UWS casual restaurant for me & sophisticated 19-YO bro?
My brother and his girlfriend are coming to stay from England, where the drinking age is 18. They're 18 and 19. We'll be on the UWS on a Saturday evening, and I'd like to go somewhere for dinner where we can relax, and he can have a glass of wine with dinner. I'm a bit murky on how the laws work in terms of restaurants anyway - can anyone point me in the right direction, legally, ethically, and practically?? BTW - he has a great palate, and does not want to be pandered to in terms of chicken nuggets and the like...
The legal drinking age is 21 and most places enforce that. Especially on the UWS where they are a high concentration of college style bars on Amsterdam Ave. If a waiter/server serves wine to someone under 21, then they are putting themselves at risk and most will ID.
I think technically, you have to be a minor's legal guardian to give him wine, but practically speaking, at a Manhattan restaurant, I strongly doubt a server would ever check or raise an eyebrow to wine being served around the table. Ethically, I personally have no problem with it as long as everyone drinks responsibly.
Do you have any cuisine preferences? There are a lot of possibilities. Pasha (Turkish) is a good, moderately priced Turkish restaurant in the lower 70s (W. 71st, if I remember correctly). Thai Market is an excellent, inexpensive restaurant with fairly nice decor on W. 107th. Kefi on W 79th serves very nice new-style Greek.
Pasha, TM and Kefi don't have wine lists to write home about, but they do serve some wines that will not insult your palate (think 80 to 85 on a Wine Spectator / Wine Advocate scale). If you don't mind something pricier, but still casual, Ouest has a very good wine list and excellent food.
It is the restaurant personnel's responsibility to check on the age of drinkers because if they serve alcohol to someone under age 21 and are caught, they can lose their liquor license. The law does not require you to disclose that your brother and his girlfriend are not of drinking age, so the ethics of the situation are entirely a personal matter.
As far as which restaurant to choose, I would recommend Picholine. Superb cuisine, a fine wine list, professional service, and lovely ambiance. They are currently offering a $50 gift certificate in celebration of their 15th Anniversary. You can apply for it on their website, and you should receive it in about a week's time. It is valid until Sept. 2009.
Honestly, there's a 95% chance that no one says anything about him being under 21 but it's not a bad idea to hedge your bets. You might want to go a BYOB restaurant--there are a bunch of good and very laid back places. On the upper west side you could try A on columbus and 107th and downtown you have Kuma Inn (asian tapas), Cube 63 (sushi), and tartine (french bistro and a beautiful place to sit) (which are alll better but of course farther away--all except tartine take reservations).
Apparently, there's been some publicity of a couple of places being busted for underage drinking NYC. So I think you may have some problems finding a place that will serve your brother and his girlfriend at this time.
You can do what you feel comfortable with. The liability is on the restaurant, not the diner. If your brother orders wine and they ask him for ID and he produces a fake one, what they'll do is just take the ID away. But you guys may feel embarrassed for the duration of the dinner.