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Celebrity restaurant for out-of-towners

My buddy's girlfriend wanted to go to Babbo when they are in town in Feb. However, no reservations available. Last time they came in town, we went to Les Halles because she likes Anthony Bourdain. I like Les Halles, but it's nothing special. (I didn't mention that in her presence, of course.) I was thinking about Lupa. I wanted to avoid Del Posto (I had 3 great meals there, and two that were okay, all on business clients' dime) since I can't guarantee an incredible meal, but I can guarantee a steep bill. I also didn't want to get stuck in the lines at Otto. Has anyone been to Lupa recently? any good or bad things to say about it?

Also, I was considering one of Bobby Flay's places- Bar Americain or Mesa Grill. I had one good meal at BA, and two fair meals there right after it opened a couple years ago (again on business). I actually never went to Mesa Grill. If anyone has any comments on these two it would certainly be appreciated.


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  1. I really enjoyed Lupa. I wish it were easier to get a reservation. Tried Mesa Grill a few times some years ago and thought it overpriced for the quality. A lot of people like Mesa Grill so it may just be a matter of personal taste, but Lupa is certainly a much better value. Crispo is also a good choice and easy to reserve. I don't think much of Otto.

    1. For places with outrageously hard-to-get-in-to reservations, there's a great website called: www.tablexchange.com where you pay a small fee for one of those reservations. Worked for me! I went to Babbo last night. Fantastic!

      1 Reply
      1. re: LeahBaila

        Is this Karine Bakhoum's (?spelling) husband's venture?

      2. I recently ate at BA and while it was ok, I expected it to be better then it was. My cocktail "the Hemingway" was my favorite part of the meal. Also liked the blue cheese potato chips. Went to Lupa last week, it was good too. If I had to decide right now while I haven't been there in a number of years, I'm in the mood to go back to Mesa Grill. There was always a good vibe, the drinks were good, and the food if memory serves correctly was better then BA's (although one meal was too salty). Also, I haven't been there in awhile either, but my friends say Esca is still very good.

        1. Lupa is quite good but I dont think it measures up to Babbo.

          Does your friend only want to go to Iron Chefs' restaurants? Because there are many other celebrity chef restaurants in town, such as chefs and judges from Top Chef, the French iconic chefs, etc.

          Don't forget, Morimoto also has a restaurant in Meatpacking district

          1. What about Perilla? It certainly has great buzz as the restaurant of the first "Top Chef," Harold Dieterle, and everyone I know, and everything I've read about it sounds delicious and inviting.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ChefJune

              I second Perilla. Great suggestion. I don't give much thought to whether the chef is a "celebrity" but I have had a number of faultless meals at Perilla. It's delicious, interesting food, and the ambience and service are just right.

              1. re: ChefJune

                Same with the two Anne Burrell (Iron Chef sous chef) places.

              2. Mesa Grill is a safe bet because the food is fantastic and it's a fun place for out of towners. I would go there for sure.

                4 Replies
                1. re: garden

                  I went there for brunch and really enjoyed it...although this was a number of years ago. Right next to my brother's apartment is another Flay restaurant that you should consider. I believe it's called Bolo or something along those lines.

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    Bolo is closed. FWIW, I really liked Bolo, can't say that for Mesa Grill.

                    1. re: rrems

                      Not yet closed= 2 more weeks!

                      1. re: roze

                        Thanks. I guess I shouldn't believe everything I read!

                2. Babbo is very possible to get into if you make eating there a priority. They have tables in the bar area for walk-ins. Go there a little before 5:30 and you should NOT have a problem. The menu is the same there as in the dining room.

                  1. Mesa Grill just got about the worst one star review I have ever seen in the NYTimes. I'm crossing that one off the list of potential candidates. Any other suggestions appreciated.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: timNYC

                      It was actually a two-star review. Bruni's point was mainly about it being inconsistent, with the implication that Flay has let it slide, probably due to outright distraction.

                    2. I walked in the door of Babbo sans reservation on a Monday (or was it a Tuesday...?)night and was seated within 30 minutes of arriving. The palce was packed, but Monday or Tuesday are always good days to try places. And no, I didn't bribe anyone and I am regular gal ;-)
                      The food was fantastic. Well worth making a reservation in advance and holding out for the wait.

                      I have not been to Lupa, but Balthazar is a good one in the same family. Moderately easy to get reservations, and it's a great room. Can be as expensive as you want, but doesn't necessarily have to be.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: chowgirls

                        Balthazar and Lupa are definitely not in the same family. Lupa is a Batali restaurant while Balthazar is owned by Keith McNally, who also owns Pastis, Schiller's, & Morandi. McNally may be a known restaurateur to NYC foodies, but I don't think he would be considered a celebrity to the general public.

                        1. re: RGR

                          My mistake. I always think of Babbo, Balthazar, and Lupa together, most likely because they were all introduced to me at the same time when I moved to NY.Eek!
                          People outside NY know about Balthazar and the cookbook too. It might not be celebrity per se, but it is famous.

                          1. re: chowgirls

                            As an aside - that Balthazar cookbook is wonderful - one of my favorites, with several dishes on my "regular rotation" at home. And, not that I recognized him until the table next to us said something, but we did see Bono and his entourage there one afternoon about two years ago ;-) .

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              What about Chanterelle? Not a Food Network chef, but certainly well known. It is wonderful, just wonderful.

                        1. There are about 500 celebrity restaurants on this site HeadlinerDiners.com if you are looking for some good celebrity restaurants. NY really has A LOT of celebrity restaurants. There's also some videos on there about the restaurants if you want to scope those out before you go. Mario Batali restaurants have the best food, in my opinion. Southern Hospitality owned by Justin Timberlake has a lot of home cooking food... Good luck!

                          1. Mesa Grill is a fun experience...but, very pricy for the food....i'd suggest doing an assortment of appetizers and drinks. The apps are great and you really get to try a lot of flavors. I had one of the best drinks of my life at Bar Americain...had a bunch of berries in it. Also got to meet Flay...he was actually working the line; this was only about a month after it opened

                            1. Skip BA and Mesa Grill. I throw my vote in for Perilla. Also, forget Lupa unless you use Tablexchange or plan way ahead. FYI- Tablexchange works as we hit Lupa on a Friday at 8pm day of for $10. What is a celeb restaurant anyway? Chef has to be on TV? If you want a celebrity restaurant go to Per Se, Le Bernardin, etc... If you want her to feel "super special" and don't give a crap about the food, try to get into Waverly Inn, then your buddy's girlfriend will go ga-ga over all the "celeb" spotting, etc..

                              1. "Last time they came in town, we went to Les Halles because she likes Anthony Bourdain."

                                Since nobody has mentioned it, you should know that Bourdain hasn't been cooking at Les Halles for years. Going there for the Bourdain association is like going to Brooklyn to see the Dodgers.