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Looking for recs for budget romantic dinner

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They say you can find anything in New York....
I'm looking for a romantic restaurant for dinner w/my BF in NYC. Moderate prices are best (under $20ish per entree, the more reasonable the better). I'd like the whole meal (entrees, appetizers, bottle of wine) to cost under $100. $65 would be a lot better.

Somewhere that is private, ambient, excellent service, delicious food. It does not have to be 'fancy'.
I don't really care about the type of cuisine. We like good food, and well-balanced meals. Dietary restrictions: tomato, shrimp. I am less interested in oriental.

I really just want to find a 'hidden gem' to eat at (yeah if you post it here it won't be so hidden anymore). We're in the town on business. I've had unlucky experiences in the past by picking things that 'look nice' and YELP is overwhelming because I don't know where to start.

Please help! What's your favorite place to take your honey for a special (but not too expensive) meal?

We're staying in the Fashion District. I don't mind taking a cab.

TYVM!

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  1. I wouldn't call this spot "hidden," but it's certainly a gem:
    Nougatine ($35 prix fixe)

    www.thelunchbelle.com

    1 Reply
    1. re: LeahBaila

      I agree with you about Nougatine. However, even doing the $35 prix fixe, there is no way the o.p. can stay within her $100 maximum budget unless they drink only tap water.

    2. Bella Vitae in the West Village

      1. Prix fixe at Gascogne (8th Ave @ 18th Street) -- just be seated by 7:30 for the deal! Romantic, delicious, affordable.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ChefJune

          Gascogne's website shows that the $27 dinner prix-fixe is available from 5:30 - *7* p.m.

          http://www.gascognenyc.com/prixfixe.html

        2. I think Jules on St. Marks is a nice romantic find. Cute french bistro, usually have a music trio adding to the ambiance.

          2 Replies
          1. re: LBNJNY

            I had dinner at Jules last night - not romantic in the least as we were a party of five - but I definitely recommend it for a bargain-priced, solid meal in a pleasant atmosphere. I've eaten at Jules a few times in the past, but this was my first visit in probably 10 years. We were the first table seated, at 6:30, and over the course of the evening five or six other parties trickled in. The service was friendly, if a bit slow, but the guy who seemed to be the manager was quite attentive to us.

            I had the chilled cucumber soup ($7), a special, and the tuna tartare appetizer ($10). The soup was very good, creamy, thick and perfectly smooth, with a nice touch of lemon. It was also very bright green and quite lovely to look at. The tuna was also very good, chopped roughly, formed into the usual tall cylinder, and topped with avocado puree. That avocado - also lemony - was a little too similar to the soup in texture, taste and richness. So I screwed up a little, there, with my order. But both dishes were generously sized; I felt I had a full two course meal for $40 all in, with two beers.

            The tartare was served with a mesclun salad, the same one you get everywhere - can some clever chef jazz up this tired old workhorse a little? Throw a couple of olives on top? A cornichon? Hearts of palm? Something? I love my greens, but I'm about ready to weep from boredom.

            One of my companions had the pork loin special and thought it was terrific (I took his word for it, since I don't eat pork), and another had the caprese salad (good quality mozzarella, lame-ass tomatoes). The other two didn't comment on their steak frites and frisee salad, but they finished them, so there you go.

            I think I can safely add Jules to my go-to list. There's something for everyone, the price is right, and the food is above average. I've been mourning the death of Village Restaurant; now I don't feel quite so despondent.

            1. re: LBNJNY

              I'm going to disagree with you and small h. Jules is fine but not special and a bit expensive for the quality. I had a perfectly good meal there within the past year or two, except that the moules marinieres were barely acceptable - they tasted old, which is really not right in a French restaurant. Also, if you go when they have live jazz, it's good music, but it's loud (or at least was when I was there), so it doesn't fit my view of romantic.

            2. Kuma Inn in the LES; Bianca on Bowery/Bleeker

              2 Replies
              1. re: NYEsq

                bianca is a great spot. just remember cash only.

                1. re: mch

                  I was thinking of recommending Bianca. Certainly the price is right and the food is good. My only concern is the "romantic" part. The seating is a little tight and the place can sometimes get a little noisy at peak times. Then again, I've seen plenty of couples there holding hands so obviously it fits the bill for some people.

                  As MCH said, remember it's cash only. And they don't take reservations. If you're going on a weekend you should get there by 7:00 so you'll be seated right away.

                  Robert Sietsema liked it -
                  http://www.villagevoice.com/2004-03-1...

              2. A dinner for two (How many courses?), a bottle of wine, NYC tax (nearly 9%), and the tip (20%) for $65?! Dream on! $100 out-the-door is much more realistic though you will have to be very careful about what you drink.

                My suggestion would be Cosette. It's a neighborhood "hidden" gem -- a teensy, French bistro with good food and romantic ambiance.

                http://www.menupages.com/restaurants/...

                2 Replies
                1. re: RGR

                  RGR, I was thinking exactly the same thing when I read this post. Cosette would be my choice for affordable-romantic without sacraficing quality.

                  1. re: Spends Rent on Food

                    I work in Murray Hill and will give a third to Cosette. Great little spot, wonderful host/owner. Sweet place.

                2. You could do this (including wine) for well under $100 at La Carbonara, a fairly new sidewalk bistro on West 14th Street. Modern Italian food,low prices, nice ambiance, and $24 bottles of interesting wine.

                  1. I absolutely loved Convivio. 4 course prix fixe meal @ $59/person. You can always order a la carte. And they have some reasonably priced wine.

                    1. You could try Le Pere Pinard which on the Lower East Side...they have a prix fixe that admittedly you have to be there before 7:30 (I think) to order but it's $16 and 3 courses so it definitely fits your budget - whether you want to eat that early is another story. I don't know that I'd call the service excellent, but it's been totally competent and enjoyable when we've been. They have a garden which is quite nice too.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: pellegrino31

                        Closed last month, unfortunately ... http://nymag.com/daily/food/2009/06/l...

                        1. re: squid kun

                          Oh thanks for posting - I missed the news!

                      2. Lupa. The most delicious, fresh, and excellently prepared Italian in the West Village.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: fizzingwhizbee

                          Yeah, I agree. Ask for the back room, which is quieter and has a more private and sedate feel. It's a tough reservation, though.

                          darlin_clementine, did you go on your date already? If so, where did you go, and how was it?

                        2. I think you can do a nice dinner for two on that budget -- but you'd have to sacrifice the privacy factor. NYC restaurants tend to have tight seating and only *some* of the more expensive restaurants give you lots of space between tables. I can't think of any less expensive restaurants that afford diners much privacy.

                          Some possible options:

                          * Ivo & Lulu -- it's BYOB so you can bring your own bottle of wine and splurge on the food. It's dark and fun and cramped and laid back and sometimes overly hot. I find it romantic in artist's garret kind of way. Food is French Caribbean. It's probably possible to get out for $65 / two people, esp. if you don't factor in the BYOB wine. http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/... Buy a good, inexpensive bottle at Astor Wines and Spirits beforehand.

                          * 'Ino -- also cramped, but fun with interesting paninis and lots of wines by the glass. I've been there on very casual dates, but it probably wouldn't work for a really special date. http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

                          * La Lanterna -- A really sweet and romantic cafe with a lovely covered garden out back. Food is simple Italian and not the most amazing you will find in NYC, but the individual pizzas (around $11) and desserts are good. Lots of decent wines and grappas and other spirits by the glass. I don't think I've ever ordered a bottle, so have no idea how much they cost. http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

                          By the way, no need to take a cab to any of these places as they're all very subway accessible (the A/C/E, the B/D/F/V and the 1 lines all take you close). Save your cab fare and spend it on food! :)