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Help Please with dress code in Manhattan

  • f

My DH and I are visiting April 17-22. We have reservations for dinners at Lupa, Gramercy Tavern dining room (9:30pm after Letterman taping) West Bank Cafe (pre-theater Wicked), Red Cat, Cafe Boulud (Sun brunch). We live in Raleigh NC which is a business casual kind of place. We are planning on dress and coat for DH at GT. Is it acceptable to wear nice capri pants and silk tops at the other places? Or only long pants or dresses? Do the NYC residents wear dress jeans and nice tops out to dinner at more casual places? We are mid 40's age. Just not sure if the definition of business casual/casual in NYC is the same as here.

I have read this board and studied the travel books. Planning a dinner/dessert at Momofuku and Chickalicious walk ins if not a long wait. It seems Mesa Grill gets mixed reviews but would love to try it since we like that type of food. We are staying at Sofitel on 44th. Any nearby rec's for dessert, grab and go breakfast or pizza? We will probably find lunches along the way of sightseeing.

Thank you

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  1. Hey, fcb,

    I presume, in your first sentence, you meant to write *June*?

    With the exception of Lupa, we have been to all the restaurants you are going to. A jacket is not required at any, including Gramercy Tavern's formal dining room. But if you want to get a bit dressed up for G.T., i.e., dress for you and jacket for Mr. fcb, you will not feel out of place since there will be a mix of dress. Long pants or a casual skirt would be your best option for pre-theater dinner at West Bank. Dress jeans will be fine for Red Cat and brunch at Cafe Boulud.

    We haven't been to Mesa Grill is ages, so I can't comment on the current status of the food.

    I adore ChikaLicious, but the wait can be seriously long because it's a tiny place with only 4 tables and 10 seats at the counter (which is where I prefer to sit so that I can watch Chika in action).

    For continental-style breakfast a short walk from the Sofitel (which is on 44th, b/t 5th & 6th), Amy's Bread is on 9th Av., b/t 46th & 47th Sts. There are a few tables in the back of the shop.


    For pizza, there's John's Pizzeria, on 44th, b/t B'way & 8th.


    For dessert:

    Junior's, on 45th St., b/t B'way & 8th, is known for their famous cheesecake.


    Marseille, on the corner of 9th Av. & 44th St., is a bright, bustling brasserie. Love the beignets and the sorbets.


    Benoit, on 55th St., b/t 5th & 6th Avs., is Alain Ducasse's new bistro. Profiteroles for two and the Baba au Rhum. Yum!


    You've got lots of great eating in store. Enjoy your visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

    1 Reply
    1. re: RGR

      I strongly recommend not going to John's in Times Square for pizza. One of the worst dining experiences in the city and also really just not very good pizza. You'd honestly be better off with Lazzarra's or Naples 45.

    2. Yes NYC is very tolerant of dress. That said, you will get better service and feel less like a tourist if you dress the part. Black pants and something nice on top is always safe. (No plaid or lime green jackets). Capris okay for day. No flip flops.
      Mesa Grill is casual, but they will stick you in the back if you look touristy (depends on the mood of the hostess). Food is very good, but noisy. Make sure you have reservations. They also serve lunch which is a bit cheaper.
      We thought ChikaLicious was overhyped and overpriced. No way the dessert for 3 people with no liquor is worth $67 dollars. Go to Payard (Lex and 73rd) sit in the front, have fabulous French pastry and coffee. Pretend you are in Paris.

      2 Replies
      1. re: meinNYC

        What's ChikaLicious' current price? The web site menu (and other online menus) still give the old price: $12 per person for dessert without wine pairings. It was $12 for quite a while, as I recall; but that dates from long before prices of flour and other ingredients went through the roof.

        203 E 10th St, New York, NY 10003

        1. re: meinNYC

          I believe you may be confused here. My Parents and I visited ChikaLicious this past weekend and ordered the three-course prix fixe dessert ($12 ea.), $39 w/tax. Consistently, among the most reasonable deals in the city.

