floor of The Peninsula New York, Salon De Ning gives guests a glimpse into 1930s Shanghai. The tale of Shanghai socialite Madame Ning—who was an avid collector of art objets d’art—served as inspiration for the antique yet modern design, which is riddled with eclectic artwork, Moroccan lanterns and Chinese screens.
Heat lamps make it possible to enjoy the two outdoor terraces year-round, and Jared Fischer, director of wine and spirits, adds that there’s ample seating for relaxing and taking in vistas of Fifth Avenue and the Hudson River. Daybeds add to the stylish appeal of the spaces, making visitors feel at home as they sip world-class cocktails.
The signature drink is the Ning Sling—a nod to the salon’s East meets West flair. Absolut Mandarin vodka, lychee liqueur, and lychee and passion juice over ice create a memorable tartness, made artful with a speared lychee and mint sprig. The theme continues on the dining menu with the Asian-influenced spiced ahi tuna sashimi with white ponzu. The food selection is limited to shared plates, including cheese and charcuterie plates, olives, chilled shrimp and cheesecake.
An intimate interior bar also pays homage to the Chinese influences, with dark wood, intricate detailing and a portrait of Madame Ning herself hanging on the wall. (212-903-3097; newyork.peninsula.com)
—Written by Michelle Franzen Martin and Bespoke Concierge Magazine Staff