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Offered a FREE meal... Where should I go?

I have a good friend coming into town on business and has offered to take me out to dinner, his treat, wherever I want. He's NEVER been to NYC and is looking for good food. I've lived here for three years, but being an actor, I haven't gotten the opportunity to eat all the great food. He says price isn't an option, that he writes it off anyway. That being said.... Where do I go?

Recommendations for something that fits the following:

- Anywhere Midtown to Lower Manhattan
- around $200 for 2 ppl... I guess that's appropriate?
- Steak, Italian, Mexican
- somewhere that he will go home talking about
- somewhere you can actually hold a conversation.. not too loud, not to quiet

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  1. $200 for two is too low for most of the better places, especially for the best steakhouses. If your friend is writing the dinner off as a business expense, I suggest you accept his generosity and don't worry too much about the cost.

    My pick among the steakhouses would be Keens, which has been in its 36th St. location since 1885. Because of that fact, I think it is an especially good choice for someone, like your friend, who has never been to NYC before. In addition to the delicious steaks, chops, sides, etc., there is incomparable old NY ambiance -- walls filled with memorabilia and row-upon-row of old clay smoking pipes suspended from all the ceilings. There are also pipes that belonged to famous people displayed in cases in the vestibule. Service is excellent, and the noise level is conversation-friendly (which is not always the case in other steakhouses). Be sure to check out the bar room where the huge portrait of Miss Keens in all her glory (lol) hangs above the bar. If you want a place that your friend will go home talking about, Keens is definitely a great choice.


    1 Reply
    1. re: RGR

      i'll second Keens -- i agree w/ everything RGR said about it...i was there a couple weeks ago and the lamb chops were delicious as usual...

      for Italian, i'd recommend Il Giglio...elegant old-school Italian...200 dollars is about right, assuming you don't order any specials made w/ truffles...the shrimp fra diavolo is excellent, and they bring out wonderful antipasti on the house: olive oil saturated zucchini, chunks of parmesean, bruschetta, salami...definitely quiet enough for conversation...very much a New York place and a fine use of an expense account...

      and while it's not among your requested cuisines, i also like Balthazar for French bistro food including fine raw oysters...

      i would avoid Mexican food in NYC for this kind of a splurge meal...

    2. Babbo, Hearth (although my last meal there wasn't as great as my first)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Lucia

        thank you all so much! I've been reading through the boards and Hearth comes up ALOT. Neither of us have eaten French food, but my guest LOVES oysters! I actually think that he ate at Keen's when he first arrived in the city.

        thank you again!

        1. re: Boomhauer

          I presume you know that Hearth is New American tilting Italian, not French? I think it's fine but not particularly special.

          You should consider Eleven Madison Park if you want a place that your friend will rave about to the folks back home. And I have no doubt it will thrill you as well. Chef Humm's French-inspired cuisine is sensational! There's an excellent wine list. The staff provides cordial and professional service. And even those of us who have been there many times are still awed each time by the gorgeous space.


      2. Peter Luger or Babbo- the choice is yours. neither will dissapoint- both are pricey and worth every penny. enjoy- fb

        1 Reply
        1. re: frankbooth

          $200 is just about right for porterhouse for two, bacon app, creamed spinach, cheap cab, hot fudge sundae, tax and tip at Luger's. A bargain for deliciousness/price ratio.

        2. Hi Boomhauer,

          If you want a steakhouse that also serves oysters, I will suggest Craft or Craftsteak. Both serve a variety of steaks (grass-fed, corn-fed) and of different cuts, and there are other meat /poultry/ seafood to choose from. There is a raw bar with plenty of oysters and other seafood that your friend may enjoy. Not to ignore is their sides of vegetables, pastas, potatoes, and grains, the list can go on and on, and everything is very delicious! I have never been disappointed. In your case Craftsteak may be a better option as Craft's portion tends to be bigger for sharing. You can also order their prix-fix menu + an order or two of oysters to round up the meal (for prix-fix, the short ribs is better than the hanger steak, IMO). Link is here.


          Hope you enjoy your meal!

          2 Replies
          1. re: kobetobiko

            Votes are in and it's going to be a STEAKHOUSE!

            I've narrowed it down to

            Porter House
            Strip House
            Craft Steak

            Any further comments?

            1. re: Boomhauer

              hi boomhauer,

              The following is my own preference:

              First, I will take Porter House off the list - unimpressive
              Then, it comes down to what your focus is:
              If your main focus is the steak and nothing else or want the more traditional styled steakhouse, then Keen's or Strip House
              If you want more variety and great contemporary space, as well as more variety of steak choices, then Craftsteak.

              You may also want to look at the wine list of each if that is your focus as well.

          2. An opportunity like this doesn't come along every day, and I think you should reconsider your decision to do steak. Why not go to a top place that has a $100 set menu? A place like Jean-Georges or maybe Cru or Babbo. A dinner like that will give you and your pal a lifetime of good memories. If you want to hold down costs, drink tap water.

            1. If you can go anywhere...
              And, although they don't necessarily meet your criteria, if I could go anywhere on someone else's corporate dime, I'd pick any of: Gramercy Tavern, Bouley, Luger's, Spark's or Daniel.

              2 Replies
              1. re: food_for_thought

                I have to agree with Brian and avoid the steakhouse dinner. 2 guys going out to dinner and want a night to remember and one your guest will take about for years to come I would go to Buddakahn. Unless he is strictly adverse to asian flavors, this will surely fit the bill.

                1. re: princeofpork

                  I strongly agree with the comments to avoid a steak dinner. It's always a favorite for out of towners but it winds up being a let down. In my opinion, NYC is known for far better food than what you can get in even the best steakhouses here. The prices are jacked up so high and nothing is so super-great. If you must do steak, I'd definitely do craft instead of the others b/c it's more interesting than the others. Eleven Madison Park and Il Giglio are more along the lines of what I'd suggest. You have the opportunity to have such a great dining experience here.