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Need a C-Hound Pro...picky eater challenge...

Okay, so I have a friend coming in from Ohio. She's extremely finicky about what she eats. Zagats will not help me here--need human advice. We have two dinners that we need to figure out. Next Friday and next Saturday. One night could be Mexican and the other Chinese, she's also willing to do Italian or even American. It needs to be below 72nd street, and it needs to be in Manhattan, and it needs to be below 20 bucks for the average entree. Also, the Chinese place has to have sweet and sour chicken. One night has to be Chinese the other night could be Italian, Mexican, or American. Fun places. Not too small. Not too far downtown. Chowhound geniuses will be thanked profusely!!

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  1. Here are a few ideas for Chinese -- Ollie's, Sammy's or Charlie Mom. None of these are destination restaurants, but they should all have sweet and sour chicken and they're generally better than the typical greasy spoon. You can use menu pages to figure out the locations and confirm that they serve sweet and sour chicken. You'll find it impossible to find an entry anywhere near $20, so you can afford to splurge a bit if you wish.

    I'm not too sure about the other cuisines.

    1. Phoenix Garden on 40th & 2nd. It is BYOB-no fee, yummy & authentic. My dads chinese clients take him to this place for the chinese new year. It is more cantonese then chinese but i personally think it makes it that much better. check it out on menupages as well. it is quiet and laidback.

      1. Sounds like my parents. Too bad Jade Mountain is gone. For Italian, I'm assuming American style "red sauce" so I'd recommend John's of 12th street. That's where we recently took our out of town friends from that other great culinary State- Texas.

        1. For Chinese, are you looking to satisfy just her sweet and sour chicken, or do you want something more adventurous? The Grand Sichuan mini-chain has an "American style Chinese food" menu in addition to more traditional/ethnic stuff. So she could get her wish, and you could get something else. Maybe the Chelsea branch?

          For American/Italian, what sort of dishes are you looking for?

          1. Let me add another decent Chinese place to that mix: the Cottage on Irving Place and 15th or 16th Street. They also have good Orange Chicken in case your friend is inspired by the big city and feels adventurous.