Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as some of your favorite) restaurants.
Here, we’re looking at the Panorama Room, the unique new cocktail destination on the 18th floor of the Graduate, the only hotel on Roosevelt Island. A tram, ferry, subway, or car will get you there, while the drinks and views will keep you there.
Here’s everything you need to know about this exciting new opening.
1. It’s the best reason to visit Roosevelt Island.
Roosevelt Island, which sits in the East River equidistant from Manhattan and Queens, is a part of New York City (technically, it’s a section of the borough of Manhattan), but you wouldn’t know it based on the number of New Yorkers who have visited the place. While the island is home to 14,000 New Yorkers, there’s been little motivation for others to visit until now, unless the picturesque ruins of the island’s abandoned Small Pox Hospital is your idea of a good time. The Panorama Room bar and its sister restaurant, Anything At All, both located in the Graduate — the only hotel on the island — have finally made Roosevelt Island a drinking and dining destination.
2. The views are unparalleled.
The commuters who spy Roosevelt Island from the FDR on the daily probably think it a pleasant sight. But they don’t know how the other half lives. The views from the Panorama Room’s 18th floor are easily among the most breathtaking in New York, taking in large swaths of Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and, on a clear day, glimpses of The Bronx. To the south, the scope and contours of the East River are in full view, along with its wide variety of maritime traffic. To the north, the Queensboro Bridge looms so large one could almost hail a taxi. Sipping on a cocktail at the long, oval-shaped bar or leaning against the railing of the wraparound balcony is to be reminded of the magic and epic grandeur of the city.
3. The cocktails are top notch.
One might expect that a bar on Roosevelt Island would have some difficulty attracting the best mixological talent, given the remoteness of the location. Not so. Heading the cocktail program is beverage director Estelle Bossy, who spent many years holding down the bar at the vaunted Del Posto. Her cocktail menu is full of seafaring references and nods to the city’s drinking past.
The Old Man & the Sea is a martini variation using Grey Whale Gin and house-smoked olives. The bar’s Long Island Iced Tea — which has a base of Tequila, mezcal and rum — has been renamed after the island’s neighbor across the water, Long Island City. The Sea Plane is made of pear brandy, whiskey, amaro, ginger, lemon juice, and aquafaba. When drinking such cocktails, you certainly won’t envy Manhattan for its Manhattans.
The group behind Panorama Room, Call Mom, is headed up by hospitality veterans Med Abrous and Marc Rose, who together operate The Spare Room (temporarily closed) and Genghis Cohen in Los Angeles, as well as other bars and restaurants around the country.
4. There’s seafood to go with the sea.
What would a bar surrounded on all sides by water be without seafood? The bay breezes and salty air that envelop the Panorama Room are complemented by a raw bar featuring east coast oysters, shrimp cocktail with housemade harissa cocktail sauce, tuna crudo, kampachi crudo, and that current, decadent, city-wide fad, the seafood tower ($125; $175 if you want lobster). If that’s not fancy enough for you, other low-high bar snacks include truffled waffle fries and caviar nachos ($27 or $50, depending on your preference in fish eggs). Megan Brown, the executive chef of the Graduate’s lobby-level restaurant, Anything At All, also oversees the food at Panorama Room.
5. It’s not hard to get there.
Everyone’s familiar with the whimsical tram that brings people from the eastern shore of midtown Manhattan to Roosevelt Island, as if we were skiers at a resort headed to the top of the hill. But that’s not the only way to reach the Island. In fact, Roosevelt Island, its reputation for being isolated notwithstanding, is arguably one of the most accessible parts of New York. The F subway line stops there, as does the Q102 bus from Queens, and the New York City Ferry’s Astoria line, which makes stops in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. Motorists can reach the island via the Roosevelt Island Bridge from Queens. All of these forms of transportation leave a person mere blocks from the Graduate. Wherever you live in the city, you can get here from there, and it’s well worth the visit.
Panorama Room is open on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to midnight, on Fridays and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., and on Sundays from 3 p.m. to midnight.
Robert Simonson writes about cocktails, spirits and bars for The New York Times. He is the author of four books on cocktails, most recently “Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails” and “The Martini Cocktail,” which won a Spirited Award in 2020 and was nominated for awards from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). He recently won an IACP award for his article “Montana’s Great Lost Barman.” Follow him on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.