New Year's Eve EVE (12/30) Dinner in Manhattan - NOT STUFFY
Here's my dilema...I'll be in NYC for new years and I need a restaurant to go to with my girlfriend. We're both from DC, originally from Philly, and KNOW how restaurants can be when you're choosing blind. I've been through the small plates (how many will it take to feed me tonight!), the stuffy restaurants, the fancy preparations that you hate to eat, the "what is this, what does this mean, garnished with what?".
I want a good meal that I don't have to think about - one where we're comfortable, get good food, and feel relaxed. I don't mean inexpensive (price isn't an issue), I don't mean casual, but I mean comfortable. Think BlackSalt or Zola in DC, or most BYOs in Philly. Good, solid food with no pretensions.
So, where should I go? I thought of Mesa Grill only because of name recognition, but beyond that, I'm lost in NYC beyond that the NY Times tells me. Anytime on 12/30 works for us, and I know I have enough time to get into MOST places. We'll be staying at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, but I'm really open to anywhere in Manhattan.
Thanks in advance for the advice!!!
I think both Cookshop (Chelsea - www.cookshopny.com) or Five Points (NoHo - www.fivepointsrestaurant.com) would fit your bill very well (same owners). They are both very relaxed yet offer expertly prepared, fresh ingredients at non-exorbitant prices. My preference between the two is Cookshop, but they are fairly similar and Five Points is much easier to book a table at.
One notch up from there would be Gramercy Tavern or Gotham Bar and Grill. Both are relatively casual with excellent food. I like to go there when it's a special occasion but I don't want to feel as though I have to dress up for a special occasion.
I don't think a cab will be difficult on the 30th, so you might as well get out of the Marriott neighborhood, since while you can definitely find good food there (esp. on 9th Ave) there will be a ton of tourists and people from outer bouroughs in for shows.
Based on the descriptions you have provided, here are a couple of possibilities you might like.
Compass is on the lower end of the Upper West Side. The New American cuisine served there is delicious. A big place, i.e., main dining room on two level, a lounge area in front, and several private rooms. The contemporary decor is quite attractive. We always request seating in one of their comfy, cozy booths.
Hearth is located in the East Village. The very seasonal menu is New American with a small tilt toward Italian. Another large place -- two dining spaces and a bar area -- with minimalist decor and "Goldilocks" lighting that provides a feeling of warmth.
Enjoy your visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!
Thanks for all the suggestions! As for the places I mentioned in DC, they're both modern american food. Zola is upscale, but their food goes along the lines of updated American classics. Decor is very modern and very trendy, but the food doesn't have that same feel, which is why I return there often. BlackSalt, on the other hand, is the neighborhood restaurant that EVERYONE is going to in DC. Serves extremely fresh seafood cooked simply, in a very simple setting. The ambiance is perfect too - lots of open space, some booths, and fairly brightly lit, so you do feel like you're in a restaurant, but not one where you're rubbing elbows with the elite. Its the kind of place you have a diverse mix of corporate, family, and locals.
Hope that helps - I'll take a look at the recommendations as well...
I agree with NAtiveNewYorker that there are many good options on 9th Av. No restaurant there that I can think of would be considered a "special occasion" place, but the best ones (and that's a matter of opinion) are the kinds of places where NY Hounds go to when they want a solidly prepared meal any day of the week.
One of my favorites on 9th (corner 44th St.) is Marseille, a very attractive, comfortable brasserie that serves excellent French/Mediterranean cuisine.
On the other side of B'way, dbBistro Moderne, on 44th St., b/t 5th & 6th Avs., is more upscale, yet still casual. This is 4-star chef Daniel Boulud's modern take on French bistro cuisine. Needless to say, the food is first-rate, and the space has stylish contemporary decor.
There are literally hundreds of possibilities in other neighborhoods. I don't know anything about the D.C. restaurants you mentioned. Perhaps, if you would tell us what kind of food they serve, describe their ambiance a bit, and tell us the cuisines you prefer, we might be able to come up with some other suggestions.
Btw, the night before New Year's Eve is a Saturday. That is a prime night for theater, so the restaurants in the vicinity of the Marriott are definitely not going to be empty.
Maybe I should clarify a bit too...I did Opentable, and I'm looking on NYTimes, but what I'm coming up with are a ton of stuffy, "this is a special occasion" type of place. I want a place where you'd go during the week to get a solid, good meal. Maybe I'm just looking for a restaurant that I'll have to REALLY dig around for, but I'm hoping for some guidance from you all out there.
Oh, and this is 12/30, not 12/31. I know that is a death day for restaurants...
Here's how I would think about it:
1. You need to be close by. New Year's Eve means that taxi cabs are impossible to get.
2. The stretch of 9th Avenue between 42nd and 57th is a culinary gem with tons of options...and it's close by to you.
3. Pick a cuisine on that stretch and know that if you sit down at 10:00 PM, you'll pay an extra fee for "a midnight champagne toast" which is just a way to bid up the price a bit on a busy night.
Italian? Roberto Passion
Turkish? Turkish Cuisine
(check Chowhound for other cuisines and "9th Ave")