One of my favorite things about my favorite TV show is how it showcases the New York dining scene from hole-in-the-walls to neighborhood gems to Michelin-starred restaurants. And it has been my pleasure to share the information about restaurants appearing on the show first in my weekly recaps and then in a full dining guide by the end of the season for Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3.
And now that our Billions dining guides are some of the most popular posts on the blog, and that we constantly get questions about the restaurants on the show, I have decided to kick off our dining guide early with the restaurants our characters visited in the first two episodes in Season 4 and update the post as we go.
Before we dive into another wonderful season of New York food scene, massive thanks go to the show creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien for loving and honoring the dining capital of the world. And you can see how the world of food is integral to the show from this tweet from Koppelman when some Mr. Gavin Scott asks on Twitter whether someone can summarize the first three seasons of Billions in a couple of tweets.
2) Chuck v Axe (+/- Taylor) + Wendy v (Taylor) + Jock + Connery but see Chuck/Axe/Wendy v The World.
3) Restos! And Movie Quotes/historical/animal similes/references that make 80s Dennis Miller’s head spin.
(Who else wants to try) https://t.co/FDsKjNfaIY
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) March 5, 2019
And if you are curious like me about when they shoot at the restaurants, early morning, late night or during the day, here is the answer:
We often shoot early in the morning, before service. But, on occasion, the restaurant does close for the day. https://t.co/zFjhuODl2N
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) April 15, 2019
Some of the restaurants and bars that appear on Billions are my personal favorites, and some gems I discover thanks to the show. I try my best to make a complete list using a combination of hints from the scene, social media, keyword search on Google and, hey, Google earth, too!
I describe each place below with a picture of the scene as a refresher, a link to the restaurant/bar website, its location as well as its Yelp review where available. I really hope you have a chance to try one or several of these places and send us feedback. Please let me know if I am missing anything and I am happy to add it to the list.
Episode 1: Chucky Rhoades’s Greatest Game
Season 4 opener has this incredibly hilarious sequence where Chuck goes on a tour of diners, cafes and restaurants in NYC trading one favor at a time to get a gun-carry permit, almost impossible to get as a private citizen in NYC, for a big shot. Brian Koppelman explains the idea behind this sequence in the following tweet.
Dave and I had the idea to do a tour of the power breakfast, lunch, dinner rooms in one episode since season one. To have Chuck or Axe need to do it. Then, in the writers room, Adam Perlman reminded us it was on the board. And we had the spine of this Chuck story.
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) March 18, 2019
The one where Chuck kindly asks Police Commissioner Sansome if he could help him with getting a gun permit for one of his clients
Barney Greengrass: Barney Greengrass is the Sturgeon King of New York. A true institution, the deli opened its doors in Harlem in 1908 and moved to its current location on the Upper West Side in 1929. Their signature dish is the sturgeon scrambled eggs. Keep in mind that they still only accept cash and that even if you are not in NYC you can still buy their smoked fish online!
The owner Gary Greengrass makes a cameo in the episode asking Chuck if he wants a table and hears back that he should “save his fine sable for someone whose fortunes warrant it.”
The one with Chuck trading favors with Mr. Eisen
E.A.T.: Before I talk about E.A.T. I need to talk about Zabar’s, a city institution on the Upper West Side and my all-time favorite gourmet deli. Zabar’s has incredible variety of food items and it is particularly specialized in smoked fish, cheese, coffee, caviar, and, did I mention cheese 🙂 The upstairs is an adventure on its own, a delicious chaos of shelves full of kitchen tools and appliances but believe me you will find whatever it is you are looking for!
So, Eli Zabar of the Zabar brothers, who wanted to have a food store
different from his family’s Upper West Side deli, opened E.A.T. but on Madison Avenue in 1973. The upmarket deli doubled and later tripled in size over time and moved to its current location. E.A.T. serves salads, sandwiches , baked goods and more. There is a dining area where we see Chuck finding Mr. Eisen as the latter is enjoying his “tower of bagel” sandwich. You can reserve the second floor space for your next brunch or children’s party. And Mr. Zabar makes a cameo in the episode shaking hands with Chuck!
The one where Chuck trades favors with Donny Deutsch
Michael’s: A midtown Californian eatery that has been a power-breakfast-and- lunch place for who is who of media since 1989. The space features interesting art works by Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Graham. It turns out that the restaurant gives priority to longtime customers over celebrities where coveted seats are concerned, e.g. Table 1 in the front of the house where Bill Clinton, Michael Keaton and Warren Buffett have dined. I wonder if this is the table Donny Deutsch and Kenny Dichter are power-lunching in the episode.
