Rolf’s is a German restaurant and bar in Gramercy, Manhattan, New York.
It is dubbed the “city’s most festive restaurant” due to its extra (and I mean “eeeextraaa”) festive decorations.
If you search “Christmas in New York,” it will be all over your search results.
Visitors flock to this location during the festive holidays to get a chance to experience a snappy-happy dining experience that can only Rolf’s NYC is known to give.
Rolf’s NYC Menu
Rolf’s has been a staple in NYC’s holiday dining scene for the last 50 years.
Patrons don’t just visit this place to take pictures of the décor and tick the spot off their to-do list. They also come for the food, made and served with a Teutonic flare.
The menu comprises heavy dishes like Schnitzel, Sauerbraten, Bratwurst, sausage platters and more.
Sure, the food is fresh, the portions are generous, and both low-fat and gluten-free options are available.
However, the food’s flavors, taste, and texture are a far cry from authentic Bavarian dishes. If you’ve dabbled in proper German cuisine before, you will understand what I am saying once you get your Rolf’s experience.
Rolf’s also serves drinks.
Unlike the main dishes, which have wait times of up to 2hrs, drinks at Rolf’s are readily available and plentiful. These also live up to the billing, unlike the food.
You can order a glass of wine; Rolf’s has an extensive wine list featuring local varietals and wines from other countries. Or, you could try something new like sangria or one of their imported German beers.
The bar also offers holiday drinks like spiced egg-nog, mulled wine and hot apple cider, and a range of delicious cocktails.
Non-alcoholic drinks and beverages like warm-spiced coffees are also available.
If you really want to enjoy your time at Rolf’s, I advise you to come on a full stomach and stick to drinks. This way, you won’t leave disappointed.
Rolf’s NYC Christmas
As you know, Rolf’s is a bonafide Christmas destination in New York, notably for its over-the-top (very kitschy) decorations.
Think hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights and thousands of ornaments and icicles all strung and lined throughout the restaurant. In addition to these, there are hundreds of porcelain dolls and wreaths, artificial fir trees, garlands, ribbons, and other festive bits and pieces.
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Honestly, the décor, while Insta-famous, is excessive.
But Kitsch and all, Rolf’s Victorian-style décor is what makes it popular and Instagram worthy, even more so than the food.
Can you imagine that the owners spend over $60000 annually on these decorations alone? Yes, I know it’s crazy! Bizarre!
And apparently, it takes six men six weeks of night work to put up the elaborate decorations.
Decoration usually begins in late September and lasts until spring. So if you don’t make it to Rolf’s over Christmas, you still have January, February, March, and April to fill your Instagram with pictures of your holiday experience at this Gramercy pub.
So what’s Rolf’s like during Christmas?
Hectic! That’s the best word to describe it.
Aside from the excessive decor, Rolf’s is always jam-packed. Tourists from all over the world flock to Gramercy during Christmas to see the wonder that is Rolf’s. New Yorkers too!
Lines go out the door and wrap halfway down the block. And there is always a line from the 2nd or 3rd week leading to Christmas. You may have to endure a 30mins to an hour wait if you’re lucky.
Long lines aside, Rolf’s doesn’t have the best customer service.
Once inside, you are expected to head directly to the bar or your seat in the dining area, no loitering. You will most likely have to weave your way through to the bar to order a drink.
The barkeeps are always in a rush and with an attitude.
Also, while Rolf’s is great for a palpable and photographic Christmas celebration, the service is abysmal, and the ambiance is not ideal if you’re looking just to chill out or catch up with friends over a glass of red or beer.
On the plus side, the drinks are great; the atmosphere is warm and cozy, albeit old-fashioned, and the Christmas decorations are worth the trip. The crowd of revelers, complete with their Santa hats and jolly Noel-spirit are also part of the Christmas experience here
Rolf’s NYC Reservations
Rolf’s is insanely popular, as you know.
The restaurant becomes bustling starting the 2nd and 3rd weeks of December.
So, if you want to go there during the holidays, I advise you to plan ahead-make a reservation. It’s the only thing that will save you from the crazy lines and wait times at this holiday attraction in Gramercy, Manhattan.
To make a reservation, you must call Rolf’s directly using the phone numbers on their website (2124774750 or 2124738718). They don’t have an online reservation system (sad!).
I highly recommend making your reservation for Rolf’s as soon as the fall season begins because the restaurant can be hard to reach in December. Once their capacity for reservations is maxed, there isn’t much you can do other than wait for the off-peak season from mid-January to April.
Lunchtime spots are not as popular at Rolf’s as there are occasionally some spots left during the festive season. So instead of dinner, you can try to make your reservations for lunch.
You can also walk in, but as I said earlier, the wait can be hours long, and this might just be for drinks at the sardine-packed bar.
281 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10010
Mon to Fri – 11:30am–10:30pm
Sat and Sun – 12:00pm–10:30pm
Who owns Rolf’s?
Rolf’s was initially founded by Rolf Hoffman in 1968 strictly as a German restaurant.
But after Hoffman died in 1981, Robert Massimo, a staff member then, decided to keep the place alive as per Hoffman’s wishes.
Robert is the current owner of Rolf’s and has transformed the restaurant from a simple German restaurant to what is now-a Christmas “wonderland” in the heart of New York.
Is it possible to make a reservation for drinks only at Rolf’s?
You don’t need a reservation to get into the bar at Rolf’s. You can just walk in, but go early (by 6 pm) if you don’t want to wait too long.
Is there a specific time to call Rolf’s?
No, Rolf’s phone lines are open all day. But it is advised to call in the morning (from 9 am); otherwise, you will get a busy signal.
How can I get to Rolf’s?
You can easily get to Rolf’s in Gramercy via subway 6 to 23rd street.
Is Rolf’s Vegan Friendly?
No, Rolf’s is all about the meaty goodness-Bratwurst, Schnitzel, and Sausage platters!
You can try the drink, though. Most of the wines and cocktails are vegan-friendly.
Does Rolf’s have a Kid’s menu?
No, they don’t have a dedicated children’s menu, but they have things like sausages, cheese, and potato pancakes which I presume are kid-friendly.