My 17 year old daughter and I will be spending a weekend in New York to look at NYU I would like to take her to one really nice meal. We do not like overly fancy, stuffy meals. I have been told Gramercy Tavern, Ranbow Room and Boathouse are all "very New York" and fun and delicious. Per Se would not be our style. What are your thoughts - I'm open to any ideas. Thanks!
I would immediately eliminate the Rainbow Room from consideration. While the views are spectacular, it's a very fancy-schmancy place with rather mediocre food.
Though there is certainly far superior food to be found in NYC, we've actually had very good food at the Boathouse, and its being situated inside Central Park with a lakeside view does make dining there a very New York experience -- obviously the reason it attracts tourists and why some on this board knock it. But we're natives, and we like it. We've only been there on sunny, warm days when they open all the doors facing the lake, thus providing a sheltered, yet outdoor dining feel. However, I'm sure that even during the winter months and certainly during the spring, it will still provide a pleasing experience.
We haven't been to Gramery Tavern in over a year, and that was in the more casual Tavern Room. We liked the food a lot, and it has a lively vibe which would be fun for you and your daughter. The downside: They don't accept reservations, so when it's busy, which seems always to be the case during prime dining hours, there can be a long wait for a table. But if you go in mid-afternoon, say between 2 and 4 p.m., or later in the evening, after 10 p.m., it's usually fairly easy to get seated. We haven't eaten in the dining room since Chef Michael White took over the kitchen in the fall of '06, but it gets overwhelmingly positive reviews from Hounds who have.
When was the last time you ate at the Boathouse? The first time we went there during the summer of '06, we were in the neighborhood and looking for something outdoors-y. I never expected the food to be anything other than average but was surprised to find that it was really tasty. We went back this past summer, and the food was even better.
If I were a college-to-be student I think I would be wowed by the ambience at davidburke & Donatella. Also Gotham Bar & Grille -- another very NY type of place. Both serve excellent food. The Modern is definitely a glamorous looking venue but the menu doesn't appeal to me as much.
However, that's just me. All of these restaurant menus can be googled.
Good luck with admissions to NYU.
When I was at NYU, Gotham was the haute place to dine in that for $20 we could get a fancy lunch without travelling more than a few blocks from campus. For that reason I would be more inclined to go away from the immediate vicinity of the school (if she matriculates, she will find that students aren't fond of venturing far beyond 14th St.) so to give her a taste of something new and adventurous. DavidBurke is great and would allow some shopping at Bloomingdale's. I love the Modern, but I think a future NYUer might also enjoy Kittichai, Buddakan, perilla or perhaps even Mas.
Prune serves up very good food with a relaxed, Village vibe. It's in the East Village, but not too far from either the Washington Square or Union Square campus by cab or on foot if the weather is warm. It's also on the F/V (orange) subway lines.
You might also like La Lanterna di Vittorio for more simple fare (wood-fired pizza, wonderful desserts) in a beautiful setting (lovely enclosed back garden, fireplaces, old brick). Food is solid, though nothing to write home about (aside from the drool worthy desserts); the atmosphere, though, is really wonderful.
Snack Taverna does relatively inexpensive, pretty good Greek in a small, cozy, typical W. Villagey restaurant.
The Mario Batali restaurant, Otto, is solid on food, hip(pish), and close. The music can get a little loud.
For something more trendy, with beautiful digs, decent food (and a dash or two of pretention), look into Mercer Kitchen. It may be more suitable for someone above the legal drinking age, but it's your call.
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I too would strike the Rainbow Room from your list off the bat, not really worth the price. I grew up in NYC and have just moved back here after graduating from college in D.C. 2 years ago.
I completely agree that you should venture out of the NYU box and maybe try a restuarant in a different neighborhood, or even borough?!? The River Cafe in DUMBO/Brooklyn Heights has a fantastic views of Manhattan and delicious food. I would recommend this for the overall experience, it is certainly somewhere to go for a special occasion.
Also, Grocery or Saul on Smith Street in Cobble Hill are delicious. Dressler in Williamsburg has a really great atmosphere and is in a really fun Brooklyn neighborhood to explore.
I have so many friends that went to school in NYC that never left Manhattan, this would be such a great way to show your daughter how much there is in Brooklyn as well (have you figured out yet which borough I am from?).
On one other note, my boyfriend took me to Aquavit (in Manhattan) for my birthday last week, and it was one of the most delicious and interesting meals I have had in a long time. The Aquavit cafe is the less formal half of the restuarant and is fantastic as well (Aquavit and the cafe share a kitchen).
I would also second The Modern, Prune and Snack Taverna , but of all the restaurants I have listed here, the River Cafe trumps all in terms of "NY experience" and atmosphere.
Forget rainbow room, the food sucks and its way over priced. Gramercy Tavern is really good and so is Union Square Cafe. A cool place that is very New York is Bar American in Midtown.
If you want the true heart beat of NY go to a good deli (I like Stage) and get pastrami on rye, get a hot dog at Greys Papaya, and a slice at any good neighborhoos pizziera, I like Rays.
Bar Americain may have a famous chef (Bobby Flay) and a cool look, but I would not recommend it because the one meal we had there was awful.
With the regard to the quintessential deli experience, *the* one to go to is Katz's, where it's all about the pastrami.
And speaking of quintessential NY experiences, *the* drink to have is the egg cream. The two best spots for it: Gem Spa, on the corner of 2nd Av. & St. Mark's Pl.; and the hole-in-the-wall candy store on Avenue A., b/t St. Mark's & 7th St.
Based on your original list I would say Gramercy Tavern; very NY, not stuffy at all and I've always had a great meal there. Along the same tone, Gotham Bar & Grill. Two other very different but very NY popular experiences would be the Spotted Pig [west 11th/greenwich st] and Stanton Social [stanton btwn orchard & ludlow]. I'd def recommend you check out this board for reviews and menupages.com for menus. Enjoy!
Gotham is a great idea. You may also want to check out Lupa. I attended NYU and have lived in the area for a long time. These are by far my two faves around. For some great people watching, get a cocktail (just you of course) and share some apps in the lobby of the W Union Sq. Your daughter will love it.