If you’re looking for a dose of Hollywood in the Big Apple when it comes to spotting celebrities, you’re in luck. Celebs gravitate to restaurants that are going to treat them like royalty, but this doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to hang out at the same place.
If there’s anything we’ve picked up from the tabloid rags is that A-listers have an “incognito mode” where they duck out into the public for a casual bite, usually with an over-size hat and dark sunglasses – no matter what the time of day.
We’ve already mentioned the best places for star-gazing on the West Coast, and so far our fave actors and actresses haven’t disappointed us.
We’ve got the skinny on these hangouts and today we’re letting the cat out of the bag. Here are our top 5 places to dine if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of your favorite star. Worst case scenario, no stars are spotted, but you end up with a darn good meal. Win-win.
Make no mistake, if you want to eat at Rao’s you might be better off flying to their LA digs and see if you can get into the Rao’s over there. On any given day, there are only 4 tables out of 10 that are up for grabs. That’ll might put a damper on your odds of spotting celebrities.
This is because most of the tables are “claimed” and have been, going back decades. You heard us right – decades. So let’s explore how this all came to be with this no-nonsense, Italian joint (yes, the regulars do call this place “the joint.”)
Back in 1977, The New York Times posted a review on proprietor Frank Pellegrino Sr.’s Harlem restaurant, which catered to the local Italian-American immigrants in the area.
According to Frank Pellegrino Jr. “Those are the people that my family came over with that ultimately became the patrons of Rao’s Bar and Grill back in the day. And my father refused to displace them for new business. So at least 60% of those tables in the restaurant were already accounted for so that only leaves you with 40%, which is basically four tables for reservations.”
Before going viral became a thing, this definitely went viral. In a story in Town & Country, every table has been booked for the past 38 years. Ouch.
But if you can get someone to loan you a table for a night (you must have a BFF somewhere in the mix) then you might find yourself rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Celebrities like Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Madonna have all been known to dine at Rao’s.
Set in a former warehouse in the Meatpacking District, this private members-only club is a hotspot for celebrities, especially in the summertime. If you’re a celebrity spotting enthusiast, then Soho House NYC is a great place to start.
We’ve talked about how the many Soho House locations are star magnets and New York City has a pretty hefty pool of A-listers that know a good place when they see it. Especially one that’s so exclusive.
This private club has been a hotspot for celebrities since it opened in 2003, and it’s easy to see why. With its prime location in the heart of Manhattan and its stunning views of the city, Soho House is the perfect place to people watch.
The best time to visit Soho House is during the week when the club is open to non-members. On any given day, you’re likely to spot a few celebrities enjoying the amenities, including the rooftop pool, the sprawling outdoor terrace, and the chic dining areas.
If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a celebrity in the making, as Soho House is also a popular spot for up-and-coming actors and actresses. In the meantime, the rumor mill churns with stars like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid hanging out by the pool or enjoying a meal on the outdoor terrace.
This trendy seafood restaurant is also located in the Meatpacking District, so just a hop, skip and jump from the Soho House. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and it has a wide variety of seafood options, including fresh oysters, lobster, and swordfish.
Plus, Catch offers a variety of wine options, so you can perfectly pair your food with your favorite beverage while you’re on the lookout. Catch is known as a hangout for top athletes and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio who frequents the restaurant occasionally. Keep your peepers open for spotting celebrities that are known regulars like Rihanna and Drake who have also been seen here.
The Polar Bar
the Polar Bar is a hidden gem located in the basement of the famed Hotel des Artistes, and it’s a hotspot for A-listers. An upscale restaurant with American cuisine inspired by Ralph Lauren’s favorite dishes, the lounge is decorated in a chic, Art Deco style.
It’s the perfect place to have a drink or two while people-watching and the best time to visit is during happy hour when you’re likely to spot a celebrity or two. Since they offer private dining, stay alert since you’ll most likely just see your fave actors coming or going.
Celebrities and athletes known to frequent the bar include Serena Williams, Tom Hanks, Bradley Cooper, Martha Stewart, Barbara Streisand, Jerry Seinfeld, Rihanna, Bradley Cooper, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro.
This Greenwich Village Italian restaurant is popular with celebrities and influencers. Its old-school vibes and killer pasta dishes make it a must-visit for any foodie.
A common theme we’re seeing here is that celebrities are big on red-sauce dining. The rigatoni isn’t the only spicy dish you’ll find at Carbone. Others include the Kardashians, Rihanna, Jennifer Afflick, and the Biebers. OK, let’s call Justin and Hailey a mild dish. They seem to stay out of trouble.
Owned by the same group as Carbone, it’s not a stretch to see that famous birds of a feather are gonna flock together. Reservations are usually about 3 weeks out so plan your star-gazing accordingly. The birds you’ll be on the lookout for include Meryl Streep, Anna Wintour, Tom Hiddleston, and Awkwafina.
This place gets busy and serves a lot of people, so you’ll need to be focused while multitasking with your bird-watching and enjoying great food. They serve around 1,500 guests a day, with the most popular being Steak Frites.
In fact, it takes two full-time prep cooks just to handle potatoes for frying. That sounds like punishment to us, but the foodie world’s a better place thanks to those awesome, dedicated prep cooks.
Bonus Round: Celebrity Chefs
New York City’s restaurant scene is home to some of the best chefs in the country, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, and José Andrés. While all of these chefs have their own restaurants in the city, there are plenty of other places where you can dine with them.
If you want to stop by the restaurant they own (Vong’s Spice Market and Bar or Jean Georges Steakhouse) you’ll almost certainly run into a celebrity.
If you happen to find yourself in Italy, then we’d suggest San Domenico Palace in the Sicilian town of Taormina, where they filmed HBO’s The White Lotus. Celebs thought they were immune from the lookie-loos there, but HBO put a damper on that.
If you’re looking to meet a celebrity behind the bar, head to The NoMad Bar at NoMad Hotel, where David Lynch is occasionally the mixologist.
From high-end eateries to casual cafes, you’re sure to see a star if you’re into world-class cuisine served with a side of patience. If you’re coming in from out of state, keep your eyes peeled at the airport as well. This location ranks high when it comes to celebrity spotting.