        2. Regarding Manhattan dress codes, I think you'll do fine if you just remember our golden commandments:

          (1) No crocs. Ever. Don't even wear then in your hotel room. We'll find out.

          (2) Velour track suits are suitable only at Raos and if you've been invited to sit at Al Sharpton's table.

          (3) No logos or clothing showing your allegiance to any sports team, college, or Nascar driver.

          (4) Pop that collar on that polo shirt under a blazer and we'll know immediately which suburb of Raleigh you're from.

          (5) Capris are cool. As long as they're black. Long pants and dresses are also cool. As long as they're black. Silk tops are acceptable. As long as they're black...or white. Colored clothing generally not welcome here.

          All kidding aside, most of the restaurants that you're going to won't care what you're wearing. You seem like great foodies so I'm sure the restaurateurs will pick up on your passion and you'll feel comfortable. You can get away with jeans and casual wear at all those restaurants. At a few of the places, you might even be able to get away with shorts (though I wouldn't recommend it.) I would dress nicest for Grammercy. Don't worry about the rest.

          By the way, get the short ribs ravioli or the chicken at GT. Two of my favorite dishes in the city. Enjoy.

          1. Dining in NYC is generally more casual these days, even at the high end. Jeans are almost always acceptable except at some 3 and all 4 star joints.

            2 Replies
            1. re: psawce

              Just rember that the jeans in NY that are okay for restaurants are dark, clean, pressed and new looking and worn with high heels. Jeans aren't the same thing everywhere.

              1. re: psawce

                I love the jeans/heels/fab top look. They must be very expensive jeans though!

              2. When i was at Mesa Grill I felt like i was eating at some middle america food court

                1 Reply
                1. honestly, you can wear anything you want.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: kcijones001

                    You can certainly "wear anything you want." But that doesn't mean it's appropriate for the particular restaurant Most of the restaurants that say"Jacket required" mean it. If a man shows up un-jacketed, they will provide one.

                    1. re: RGR

                      On the other hand, there are so few places anymore that require a jacket, and none of the OP's restaurants do.

                      1. re: scrittrice

                        Agreed. However, if you go to Cafe Boulud without a jacket, you will be in a very distinct minority. Even though Daniel Boulud envision CB as a very casual place where one could come in jeans and sweaters, the UES folks who are a huge part of the clientele have a distinctly different opinion of how they prefer to dress. Jackets for the gents and relatively dressy for the ladies. Except at brunch, where they do get much more casual. In any case, you will not be turned away at lunch or dinner even if you do show up in jeans and a sweater.

                        1. re: RGR

                          Right, but I believe they're going to Cafe Boulud for brunch. Am I the only one who thinks a little less of a restaurant if they "require" jackets? It always seems to me as if they're trying too hard to be classy.

                          1. re: scrittrice

                            You're right about them going to C.B. for brunch and I did say that just about everyone was dressed much more casually, i.e., no jackets, when we had brunch there.

                            When it comes to restaurants like Daniel, Jean Georges, or Per Se, I don't think it's a question of "trying too hard to be classy." They don't need to "try" because they already are.

                            1. re: RGR

                              See, I find a place like Per Se pretty vulgar. Just a personal thing, and I wouldn't turn down an invitation if someone else wanted to foot the bill, but I find an atmosphere like Craft or Gramercy Tavern classier. I suppose the definition of classy is like the Supreme Court's definition of pornography--I can't exactly describe what I mean, but I know it when I see it.

                              1. re: scrittrice

                                I'm not clear as to whether or not you've been to Per Se. If you've not experienced dining there, you certainly can't use that "I know it when I see it" reasoning. So, what makes you describe it as vulgar?

