Random fact about me: I fell in love with parades growing up in my small(ish) town of Springfield, IL. And as much as I still love a small-town parade, the absolute best parades can be found in our biggest cities. And my favorite is definitely the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, in my new hometown of New York. Approaching its 100th year, this iconic parade has been a Thanksgiving tradition since 1924. Back then, costumed Macy’s employees marched to the store’s flagship location on 34th and Broadway (an intersection known as “Herald Square”) to celebrate the big day. Then, as now, Santa Claus brought up the rear, kicking off the Christmas season in style.
Today, the parade is much bigger, attracting over 3 million onlookers, plus millions more watching on TV. The parade starts at 77th Street and Central Park West, following the edge of the park to 59th Street, before it cuts across to 6th Avenue and down the 15 blocks to Herald Square. As we get closer to Thanksgiving (yay!), I got to thinking about my favorite restaurants along the parade route. This being Manhattan, there are dozens of solid dining options. Here are my 5 favorites:
Momofuku Noodle Bar
Connecting 59th Street and Central Park West is the famed Columbus Circle. You’ll find several acclaimed restaurants here, but my favorite has to be Momofuku Noodle Bar. This crowded noodle shop (OK, bar) is one of the more casual offerings from chef and culinary superstar David Chang. I love the highly slurpable noodles and perfectly prepared vegetables here. For my fellow vegans, the Ginger Scallion Noodles are a must, as is the Mushroom Ramen.
Located on 59th Street, just east of Columbus Circle, “Marea” means “tide” in Italian. As you may have guessed, this fine dining gem specializes in Italian seafood. New York has more high-end Italian restaurants than any place I’ve been to except…well…Italy, but Marea is one of the most acclaimed. There is a reason this restaurant won a James Beard Award for “Best New Restaurant” when it debuted in 2010, and it hasn’t missed a beat since. And if you have $195 burning a hole in your pocket, you can come here for a fixed-price Thanksgiving dinner. Who says you can’t have seafood on Thanksgiving?!
A New York institution, Magnolia Bakery is famous for two things: its delicious cupcakes and its appearance on the hit show Sex and the City. As a lover of both cupcakes and all things SATC, I had to include them on this list. Magnolia Bakery operates several locations around the city (as well as L..A. and Chicago), but the Rockefeller Center location is right on the parade route. And yes, they do sell Turkey Day desserts, including pumpkin pie and their festive “Thanksgiving cupcakes.”
Parker & Quinn
I love all things vintage, which is part of the reason I’m so enamored with Parker & Quinn, a New American restaurant on 6th Avenue and 39th Street (we’re almost to Herald Square!). Located in the chic Refinery Hotel, the restaurant’s space features vintage touches like plush booths and photos of New York dating back 100 years. The food here is an eclectic mix of American classics and global dishes, often with a unique spin. Think grilled cheese with gruyere and an “everything bagel” wedge salad. Sorry if I’m making you hungry.
This sleek trattoria is extra special because it’s in Macy’s – occupying a portion of the store’s 6th floor, to be exact. Stella 34 serves classic Italian dishes like Chicken Milanese and Eggplant Parmesan. And they do a great job. Seriously, a restaurant in a place as touristy as the flagship Macy’s has no business being this good. Even better, the restaurant hosts an annual Thanksgiving party (by reservation only) as well as a “Breakfast with Santa” during the holiday season. One of these days, I’ll make a reservation early enough to snag a table!
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