The one where Wendy delivers First Tracks Deer Valley for Chuck
The Pool: A new seafood restaurant created by the Major Food Group, The Pool is located in the iconic setting of the former Four Seasons Restaurant in Seagram Building. The restaurant’s interior, designed by the landmark building’s legendary architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, has remained almost unchanged since its construction in 1959. And the Four Seasons Restaurant was designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission as an interior landmark in 1989.
Lewisto and I “discovered” Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi of Major Food Group when they opened their first restaurant Torrisi Italian Specialties, a homage to Italian American cooking where they insisted on using domestic products, on Mulberry Street. They served a truly ambitious nightly-changing prix-fixe menu for $50 for quite a while. And there was no corkage fee! The trick was that you had to go and wait at the door in the afternoon until someone came out around 5pm to take your name down for the 6:30pm or 9:30pm setting. I am still missing the restaurant four years after it shut its doors, but I also understand that Carbone and Torrisi, along with their partner Jeffrey Zalaznick, wanted to move on to new culinary adventures and have since become an empire with great restaurants all over New York such as Carbone, Dirty French, Santina, Parm, Sadelle’s, ZZ’s Clam Bar and recently The Grill and The Pool.
The one where Chuck finally finds someone who would be happy to get a Park-Anywhere permit 🙂
The one where Chuck along with Sean Ayles solves Ambassador Suarez’ problem
Marea: A two-Michelin-star restaurant on Central Park South, Marea is a high-end place serving seafood and house-made pastas. I am not sure if it is the decor or the fact that most men are wearing jackets but the restaurant has a corporate, power-joint feel to it.
Michael White, the head chef and the owner of the Altamarea Group has a number of restaurants in New York, two of which, namely Ai Fiori and Vaucluse, appeared in the earlier seasons of Billions. And now Chef Michael White makes his first cameo in Billions Season 4 opener as we see him chatting with Ambassador Suarez at the Marea bar area as Chuck and Ayles enter the restaurant.
The one in front of which Paul “Big Paul” Castellano was whacked
Sparks Steakhouse: An old school midtown steakhouse, and a former mob hangout, Sparks will forever be remembered as the place in front of which Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano was killed under the orders of John Gotti in 1985. We see Chuck and Police Commissioner Sansome reenacting the scene from that night in the closing scene of the episode.
Episode 2: Arousal Template
The one where Rudy asks Mafee for a job
Emmy Squared: A square pie joint with a sweet love story behind it. They have two locations, one in Williamsburg and the other in East Village. Emmy Squared uses high quality and as much as possible local ingredients and serves delicious Detroit-style pizza. I have only been to the East Village location where we, six people, shared four pizzaz all of which were yum! I am not positive but I bet Mafee is having their signature “Roni Supreme” with mozzarella, lots of pepperoni, and Calabrian chilies.
The one where Team Axe celebrates Bonnie’s birthday
The VNYL: The four-story space is a 1970s inspired restaurant, bar and nightclub and the name stands for “Vintage New York Lifestyle.” Each floor has a different feel, and the front shop operates as a full-service coffee bar and vinyl store during the day. While it is an ideal place for drinks and dancing late into the night, the California-inspired food menu is inviting.
Many thanks go to Daniel S. Isaac aka Ben Kim for helping me to figure out this one!
— Daniel K. Isaac (@DanielKIsaac) March 26, 2019
The one where Axe and Rebecca get to know each other better
Broken Shaker: On the 18th floor of Freehand Hotel on Lexington, Broken Shaker is a rooftop bar serving handcrafted cocktails and an eclectic menu of small plates. The bar has a beautiful outside space for summer. Eater calls Broken Shaker the best rooftop bar in New York right now. No wonder our red hot flirt Axe takes Rebecca there for their first date 🙂
The one where Taylor feeds The Kozlovs to Grigor Andolov
Russian Vodka Room: A lively nightspot with an extensive selection of homemade flavor-induced vodkas and classic Russian fare. Andolov offers Taylor garlic pepper & dill-infused vodka while he prefers Horseradish-infused himself which is a winner according to The New Yorker review. There is also live piano music and may I just say I love Kalinka played on piano in the episode?
The one where Mafee ultimately says no to Rudy
Walter Foods: A neighborhood joint in Williamsburg serving American comfort food.
Episode 4: Overton Window
The one where Foley asks for immunity from Jeffcoat
Stout: Steps from Grand Central Station, Stout is an upbeat Irish pub serving a wide range of beer on tap and classic pub fare in a rustic/chic interior. Now, I have to confess there was no way I could have found out this location without a little help from Billions creator and show runner Brian Koppelman! Due to the Longhorns jersey and other UT memorabilia on the walls, I was looking for an upscale Tex-Mex or some kind of BBQ place in New York and I was wrong! Stout is an authentic Irish pub, and a very famous one at that, but it is masquerading as a Texan place in the episode. Thanks to Brian Koppelman who shared the episode script on Twitter, I was able to pinpoint the location where Foley passes a piece of paper with information on Chuck’s sex life to Jeffcoat.
