Most New Yorkers rarely visit the Empire State Building—people who work there and topless photo shoots aside—but it's nice to be reminded that millions of people actively seek out the iconic building, oftentimes finding themselves in need to sustenance when they do. If it's not a quick burrito or latte, that means STATE Grill and Bar, the new sit-down eatery opening tonight in the building's lobby.
For a restaurant located inside a tourist-mobbed destination, the menu isn't shockingly expensive. Sure, there's a $32 Colossal Shrimp entree and the Bacon & Cheese Tator Tots are $9, but that's to be expected, considering the location. Executive Chef Octavio Becerra, who's returning to NYC following a stint opening Acabar in LA, has put together a good mix of crowd pleasing dishes that don't pander to the lowest common denominator.
Crispy Crab Cakes ($15) with autumn slaw and mustard share menu space with a Cauliflower Steak ($17) served with wheat berries, pine nuts and a pomegranate relish. West and East coast oysters (a startling $3.50 each) are given equal weight as Butter Mashed Potatoes ($9) and Seafood Chowder ($12) with bacon and jalapeno-corn madeleine. There are also a New York Strip ($32) and Lamb T-Bone ($39) for the larger format meat options.
Some visitor-seeking restaurants prefer the in-your-face approach to decor, but STATE keeps it simple almost to a fault. There are some charming art deco touches, like a stately clock adorning the main entrance, an icon of the ESB on the tables and a subdued if era-appropriate divider between the bar and main dining areas. But for an eatery located inside one of the most famous buildings in the world, we could have used some more pizzazz or at least a more dramatic commitment to the style. Hopefully the open kitchen—and dishes coming from it—will pump up the experience to befit its surroundings.
350 5th Avenue inside the Empire State Building (enter on the north side of 33rd Street between 6th and 5th Avenues); website