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Milestone birthday for SF Chowhounder's mom: Help?

I'm going to be in New York for an upcoming weekend (March 29/30) with my parents and the trip coincides with a major birthday for my mom (I won't divulge her age for fear of slapping-upside-the-head). We're coming from the SF bay area and I'd really like to take her somewhere special. Unfortunately, with only about a week to go, a lot of the good upscale restaurants I've looked into are already booked up. Does anyone have any suggestions for great food in the $100/person range (not including drinks and tip) that will be able to accommodate us on such short notice?

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  1. The best thing to do is go on opentable.com and see what is available. Most of the better NY restaurants are listed. Depending on the day of the week and the time you are looking for you may get lucky it is not high season.

    1 Reply
    1. re: maxine

      Starting there is a good idea, I agree - then let us know what seems available, and we can help cull the list.

    2. Looking at tables of 4 for Saturday, and assuming you're all ok with eating a little early, I'd consider:

      A Voce at 6:15
      Aureole at 6:00
      Bouley at 5:30
      Cafe Boulud at 5:45
      Cafe Gray at 5:15, 7:00
      Cru at 6:30
      Eleven Madison Park at 6:00
      Fleur de Sel at 6:45
      Gotham Bar and Grill at 5:30
      L'Impero at 6:30
      Peasant at 6:30
      Telepan at 5:30

      And those are just the ones I'd strongly consider... lots of other options out there.

      1. Olana still has availabilities for next Saturday showing on Opentable. It is quite new so has not become difficult to book yet. You can google their website, and also search this board for reviews.

        1. I'm looking at Opentable, but I don't really know much about NY dining beyond the "name" restaurants that get mentioned a lot by the food media (Per Se, Babbo, Momofuku, Nobu, Katz's, etc.). Is the Michelin star list a good starting point? I'm usually not a fan of relying on Zagat/Michelin, but I'm kind of flying blind.

          Are there any duds among the following?

          Bouley
          Picholine
          Gotham
          Cafe Boulud
          Le Cirque
          Modern
          Annisa
          Gramercy Tavern

          Any restaurants I should definitely consider?

          I'd really like to go to Babbo, but they were all booked up. What is the walk-in situation usually like?

          5 Replies
          1. re: Humbucker

            First - I don't think much of the Michelin ratings for NYC. For a special occasion, I wouldn't count on walking in at Babbo. I had an amazing, memorable meal at Alto last September, but might be higher than your price point. I think they are on opentable though, so you could check out the menu. I posted the review back then. I'm a big fan of Annisa, and have been for a number of years, but there are some detractors, who have not had great experiences. Spiritchaser posted a very positive review of Picholine this week, and it is one I would feel comfortable with. Also look into Aquavit - had a wonderful meal there before Christmas but didn't post about it. Have you checked Jean-Georges?

            BTW - in terms of price - $100 for food isn't that much of an issue, but do you plan on wine etc.? Because, depending on the place, that can really increase the final tab.

            Good luck - feel free to ask more questions.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Picholine review - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/499899

              My Alto review - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/443376 (I've also read wonderful things about L'Impero, its sister restaurant, but have not been - I gather it is somewhat less expensive

              )

              Bouley - my lunch - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/482538, some other reviews (mixed, I think) - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/482538, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/493872

              1. re: MMRuth

                I'm going to add another-Tocqueville. It was my mom's milestone birthday too this year and we went there. It was wonderful and didn't break the benk. Mostly, my mom loved it. It was intimate, not too loud and the food was just delicious. They were so gracious there and I just can't say enough about the great evening. Let us know what you decide.

              2. re: MMRuth

                Aquavit is brilliant. High end scandinavian cuisine. Something you won't get in the bay area. I haven't been since the move though so I can't make any specific recs. If the foie gras ganache is still on the menu, that's a must.

                Also, you can't go wrong with Eleven Madison Park or Cafe Boulud for a special occasion meal.

                You'll get stellar service at Gramercy Tavern but the cuisine is less exciting than the others and I'm not sure the cuisine is that much different than what you'd get in the bay area. However, they will bend over backwards to make your occasion special.

              3. re: Humbucker

                Overall those are all great restaurants. I had an amazing meal at Bouley last year and I always love Gramercy Tavern they are both perfect for special occasion dining.

                Pisholine and Le Cirque are also great rooms though I have heard bad things about the service for the latter. Annise is very nice in a small intimate minimalistic room.

              4. What do you guys think of 11 Madison Park? There seem to be a lot of fans, but the occasional complaint about leaving hungry has me worried. My mom sometimes gets a little cranky when tasting menus give you teensy portions.

                Which of these restaurants would you categorize as must-eats for out of towners like Per Se and Babbo? I tried convincing the folks to go and enjoy Per Se by themselves (too $$$$ for four of us), but my dad says he doesn't wouldn't be able to enjoy is fully without us.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Humbucker

                  11 Madison is my favorite restaurant in the city. I went there last year for my birthday and it was perfect. (I was not hungry at all) You can find other great reviews of it on this board, perhaps more recent posts.

                  BTW I have been to Babbo a few times and while there are a few great dishes, I have always left a bit disenchanted. I don't think it lives up to the hype.

                  1. re: Humbucker

                    EMP is certainly wonderful, but you will not be able to have the tasting menu and stay anywhere near your budget. The 3-course menu may not be enough to eat. If you go I would recommend the 4-course menu which will be plenty of food, but it is $102, so it is at the top of your range, and the wine list tends toward the stratospheric.