2 E. 55th St.
When John Jacob Astor opened the St. Regis Hotel in 1904, he aspired to classic European elegance yet the lobby restaurant therein feels quite nouveau riche. The grand chandelier is magnificent, yes, but the murals are off-puttingly ornate; the gold trim, excessively shiny. Most popular for its afternoon tea, the Astor Court draws its mix of tourists, shoppers and bridal-shower celebrants for an experience that's grown a tad worn around the edges: The three-level silver trays—loaded with scones, tea sandwiches, and small sweets—are dented; the sandwich bread is slightly stale. Only the scones, served almost warm with clotted cream, will have you beckoning to the servers for more. At dinner time, Astor Court favors dishes made with seasonal vegetables, such as whole wheat fettucine with English peas and fresh mint, or roasted organic chicken with spring pea risotto and pea vines. Since the setting, floating as it does in the lobby, doesn't warrant fine dining, you may end up wishing you were sitting in the nearby Ole King Cole Bar having a hamburger instead.