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Babbo, Bouley or Cru?

In lieu of presents this year, my boyfriend and I have decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner at a more upscale place than we usually frequent. I've reserved at Babbo and Bouley and am primarily deciding between the two, though Cru has also piqued my interest. We're both in our mid 20's and my boyfriend isn't as adventurous an eater as I am. I'm wondering what you think the best choice is for a romantic, but not too stuffy locale with superb but not overly "out there" cuisine. I've lived in NYC for several years now and am constantly chided for not having tried Babbo yet, but I enjoyed the food at Upstairs better than at Lupa...does that mean I should go with Bouley instead?

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  1. I would go with Bouley: great food, decor and service.

    1. PS: If it helps at all, Hearth and Eleven Madison Park are two of my favorite places for the kind of experience I'm looking to have for this occasion. I'd just like to try a place I haven't been yet...

      1. Comparing Babbo to your beloved 11 Madison (my fave too), I'd say they have similarly splendid food and superb ingredients, and they both show a certain lack of pretension. However, Babbo is a much more rollicking, boisterous place. Not precisely "romantic."

        I haven't been to Bouley in yeeeears (I went back when it was the "Bouley Bakery" in the early 00s), but I would wager it boasts a more subdued, luxurious atmosphere.

        By the way, Babbo has more adventerous offerings on its menu than Bouley, but there would still be plenty of more conservative options for your boyfriend to choose from.

        1. babbo is going to be very adventurous, so if your boyfriend is not into that, you might not want to go there! although there are some not so crazy dishes on the menu as well, the food is SO good though!!

          1. Can we vote for "none of the above." Bouley was my all time favorite, when it was at its original address on Duane Street. Now THAT was romantic. Not sure why Bouley ever gave that space up. I have not been impressed in the new place. But it probably does have best food of the three.

            Babbo is good food, but overhyped. Although your guy may like that buzz factor -- it is exciting going there, and the food is good.

            CRU, I was really hoping to like, considering its two telephone books dedicated to wine (one red, one white). But the food is so so and the decor looks like an old mens club. As a good friend from Paris often says: "I ate there twice; my first time, and my last."

            Sorry, not too helpful. I'd probably go for Craft. Its getting a little long in the tooth, but I'm a fan of Colechio, who has created a unique, hometown, food style here in NY. Or Chanterelle, thats romantic and the cheese board is unreal; its a great place, even after all these years.

            3 Replies
            1. re: rayhnyc

              Thanks rayhnyc. I'll scratch Cru off my list. It was in third place anyway! I've been to both Craft and Chanterelle before but they are excellent suggestions.

              What's the service like at Babbo? The near impossibility of getting a reservation and the demeanor of the reservationist when I finally did get through were a little offputting...

              1. re: nychowgirl

                Noooo....I've been to all 3 and Cru is by far my favorite of them. I thought the decor was very nice at Cru, I didnt see anything whatsoever to complain about there (and as dim as it is, how would you even notice??). The meal was fantastic and the service was some of the best I've experienced.

                I love Bouley too though lately its had some lacklustre reviews on here. Our one meal there for our anniversary a couple years ago was sensational though. 10 - 12 courses.

                Babbo I've only been too once and is obviously a great place. But I'd go to Cru or Bouley over Babbo between the 3 of them.

                1. re: nychowgirl

                  I've been to Babbo 3 times and always found the service to be great. Absolutely accomodating and never stuffy or snobby. I like the food at Babbo's (but I like the out-there stuff that some people might not like -- offal and all that). But I wouldn't think of it as a romantic spot. My preference is for the upstairs area which is less cramped but whiter and more lit up -- almost the opposite of romantic (which I associate with dark and candle-lit).

              2. I found the service at Babbo varies from good to delightful. During my list visit, I found the high point was the amount of time wine guru David Lynch spent at our table, guiding us through the exciting wine list. He made helpful, price-conscious suggestions with enthusiasm, humor and without a hint of condescension. Top marks from me.

                I admit that getting a reservation takes a bit of time and commitment, but I disagree with those who find it "impossible." Just work that redial button for a half hour or so. Every time I've called, I've gotten the British lady; I think she's great.

                1. the service at Babbo is great!! The last time I was there I met Mario Batali who was SO nice! I know the reservations are impossible, but its well worth it!

                  1. Hey there,
                    You can't go wrong with any of these choices. I have to say that the best meal I've ever had in NYC was the chef's tasting at Cru. If you have any interest at all in wine, I would give it a shot. Like Babbo, there are plenty of creative as well as more conservatice choices. Enjoy your meal and please report back!


                    1. My girlfriend took me to Babbo last year for my birthday and it was the single greatest meal of my life. The service was great but fun at the same time. There is no air of pretension and really it's set up to make sure you enjoy yourselves. The wine list is great and the sommeliers are even better. I've had friends who have done business lunches at Bouley and I've walked by Cru a bunch of times, from the outside looking in both places seem a tad stuffier than Babbo. My gf and I are both around your age and I would say Babbo would be the perfect experience - our bill came out to over $500 with tip but we created our own tasting menu and had a new wine pairing with each stage.

                      1. I think I'm gonna go w/Babbo. So the next question is, if we have a choice, do we want upstairs or downstairs? And should we do the pasta tasting (not sure whether the bf would go for this as he's a bit of a health nut and will think that's a LOT of pasta...), the regular tasting, or go a la carte? I'm inclined to go for one of the tastings with the wine pairing but if that means we won't get to try the mint love letters I'm stumped.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nychowgirl


                          The problem my gf and I had with the tasting was that we couldn't get "what we wanted" They have no problem with you sharing dishes there so I suggest you make your own tasting like we did. It certiantly doesn't have to be as expensive or expansive as the one I had (my gf and I can eat!) and we had an insane amount of wine; but if you do go you must have the lambs tounge vinagertte - unreal and the beef cheek ravioli.

                          I also would suggest upstairs, while downstairs is great it's near the bar and is a bit more "social". Upstairs has a great sky light and a really nice feel to it.

                          Plus I'd ask them to pair the wine for you but don't go with the wine tasting - it adds more of a special feel to the night although it does add some price.

                          If you want my gf and I saved the wine list we had that evening if you like I could e-mail you a copy.

                        2. The pasta tasting isn't really alot of pasta. It's three courses of tasting portions, cheese and desert. And for Babbo it's a bargain.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: howund09

                            Unless its changed since I had it, the pasta tasting menu has 5 pasta. It was excellent but you really have to be a pasta fan because by the fourth and fifth servings the texture gets kind of monotonous.