30th surprise birthday party - inexpensive but cool - help please!
A young staff member wants a fun special location to surprise her husband, preferably a private room, and good music - dancing not necessary. 10-20 people. The hitch is she can only afford up to $600. Can be appetizer buffet only. Not everyone drinks - so part of the quandary is to get a reasonable deal and not have to pay for open bar. All locations are fine. Birthday boy likes Mexican (or anything) but can't have anything too tacky as she will invite some work colleagues he doesn't know well. (He is a creative type-from Central America.) One idea is an alcove room at Spice Market, but that may be too costly. She found Mustang Grill on the internet, may fit the budget, but we don't know anyone who ever went there. I suggest she ask guests to pay for their own drinks and do Spice Market. Any suggestions or similar party experiences?
I don't think Spice Mkt is very budget friendly, especially given that number. While the following places aren't on top Michelin or Zagat lists, I think they're much more "bang for your buck." Festive settings and decent food/drink:
Bowery Bar & Grill
Schiller's Liquor Bar
Los Dados charges $26 for tacos and a thimble of guacamole that are better and a fraction of the price down the street. B Bar is a glorified diner with inflated prices and deflated portions. How is that "more 'bang for your buck'?" Spare the conceit, those restaurants are Zagat listed: for attracting the scene-followers who fancy themselves taste-makers, not for the food.
Mustang Grill isn't much better. It's basic pub grub, nothing terribly exciting. In addition to Freeman's, try looking at the menus from Gyu-Kaku and Paladar for good food and good music. The folks at Highline also put together an affordable party package with or without alcohol.
This might not be exactly what you are looking for but I just had a 30th suprise bithday party at Red Egg: http://www.redeggnyc.com/ . We did it as a dim sum brunch so no one drank but I know the organizers were shocked by the LOW price of the food, definitely in your budget, and they do have a bar. It was also delicious (some highlights were the pork dumplings and the ceviche). We didnt have a private room but we had a big table and they were fine with us hanging around for a while, walking around the table and we brought in cake (from Two Little Red Hens--amazing), they didn't charge a cutting fee. And as you can see from the website while it isn't super cool it is definitely nicer than the big banquet hall dim sum places. I'd have another party there in a heartbeat.
My boyfriend threw me a suprise party at Zarela for 12 people and it was great. It's not very expensive but its fantastic Mexican cuisine. We just had everyone order off the menu, but they did agree to put out plates of appetizers and chips and what not along with our entrees.
Thank you so much everyone for the good suggestions - I'll pass them on to her and let you know what she does and how it turns out. I'll definitely advise her to look at Gyu-Kaku, Paladar, Highline, and some of these others - I'm really not too familiar with these spots. I think her event is still not for a couple months, but she's in a panic, never having done this sort of thing before.
BTW, before these suggestions came in I took her over to Mustang Grill which she had found on internet. Looked shabby, music too loud to hear any conversation. We went to Spice Market, too late to eat anything, and she LOVED the look of the little alcove rooms downstairs - with the white curtains, the candles, and sofa seating, and the cool music was just perfect. But yeah - the budget. It's ok w/o drinks, but we haven't yet asked if they can give out individual checks.