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Mar 4, 2009 08:59 PM

Manhattan Dress Codes

Has anyone ever had any trouble with dress codes in different Manhattan restaurants? Any interesting stories or places I should watch out for?

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  1. Can you be more specific about which places you're interested in, or are you just looking for funny stories?

    1. I have an idea for a trip I would like to make.....a one-week trip to NYC eating at some or all of the restaurants run by folks who appear on the Food Network and other outlets.....Lydia, Battali, Flay, are all examples....this idea could be expanded to other locales as well......a gastronomical orgy......also re: dress casual is best.....who wants to eat wearing a suit?

      21 Replies
      1. re: LombardLee

        You can wear anything to pretty much any restuarant unless its jacket required. The ones you listed (and the path your going on) are not jacket required....I just wouldnt go all 'Summer of George" and wear sweats.

        1. re: LombardLee

          "I have an idea for a trip I would like to make.....a one-week trip to NYC eating at some or all of the restaurants run by folks who appear on the Food Network and other outlets.....Lydia, Battali, Flay, are all examples."

          You left out Sandra Lee.

          1. re: Bob Martinez

            if Sandra Lee did have a restaurant, you'd have to call before you went so they could update you on the color scheme of the wouldn't want to clash with those tablescapes :)

            but seriously i agree with the other posters. though not quite as casual as places like Southern California, the dress code in NYC restaurants seems to have relaxed over the years...but you're still likely to get more respect - and better service - if you dress nicely.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I agree. It's not like the choice is between a tuxedo vs. jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers. By this point everybody is familiar with business casual. Wear a collared shirt and Dockers; you'll be perfectly comfortable and will fit in at virtually any restaurant.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                i get great service in the best NYC places, regardless of dress. in fact the better the place in NYC, for the most part, the less hung up they are - here the guy in teh ripped jeans might be the billionaire ceo, and the guy in tee nice suit might just be some schlub with a nice suit. its only in places with pretentions of greatness that they play it like that.

                1. re: thew

                  So using your logic........ Daniel,Le Bernadin,II Madison Park,Waverly Inn,Aquavit, Corton ,Adour and so many more are not "Great Restaurants" but merely "Pretentious Restaurants". Where do you dine again?

                  1. re: currymouth

                    that was a bit of hyperbole at the end - as you see earlier i said "for the most part"

            2. re: LombardLee

              I think it is great to wear a suit - good food should be respected. You do need to think more about New York and less about the food network though!!

              1. re: bronwen

                Yes, and the other diners should be, as well. If the diner, and their companion(s) doesn't appreciate the nice clothes, the others will likely do so.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Tish-tosh! How does wearing a suit equal respecting the food or diners? Being clean, polite, and modestly dressed should cover that issue of respect quite sufficiently.

                  Anyways, among my dozen or so friends who are all late 20-something professionals, I would be surprised if more than one of us owned either a suit or a jacket. None of us has ever felt under-dressed or been turned away and we've dined in rather a lot of fine establishments. The last jacket required restaurant I encountered was more than a decade ago. Mind you, none of us are in finance – my cousins in finance are always in suits.

                  1. re: Atahualpa

                    None of you own suits? What do you wear to job interviews, funerals, and weddings?

                    1. re: KTinNYC

                      I've never worn a suit to a job interview or a funeral.

                      At the the last few funerals I've attended suits were certainly not the norm. People were in black shirts and pants.

                      I haven't applied for any job that would require a suit for the job and haven't though of dressing differently for the job interview (NB I have received every job I've interviewed for).

                      I haven't been to a formal wedding since I was a child. Although, I don't see anyone with whom I am friends getting married – they're not the type to do the whole marriage thing. If any ever did get married, it'd be a small signing at city hall and dinner out – definitely no big to-do.

                      If I'm wrong and someone I care for actually has a formal, traditional, wedding, there's always the rental option.

                      1. re: Atahualpa

                        Can I ask in what industry you work?

                        1. re: KTinNYC

                          Most workplaces are much more casual these days. I can think of very few where I'm from (Florida) where you'd be expected to wear a suit to an interview or at all during the work experience. In Florida, business attire is typically a dress shirt, tie, and slacks for me, not a full suit. It's really not cold enough at any time of year to wear a full suit and except for attorneys in court, it doesn't seem like many people in Florida own suits.

                          1. re: queencru

                            Expectations for dress at work and at events such as weddings and funerals differs in different parts of the country and depending on profession. I saw many more suits when I lived in the northeast than I have when I've lived on the west coast, where they're largely confined to the legal and finance worlds. Stands to reason they'd be less common in the warmest climates. As for weddings and funerals, that's largely determined by families and social circles. And for dining out, as this thread makes clear, by environment and the standards of the individual restaurant.

                    2. re: Atahualpa

                      I think that your allusions refer more to you and your friends, than to anything that I wrote.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I am confused by this sentence. To what did I allude?


                        1. re: Atahualpa

                          "Anyways, among my dozen or so friends who are all late 20-something professionals, I would be surprised if more than one of us owned either a suit or a jacket."


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            1. I really do not think you are using the word allusion correctly here. As such I am still confused as to the point of your last comment.

                            Allusion (from the shorter OED):

                            A. A play on words.
                            B. A metaphor, parable, an allegory.
                            C. A covert, passing, or indirect reference (to).

                            I generally agree with:

                            2. Were you suggesting that my circle of friends is unique? That would be a potentially valid point. I would dispute such a conclusion; but, it would be impossible (within our personal limits) to be sure either way.

