Frequented by tourists and locals alike, Nix Cafe is tucked into a corner of the Knickerbocker Hotel's elegant lobby. Against the marble and gilt of its surroundings, the bright cafe stands out like a cherry atop a vanilla sundae: Red, black and white hues spruce up the space and a vivacious mural floods the back wall. Request one of two special booths that sit in elevated spaces; these tables snuggle up to floor-to-ceiling windows with a charming view of Walton Place.
Executive chef David Archer's menu reflects an American aesthetic with a hint of Asian influence. Look for appetizers like yakatori, a Japanese sesame shrimp dish served with hoisin sauce. Five entree salads include the Caribbean, topped with grilled skirt steak and avocado. House-made dressings include surprising vinaigrettes like Bloody Mary, guacamole and sherry walnut.
Entrees range from Kentucky duck to prime New York strip steak topped with a fried onion haystack. A nightly menu of specials offers a soup, salad, entree and wine suggestion. If you're in the mood to indulge, go for the whole special selection for about $50 a person (otherwise, appetizers start at $10 and entrees climb up to $36).
Customers flock to the $14.95 breakfast served until 11 a.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends), which includes link sausage, blintzes, pastries and scrambled eggs; a continental breakfast is also served for $10.95.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg