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Double date recc for next Sat - Gramercy and south

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Hi, I need help from the CH's. My best friend (6 mos pregnant) and her husband are visiting from Boston and are meeting my boyfriend for the first time next Saturday night. Ideally, the place would have a fun atmosphere without being extreme -- neither too trendy nor too fancy nor too hipster, have moderate prices (below $100 per person), and be below Gramercy / Chelsea (east or west is fine). We're all early 30's professionals, like most kinds of food, and I just need a couple of solid choices - I'm new to the city and there are just SO many options. Help!

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  1. Gemma has a fun/young/sophisticated/rustic atmosphere, and is close to the Hudson Hotel which can be fun for after dinner drinks/people watching.

    1. My first thought was Lupa, if you can sit in the back, but on OpenTable, when I checked availability for 4 people next Saturday at 8, I got the message back that no tables are available within 2 hours of that time that day. It's really annoying that it seems to be impossible to reserve at peak hours at Lupa - even on weekdays. When I show up, I seem to always luck out, because some party was a no-show, but I think that's easier for 2 people than 4. Mondays, you can just walk in without trouble, but Saturday is the roughest night. Try calling them, though; maybe they don't list every available table on OpenTable: (212) 982-5089.

      Hearth has availability on OpenTable at 6:30 or 9:00. I have no way of knowing whether you'd find the atmosphere fun. I like the room, for example, but I think RGR (or someone else here?) calls it an industrial warehouse look or something. I've always been happy with their food, though. One time, service was very slow, but it's usually been good. And one really nice thing about the place is that there is space between the tables, so you won't have the usual New York restaurant feeling of crowding. Nor is it loud, in my experience, so it's a good place to have a conversation.

      http://restauranthearth.com/

      At a cheaper price point, you could consider a place like Cacio e Vino, which I would consider to have a "fun vibe." Very good schiacciati and pizze, appetizers, etc. Some people pan their mains, but you don't have to order secondi, and their primi are good, in my experience. The staff are at least mostly Italian, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about food and wine. It can get a bit loud in there, but never too loud to have a conversation. I've never made reservations there and have never had to wait long for a table.

      http://www.cacioevino.com/main.php

      If you want to go in a different direction, Kamui Den has very good Japanese food. It's a full-service restaurant that among other things, serves sushi and sashimi, not a sushi bar. I don't know how busy they are on Saturdays now, but they do accept reservations. C. $25-40/person, depending on what you order. 186 Avenue A just south of 12 St., (212) 777-2096.

      Just a few thoughts there.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Pan

        i second the rec of Cacio e Vino if you decide to go w/ the lower price point option...it's a cute place and they are Sicilian specialties which most other Italian places don't have...one nice thing about going to a moderately priced restaurant for a somewhat festive dinner is that you order some especially yummy wine (and desserts, etc) without breaking the bank...

        another option might be Le Gigot in the W.Village...i haven't been there yet (it's on my list) but from what i've read here it might work too...

        1. re: Pan

          Pan, the reason you luck out at Lupa I believe is that they don't reserve all tables.

          To the OP my thought was Alta. Good Atmosphere at a good value. Small plates and there's lots of choices foodwise.

          1. re: Stuffed Monkey

            The last x-number of times I've gone (except for the Monday, when there were plenty of empty tables), they've specifically told me that they had a no-show party of 2 which my party was substituting for.

        2. I went to Aroma Restaurant last weekend and it was great. The service is really great and it's a cozy atmosphere. The drawback is that cozy = TINY. I like Tia Pol a lot, too, but same thing...it's so small, but the food is great. Aroma takes reservations (at least they did for a party of 7), but I don't think Tia Pol does. I also love Gradisca. I did a double date there and it was perfect for what I was looking for.

          1. Check these out:
            Barbuto
            Naima
            Pylos
            L'Artusi
            Market Table
            Perilla
            Chinatown Brasserie
            Papatzul
            Marc Forgione

            www.thelunchbelle.com

            1 Reply
            1. re: LeahBaila

              aww...you like barbuto too...thats a favorite of mine.

              barbuto would be a great option...id also recommend cookshop...food is solid and familar with a good vibe and good drinks.

            2. Thanks for your recommendations, everyone!