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A 'hidden gem' for a birthday dinner...

I'm taking my boyfriend out for his 29th birthday dinner on Friday night and I'm having a hard time deciding where to take him. In the past we've gone to:

Grange Hall
The Place

I'm always looking for somewhere that's not a trendy 'restaurant of the moment' but somewhere that feels like a hidden gem...something with a unique quality that's apparent as soon as you walk through the door. I'm looking for ambiance coupled with great food at a reasonable price (see restaurant's above). Any suggestions?

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  1. Duane Park Cafe might fit the bill... elegant, reliable menu, decent prices.

        1. re: dkstar1

          Punch is really really awful.

        1. re: gekko

          Oh, Il Buco is fantastic!! Really romantic - I had dinner in their wine cellar last April and while I admit that while I wasn't super impressed with the food (it was tasty but not incredible), the ambience was *amazing* - candles everywhere and worn wooden floors. I took a look at the website and the pictures really don't do it justice. Good luck whatever you decide upon!

        2. Didn't Grange Hall close ages ago?

          1 Reply
          1. re: bronwen

            Grange Hall closed in 2004. That space was then taken over by Blue Mill, which also closed. The latest occupant is the just-opened Commerce.

          2. I vote for Philip Marie. I had a really nice dinner there a few weeks ago in their private wine room for two. It's beautiful and the building has some history to it. Apparently, the place was a speakeasy back in the day and the basement is actually an old farmhouse kitchen that was found kind of by accident. Our server told us the place has been featured on The History Channel before. Definitely a "hidden gem" kind of dinner.

            1. I think Savoy is really great and cozy. The place is also someplace I frequen, mainly on first dates, but I think the food at Savoy is a bit better.

              4 Replies
              1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                One of my coworkers just suggested the bar menu at Gramercy Tavern. I've read they don't take reservations, but would anyone recommend this over Savoy? I've read quite a few negative reviews about Savoy lately so want to be sure before I make a reservation!

                Also, what are the portion sizes like at Gramercy? My boyfriend is a very big eater and if the portions are teeny, we might need to skip it...

                1. re: envynyc

                  I cant comment on the bar room, but i will say portions in the main dining room are more than sufficient... not skimpy at all. I would highly recommend the main room if youre up for the price. Service is perfect and its very comfortable verging on cozy- never pretentious. Its one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Although it isnt hidden at all, it is certainly a gem.

                  1. re: envynyc

                    gramercy tavern has small portions in my opinion (coming from a girl who likes to eat), at least for a man who likes to eat. i understand why people love it here but i wasn't that impressed.

                    1. re: envynyc

                      I would describe portions in Gramercy's Tavern Room as quite adequate for anyone with an average appetite. However, if your b.f. prefers huge, steakhouse-style portions, then he may not be satisfied.

                  2. How about Apizz? I'm a big fan of that place - great ambiance for a couple as well.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: sga916

                      . Someone here yesterday talked about Apizz. I have never been there. It sounded good ,and I made reservations for a birthday dinner. Since having done so, I have had this nagging doubt that maybe it was cute and cozy--but not really a place wher a 35 year old man should celebrate his birthday. I would appreciate any more info about ambiance and food at Apizz. Thanks!

                      1. re: feast

                        I guess it depends on how fancy you'd like to go for a birthday dinner. It's a casual and small restaurant, which is what I like about it (and it's not super expensive). So, yes it is "cozy" as you describe but not cute-sy by any means. Lots of exposed brick, dim lights, towers of wine, candles, big oven - perfect for a date. The service is consistently good when I've been and everyone is very friendly and attentive but not at all overbearing. I think the ambiance is romantic and good for intimate conversation - might not be great for a big group (especially since the space is small - I wouldn't go with a party bigger than 4). In terms of food - I think everything on the menu is consistently good but they are famous for their veal-beef-pork meatballs which are highly recommended.

                        you could check out the website for pictures of the interior/up-to-date menu/etc:


                        1. re: feast

                          I recently went to Apizz for the first time and loved it. The staff was very friendly, and the food was fantastic. The polenta with sauteed mushrooms and the skate in particular were both great. Oh, and the wild boar lasagna was good too.

                          I don't think it's too 'cute' at all, dim lighting and exposed brick give it a nice feel.

                      2. I just thought of Frankie's Sputino and Hearth as well, both in the East Village. Frankie's is more laid back and just a good place to go and talk and you will not be rushed. Portions are pretty good sized.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                          If your purse can stand thinning out, I highly recommend Giovanni Venti Cinque, a small walk-down Italian restaurant which will make you swear you are in Italy on a small Verona street. The food is delicious, but pricey.
                          One block from the Metropolitan Museum.

                        2. You'd like Spiga on the UWS, I think.

                          Inventive cuisine, small, intimate, attractive space (homey, not glitzy), very friendly service, moderately priced. Meats are much better than the fish.

                          200 W 84th St, New York, NY 10024

                          1. Assenzio would be perfect. A very cozy, quaint, romantic and authentic Italian restaurant located in the East Village (East 4th between Aves A and B) with the most incredible wine and amazing dishes (my favorites are the black linquine w/shrimp and the mushroom truffle fettucine). I love the ambiance-- dark wood, dim lighting, warm, and just very private. Far from pretentious and the service is wonderful (everyone who works there is Italian).

                            Afterwards, you could head to Death & Co which would be perfect to share some of the most incredible cocktails.. absolutely love this place.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: VillageGirl

                              How about Employees Only?

                              I do love Dressler-that is in Williamsburgh though so maybe you want to consult the outer borough board. The food is fantastic but not so much a hidden gem-maybe Marlowe and Sons is more hidden also in Williamsburgh.

                            2. Definitely Barmarche.