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union square dinner recs for friends who don't like anything "weird"

We're getting together on a Wednesday evening with friends who do not like anything "weird." By "weird" I mean that even SUSHI would be out of the question. Nothing ethnic or close to ethnic. Mexican is acceptable. Zen Palate, on the other hand, would be "weird".

It also needs to be adjacent to Union Square due to travel and logistics considerations. $20-25pp (w/o alcohol - they don't drink).

i'm kind of lost here.

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  1. heartland brewery is pretty vanilla in the tgi fridays sorta way.

    1. Old Town Tavern on 18th btwn Park and Bway.
      Angelo and Maxies just around the corner from the restaurant, opened a burger joint on 19th street just east of Park. Haven't been and haven't heard anything about it though.
      I wonder if craftbar on broadway around 20th street would be acceptable.
      Or slightly further is Via Emilia. A great italian place on 21st btwn Park and Broadway (note: cash only and no reservations).

        1. not really such a fan, but maybe coffee shop would be ok for them? pete's tavern?
          or one of those bars down university has alright food/burgers maybe- reservoir maybe?

          i guess cuban/ havana central would be out too? and republic is too exotic too?

          i think heartland brewery might be an ok idea...

          1. Heartland Brewery (food is boring but the beer is good)
            Chat 'n Chew - simple down home American, but I heard that it closed - check to see if it's still open!

            1. Grey Dog Coffee on University is very casual and some of the best sandwich/salad/soup spots in the city.

              1. Cafeteria, on 17th & 7th Ave. may be a good option. It's "upscale" diner/American so fits the simple food needs. Entrees run around $20 each so may just make your budget. Check out the menu:
                http://www.menupages.com/restaurantde...

                1. Patsys on university seems neutral and not too hipsterish

                  1. Not sure if this is too far away, but how about S'Mac? It's all mac n cheese all the time, at 12th St, between 1st and 2nd.

                    http://www.smacnyc.com/home.html

                    1. There's always the Whole Foods salad bar/buffet thing. Just throwing that out there. It would be within the budget, and it's open 'til 11. Not the most festive dining experience, but no one has to worry that the food will arrive weirder than expected.

                      Or Shades of Green, a pub just east of Union Square. Aggressively non-weird, and pretty serviceable.

                      http://www.shadesofgreenpub.com/menu.htm

                      1. I was going to suggest Via Emilia until I saw the part where you said you need to be right on Union Square. And, btw, no need to even think about Zen Palate because the Union Square branch has closed.

                        http://www.viaemilianyc.net

                          1. If Via Emilia is not too far (and I third the recommendation), then Lunetta wouldn't be too far, either, and it's delightful.

                            I recently took my thirteen-year-old niece (who eats almost anything) and her best friend (who eats almost nothing) there. My niece's friend was able to find things she liked (the duck agnolotti went over incredibly well, as did the meatballs in roasted garlic tomato sauce), and my niece, my boyfriend, and I were able to enjoy ourselves and not feel like we were eating lame food to cater to the picky eater.

                            1. Nothing weird at Chat n Chew, usual glorified diner fare, though tasty. Nothing exciting either.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: GoddessofFood

                                Metro Wine Bar (across from Via Emilia) is one of my standards. Low key atmosphere and good wine list. It's a mixed menu (chinese, italian, american…). I'd steer clear of their pasta dishes, but they have a great lamb burger.

                                I've only been to a private party at Via Emilia, where they had passed appetizers. Everything I had there was good.