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15 high schoolers from Vermont coming to town...and they want lunch

I have a friend who is a high school teacher in VT and she's bringing some of her students to the city on Friday. She asked for help in finding a place to eat lunch. They'll be at the U.N. and the Metropolitan Museum, so they're roaming and willing to travel a bit. Can anyone suggest a place? I'm appending a bit of her email below so that you can see what she's thinking. Thanks!
Last year we ate lunch in Times Sq at the Hard Rock Cafe. Not only is that pretty pricey, but it's so lacking (for me, anyway) in any kind of cultural flair/fare. Although I know it's difficult to arrive with 15 people and try to eat some place (around 1-ish) -- though we are coming on Friday (this week). Any thoughts? We're somewhat mobile and usually walk and ride the subway.

PS -- One place I had thought of was America or Carmine's (not sure on those names, but remembering they have large round tables and family-style serving.

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  1. carmines is great..live in the city 12 years and i still enjoy that place.
    If you want family style you can also go to Tony sdi napoli
    on 43rd Street between 6th and 7th Avenue.
    Telephone: 212-221-0100

    2 Replies
    1. re: italianagambino

      No, no, not that location of Tony's Di Napoli. It sucks! The one on 3rd Av. in the 70s (?) is better (though just OK). I've never thought Carmine's was great, either. Again, just OK, and kind of fun for a group.

      I would have been the first to suggest Katz's, if RGR hadn't already suggested it and LeahBaila and D...DF hadn't agreed. :-) Simon has a great point, though: Vegetarians are out of luck there. Which gives rise to another idea that others have touched on: Chinese food. Specifically, I was thinking of Congee Village, which is a very big eating hall and probably wouldn't be too crowded at lunchtime, especially on a weekday. Looks like that was today, though, so where did you go?

      1. re: Pan

        Tony diNapoli's is located on Second Ave. and 83rd St.

    2. Carmines is pretty mediocre and America (assuming you are talking about the place near Union Sq) closed a long time ago and is now a Rosa Mexicano.

      You can try Naples 45 on 45th btwn Lex and Vanderbilt (Park). Its in the back of Grand Central/Met Life building and has great neopolitan style pizzas. Its also a fairly large restaurant, so would be good for a group and isn't too expensive. Also for pizza, past times square is John's on 44th and 8th. Not the best pizza in the city but decent. It is in a former chapel and with a huge ornate ceiling.

      Other possible ideas are Blue Smoke (bbq and burgers) and Grand Sichuan (I'd say Szechuan Gourmet but 16 people around lunchtime would overwhelm it) for some good chinese food

      2 Replies
      1. re: ESNY

        I agree that Carmine's is relatively dreadful by adult, NYer standards -- but I know I would've enjoyed it as a high school student. The prices are within range and most (probably all) branches of this restaurant have enough space to seat 15. Servers there are used to rambunctious groups, so no one will glare too ferociously at high school kids.

        That said, I haven't been to Naples 45 or the TS location of John's.

        Wouldn't do Grand Sichuan. A group of fifteen is far too big for that restaurant, though the food is good.

        1. re: ESNY

          im talking about caminies in times square-with kids and tourists, its perfect

        2. If they can make the trek all the way down town, you can try Lombardi's. Novelty of being the first pizzeria in America, kids can wait potentially in playground next door while table is being set, and can do a trip down mulberry (lil italy) to get some gelato afterwards. Also, aesthetically a different neighborhood feel than you'll find uptown, which would be good to get exposure to.

          1. Do you have any sense of what their budget is? That would help a lot.

            2 Replies
            1. re: MMRuth

              I'm guessing not too high--maybe $15 per person?

              1. re: ksh68nyc

                Thanks - I'll put my thinking cap on!

            2. I'd take them to Katz's, the quintessential NYC deli, which has history dating back to its opening in 1887. (Their saying, "Send a salami to your boy in the army," is a famous reminder of WWII.) Ordering at the counter won't work very well with a group that size, so it will have to be table service. Coming in at the height of the lunch hour could prove problematical. So, I'd call to see what arrangements can be made.


