Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Feb 19, 2008 07:34 AM

Favourite Special Occasion Restaurant?

Hi we are 3 girls from downunder. We are all turning 40 some time this year and have decided to celebrate by spending 10 days in wonderful New York. One evening we would like to have a special 'celebatory' dinner. Great food & good ambience important. For this one evening budget is not an issue.

If you could only recommend one 'must' restaurnt to an out of towner, what would it be?

Thanks in advance.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. hi there, lulu40. welcome, in advance, to nyc! it's kind of a large town for there to be just one (or even ten) must-visit restaurant(s), so a few questions / suggestions to help you get the responses you're looking for:

    1. it might help if you narrowed it down by cuisine and / or neighborhood. any kinds of foods you particularly love? anything you hate?

    2. in terms of ambiance, do you prefer a traditional, white tablecloth ambiance or something more low key and hip?

    3. do you want large portions or small?

    7 Replies
    1. re: cimui

      Hi cimui, thank you for the friendly welcome I was worried I wouldn't get a reply. OK let me narrow it down.

      1. Cuisine almost anything goes except Indian & Mexican. Neighborhood - anywhere in Manhattan is fine for this occassion, however, if we have to choose then Gramercy, Chelsea, Village, SOHO - is that considered downtown?

      2. Ambience - low key & hip, great food & service, not snobbish / pretensious

      3. Value for our $$$ - quality & quantity

      1. re: Lulu40

        Gotham Bar and Grille comes to mind in that area.
        If you wanted to venture out of that area and into the theater district, my vote would go to Vice Versa.

        1. re: Lulu40

          Since it's been the subject of some recent posts, Blue Ribbon Bakery in the West Village comes to mind. It's a lovely, comfortable space, low-key, but definitely classy enough to be special occasion, and certainly not snobbish. I'm not sure I'd call it hip, but I do tend to associate hip with small portions and snobbish service for what that's worth. BRB serves good American / European comfort food (think lamb chops, mashed potatoes, steaks, sweetbreads, fried chicken, cured meats, smoked fish) in generous portions.

          I recently had a very nice meal at Eleven Madison Park, not surprisingly located right on Madison Square Park. They have tasting menus with three or four courses, or a gourmand tasting menu with ... a lot more (10ish?). They serve smaller portions than BRB, but given the number of courses and the amuse bouches, and the richness of the fod, I don't think you'll come out hungry. Service is also not at all pretentious, food is classic American / European fine dining to the tune of crab and avocado roulade, roasted suckling pig, duck. The space is elegant, but by some accounts cold. RGR has posted some informative reviews of the place in the past, if you want to do a search. (Click on "search this board" by the Manhattan link near the top of this page.)

          Another place that's frequently recommended on this board is Crispo, by most accounts a low-key, relaxed, yet delicious Italian restaurant. I haven't yet been. Kobetobiko has some good posts, again if you want to do a search. I don't know about portion size, but perhaps another Chowhound can give better details.

          All of these places and the neighborhoods you name are downtown.

          Eleven Madison Park
          11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

          240 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011

          Blue Ribbon Bakery
          33 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014

          1. re: cimui

            Wow thanks idia & cimui this is great! I will search all your recommendations. Before finding Chowhound I searched citysearch & tripadvisor and from the reviews there had already marked Eleven Maddison Avenue as an option along with Gramercy Tavern & BLT Steak. Would also appreciate any feedback on Gramercy & BLT.

            1. re: Lulu40

              Since budget is not a concern, I think EMP is the perfect choice.

              1. re: Lulu40

                Hey, Lulu,

                Since cimui was kind enough to mention me in her post, let me echo her "Welcome!" As you can see, we are a really friendly group here and interested in making your trip to NYC the best ever!

                I strongly urge you to choose Eleven Madison Park for your celebratory dinner. And, but all means, do the Gourmand menu, which is 11 courses + amuses + mignardises. While it may sound as though it might be too much, we did it in January, portions were perfectly controlled, and when we finished, we were supremely satisfied but not stuffed.

                As for the dishes themselves, there's only one word: WOW! WOW! WOW! O.K., that's three "wows." lol But this meal deserved every one of them. My husband and I are huge fans of EMP and Chef Daniel Humm. His French-inspired cuisine is always sensational, and his Gourmand menus show off his tremendous talent and creativity to the nth degree.

