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Dec 16th, "First Date".....I NEED HELP!!

I've been on countless boards and websites trying to find some really GOOD advice, and this one has been the best so far. So I'm turning to you guys for some help. I met my girlfriend through my best friends fiancee. We've haven't been together long, but we're crazy about each other. Any time we get to spend time together, my buddy and his fiancee are there. She lives in Florida, and has never been to Manhattan (I live on Long Island). So I'm taking her in on Dec. 16th (it's a Sunday), to see the Rockefeller Center tree and the window displays, stuff like that for our "first date" alone. I'm looking for suggestions for good places to eat, relatively inexpensive, and any other things to do. I'm thinking either Top Of The Rock or Empire State Building Observatory. Any suggestions as to one or the other? Any fun, kinda touristy things to do. Any help that you guys could give me would be appreciated. I really want it to be a memorable, romantic day.

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  1. The Chowhound board moderators will not allow us to respond to you inquiry of activities outside of eating. In regards to eating, please provide location and type of cuisine and we will be better able to help you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: princeofpork

      If you are considering seeing the spectacular MOMA (and even if you are not), there is a neat restaurant fairly nearby called Blue Fin right smack dab on Broadway, where you can watch the world go by with all the flash and glitter Broadway has to offer.
      If you'd prefer to dine elsewhere -- though the price is right and the food decent -- do at least consider a before-dinner drink and maybe a small plate of cheese there. It's a fun place and just screams Noo Yawk!

    2. Cuisines that you both like?

      1. In addition to telling us what cuisines you and your g.f. prefer, it would also be helpful if you would give us your per person budget for food because people can interpret "relatively inexpensive" quite differently.

        1. Thanks for your help so far. As far as a budget goes, I'm hoping to keep it around $100-$120 total (including alcohol). But I wouldn't mind spending a little more than that if the food/service/atmosphere was right. As I said, I'm gonna try to get her to see some of the touristy things (the tree at Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, Macy's/Bloomingdales/Saks/Lord and Taylor Window displays, maybe a walk in Central Park), so location is pretty open. Idia, unfortunately, she said she wasn't really into doing the museums, which I also happen to like ( :-\ ). Cuisine type is also pretty open. We both like sushi, Italian, and American. I'm a big fan of Thai food, stuff like that, but she's never really had it. I just want to make this memorable for her. Where have you guys been that's impressed you?

          5 Replies
          1. re: Yanks121482

            The bar at the Marriott Marquis overlooks Times Square and is a beautiful place for a drink with a view in midtown.

            1. re: janeh

              I've actually heard about that place before. Is it usually crowded? From what I understand, The View seems to attract quite a few people.

              1. re: Yanks121482

                It's a popular spot, but I've always managed to get a table. Worth waiting for a spot near the window. And if it's jammed, you can just enjoy riding the elevators (okay, not super sophisticated) and then sneak around to the left side of the room where you can get close enough to the window for a good view up and down Broadway from billboard level. Have fun!

                1. re: janeh

                  Just to clarify, you're talking about the View Lounge, correct? Have you eaten at the restaurant? If so, how is it? I've heard mixed reviews, and it's one of the places I was considering. Or should I just stick to the Lounge for drinks and head somewhere else for dinner?

            2. re: Yanks121482

              The Marriott Bar is nice and turns. It's great for a drinks, after dinner drink or coffee. Avoid weekends and this time of year it might be super touristy, long lines. I have not been to The View restaurant in years (it was not my choice when I went) and you can probably do much better in NYC.

            3. haha......ok guys, here's the latest update. She decided on Italian, so there's the answer to that question. I did a little research, and came across Becco. Seems that everyone likes it. I'm assuming at least a few of you have been there. How was it? Any other suggestions? Thanks again for all your help.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Yanks121482

                While I don't mind Becco in general, it would never qualify as anywhere near the ballpark of romantic. It can be very loud and crowded. I'm sure if you searched this board for midtown/hell's kitchen Italian recs, there would be many other places mentioned.

                1. re: LNG212

                  Tend to agree with LNG212.

                  I was going to suggest China Grill until you said Italian.
                  How about....portofino grille (i think it's so cute and romantic and good food) or borgo antico looks nice.

                  Rock Center Cafe - watch the ice skating while eating. (disclaimer - never eaten there, was just an idea!)

                  See a show (get discount tix on broadwaybox or playbill for that and attractions like you mentioned) and go for pre-theater price fixe - maybe at Scarlatto.

                2. re: Yanks121482

                  "Seems that everyone likes it."

                  Not exactly everyone! lol I'm not at all a fan. I think the pastas are mediocre. Also, as LNG212 mentioned, they jam as many tables into a room as is physically possible, making seating sardine-tight. And the noise level is so hideously high that it is impossible to carry on a conversation without shouting. There are so many way better options for Italian food.