                            3. Or, are you suggesting that I misunderstood what you wrote? Or that you failed to see the relevance of what I wrote?

                            My point was:

                            Wearing a suit to a restaurant does not equate with "respecting the food" (or other patrons) in my mind and I, personally, feel it should not do so for others either.

                            Plus, it would be an unreasonable expectation to wear suits given the absence of suits from the closets of a wide variety of younger individuals in our contemporary society. As an example of that lack of suit ownership I cited my own personal experience.

                            I will note that a number of other posters noted a similar lack of suit ownership in other circles further below in this discussion.

                            1. re: Atahualpa

                              Fine. Whatever you say. You alluded to certain aspects. Those are what I commented on.


                2. re: LombardLee

                  FN and classy are not really used together much. Any FN related establishment there is more than likely no dress code to worry about. Lydia’s , who is not on FN, places are a little more high end.

                  Why come all the way to NYC and focus on FN. There is so more more.

                3. So few restaurants in New York have set dress codes - even at very high-end restaurants, the worst that would likely happen if you wore (nice) jeans and a sweater (or jeans/t-shirt/jacket, in my case) would be another diner eying you suspiciously - that you can count on being okay unless or Citysearch specifically mentions that, e.g., jackets are required. So in terms of what to "watch out for", if in doubt, look online first.

                  Of course, as the comments below indicate, sweats or genuinely sloppy clothing generally won't be appreciated, and the nicer you look, the better your chances of snagging a difficult table.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: cjd260

                    Actually, my brother still jokes about the time we dined at Le Cirque and he was forced to wear "the ugliest tie ever". He showed up in a nice jacket and shirt- but no tie. The management handed him a really awful tie to wear, which kind of ruined his otherwise stylish outfit. He obliged politely, but we still talk about it!

                    1. re: vvvindaloo

                      Did they treat you two any differently throughout your time there because he walked in without a tie?

                      1. re: jn682

                        No- we were with a fairly large group celebrating an occasion. No collateral damage :)

                    2. re: cjd260

                      My husband got chastized by an rude attendant at Bouley for wearing nice jeans, leather shoes, a collared shirt and a sweater to Saturday brunch. The guy was so rude and told my husband, "we really prefer that gentlemen wear jackets". He reluctantly seated us, and over the course of our lunch, we saw a man with ripped jeans and sneakers get seated immediately at the best table in the place. I guess it pays to be a regular, but I'll never know because never return to another Bouley location no matter how good people say it is.

                      1. re: jenhen2

                        I understand your consternation. We attend a lot of events, that are stated as "black tie." OK, I push that envelope, as I collect cloth from around the Pacific and have it turned into ties, cumberbunds and braces. Still, it's NOT "black tie," and I admit it. When I feel that an event is really, really "black tie," I'll choose either a pattern with a black matrix, or maybe even one of my black ties with tiny white pin-dots. I comply about 95%.

                        At these same events, we have a lot of Hollywood types. They are guests at the event. The majority dress in torn jeans, a dress shirt with the tails pulled out, and a jacket. "Black tie?" Hardly. However, that is how they dress. Other than in the gossip magazines and on a few society blogs, no one seems to notice.

                        Heck, I came from a time and a place, where one always donned a tux for the opening night of an opera, or the theater. Since moving West, I see that things have changed. Opening Night for the theater means clean rag-wool socks with the Birkenstocks® and cargo pants without a crease.

                        Times are changing, in many parts of the globe. I'll still be the one dressed "to the nines," and not give it too much thought.

                        Back to your host. He (or she) should have either enforced a dress code completely, or not mentioned it to anyone. I understand dress codes, and comply with them. I appreciate when the reservations taker explains where one exists. Recently, even the followup confirmation call contained info that gentlemen MUST wear jackets.

                        However, at a wonderful country inn, that is jackets-required for the evening meal, a Hollywood celeb came in right from the golf course. No one said anything. Double-standard? Of course. Sign of the times? Possibly.


                        PS the Hollywood guy got two sommeliers and a dozen servers for his every whim - no jacket in sight. Stuff happens, and we move on.

                        1. re: jenhen2

                          Would you be able to elaborate on "chastized"? What did they say to you besides the preference if jackets weren't mandatory?

                          1. re: jn682

                            Basically, the guy grabbed my husband's arm, pulled him to the side and told him they really prefer gentlemen wear jackets in the dining room. My husband, who is meticulous about dressing appropriately, was mortified and said that he had no idea and apologized. The attendant then told him it was impossible that he had no idea because they always tell people. Well, no one told me when I made the reservation, or when I called to confirm. And the guy was still clutching my husband's arm when I walked over and said we were ready to be seated. After that, we had horrible service for the whole meal. It was, all told, a really annoying experience.

                            1. re: jenhen2

                              Wow that is really intense. Does it make you become more aware now when you go out to eat about the way that you dress at all?

                              1. re: jn682

                                it would make me less likely to return

                                1. re: jn682

                                  As I said, my husband (and I) are usually very careful about dress codes and would always rather be over dressed than under dressed. This experience didn't make me any more aware when we go out than I already was. It just made me really disappointed in Bouley. If a place is going to have a dress code, they should be sure they tell you in advance, and above all, they should be kind and understanding to their customers. This man was neither of those things.

                        2. we just got back from a week in NYC dining in various places, Lupa being one. Mind you no michellin starred places but nice places anyway. I was in either slacks or dark jeans with a button down dress shirt and nice shoes.

                          We felt right at home in everywhere we went, fit right into the crowd, never really too overdressed or underdressed.

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