Location, as always, matters.
This excellent Grub Street piece explains where NYC’s wealthiest residents (Upper East Siders) eat. It also goes into why top tier Midtown & Downtown restaurants (like Per Se & Momofuku Ko) have to be so culinarily exceptional to earn those set menu dollars.
Bundle looked at spending habits and explains that NYC’s wealthiest spend their money at pricey neighborhood options:
In fact, all of the places whose clientele consists of more than 15 percent luxury spenders are on the Upper East Side, and all are low-key places like Mezzaluna and Bar Italia — not to mention a surprisingly large number of neighborhood sushi spots.
Less affluent diners in Manhattan (from midtown, lower Manhattan, or outer boroughs) avoid uptown and dine at closer top restaurants as an investment:
When diners do spend hundreds of dollars on dinner at a restaurant in the East Village (maybe after waiting in line, since no reservations are accepted), this data shows us it’s likely a significant investment. And the only way a restaurant will keep customers like that coming back is to offer them an exceptional experience with cutting-edge food.
In addition to non-UES residents patronizing top restaurants, NYC has a huge food tourism industry. Top NYC restaurants are destination dining options for those out of state or out of country.