As a local, I ought to hate anything in New York that draws a crowd. In theory, this includes the tree at Rockefeller Center. Once the tree’s lights are switched on — this year, that first happens Wednesday night, just before 10 p.m. — the plaza becomes an unholy gridlocked mob of sightseers, shoppers and commuters. It stays that way until Christmas.
I don’t hate the tree, though. I love the tree.
The secret to surviving in crowded spaces is to know where you are going. This gives you a huge advantage over those around you, most of whom are helplessly drifting in the tide, like jellyfish.
Many restaurants have opened at Rockefeller Center over the past year or so. Some are more steady on their skates than others.Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times
So you don’t become one of them, it helps to know where you can get closest to the tree without being knocked over (in the small, sunken areas just above the rink on either side). I’d also recommend studying up on the fresh crop of places to eat that Rockefeller Center’s landlord brought in recently. The two most successful restaurants, the Italian cafe Lodi and the idiosyncratic French brasserie Le Rock, are both above ground, to the right and left of the rink. Directly below them are the impressive Korean restaurant Naro and the pasta-centric Italian restaurant Jupiter. All are worth considering for a full, sit-down meal.
In other ways, the new lineup hasn’t turned out to be quite as impressive as I had hoped a year ago. The bakery at Lodi, which made exquisite Italian pastries and breads, was recently dismantled to make room for more tables — a real loss. Down in the concourse, too many of the casual, inexpensive places are peddling Sad Desk Lunches. Few spots stay open for dinner, and there’s an annoying, easily fixed shortage of seating.
Nevertheless, you can still have a satisfying quick lunch or snack below Rockefeller Center.
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