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Rockefeller Center Signs a Spate of Hip Restaurants in Major Dining Shake-Up

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Brasserie Ruhlmann and other longtime restaurants there are losing their leases

The entrance of Brasserie Ruhlmann in an art deco building with red awnings Brasserie Ruhlmann [Official Photo]

The staid dining at Rockefeller Center is about to get a major overhaul.

Longtime French restaurant Brasserie Ruhlmann will close in early 2020, following news that many concourse restaurants will change up, too. The French restaurant with chef Laurent Tourondel at the helm hasn’t set a closing date, sources tell Eater, but it’s freeing up over 18,000 square feet of prime space right on the Rockefeller Center plaza. Ruhlmann is just one of many upcoming closures for the Midtown complex that houses NBC and Radio City Music Hall. Sea Grill, Rock Center Cafe, and Cucina & Co. will also close early 2020.

The emptying of these legacy venues means a glut of empty space, which is being filled with significantly more modern fast-casual brands that resonate with younger audiences — which may speak to the direction Rock Center is looking to go. A Milk Bar dessert truck, Van Leeuwen ice cream shop, Fuku fried chicken outpost, Sweetgreen salad store, Italian sandwich shop Alidoro, and Korean grab-and-go restaurant Bibigo-to-Go will all open in various locations within the campus, according to a press release. They join some similar recent openings such as vegan By Chloe and hip bagelry Black Seed.

But it’s not just Midtown lunch-crowd fodder in the changes: Sources tell Eater that Tishman Speyer, the commercial real estate group behind these changes, is in talks with hot-shot chefs to open restaurants there, too, people of the caliber of Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson of Frenchette and Ignacio Mattos of Estela. Tishman Speyer declined to comment on who might take over bigger spaces.

It’s a big change-up for the area. Rockefeller Center has had many of the same restaurants for decades, American and French venues that have faded in luster. Bringing in these new names is a major step forward in turning the complex into a dining destination.

The newly announced restaurants will open this fall. The Milk Bar truck will be on the north plaza; Van Leeuwen at 1250 Avenue of the Americas; and Fuku, Sweetgreen, Alidoro, and Bibigo will all be on the concourse level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Stay tuned for more developments.