The one where Chuck makes his historical speech
Fraunces Tavern: Owned by the Sons of Revolution since 1904, this historical landmark, built in 1719, is claimed to be Manhattan’s oldest surviving building: 300 years old! The building had an important role in American history both during and after the American Revolution. It served as the headquarters George Washington used to negotiated peace with the British and later housed federal offices. The menu has traditional as well as contemporary American food. They have been serving the famous chicken pot pie for such a long time that it may have been enjoyed even by Washington himself! 😀 The museum preserves and interprets the history of the American Revolution through public education.
As a serious student of history, Chuck finds it appropriate to bid farewell to his political campaign where George Washington bid farewell to his troops. But he changes his mind and instead adds to the history of the Tavern with his own historical speech!
Episode 5: A Proper Sendoff
Una Pizza Napoletana: Self-taught chef Anthony Mangieri opened Una Pizza in a tiny space in East Village in early 2000s serving only and only Neapolitan Pizza. Later, he moved his pizzeria to San Francisco for a few years, but now, lucky us, the chef is back and Una Pizza now serves small plates as well desserts next to the to-die-for pies at its new industrial space on the Lower East Side. They also have an all-Italian wine list that focuses on natural winemaking — totally a soft spot for wine snobs like yours truly!
Axe, Rebecca, Chuck and Wendy raise their glasses to the new state AG at a private double date where Chuck makes his feelings about the pizza very clear:
“If the only way I could eat this pizza is naked, in the middle of Times Square, I would.”
Chef Mangieri makes a cameo on the show and I believe the pizza he takes out of the oven and brings to the table is the Margherita. And if you are from Italy, or you have Italian friends, you know Margherita is what Italians try first at a pizzeria to decide on the quality! Oh, and yeah, I am craving some pizza now!
The one where Lauren is able to get Taylor on the schedule for NYFF Fund
Johnny Utah’s: A spacious midtown joint with a Western theme and Southwestern/BBQ menu complete with a mechanical riding bull!
We do not see the restaurant in the episode and so it is a mystery to me, like it is a mystery to Taylor, how “shots and a mechanical bull” helped Lauren to get her boss on the schedule for a pitch at the New York Fire Fighters Fund! 😀 We may choose to believe that the venue and her young, pretty and personable friends are raw materials and Lauren’s art is what she makes of them!
The one where Chuck succeeds in making Scolari not repeat himself!
Donohue’s Steakhouse: A homey place for steaks and other straightforward classics in vintage, dark-wood quarters. Donohue’s does not have a website but the New York Times has a loving piece about the place.
Donohue’s seems to be Joe Scolari’s favorite meeting place! And we see him and Chuck sitting at the bar this time where Chuck succeeds in making Scolari not repeat himself for the first time! 🙂
Episode 6: Maximum Recreational Depth
The one where Taylor listens to Wendy
Morgenstern’s: Morgenstern’s is the synonym of YUM. It is a modern ice cream shop serving creative flavors of ice cream and sorbet. We see the owner Nicholas Morgenstern making a cameo in the episode. Wendy seems to be friends with him and Nicholas turns the ice cream shop into a speakeasy for his friend 😀
Well, Mr. Morgenstern is definitely a good friend in real life. Did you know he named his peanut butter ice cream cake after his friend Brian Koppelman? Meet The Koppelman!
The one where Victor and Axe bond over what looks like a sheep’s head
Haandi: A true cabbie joint serving homey Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi food in a simple setting.
It turns out that his cab driver uncle used to take Victor to this place. And it is ironic that Axe and Victor talk about Victor’s head, which is on the chopping block, as they bond over a sheep’s head! Neither one has any appetite left at the end of the conversation!
The one where Team Taylor celebrates the partnership with Brian Dana
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill: Focusing on the “shared experience” the restaurant has three kitchens, an open fire grill, a raw bar, and a traditional kitchen, serving globally inspired food.
The one where Chuck and De Giulio trade favors
The store has the most interesting story: They started as a shoe and hat repair shop with a push cart outside which sold candy. During the Depression years, the candy cart brought in more business than the repair shop and so the owners decided to turn the store into a candy shop in 1937. The discount candy store has been selling all kinds of candy, chocolate, nuts and dried fruit since then. The store feels like a candy museum just because you can always find that candy bar you are not able to find anywhere else!