This article is part of a guide to New York from FT Globetrotter
Nearly two decades — and two not so critically acclaimed films — after Carrie Bradshaw and her best friends captivated a global audience on HBO’s hit series Sex and the City, the renowned characters are back on the small screen in And Just Like That . . ., a 10-episode revival set in 2021. The new show offers fewer glimpses of the city than the original, in which New York was as important a character as any of the women. Food and drink, however, still play a central role — after all, some of the biggest attractions in NYC are its restaurants, cafés and bars.
As a resident New Yorker now, I couldn’t help but watch with a keen eye on where all the sipping and chowing was going down. But, as these eateries set the tone for relationship-heavy plot lines, I wanted to see what sort of relational encounters I’d be drawn to in some of these places myself. So I picked a handful of the spots featured on AJLT to sample the food, gauge the ambience and consider what kind of relational connections they’d each work well for.
210 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011
Good for: A casual catch-up with friends or a fun family dinner. Close to the High Line and several great art galleries
Not so good for: Light meals (the menu is mostly comfort food)
FYI: If you’re from out of town, don’t be fooled by the “diner” part. It still charges NYC prices
I started my tour with brunch at Empire Diner, where over dinner and for the first time in public, Miranda refers to herself as Che Diaz’s girlfriend to some of the comedian’s fans. It’s an interesting choice of venue for a move like that — to own something out loud that’s new and maybe even a little confusing but that you’re thrilled about nonetheless.
In one sense I get it. The diner, while retro chic and in the heart of the West Chelsea art-gallery district, still has a comfy, “bring your trendy New York City kids along” vibe. It feels known and familiar. With an eclectic menu of southern-inspired dishes such as fried chicken and waffles or mac and cheese (and even non-diner items including tuna tartare or burrata with fennel pollen), it’s definitely comfort food — and the kind of place you’d go with someone you feel completely relaxed just being yourself with.
But Empire is also a little hip and cool — not unlike Che, the new person Miranda is throwing her old life away to date. Since its first iteration in 1946, customers have included Albert Einstein, Babe Ruth, Madonna and more. The outside walls feature a large colourful mural of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Frida Kahlo and Keith Haring by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra and the word EAT in bold black Art Deco lettering.
I chose familiar over hip when it came to ordering. A friend and I split the breakfast sandwich (soft-scrambled eggs, homemade sausage topped with avocado on sweet biscuit bread), and the standard rye pancakes served with caramelised apples, apple butter and maple syrup. Both were insanely good.
550 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
Good for: Conversation without loud music, and enough space to feel like the world isn’t listening in
Not so good for: Making it your makeshift cafe office
FYI: It’s not just a coffee shop, but a blend of food, fashion, music and art under the Maison Kitsuné global franchise
My next stop was Café Kitsuné in the West Village, which is located around the corner from the real brownstone that houses Carrie’s fictional apartment. In the opening scenes of episode four, Charlotte stops by for coffee before meeting new friend, the art-collecting Lisa (played by the fabulous Nicole Ari Parker).
On a recent visit, I was immediately reminded of what a great café can offer: camaraderie and communion. The busy baristas were friendly, and the place was abuzz with the quiet chatter of customers.
Charlotte could have brought Lisa here because Café Kitsune is an ideal location to meet a new friend on a winter afternoon for coffee or rosé. Sunlight pours in and reverberates off the whitewashed brick walls. With its low hum of music and “Paris meets New York” feel, the room is clean-lined and uncluttered, warm and chic without feeling too intimate a space for “get to know you” conversations, or a solo jaunt to read a few chapters of a book.
For now, the café offers savoury and sweet pastries and little cakes, a selection of wines, coffees, speciality teas and hot drinks (the menu was trimmed down because of the pandemic). I opted for the Fraise Rose hot chocolate: strawberry-infused with edible rose petals. It’s as delicious and luxurious as it sounds.
265 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012
Good for: Intimate dinner conversations
Not so good for: Small children
FYI: It’s known for attracting a celebrity and high-profile clientele
After Carrie and her stylish single estate agent, Seema, go apartment hunting in episode four, they decide to take their new friendship to the next level. This, of course, means chatting about Seema’s dating life over a meal. The two characters share a plate of cacio e pepe at the hip Italian restaurant and celebrity hang-out, Sant Ambroeus, the original of which was born in Milan in 1936. On a Friday night I flagged a cab to its SoHo outpost, which opened in 2014.
Inside I was greeted by the room’s caramel glow, offset by gorgeous walnut-panelled walls and leather and brass banquettes. I had a mouthwatering dinner of red Argentine shrimp, steamed purple potatoes with shaved black truffle and a pan-seared snapper with fennel and pomegranate (which tasted like it was fresh from a beachside grill). From presentation to taste, the food was outstanding. Each dish offered light, subtle flavours that left a clean enough palette for the next course.
Beyond the food, Sant Ambroeus is a place to go with someone who would also appreciate a robust aesthetic interplay of design, art and ambience. With it’s now-famous “plate wall” (featured in AJLT) to the large black and white Scott Rudin portrait photography and David Guinn’s futurist painting of Milan, the design details evoke another era — and enhance the fine-dining experience.
Dante West Village
551 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
Good for: A long evening enjoying a beautiful meal with someone you adore
Not so good for: Someone you don’t adore
FYI: It’s hard to get a reservation. But if you can get in — trust me — it’s worth it
In episode nine, Carrie decides to give Peter, a potential love interest, a second chance following a terrible first date. Instead, she meets him outside Dante West Village to break it off because she’s realised she’s not yet ready to date after her husband’s death. It would have been a good choice nonetheless: Dante is the perfect place to push a new romance to the next step, or to treat someone special to an intimate meal.
Dante first opened in Greenwich Village in 1915; recent years have brought new owners, its expansion to the West Village as a restaurant and bar, and consistent rankings as one of the best bars in the world (it earned the number one spot in 2019). It focuses on seafood, drawing inspiration from northern Spain and southern Italy, and, combined with its signature martinis and aperitivo bar, leaves zero doubt as to why it has earned so many accolades.
I started with fried calamari, which were seasoned gently and served on lightly sautéed arugula with lemon (and were some of the best I’ve ever eaten — the server mentioned it’s made with rice-flour breading). By the time my mushroom risotto appeared, the dimly lit restaurant was filling up with a second crowd of vibrant customers.
If you can be distracted from the food and yummy (and strong) martinis, you’ll notice the charming, romantic decor: foxed-mirror walls, petalled light sconces, small tables with plush velvet seating. Ask for the cosy corner table by the back window — you’ll catch the butterscotch twinkle of string lights wrapped around the pretty ivy trellis outside.
Do you have a favourite New York restaurant or bar that’s also starred in a TV series or film? Tell us in the comments
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