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Summer Garden & Bar At Rock Center Cafe, NYC

NYC’s Rockefeller Center boasts the iconic ice rink in winter. In the summer, it transforms into the must-visit Summer Garden & Bar at Rock Center Cafe.

Summer Garden Bar, NYC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

My college roommate Kara and I just got back from a weekend adventure to New York City. We don’t get to see each other very often, as she lives in North Carolina with her hubby and young kids, and I’m in Oklahoma. So when the opportunity arose for a fun-filled weekend together, I couldn’t refuse. She had flown to Maryland Thursday evening; we left bright and early Friday morning so we could meet friends for lunch in Cape May NJ; and made it to NYC by Friday evening. Saturday was tourist day: Ground Zero, Wall Street, South Street Seaport, Fulton Stall Market, the charging bull, and the Century 21 shopping craziness. We accomplished all of that, as well as changing hotels, by 2PM. We were originally meeting a friend for lunch, but by that point we were absolutely starving and still hadn’t heard from him, so we forged on.  Kara mentioned that she had always wanted to eat at Rockefeller Center.

Actually, her first idea was for us to eat at Top of the Rock for the gorgeous city views. But it’s only open in the evenings, and we weren’t dressed for that type of atmosphere. There are actually quite a few restaurants in the Rockefeller Center building complex, and right in the center is the Summer Garden & Bar at Rock Center Cafe.

Summer Garden Bar, NYC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Yes, this is the same place that has the ice skating rink and iconic Christmas tree in winter. Rock Center Cafe is inside, and therefore open year-round. The Summer Garden & Bar is open seasonally, and is divided into several distinct areas. The gorgeous fountain is of course the focal point, with a lounge seating area immediately adjacent to the fountain; regular tables, several long bar-height tables, and then a fully tented bar.

Summer Garden Bar, NYC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Photo by Rockefeller Center

Many of the tables have umbrellas that can be opened for guest comfort. It was about a million degrees out that day, so we were very happy to be seated at a table with an umbrella, and right next to the fountain.

Summer Garden Bar, NYC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

We had tried to stay hydrated throughout the day, but it’s hard when you’re walking all over the city. And besides, you don’t want to drink too much water, because public restrooms aren’t exactly plentiful.  So we chugged down a few waters, and then it was time for a cocktail.  The skinny margaritas immediately caught our eyes.  Our server suggested that if we were going to have 2 each, we might as well get a pitcher.

Summer Garden Bar, NYC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

The margarita was fantastic, very light and refreshing. I love that we got extra lime slices in the glass.  And of course we couldn’t leave a drop of the margarita in the pitcher

Summer Garden Bar, NYC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Summer Garden & Bar at Rock Center Cafe offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each menu offers quite a few options, but none are overwhelming. The only thing we had eaten for the day was a croissant before we went to Ground Zero, and a couple of prosciutto balls at Fulton Square Market. And even though we were starving, we didn’t want to gorge ourselves because it was so hot and we still had a lot of walking to do. We started with parmesan rosemary fries as an appetizer.  I was so excited to get them, but then it turned out to be nothing more than plain french fries with parmesan sprinkled on top. I was quite disappointed, and completely forgot to take a picture.  On the flip side, the fries were served with fresh rosemary, and that did add wonderful flavor.

For entrees, we decided to get a couple of items and split them. We went with the avocado and goat cheese salad, and the Crystal Valley farm chicken sandwich.

Rock Center Cafe, NYC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Tomato, Butternut Lettuce, Red Onions, Pepitas, Cilantro-Chile Lime Vinaigrette

Summer Garden Bar, NYC - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Sliced Chicken, Aged Provolone, Avocado, Jersey Beefsteak Tomato, Pecanwood Smoked Bacon, Dijonnaise, Greens

The salad was wonderful. I love avocados, and was so happy to see such huge chunks of creamy goodness. Goat cheese adds a wonderful bite to the salad.  A Google search confirmed for us that pepitas are pumpkin seeds. I had never eaten them in a salad before, but they added a nice crunch. I really like that they used butter lettuce, and the vinaigrette was light yet flavorful.  The sandwich was delicious, but I will say that since we were sharing I do wish it was a whole sandwich. I love that they use a spring mix for the salad instead of boring regular lettuce.

Will I go back to the Summer Garden & Bar at Rock Center Cafe?  No question. I think it would be a great place to enjoy a relaxing afternoon, and I’m sure at night it’s a great destination. As we were leaving we noticed they have a prie fix dinner menu for $38.  That is a steal by NYC standards, as you can easily spend that on just an entree in many restaurants.

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