Fun + Spicy + Inexpensive
Hello - this post is kind of late notice... but I'm all over the map.
I am looking for a place for tonight (saturday 11/21), that will be a fun/unique experience for a group of 5 young people.
We are looking for a sort a tasteful hole-in-the-wall ambiance coupled with a fun fun vibe. We also want spicy food and reasonable prices.
Neighborhood preferences - below 20th - otherwise were open.
Some places that embody what we are looking for - Extra Virgin, Malatesta, Cafe Mogador.
Prompt responses much appreciated...hah. Thanks.
I think this is the best reply. A sichuan hot pot is one of my favorite communal eating experiences short of time traveling back to some sort of Viking feast.
I would add Malay restaurants to this list. I've really liked Nyonya, or alternatively Fatty Crab for more scene, and not quite as enjoyable food.
I'm not sure why the original post asks for spicy and then names not particularly spicy places. I'm never sure what spicy is for Northeasterners.
Perhaps, Lantern Thai? It's on the corner of 2nd Av. & 18th St. Very tasty Thai food. Not a hole-in-the-wall. Sleek modern decor. Younger crowd in the evening. Upbeat vibe.
Btw, today is 11/22.
Grand Sichuan is one of my favorites, and while it might not qualify as "fun fun vibe", if you go to the St.Marks location and get a window table, the people watching is nice...i think the food might be a bit better at the Chelsea location though...
i am not a fan of Rhong Tiam...i initially tried their (awful) lunch but then heard that it's a different chef...so i went back and got dinner-time takeout from there and was unimpressed: i thought it was mediocre and overpriced...
While i can't whole-heartedly rec any Manhattan Thai place, Zaab City, on 13th St might do the trick: the Isaan dishes (laab, somtam, etc) are usually good, although the curries and other dishes are so-so...i think "tasteful hole-the-wall" describes it pretty well...
i also recently had a nice spicy fishhead curry casserole at New Malaysia, in the Chinatown passageway between Bowery and Elizabeth...
very different from highline/peep, both in food and vibe...
Zaab City is a small place ("hole in the wall") but lit dimly enough and reasonably cozy (i.e. "tasteful")... there is no bar nor bar scene...it has maybe 7 small tables?...it's a very comfy place for friends to eat some spicy laab moo (ground pork salad) and somtam (papaya salad), and catch up together, but it has no people-watching draw (not what you'd prob call "fun vibe")...it's also inexpensive...
Peep/Highline do not even serve what i'd consider "Thai" food: they serve cotton candy w/ token Thai touches ...and they offer loungey/SATC-visuals...
if i was going out and wanted spicy food and some cocktail vibe i'd do this: go to Zaab City for dinner, then go to somewhere like the Angel's Share or other fun East Village cocktail lounge afterwards...
hope that helps compare/contrast...
The hot pot at Szechuan Gourmet is fun, spicy and inexpensive. I think communal interactive eating is always fun. Not quite the young fun downtown vibe. But the surroundings are pleasant enough. I think it's about $25/person for all the seafood, meat and veggies you can eat. If you want stuff like tripe, etc. they charge extra. But you should be fine with the selection they have.
you could always do indian in the east village (curry row) - a lot of places are byob and definitely affordable....plus, sitars, crazy lights, etc should meet your requirements for "unique." make sure to ask for things extra spicy if you really want a kick. i usually go to panna 2 on 1st ave but honestly they all have similar menus.