                EMP's wine list is excellent, service is very cordial and polished, and the space is gorgeous! I can't think of a better place to celebrating a 40th birthday.


                Since you will be in NYC for 10 days, you and your gal pals might want to consider taking my (in)famous Lower East Side eating tour. It will enable you to walk the street of a very interesting, historic neighborhood while tasting foods that are emblematic of NYC. I'm appending the tour here:

                LES Food Excursion

                For the quintessential NYC deli experiences, no place beats Katz's, on the corner of Houston (pronounced "how-stun") & Ludlow Sts. You're there specifically for the pastrami sandwich. When you enter, you will be given a ticket. Instead of opting for table service, do what the "natives" do and get on line for counter service. When you reach the counter, put a $1 for each sandwich in the counterman's tip cup – though not mandatory, it is a tradition -- and order pastrami on rye. He'll give you a piece to taste. If you like it (the best pastrami is juicy and has some fat on it), tell him o.k., and he'll make your sandwich, give you some sour pickles, and punch your ticket. Then, continue along the counter for sides – the cole slaw is good -- and drinks. Find seats at a table in the center of the room. (Tables along the wall have menus on them and are reserved for waiter service.) When you’re done, take your ticket to the cashier in front, where it’s cash only. To pay by credit card, go to the counter at the rear where the salamis are sold. Note: For the purposes of this tour, unless you have a gargantuan appetite, it would be best to share one sandwich in order to leave room for more tastings along the way.

                When you exit Katz’s, turn left and continue along the same side of Houston St. You will come to Russ & Daughters, famous for all sorts of smoked fish and many other goodies. It's not a restaurant, but they make sandwiches to go.

                After leaving the Russes, continue west a couple of blocks until you reach Yonah Schimmel's. Get a tasty potato knish, and make sure to ask them to heat it up.

                Now it’s time for the quintessential NY drink – the egg cream. So, reverse yourself and head east on Houston until you come to Avenue A. (Note: Avenue A becomes Essex St. on the south side of Houston.) Turn left on A and head north until you get to the block between 7th St. and St. Mark’s Place. Look for a hole-in-the-wall candy shop, closer to 7th, with an overhead sign jutting into the street that says, “Belgian Fries.” (The place’s official name is Ray’s, but there is no signage to that effect.) One of the women behind the counter will make you a delicious chocolate egg cream.

                When you’re finished licking your lips, go back to Houston St. and make a left (east) one block to Norfolk St. Turn right and walk down Norfolk until it ends at Grand St. Two places to look for at the corner of Grand and Norfolk: Kossar's, for freshly baked bialys (another very NY food) and the Donut Plant (self-explanatory).

                Next, walking west along Grand St., you will come to Orchard St. Turn right. At 87 Orchard, snack on a pickle from Gus's World Famous Pickles.

                Then, continue to 97 Orchard, b/t Broome & Delancey, where you will find the Tenement Museum. The tour will show you what life was like for immigrants to NYC at the beginning of the 20th century. (
                Once you have finished the tour, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, right next door at 95 Orchard, is a must for some of the best gelato anywhere.

                If your sweet tooth is still not completely satisfied, the final stop on this tour should do it. Continue ahead (north) on Orchard, crossing Delancey, then one more block to Rivington St. Make a right and you will find Economy Candy at 145 Rivington.

                Note: It’s best not to take this tour on a Saturday since some of the spots are closed because of religious observance. Also, Donut Plant is closed on Mondays.

                Enjoy your visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

                1. re: RGR

                  Hi RGR, your food excursion is brilliant thank you so much. At this rate my gal pals and i will have to each lose 10kg before we get to NYC. We are pretty much sold on EMP for our 40th celebration however Im sure we will try out some of the other recommendations while we are in town.

                  Once again thank you everyone for your input - this is a great site!


        2. After the wealth of choices already mentioned, it may be overkill, but as out-of-towners it would be fun to go to River Cafe, on the Brooklyn waterfront, with great views of lower Manhattan. It's very easy to get to via ferry from Manhattan, too.