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A "special" NYC meal for $60 a head?

I'm trying to plan my wife's 30th birthday in the city, but have to observe SOME semblance of a budget, and want to be respectful of the budgets of the various friends and relatives who will likely be attending. I want a fantastic meal, but I can't afford to pay for everyone, and also know some of those who will be coming can't necessarily afford $100 tasting menus and the a la carte prices of the higher-end "event" restaurants--i.e., Bouley, Nobu, Cafe Des Artistes, Jean Georges, etc.

I'm also not interested in expensive "scene" restaurants that are much more about the scene than the food--e.g., Tao, Japonais, etc.

I want a great, comfortable room and great food. I also have some time to plan this (her birthday is in January), so welcome any suggestions.

Can I get a "special" meal on a budget in NYC?

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  1. Some additional info would help Hounds make appropriate suggestions. Cuisine preferences? How many people? Private room? Day of the week? Lunch or dinner? (Note: Some upscale restaurants have "bargain" lunch prix-fixes.)

    1. pasta tasting menu at Babbo- i think it's just under $60 without wine. you could ask if they have a corkage fee and bring your own wine, just pay the fee. the pasta tasting menu at babbo is just spectacular. enjoy fb

      3 Replies
      1. re: frankbooth

        The Babbo pasta tasting menu IS amazing, I absolutely love and recommend it. But do note that it is $69. I don't know about the corkage fee, but I can say that Batali has plenty of well priced, excellent wines available. There are lots of $30 bottles. Babbo's reservations open one month in advance, and you should really call on the day the reservations open if you're going with a group (of up to 6 people).

        If you're going with a group larger than 6, I know that Inoteca and Otto both can accommodate larger groups. I had my wedding rehearsal dinner at Otto, and it was really lovely. (Although Otto is a bit on the loud side, which bothers some.) Food is excellent, and easily within your budget.

          1. re: cookiejesus

            They do. My husband spoke to them last week and was told that if you show up at 5pm, you are likely to get a table. Don't know how it works later in the evening.

      2. One of the better meals I've had in Manhattan (and I've been to almost every top rated place in the city) came from Anissa. I think the tasting menu is a little above your budget but you can definitely get an app, entree, and dessert for that.

        1. Blue Hill's tasting menu is $68 a head, last I checked. And you can order a la carte for less. Much has been written here about that fine restaurant which uses the freshest ingredients straight from its own farm at Stone Barns. www.bluehillnyc.com. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

          1 Reply
          1. Some restaurants I found affordable and tasty: Red Cat, Bellavitae, Cucina di Pesce, Resto.

            Alternatives to Babbo: Po, Lupa

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gluttonous Prime

              Puttanesca is Hell's Kitchen is one of my favorites.

            2. Try Perilla. A group of us ate there for around 60-70 a person with drinks. They had some decent bottles for around $30. Check there menu online

              1. The Degustation tasting menu with 5 courses is a deal at 50/head. They also give you some flexibility - not all persons in your party have to partake, and they allow substitutions. The food is on the whole, very good. The squid with heirloom tomatoes was divine. Wine was also very reasonable -$35-50 per bottle (Mainly spanish) and they sold wine by the glass as well.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kayonyc

                  I really like Degustation. That said, it is an open kitchen and bar seating. Depending on number of people that might or might not work for you.

                2. ftrain, I'm not sure if this is what you had in mind, but Churrascaria Plataforma in the West 40s has group packages set at a certain amount per person. I haven't been there in years, and it's certainly not a place to go if you have any nonmeating people in your group, but it was a lot of rowdy fun the last time I went.

                  1. I'm also going to make an out-of-the-box suggestion: La Nacional on W 14th Street. It's out of the box because it's not a fancy place. They have two rooms, one is a nice rustic-style dining room, the other is more like a cafeteria; you would want to specify the former of course. The reason I suggest it is that the food is simple but very good (the tapas good and the paella truly delicious). And the price is right. I've eaten very well here for $40 per person (plenty of food and wine, no dessert) or about $50 a person (with dessert). They usually throw in an after-dinner digestif of some sort. I've done many dinners here - including my own birthday with 20 people - and always walked away happy. The only catch is that it's not a fancy, white-linen restaurant, but most people in the 30ish age group don't mind that or even prefer it.

                    Large group dynamics are always such that the price overshoots what you would expect (more wine! more dessert! more everything! with the one who turns away another bottle of wine seeming like a sourpuss). So if you really want to keep it at $60 per person you have to aim for $45-$50 a person and build in some overruns.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bombaybeauty

                      if you do go to Babbo as a walk-in, please get their before 5. i would shoot for 4:45 to be on the safe side. i've been screwed in the past. you are talking no more than 20 people get spots as a walk-in.

                      i would look into tabla. they have a pre-fix that is about $60 per person, minus wine. you might be able to get out hearth for $60 per person, depending on how much you drink. perhaps peasant or orchard or lupa might be good options. nothing over the top, but good food with a nice vibe.

                      i think that $60 is a reasonable price and that you can find a lot of places to meet your needs, but it all depends on how much you drink. i recently had a meal at del posto, without wine, that ran under $60 per person.

                      one more thought, five points is always a good bet.

                      1. re: cdog

                        A REALLLY great place to go with amazing food..great service and a fun atmosphere.. ESPECIALLY for celebrations.. and VERY reasonable is Mangia e Bevi on 9th avenue.. Hells Kitchen area.. I would highly recommend it.. when its someones celebration..they make you stand on the chairs.. give you castenettes and sing with you.. old school italian style.. totally without being cheesey.. I love that place!