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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.

            1. If you want to venture out to Queens I believe King yum may be one of the oldest continously operated Chinese restaurants in the city. Pass the egg rolls and shrimp in lobster sauce.

              1. For Chinese definitely go to Szechuan Gourmet on 39th st. I wouldn't call it 'fun', but it has very good chinese food and not super greasy. It's my favorite Chinese Restaurant outside of Chinatown. For Mexican try El Parador on 34th street. Italian, try Via Amelia on 21st. American, maybe try Friend of a Farmer - my picky eater friend loves this place and it has a cute country feel to it.

                4 Replies
                1. re: fooodie

                  I think you mean Via Emilia. http://www.viaemilianyc.net

                  We went to El Parador for the first time last week. Frankly, I was very disappointed. I didn't think the food was any better than the nearby so-so Mexico Lindo. In fact, the shrimp dish I had there was better than the one I had at Parador. Not that that's saying much.

                  1. re: RGR

                    I'v never been to El Parador, but my impression is that it is absolutely ordinary but is one of those restaurants that has developed a strong following among clueless B&T types and has been coasting for years (my sister, a classic example of clueless B&T, ate there years ago, and loved it). I'm amazed that Mexico Lindo is still in business. I recall it being nothing special 30 years ago.

                    For good Mexican I recommend Mama Mexico at B"way and 102 St. They also have a branch in the east 40's. They have some authentic Mexican dishes in addition to the standard enchiladas, etc. and it has a fun atmosphere. Agave in the Village is also very good, though it is not as "authentic", just very tasty and comfortable and more upscale, though not expensive.

                    1. re: rrems

                      I second Mama Mexico. The food is pretty straightforward and good, they'll make table-side guacamole (IMO a trendy, bill-padding appetizer, but people seem to like it) and I think they have a strolling mariachi band some nights.

                      1. re: LloydG

                        Thanks Lloyd G - some good ideas there! I agree 20 bucks for an average entree is a bit low, we can go a little higher. Thanks so much!

                        Fein - great idea!!! I love Phonix Garden and its BYOB. I forgot all about that place. They have a huge menu! Thanks!

                        Gutter Gourmet - you are spot on about the "red sauce" - this is exactly the type of simple palate that we are dealing with here. John's is perfect - thank you!!!

                        Thanks Kathryn, I'll have to check out The Grand Sichaun. Thanks!

                        Thanks, jakew8 I will have to check out the Cottage. Thanks!

                        Thanks Fooodie. I'm going to investigate El Parador, Via Amelia, and Friend of a Farmer. Thanks!

                        And the famous RGR - thanks for the advice!

                        rrems - Mama Mexico and Agave are definitely work a look. Thanks!

                        And I agree with LloydG about the table side guac - definitely adds some excitement to the meal.

                        Thanks everyone!!!!! Great ideas all!!!