As its very name suggests, the Financial District is not necessarily known for its fine dining and nightlife. And yet, Fidi features a broad array of destinations that range from historic restaurants and fine dining to trendy nightlife. The clock may have run out on these places for Valentine’s Day, but here are a few of the more popular destinations for a convenient dinner or date after work.
The Delmonico’s Restaurant label has been around since the beginning of New York’s transformation into the financial juggernaut it is today. Founded in 1827, the Delmonico brothers originally served classically prepared pastries, fine coffee and chocolate, bonbons, wines and liquors as well as Havana cigars. In 1837, they opened what some consider to be the first fine-dining restaurant in the country, offering unparalleled luxury, private dining and high-class entertainment. Although the restaurant has changed locations and owners numerous times, its spirit and commitment to luxury remains the same. The decor maintains the historical flavor, and the owners claim that the building is still supported by columns from the ruins of Pompeii itself.
The Delmonico line has been credited with inventing classic dishes such as Baked Alaska, Delmonico potatoes, Eggs Benedict and Chicken à la King. It’s signature creations are the Lobster Newburg, where juicy crustacean is mixed with smooth brandy-cream sauce, laced with caviar and accompanied by a triangle of fried bread, and of course, the Delmonico Steak, a must try featuring a juicy cut of ribeye, precisely charred and topped with a single golden onion ring. These entrees are accompanied by an extensive wine list that will satisfy the most cultivated of palettes.
While it is temporarily closed due to damages caused by Hurricane Sandy, it would be impossible to discuss historic Financial District hot spots without mentioning “the oldest drinking establishment in New York City.” Located in the shadow of the Brooklyn bridge, the building can trace its roots all the way back to 1794, and the business has been around since 1847. At various times a saloon, wine and grocer, boarding house and brothel, The Bridge Cafe has history in spades. The menu features appetizers of salmon-and-corn chowder, herb-breaded calamari, homemade duck cakes and pumpkin ravioli and entrees like smoked pork chop and medallions of filet mignon layered with blue cheese along with daily pasta and fish specials. They also claim to have the best soft shell crabs, rib-eye steak and lobster rolls in all of New York. In terms of drinks, there is a moderate wine list, but the focus here is on whiskey. The whiskey list--yes, it has its own list--alone is over four pages long, and features an almost overwhelming array of choices from 34 year old Bruichladdich Islay Malt to 23 year-old Vintage Handcrafted Rye.
For those looking for the elegance of fine-dining without the pretentiousness, Wall & Water is an excellent option. Simplicity and elegance are the guiding principles here, and they are reflected in everything from the menu to the decor. The interior was designed by the Rockwell group, and echoes the modern sophistication and natural focus of the cuisine. Chef Máximo López May has created a modest menu based around precisely executed American dishes. Wall & Water uses the market-to-table approach, and ingredients such as fish, meat, cheese and farm-fresh fruit and vegetables are sourced from Hudson Valley farms and markets. As a result, the menu is seasonal and incorporates locally produced fresh ingredients. Classic dishes are prepared using traditional cooking methods such as smoked meats, as well as simple yet delicious baked goods. New York Times reviewer Sam Sifton recommends “the salt-cod casserole...with peas and potatoes and cream; or pork-belly confit out of the modern age, with sautéed collards and rosemary-scented apples, with a fat-cutting horseradish sauce.”
This destination promises a night of bacchanalian delights, and what else would you expect from a cocktail lounge that takes its name from an antiquated term for “mistress?” The website description makes it out to be a safe-haven for “hedonistic lifestyle[s]” and “endless exploration,” but don’t let that scare you off. A simple cafe by day, Demi Monde may not be quite as racy as they would lead you to believe. With that said, the black leather couches, red velvet curtains and the all-female waitstaff decked out in see-through outfits and high heels do set a certain sultry mood. Set in an area not known for its spicy nightlife, Demi Monde’s ambience and DJ after 10 PM make it a great destination for a late date.
The clientele is generally wealthy businessmen (and their clients or dates), but there is no strict dress code and the prices are more than reasonable for the area. The food menu, designed by Vandaag and Mother Ruin’s Phillip Kirschen-Clark, consists largely of seafood, including Vermont pickled oysters, caviar and cream cheese tea sandwiches, and pork tenderloin with a risotto of apple and licorice. While appetizing, it is not an extensive menu, and if you’re looking for large selection and multiple-course meal, you should consider looking elsewhere. The emphasis here is on the drinks, and Demi Monde features a list of almost 100 varieties of cocktails. Champagnes, wines, and homemade sodas are also available.