Partying like it’s Against the Law

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We may have finally hit peak-trend with ’20s era speakeasy bars and secret watering holes, now that the relatively well known (if still ostensibly “secret”) bar Angel’s Share has it’s own secret offshoot. But the fun of places like these, which reward a little internet research or in-crowd know-how with great drinks and exclusivity, is undeniable. We may not see as many pop up in 2016, but it doesn’t seem like they’ll be disappearing too quickly either.

The question is, with all these prohibition era bars around offering nightlife Gatsby would approve of, what do you do for the biggest party night of the year? Many of these bars simply do what they do best on New Years Eve: offer great cocktails and an opulent setting, and wait for those in-the-know to show up (and avoid the $100+ cover at many other places). Some offer even grander celebrations, like the Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel (which you may know of as the setting of the nightlife experience that is Sleep No More). They’ll be hosting a Winter Masquerade this year with a  number of ticket options for those looking to go all in. Sleep No More‘s sister performance, the incredibly opulent Queen of the Night, likewise has a special New Year’s party which promises to (somehow) be even bigger than their usual performances. Excess is what these options offer, and they aren’t for the faint of heart. But is there any better holiday to really gild the lily?

For a list of more ’20s-themed New Years celebrations, click here.

To Pre Fixe or Not to Pre Fixe

Whether your New Year’s Eve plans are already set in stone or a little more last minute, if you’re planning on dinner out on the last night of 2015, chances are good you will be at one of the hundreds of restaurants offering a special New Year’s pre fixe menu instead of their regular options. Some of these spots even go so far as to hold limited seatings – two or three set times when guests will come in and all enjoy their appetizers, entrees and desserts at the same time. Many include an optional drink pairing list and a complimentary glass of champagne (or, more likely, sparkling wine) at midnight.

There are some obvious benefits to the restaurant in offering pre fixe menus and designated seatings on busy holidays (most often New Year’s and Valentine’s day). Since most guests will be making reservations, they can easily determine exactly how much they will make that evening, and eliminate much of the guesswork of preparing. Making 50 of the same dish is always simpler than plating orders as they come in, so an otherwise chaotic night can go as smoothly as possible. Chefs often have some license to exercise creativity and get exposure for new dishes. With set seatings, hosts and service staff can worry less about guests who might be tempted to linger until the ball drops. Finally, guests are often more comfortable paying a premium for having some stress relieved and knowing their entire experience will be taken care of – including the final glass of champagne.

In many ways, those benefits spill over to guests as well, as long as they choose their restaurant carefully and make reservations early. A quick Google search reveals plenty of lists of the best pre fixe  dinners in the city, but check menus in advance and keep in mind that everything is more expensive on New Year’s. For those not willing to pay the premium or worried about feeling rushed by the seating system, it may be more useful to check out a list of the best restaurants that are serving their regular menu (Eater also has a good one). That way you can pick and choose your favorites and go all in on an open bar later in the night instead. Ultimately, the perfect New Year’s Eve looks different for everyone. Happy New Year, and happy eating!

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Dani on E. 60th – one option for those looking to avoid pre fixe pitfalls