Pre-Theatre "Fine Dining?"
I’ve got a friend coming to the city for his 25th anniversary. They’re looking for a recommendation for “fine dining” in the theatre district for pre-theatre seating. He’s willing to spend $300 - $400. “Italian, seafood or steak but nothing too ethnic.”
I live in the city but I’m not a fine dining kind of guy (I’m still lamenting the passing of McHales). I’m sure the early seating and proximity to the theatre district (7:30pm show) will be limitations.
They want someplace special. Any recommendations that meet the above criteria would be greatly appreciated.
For steak, Keens would be my pick. Though not in the Theater District, it's a short walk (by New Yorkers' standards) or cab ride away. Excellent food and unmatchable old NY ambiance. Midweek, they are open straight through the day, so if your friends' tickets are for during the week, that would work well because they can dine as early as they wish. On weekends, Keens opens for dinner at 5:30 p.m. In that situation, two people can usually get through dinner in about an hour and a half. But let's face it -- pre-theater dining is rarely a lingering affair.
While there are scads of Italian restaurants in the center of the Theater District, none that I can think of is upscale. I would suggest Alto, which is upscale and is located on the Theater District border, on 53rd, b/t 5th & Madison. Though I haven't managed to get there yet, I have dined at Chef Scott Conant's other restaurant, L'Impero, where the food is delicious, so I have no doubt Alto is as good or better. Dinner service starts at 5:30.
For seafood, try Esca on 46th and 9th. You can spend the money there and it is worth it. I am sure they are used to a pre-theater crowd. Just be on time and mention to the reservationist, captain and waiter that you are on a schedule.
I love Keen's, but it might not be a 25th wedding anniversary type of place. Its more pre-Ranger game than pre-theatre.
Though I have also only been to L'impero, I agree that Alto would surely be an excellent choice.