dinner recommendation for special occasion gift
Not a totally uncommon question, but I have some specific criteria that sometimes is tough to judge from quick descriptions or even websites.
I collected a bunch of money to send our secretary, for her 15th anniversary, to somewhere nice for dinner in NY. I now have the responsibility of choosing where to spend the money. She has never been to NY and lives a very modest life. I want to pick somewhere fancy that she will understand as quintessentially NY. I'm looking for a place with entrees in the mid-to high twenties, to thirties range. I would prefer a-la-carte because she tends not to eat too much, will probably be overwhelmed by a tasting menu, and is going with a few friends so they'll probably want to share stuff, etc. I got a few recommendations from a foodie friend -- he suggested Craft, Gotham Bar & Grill, Aureole, and a few others that are past the price range. Craft looks like it's getting mixed reviews, Gotham Bar & Grill looks good, Aureole seems to offer only a fixed 3-course option. Is there anything else anyone would recommend over Gotham, for my criteria? Also, I don't want any place that is overly pretentious and will make her feel uncomfortable. I was originally thinking Union Square Cafe, but my foodie friend negged it. I lived in NY one summer years ago so I'm totally out of touch with the current dining scene. Any guidance much appreciated. Another friend recommended Blue Hill, but I remember going a few years back and have a recollection that it is maybe too casual for the occasion? No sushi or steak.
I had the best meal I've ever eaten at Hearth, from appetizer to dessert. But reviews are mixed and I'm not sure how "quintessentially NY" it is. And as a caveat, I think you might have been looking at Gotham's lunch prices because their dinner menu is out of the price range you described.
In my view, Gramercy Tavern is the quintessential New York restaurant. Gotham B&G is great, although I sometimes find the servers to be a little cold. Whereas Gramercy the service is amazing, as is the food, the decor, etc, ...
My husband and I just went to Telepan on the UWS and we loved it, not sure if that is considered "quintessential NY"? Gramercy Tavern is very much "NY", but the main dining room is pre-fixe only. The tavern part is wonderful, we love it, but they don't take reservations. I think Gotham may be a bit out of your price range.
Thanks everyone, you guys are right about Gotham being outside of my originally stated price range. I did some looking into restaurants and I'd forgotten how expensive NY is. I think 20-something is just a casual meal in NY! Also, I got a few more pledges after my original e-mail, so now I think we'll be able to give her $300 for two people. So I guess any place that has entrees in the 30-something range (vs 40-something). Gramercy might be a better idea, actually, since then she won't be worrying about the cost of an individual entree and can just enjoy. What do you think about Gramercy Tavern vs Aureole?
I think the easiest way is to get a Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) gift card which can be used in all their restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, The Modern, Shake Shack, and Union Square Cafe.
Since these are some of the best restaurants in their own category in the city, your associate can get to choose what style and what price range she likes (perhaps she like to visit a few places, then she can go to the Tavern Room for a small meal and Shake Shack for a burger! Or she can dine at Eleven Madison Park during lunch time for a la carte.) You mentioned that she has never been to NY before, so you may want to give her some suggestions or the specialities of each restaurant.
Also, if it is her first NY visit, you definitely want her to get the best service possible (which, unfortunately is not available everywhere in Manhattan). USHG is famous for their exceptional service and she will be treated like a queen!