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Ph.D. graduation celebration, but complicated...

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My husband and I are graduating from our Ph.D.s this May. It took almost a decade, so this needs to be a good meal! There are some restrictions when choosing the place, however:

- We are a group of 12, and obviously need reservations. This will be on a Friday.
- 2 of those are kids. I’m trying to convince my sister this is a really bad idea, so hopefully once we locate a baby sitter we’ll be 10.
- Although I won’t choose the place according to the kids taste, it would be good if there is something they recognize (no need for kid menu, though)
- Because of kids, and because these is a pretty loud group, I would rather stay away from places that are too formal.
- My in-laws will be paying; which is good for obvious reasons, but bad because we’ll feel guilty if it is too expensive. So we are trying to stick to places that have significant number of entrees in the twenties. This law can be broken if need be.
- We must stay in Manhattan
- While this is a group that really enjoys food, too funky will be a turn-off. So no WD-50.
- I’m pregnant, so no sushi.

Places that we have considered: Balthazar, but they enforce a set menu for groups that big; Union Square Café and Craft don’t sit groups that big.
I'll be very grateful for your help!

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  1. Congrats on both the graduation and the new baby!

    Landmarc in Tribeca would accomodate a group of that size & a reservation. Certianly is in your price point & it's not formal, but has a nice atmosphere. The food is great, plenty of meat and fish, with a few things more inventive.. The wine list is probably one of the best values in the city since they have a very low markup. They do have a kids menu, if you ask, but you'd never think it was a "kids restaurant." www.landmarc-restaurant.com

    1. Gramercy Tavern has a lovely intimate private dining room. I've been to two private parties there and the food and service are wonderful. The privacy will let your group be loud and festive while the kids can run around a bit. The room is elegant, so it still feels like a really special meal. I believe they will work with you on a set menu so you can stick to a budget and choose something child-friendly. For something less formal/pricey but fun, try Otto (Batali pizza and gelato).

      1. blue ribbon bakery has a private dining room that seats 10-12. we've had private dinners there and they are intimate and delicious!

        1. I think both Landmarc and Gramercy Tavern are great suggestions. Other ones that I can think of with a la carte entrees are at the price range you suggested :
          - August
          - Hearth
          - The Cafe at Country (Carlton Hotel)
          - Freeman (even cheaper!)
          All of these places have delicious food without being too formal. I think they resemble Union Square Cafe / Craft style which was your original plan. All have pasta dishes which I think are usually kid-friendly (I have yet to meet a kid who does not eat pasta...). I think they are at the right price range (not too expensive yet great to have someone paying for it, if you know what I mean =D) .

          Congrats on your graduation!

          1. Crispo has a cute little dining nook that seats around 10-12 and has a large menu, with items that I'm sure would appeal to kids. Reasonably priced too. Or if the weather is nice, there is an outdoor garden area. http://www.crisporestaurant.com/

            2 Replies
            1. re: lchang

              10 years? Ugh - are you both scientists? I am working on year 8 as we speak... I just had a 30th birthday at Crispo and thought it was a great place to have it. I went with a bunch of people and two of them are very picky and there was no problem at all. Keep us posted on your decision. Are you totally opposed to set menus even if they have generous choice options??

              1. re: missjeanne

                My only concern with set menus is the price hike.

            2. Landmarc would be my first choice as well - I've been there with large and varied groups and everyone always enjoys it - but I'm pretty sure they only seat up to 10 people.
              I also +1 the private room at Blue Ribbon Bakery.
              You could also try the back room at Tia Pol if you wanted to do tapas, but there is a charge for the room.
              And congratulations on getting your doctorates!

              3 Replies
              1. re: snaporaz

                Thanks all for the responses. Landmarc indeed only seats 10, but they told me I might be able to beg and get them to do 12. I love the Blue Ribbon Bakery- I was hoping to try a new place (especially given that we aren't paying :) ) but that can definitively be a good route. I'll explore the other options and let you know which way we go!

                1. re: adamandeve

                  Not to push it, but landmarc also has a kid menu..

                  1. re: csw

                    No luck at Landmarc- they offered two tables, but I don't think that'll do. I'll explore the other suggestions. Thanks.

              2. Steak houses could be a good bet if you're in to that. they're accustomed to accommodating large groups (bachelor parties, business dinners and all) without forcing prix-fixe. and the sides (mac and cheese, potatoes, onion ring type things) should make things easy for the kids. i'm partial to the spacious and somewhat stylish dylan prime myself... which has the added bonus of fondue which kids should enjoy.... but i'm sure most hounds would rally behind other steakhouses. And, $20's will be tricky unless there's a fair amount of chicken and salmon eating in the mix. http://www.dylanprime.com/