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Any rock solid dinner choices left?

So here's the question - What's your rock solid, sure shot pick for a solid dinner in Manhattan? I'm talking consistant, you leave feeling good about life (rather then say, sick with a bad taste in your mouth, and feeling ripped off). I just want good food foor goodness sakes. I'm not interested in deconstructed "new tastes", just some place who can get the old tastes right, and serve them properly. So ideally, nowhere too reliant on new american or pan-fusion-whatever.

Here's the reason I ask: My mother is in town, and literally every meal we've had has been a horrible experience. We usually splurge, visit our favorites, and of course, try to find new places that will become our new favorites...and when we love something we pass the word on.

Well... I don't know what's going on here, but we can't find a single decent dinner. All the places we used to love, and that I've suggested to people have been horrible this time around. Portions have changed, presentation has changed, classic menu items are missing, value has decreased, service is absurdly rude, etc. I'm not talking about off nights, I'm talking outright lousy.

Has anyone else noticed an increase in mediocre dining here? I'm beginning to think the trend is more hype, less quality.

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  1. I take it back - we actually had fine meals at Blue Smoke, and Molly's... but I wouldn't call either "consistant".

    1. The answer to your dilemma is....Hearth.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gutsofsteel

        Just the type of answer I was looking for, thank you!

        Will check that out.

      2. I've had pretty consistent meals at Mooncake Foods. Yes it's out of the way for most people. But the food is good enough that I've made multiple trips to try different items on the menu. Honey-soy chicken wings and miso glazed salmon top my list.


        1 Reply
        1. re: jeannious

          It's funny, this place has not been mentioned in so long I assumed it was not there anymore, I thought I had totally missed out. Thanks jeannious!

        2. Red Cat...you will be treated well...the crowd will neither be too old nor too young...the menu is familiar and the food will always be very good...whether serious meat and potato eater, fish lover or vegetarian, all will be happy here

          1. Hearth is a good idea. I also really like Blue Ribbon Bakery. The restaurant is small, cozy, and unpretentious. It is what is it is, and the service is gracious. I always leave just feeling good.

            1. Where have you been having all these horrible meals? No, I don't think there's been an increase in poor-quality restaurants.

              I think we could all help you more if you give us a price range, but the places I thought of first were Col Legno (~$30/person for dinner) and Great NY Noodletown (very inexpensive). Consistent, good, though Noodletown may be too greasy for some. I've also found Skyway Malaysian pretty consistent, but other hounds have not. Oh, and Banh Mi Saigon - a takeout sandwich place. So can you give us some more criteria, please?

              4 Replies
              1. re: Pan

                My only criteria is that it's really good food that will restore my faith in New York again. Price range would be under $150 on the high end, without wine...but I love cheap eats.

                I'm going to look into Col Legno, thanks!

                1. re: candyismmm

                  Col Legno is nothing special at all, in my experience.

                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                    Not compared to places that cost $150. It's simply dependable and good. I'm going there tomorrow for dinner and will report back if the quality has fallen off in any way. But I definitely agree that it's not fantastically outstanding, and at ~$30/person, there's no reason it has to be.

                    candyismmm, now that I know your price range, I will bow out. I haven't paid anywhere close to $150/person without wine anywhere and suspect that some restaurants at that price range would blow upscale restaurants I've been to and really liked (e.g., Hearth, L'impero) out of the water.

                    1. re: Pan

                      Oh wait, maybe I just worded myself poorly. I'd like to spend the least amount possible, really! $150 is my spending limit. Any more then that and it better come with an Ipod floating in a cup of safron flavored foam.

                      I just want a solid meal without feeling like I'm playing the lottery. I don't feel like price really corresponds to quality these days anyway.

              2. The three "go-to" places my family has are Aquagrill, Gotham, and San Domenico.

                1. Inexpensive go-to place with nice wine by the glass: Le Grainne Cafe, 9th ave/21st st, formerly one of the Le Gamin outposts. Mussels have always been excellent. Good sandwiches, crepes, and salade nicoise. (I have also enjoyed the new Le Gamin on 15th St betw 7/8.)

                  1. Crispo has been the most consistent restaurant to me over the last few years. I would also second the previous recommendation of Aquagrill.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bobby06877

                      Aquagrill is great for oysters. But the rest of the food leaves me disappointed every time.

                      I also like Red Cat and Blaue Gans. Lupa can be very good, but is inconsistent. I still recommend Hearth above those.

                    2. Red Cat. Never disappoints and a terrific value.

                      1. Red Cat, Crispo, Lupa, and Blaue Gans have never disappointed me.

                          1. Babbo (if you can get a table), Tia Pol (Tapas), Cook Shop (organic american), Cafe D'Alsace (french bistro)

                            1. Cafe d'Alsace is extremely inconsistent. And only a few things on the menu are really good anyway. They do not use high quality ingredients.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                I agree that Cafe d'Alsace is not "rock solid" - I've enjoyed somethings there, but not others. Pearl Oyster Bar came to mind - I find it consistently very good - always have the fried oysters and lobster roll, my husband explores the menu more but always gets the steamers. And I love the praline parfait for dessert.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  wonder why everyone here are so against cafe d'alsace? I ate there 3 times within the past 4 weeks and I thought the food were consistently good...

                                2. re: gutsofsteel

                                  Thanks for jumping in with the (honest) disclaimers on some of these!