                  I highly recommend L'Impero. The contemporary Italian cuisine is seriously delicious, there's an excellent wine list, service is friendly and capable, and the understated elegant surroundings have a romantic feel.


                  1. re: RGR

                    I 2nd L'impero if you can't hit up I Coppi, different atmosphere and i think it's slightly more expensive but also very good.

                    1. re: hungry_fox

                      I just checked the original post again and noted that Yanks is doing this on a Sunday. At L'Impero on Sunday evenings only, they are serving a special 4-course prix-fixe ("Domenica Rustica") for $42.


                      1. re: hungry_fox

                        hungry fox' I Coppi rec is a good one (nice garden). That said, it's downtown in the EV. Also, if OP heads downtown for Italian there are better and less expensive choices. I like LaVagna, which is tiny, dark, very romantic. They also have a prix fixe dinner.

                  2. From the sounds of it you've got a very busy day filled with lots and lots of big places, tourist spots, loud areas, and people traps. May I recommend a change of pace? Last year I hit up a bunch of places with my girlfriend in celebration of our 1 year anniversary, making sure they were all quiet, intimate, personal, and very tasty. One of the places is extremely wonderful Tuscan food. I know it occasionally gets some mixed ratings but I strongly suggest I Coppi. In the past year I've sent over a dozen people there and they all rant about it, the food is good, the wine is wonderful, and the desserts are spectacular. I doubt the prices have changed much since I was there, we had two appetizers, two main courses, one dessert and she had a glass of good wine, with tip I think it came out to $94 or something like that. I know it's not really near midtown or anything but catching a cab or taking the 6train won't take too long and will give the two of you some time you just chat and get close. Also, I Coppi is right between the East Village and Alphabet City, there's plenty to do and just wander around that area at night, most of which is pretty cheap.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hungry_fox

                      I went to I Coppi a couple months ago and had a terrible experience. Service was breathtakingly awful. Food also was not that spectacular. Definitely would not go back for that price point.

                    2. Thank you all so much for your advice. You guys helped me avoid a potential mistake in Becco. I'm have it narrowed down to 3 places, hopefully I'll be able to get a table at one of them. I'm thinking L'Impero La Vagna, or I Coppi. Of the three, which do you like most, and why?

                      1. bah. Or Vice Versa. Got a few good recs from friends in the area, but it see,s like it would be a little too packed/busy.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Yanks121482

                          Of the four Italian restaurants you've narrowed it down to, I've been to L'Impero and I Coppi. They are both quite different in terms of style of cuisine and ambiance.

                          We've had dinner at L'Impero twice since Chef Michael White took over the kitchen, the last time just two weeks ago. Both were wonderful experiences. White's contemporary Italian cuisine is superb, and the wine list is excellent. Normally, prices are on the high side; however, on Sundays (which is when you say you are going), they are serving a special "domenica rustica," a 4-course prix-fixe for $42. Service is both friendly and capable. The space has an understated elegance and a romantic feel.

                          The "domenica rustica" menu is here: http://limpero.com/eng/menu.asp?forml...

                          I Coppi's food is very good though it's not, in my view, on the same high level as L'Impero's. Service is pleasant and efficient. The interior space has a rustic, cozy feel. We've only been there during the summer, and we sat in the garden each time. However, the garden does have an all-weather enclosure, so it might be nice to sit there surrounded by greenery this time of year.


                          Wherever you and your girlfriend end up going, I hope you have a lovely time. Buon Apetito!

                          1. re: Yanks121482

                            Vice Versa is anything but packed looking and busy. The tables are very separated from others (unlike Becco where you feel like you are sitting on your neighbor's lap, which would be okay with me if it were Richard Gere...)
                            It happens to be my favorite normal restaurant in Manhattan and very romantic.

                          2. I just wanted to come on here and thank all of you for your help. Besides the weather, the date could not have gone any better. We took an early train in, did a little Christmas shopping, saw all of the window displays, and headed uptown. We hung out in Times Square for a little bit (including a drink at the Marriott, which was very nice). Headed over to the tree, which was not crowded at all because of the dreary day. We kept heading uptown to do a little window shopping and hit FAO Schwarz. We jumped on the subway and headed back downtown and had dinner at L'Impero. I had the mezzalune di coniglio, which was unbelievable. She is a big fan of anything that has the word "pumpkin" in it, so she went with the tortelli, which was also very good, even though I had to convince her to give me a little taste. The Sformato dessert (hers, obviously) was also very good, and different. The only reason that I got a taste of that was because she said she'd burst if she ate any more. The atmosphere was beautiful, and the service was outstanding. Thank you again for all of your advice, and I definitely plan on taking her in to Manhattan again and hitting some of the other places that were suggested. Should we run into each other, I owe each and every one of you a drink. :-)