              If that won't work, perhaps Sarge's would. Another great deli with a vast diner-style menu.


              Another option might be Daisy May's for great bbq. It's a cafeteria-style set-up. I'm sure the students won't care about the lack of decor. Much less expensive than Blue Smoke.


              2 Replies
                1. re: LeahBaila

                  Katz's is great but you can't even get a Pastrami sandwich and soda for $15.

              1. My suggestion is for Chinatown -- either for dim sum or a regular lunch meal. The size is perfect for two large tables of 8. And it's really fun for kids to walk around, soaking up a different culture. And I find that high schoolers love the knock-off shops on Canal Street. The 6 train (by the Met and UN) goes straight there.

                If that's too far for you guys, I agree with ESNY for John's on 44th. True, there are better places for pizza, but the surroundings can't be beat for tourists.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Agreed. Forget Chinatown Brasserie, as much as I love the place. These kids will want and be able to, eat a ton of food. Amazing 66 at 66 Mott Street offers about 67 lunch specials for only $5.25 each. Cantonese family style. The meal includes a cup of soup, large steaming plate of hot food and a bowl of rice. (Be sure to ask for their special lunch menu as they most likely will hand you the regular menu - they do that to everyone!) If you are pinching pennies do not order canned sodas, which will add 20% to the cost ($1.00!) And that still leaves for room for the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (67 Bayard) and shopping along Canal.

                2. I would suggest Spice Market. I was there with a group of friends this past weekend and had a fabulous meal. The ambiance is incredible and definately roomy enough for a large group. This place is perfect for the younger hipster crowd. With tax and tip we spent $20 each. We shared a bunch of small plates. They also offer a pre fixe lunch for a little more that sounded like to much food. The pad thai alone makes a great meal and was only $9. We were delighted with the amazing atmosphere.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: askeenan

                    And also Chinatown Brasserie check the website. It is a large fun place and they have a pick four dim sum special at lunchtime for $13

                  2. Since they'll be at the UN, you could walk them (or bus them on the #42 crosstown) over to Grand Central Terminal. Go down to the food court - where you can scope out several tables and each kid can get the kind of food they want. There are also a couple of sit-down places including a deli (Juniors?). Skip the Oyster Bar. Grand Central is its own Christmas destination - I think the laser show on the ceiling in the main hall has already started.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Jane A.

                      re: Grand Central - Oyster Bar clam chowder is still good, cheap, and fun to eat at those u-shaped counters. And right outside the OB is the famous vaulted ceiling, where they can speak quietly into the corner and be heard by a friend at the opposite end of the vault rib. It's a NY tradition for tourists and non. Might be able to fit into Two Boots - service is nice there and the pizza is spicy good. Chinatown is also a great idea.

                    2. Second Katz's! RGR is right, call ahead.

                      1. of the above suggestions, i'd John's might be the most safe and fun and convenient...

                        Lombard's has history but you might have a long wait w/ a group and the last couple time there (a long time ago) our pizza was dreadful...

                        Somewhere like Amazing 66 followed by the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is also a fun suggestion but if they are around the UN and Met, it might not be doable schedule-wise....i loathe Chinatown Brasserie, and would never send anyone there regardless of age or budget...

                        re: Katz's, sure it's a NY classic, but what if a few of these Vermont teenagers are vegetarians or just generally not into slices of greasy beef?...

                        another option, quite close to the UN is a casual French bistro called Montparnasse: it might be slightly above the price-point, but the dinner menu is not too expensive so it's possible that they have a lunch special in the 20 to 25 dollar range...

                        1. In my mind there is no place better than the original Two Boots on Avenue A near 2nd on the West side of the street. Good pizza, diverse cajutaliano menu otherwise and hey, it's the east village. Oh, and they are used to seating groups this size.