                                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                                    We ate there this summer and were totally underwhelmed by the food. Somehow, we feel that their Alsatian connection is pretty much only in their dish presentation, but not in the flavor.

                                    Lot's of beer, though. But, too many fancy glasses that's not really a norm in Alsace.

                                  2. blue ribbon on sullivan.

                                    Hands down never a bad meal

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: jb2000

                                      I've only had mediocre meals at BR, but I know it has a lot of fans.

                                      1. re: jb2000

                                        yes, blue ribbon never disappoints me either! i've been there scores of times and eaten through most of the menu. solid like a rock!

                                      2. Gotham never disappoints - I always leave happy I went into debt for my meal. On the other end I love Bianca on Bleecker - really consistent dishes.

                                        I'm so over mega-restaurants, steakhouses, Disney-like 10,000 square foot Asian palaces, celebrity chefs, molecular gastronomy, what-have-you. Fe to 2006 and it's culinary excesses.

                                        Give me small intimate places that concentrate on food and service (like Danny knows how to do). That's the trend I want to see (and what you can find in Brooklyn on most any night).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: livetotravel

                                          Sing it brother! We are of one mind. If I see diners being served smidgeons of protein, three string beans artfully placed on the plate, a droplet of mashed potatoes and fruit paste drizzles beneath the food, I run for the hills. I am back to the Mom & Pops. If a waiter takes a patronizing pause before describing a dish I may do better at home...buh-bye! I like BR Bakery, but it can get loud, even at lunch. I am beginning to distrust anywhere with a celebrity chef or pretentious decor.

                                        2. I have been to the barroom at The Modern 5 times in the last 6 months and it was spot on, in addition I really like an old New York faithful - El Parador - always consistent - the service is good and they don't rush you to order or to leave the table. Actually last time I was there it was with a large group and we lingered over our drinks for awhile, before they came and asked if we would like to see a menu. Warning, some people on this board don't rate El Parador, but I must say that I really really enjoy it.

                                          Also I recommend Pompano - the food is consistent, but the service can be wonderful or terrible.

                                          1. I would add Po (west village) to the list.
                                            Po is at the top end of your price range but well worth it.

                                            The Modern is too noisy in my opinion. It's impossible to have a nice conversation here.

                                            I second Pampano very good Mexican seafood--also at the top end of your pice range. Some of the dishes are a recreation of a traditional dish with a refreshingly well conceived twist.


                                            1. I can't believe no one has mentioned Blue Hill. I post about this all the time and must sound like a broken record, but it is just such a lovely restaurant I can't help myself. The menu is seasonal, the emphasis on the freshest in-season local ingredients. It's not a wow-knock-your-socks-off kind of restaurant, it's a just a lovely lovely all around dining experience. The food is consistently excellent without being flashy, inventive without being off-the-wall, the wine list well chosen, and the staff is professional and attentive. If I lived in the West Village, I would eat here constantly.

                                              For a less expensive, but nonetheless satisfying dining and drinking I recommend a tapas joint just down the street from Blue Hill, Las Ramblas. Weekends are INSANE, I recommend popping in for a weeknight snack...maybe after a little culinary shopping in the West Village. Depending on how hip your mother is, it's a very energetic place, serving real tapas from bar height tables and stools. It's tiny and crowded, but the staff is jovial and competent.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: ballulah

                                                just ate at Ramblas last night and I couldn't agree more. Tapas were very well executed and service was just stellar--the best service we have had anywhere in the past year, actually. Very friendly and knowledgable staff. Perfect Wednesday night dinner and we pretty much loved everything. Really nice reasonably priced wines by the glass. The closest thing to eating tapas in Spain that I have found in NYC. I'll post more detail in a Ramblas thread.

                                                1. re: kenito799

                                                  i'll third the rec for las ramblas. tasty tapas and awesome sangria (get the pear red sangria). it's small and very crowded, but if you go early and/or on weekends you'll be fine.

                                              2. I really liked Hearth, so that is my suggestion - really simple, top rate ingredients, beautifully executed. Also, I would suggest Annisa - a bit more creative, but not so far as to qualify as "deconstructed." The tasting menu is far below $150, i believe.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. I know that I'm late to the party and mom is probably already long gone. However... think Landmarc. The wine list prices (and availability of 1/2 bottles) make this a perfect reliable choice with a diverse menu. We went back last week and it was just what we needed.

                                                  btw: Hearth is a very good choice too.

                                                  and... if you want to come to Bklyn, there are a bunch of 'em.

                                                  1. Geez, how about Gramercy Tavern? Don't think it's too tired to be good....

                                                    1. I was thinking Gramercy Tavern - always good in my opinion!

                                                      1. My die hards are usually Aquagrill, Mezzogiorno (not much of a scene but good food) and Raoul's. And they're all within a few blocks of each other.

                                                        1. I like Fleur de Sel. I found it to be consistant every time I go there, lunch or dinner.

                                                          Hearth and Crispo are also very solid, and hearty!

                                                          1. Lupa, Blaue Gans and Gramercy Tavern

                                                            1. Hearth Hearth Hearth but Mom will also love Fleur de Sel, Red Cat or Gramercy. I, for one, am not a fan of Crispo (and have tried it several times!) but would encourage you to also consider Devi (upscale Indian with some unusual dishes) and AOC Bedford. Tia Pol is great but perhaps not appropriate for a nice quiet meal with mom - it can get very crowded and is not particularly comfortable.