When the festive season comes, a lot of places in New York City go full out with their decorations. One of such Christmas cafés in NYC is Papillon Bistro & Bar. I have been to this restaurant twice so far. To be fair, I would have loved to go there more often. Even more so when it sports its cherry blossom decorations for spring or spooky decor for Halloween. But being the popular haunt that it is, it is very hard to get a reservation.
Thus, my first recommendation when it comes to Papillon Bistro, is to make plans ahead of time. Reservations are open two months in advance, which gives you enough time to prepare for sure. You can do so via OpenTable. However, in my experience, if you plan to make a booking for the coming weekend or to walk in, chances are you will not get a table. You may be able to sit at the bar if that works for you though.
Christmas at Papillon Bistro
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If you are on Instagram, you probably have seen posts about Papillon Bistro & Bar and how it is deemed one of the best Christmas cafés in NYC. And it is for sure. The team usually start decorating for festive season right after Halloween. In 2023, everything was up by November 10th I believe. Every exciting if you want to get a look before it gets too crowded with Christmas parties! But yes, typically, around beginning of November, the place suddenly sees a resurgence in social media hype.
The bistro is laid out over 2 floors. Downstairs is the bar with high top tables; while upstairs has regular seating for dining. And another bar. Ceilings, walls, stairs and stairwells, windows, bars and pillars, everything is decorated from top to bottom in lights, garlands, baubles, tinsels and other things. I have to say, the abundance of holiday decorations makes for a very striking effect – and very Instagrammable location!
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My experience with Papillon Bistro & Bar the two times I have been there has been very positive. The first time I went was for drinks and dinner after work with a friend. We sat downstairs on a high top table. Granted, it was my mistake. At the time, I did not know what “high top” meant. Yes, I assume it meant we’d sit on the mezzanine – but no. So we were downstairs. Which was still very nice!
The second time, I went for brunch with a friend. It was actually my last brunch in New York City before I moved back home. So it made the moment even more special. Beside the decorations, the cocktails really are what makes this place worth it. The combination of liquors and flavors, as well as the lovely garnish, make for some amazing drinks. They are also very pretty, so always perfect for an Instagram story!
However, I have to say I was a bit surprise that they did not have a larger hot drink selection on their menu. Especially now that we are well into the holiday season. Indeed, I was expecting some boozy hot chocolate – or even regular hot chocolate – or Irish coffee but they did not have that on offer. Still, we had a lovely time. And the service is always impeccable, the staff super friendly and fast.
Food-wise, I’d say that the food is average though. It’s nothing special. The food menu is rather limited and it is mostly bar food. Great for a bite with a drink, yes; but if you’re looking for a great brunch place, then Papillon Bistro is not the place for you. However, if you want to have some great cocktails in a Christmas café with a lot of photo opportunities, then you should definitely give it a go!
To be honest, I went there purely for the decorations and Instagram moment! But I had a blast both times and would definitely recommend it for a night out with friends. Or even a Christmas office party – they seem to have a lot of those. Papillon Bistro is also very conveniently located on 54th Street and Madison Avenue, a block away from 5th Avenue.
If you’re not able to get a reservation at Papillon Bistro, worry not. Indeed, it has 2 sister bars, which also sport incredible holiday decorations: Lillie’s Victorian Establishment (Times Square and Union Square) and Oscar Wilde (Nomad). I have been to both and they both offer a bigger food selection as well as incredible cocktails!
Have you been to Papillon Bistro & Bar before? If not, are you planning a little visit? If yes, what did you think of the place?
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See you soon,