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Feb 18, 2009 06:48 PM

Advice for Casual Birthday Dinner in Brooklyn

Hey folks--
Been trolling the boards doing some research for an upcoming 60th birthday dinner and thought I'd throw out my thoughts for some feedback. Here are the details:
--mom's 60th birthday
--Saturday night, need to eat early (530ish)
--6 adults and one infant (8 mos)
--not ethnic
--preferably in Carroll/Cobble/Boerum

At this point I'm thinking either Lunetta, Chestnut or Po. I've had good meals at each (and not so good meals at some, too) but there are clearly mixed opinions on the boards about them all. Worth noting that mom/dad are not foodies, but do appreciate a well-cooked meal. So whaddya think? Am I overlooking someplace that might otherwise fit the bill? Thanks!

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  1. Saul seems like a good fit. The food is very good and it's special enough for an important birthday.

    1. Union Smith Cafe might fit the bill. It's in your preferred location and quite infant-friendly, non-ethnic with enough variety to satisfy 6 adults, and casual - might be too casual but that's obviously up to you :).

      It's certainly not a foodie favorite, but I've always enjoyed my meals there. Based on the three you mentioned it might also not be "special occasion" enough, but I figured it was worth passing along the thought. Good luck!

      1. If you are six adults and a baby, I wouldn't suggest Saul. or Chestnut . They are not casual, people get dressed a bit, and the setting and ambiance and food are more formal .you seem to be looking for.

        I would suggest Heights Cafe in Brooklyn Heights. The food is very good, it is family oriented, busy, and can accomadate a party of 6 easily. The Menu is quite varied, all American food, well prepared at reasonable prices.

        1. I wonder if Buttermilk Channel is an option. They're new, so I don't know if they take reservations, but the restaurant is casual yet "special" enough for an occasion. Saul is too fancy for your needs though I think Chestnut would work.

          9 Replies
          1. re: eeee

            Saul may be more special occasion than some of the places mentioned, but "fancy" it's not. I'd skip Heights Cafe. It is a comfortable place but the food is mediocre and that's being generous. That's true for Union Smith Cafe too, although the burgers and fries there are excellent. If you don't mind traveling a few minutes over to Dumbo, 5 Front might work.

            1. re: Claire

              I find the food at HEIGHTS CAFE to be very good. I would never describe oit as "mediocre". Many CH posters have reported good things about their group dining experiences there for parties, bithdays, and such.

              The salads and burgers are excellent, and their Texas Meat Loaf is great. Some of their daily specials have been excellent as well, especially the fish.

              We eat there fairly often, and have never had a mediocre meal.

              It is not HE or NP or Saul, but the proce is about one third of those.

              1. re: Fleur

                Since you are going at such an early hour, what about The Grocery? I suggest it because my folks love the place-and it could fit the bill. Otherwise, I also think Buttermilk Channel would be appropriate and the fried chicken is a delicious choice.

                It's not in your neighborhood, but Walter Foods is also great american food with flair. Raw bar is amazing.

                1. re: malibu

                  I've never heard of Walter Foods. Where is it?

                  1. re: Claire

                    It's in Williamsburg. Opened about 5 months ago. I highly recommend it.


                  2. re: malibu

                    As wonderful as Grocery is, I'm not sure that's a good place to bring an infant at any hour. Same goes for Saul, Chestnut, Po, Lunetta, etc. (signed, parent of 2 young kids.) Just my humble opinion, and not trying to start a war here.

                    1. re: malibu

                      I third the recommendation for Buttermilk Channel. They do take reservations for larger groups and the food is quite approachable for your non-foodie relatives, yet generally well executed. They also are very child-friendly; I had a large group dinner there a few weeks back, 9 adults and a baby, and all went well - the staff was even nice enough to help stow the baby equipment.

                      I'd definitely do a birthday at Buttermilk Channel over Heights Cafe - the place just feels a bit more special, the waitstaff is much more attentive, the food seems a notch more creative, etc. The ambiance isn't amazing at either place, but Buttermilk Channel at least feels a bit less generic.

                    2. re: Fleur

                      I'm one of those posters that have reported good things about Heights Cafe for a special occasion meal, and went there partly because of what Fleur had written :). So I'll happily second her recommendation!

                      1. re: bklynite

                        I agree that Saul is probably not casual enough. Chestnut I think would be OK though, especially at that time. Our baby ate with us there when he was 13 months and did just fine. Better than either (and than Heights Cafe, which I don't like) I think would be Bar Tabac, it's really good for babies and kids - plenty to look at, buzzy enough that nobody will notice a few tears. The staff are really accommodating, and I think the food is solid and good value. They have great specials. Ask them to make a birthday sized version of their chocolate cake - it's REALLY good.

                2. Downtown Atlantic might suit your needs. It's white tablecloth, but the staff are warm and informal. They often serve large parties and are not just tolerant but actually welcoming to children. The food is substantial, good American, sometimes with ethnicy specials. It's no foody paradise, but a good, solid local dinner out.

                  At 5:30, you'll pretty much have the place to yourself. I suggest calling ahead to make a reservation, though, so they can alert the kitchen to go into dinner mode a little early.

                  The places you first suggested, IMO, are more foodie than welcoming enviroments. Of the other places mentioned, Saul is way too foodie and fancy, and Bar Tabac is too noisy and informal. I often take my in-laws and children to Downtown Atlantic. It's that kind of place.