                                1. re: scrittrice

                                  Have you actually been to Per Se? It's pretty understated. The emphasis of the restaurant is on the food, not decor. While the plating of food may be along the line of "dots on a plate," the service is very comfortable and it's not an intimidating atmosphere at all. It's very approachable like Craft or Gramercy.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    Okay, bad example, perhaps (and yes, I've been), but I still say that over-the-top attempts at "fanciness" ring hollow for me. I also have a bias against cute names for dishes at restaurants. Just bugs me as overly clever.

                    2. I generally wear "nice jeans"/cute top/cute shoes (I don't wear heels too often, so I wear pretty flats or wedges). If I want to take it up a notch, I will bust out a dress. I think a silk blouse + capri would work. Usually guys get away with "nice jeans", nice shoes, and a button-down top.

                      1. Re Mesa Grill, I went there for lunch and it was just OK, but the brunch was spectacular. The mix of breads, cornbreads, and biscuits in the bread basket alone would have been great. But our entrees were delicious and unique as well. They serve the same basic cuisine for brunch, so if you can make it there during the day on the weekends, I think you'll enjoy the experience more.

                        1. NY is certainly not the type of place where jackets are required anymore. My general rule of thumb when going to what I consider a nice restaurant, such as many of the ones you listed and especially when I am spending the whole day out and about, is to wear business casual khakis with a collared shirt OR nice jeans (not with holes, but nice Jeans) and a sport jacket. This is me, but certainly don't be too concerned with getting dressed up. Just look presentable.

                          1. Looks like you already got a lot of good advice so far, but as my parents visit frequently from down your way, I would just add a few things I think they thought were helpful:

                            1. Generally, compared to Raleigh, you would probably want to wear less jewelry than might be the norm there. Except for maybe on the Upper East Side, where people seem to wear a lot of it.

                            2. I would suggest that the style of women's makeup here is probably a bit more toned-down here than in the South, in general, even at a formal dinner. Again, I don't know you personally, so I have no idea what your personal style is.

                            3. As others have pointed out, loud, bright colors generally do not go over as well here as they do in the South, though it is summer, so I think there is more flexibility on that front.

                            4. I would say that for a gentleman in his 40s, a jacket or a suit would probably look best, even if it's not required, at GT. Personally, I like wearing a suit, no tie, to a nicer place, but that's just me. For your reference, the vibe and dress code of GT is, in my opinion, pretty similar to Second Empire in Raleigh, which I have to say I might like as much as I like GT. (BTW, even after living here for several years, I still miss Angus Barn, 2E, Four Square, Magnolia Grill, etc. etc. The Triangle has some excellent restaurants)

                            5. If you don't have "dress jeans" (this may apply more to men than women) then it is probably better to stick with pants. Others on here have indicated what "dress jeans" are - usually dark, pressed, fairly slim-fitting..

                            In any event, you've picked some great places and I think the people will be very welcoming to you regardless. But, I know it can be anxiety-creating when you're not sure exactly how to "fit in" in a less-familiar. I used to feel that way a lot here, but over time I realized that basic good manners and kindness still seem to be the best way to fit in anywhere :)

                            Have a very enjoyable trip. I apologize that I can't help you on your recs up by the Sofitel - I used to work up there, and it's kind of tough for restaurants. Best I can do - for dessert, the Brooklyn Diner on 43rd b/w 6th and Broadway will be pretty good and have a decent cheesecake and sundaes and that kind of thing. Grand Central Station has a Junior's Cheesecake that is decent, plus a large variety of good food vendors for a quick bite, such as a grab and go breakfast. Also, I'd recommend a drink at Campbell Apartment - beautiful space, and appropriate for all ages.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jonasblank

                              Just to note that Junior's has a large, sit-down restaurant on 45th St., just west of B'way. I mentioned it upthread in my first post.

                              1. re: jonasblank

                                From another Southerner preparing for a long overdue return visit to NY, thanks for your thoughtful response. We're coming from Nashville first weekend in August and appreciate your input.....now to decide where to dine.