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Babbos and Commerce, or Gotham and Gramercy

It's my daughter's 19th birthday, and we're spending two days in New York, seeing a show and shopping in the village. I'd want to take her to a few great dinners. She has sophisticated tastes and ideally, I'd like one special dinner the first night for her birthday, and the second night, after the show, a light meal at a fun, hip and happening place (we'll be staying at the Hotel W in Union Square). I actually have reservations at Babbos for the second night, but now am having doubts that it might be too uptight. And between Gotham and Gramercy, which one has the better atmosphere, ambiance and of course menu? Are there any other places that might be better?

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  1. Babbo is not uptight at all -- in fact it is one of the most casual 3-New York Times-star restaurants around. Loud rock'n'roll music is the house soundtrack, and there's usually big crowds at the bar.

    1. Babbo is definitely not uptight- particularly if you sit downstairs IMO Gotham and Gramercy Tavern are much more uptight than Babbo, particularly for a 19 year old.

      1. Oh, good, sounds like I have a good choice for night two. What about the first night which is actually her birthday: Gotham, Gramercy, Commerce, or is there another choice you might have? Again, looking for a great vibe, fabulous food, but at the same time, not too formal. Thanks again, and if you ever come to Washington DC, I'll do my best to lead you in the best direction!!

        1. as others have noted, Babbo (there's no "s" on the end, by the way) is very laid-back.

          i haven't been to Gramercy Tavern in years, but i recently had a fantastic meal at Gotham Bar & Grill. the atmosphere is subdued and elegant but not at all stuffy or "formal." regarding your question about which one has the better menu, "better" is a subjective term - it depends what you like. i'd suggest looking at them and deciding for yourself. the menus for both Gotham & Gramercy Tavern are posted on their respective websites...


          have fun, and i hope your daughter has a very happy birthday !

          2 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Thank you Goodhealth for your direction. Babbo (no "s") will stay for the second night. I'm beginning to lean more towards Gotham for the first night, as the menu does look more interesting. Thanks for your help.

            1. re: susabella

              my pleasure. hope you all enjoy it, wherever you end up!

          2. I'd lean toward Gramercy Tavern. A much better restaurant, I believe, and a slightly more relaxed atmosphere.

            Babbo is, indeed, not uptight at all, but the downstairs dining room is definitely more lively than upstairs. I would call now and request to be seated downstairs if at all possible and then remind them when you show up (on time). They typically can't guarantee it, but do their best to accommodate the request.

            1. I'd also take Gramercy over Gotham. They're close for me on food, but on atmosphere, I think GT is sophisticated while warm--Gotham always seems a bit cold (not that it's overly formal, just a little "crisp") to me. I was a peripatetic foodie of sorts by the time I was your daughter's age, and I would have much preferred GT.

              8 Replies
              1. re: planetjess

                Thanks for that information. I made a reservation for Gramercy!

                1. re: susabella

                  You might want to think about which room to eat in at Gramercy. I had the five-course tasting menu in the more formal dining room in January and a meal in the Tavern Room in June. Both meals were great, but I liked the food and more relaxed atmosphere in the Tavern. There has been at least one recent thread where where many diners have enjoyed the Tavern Room more than the formal room. We were able to order off the dining room menu (I recommend the smoked trout). You do not need a reservation for the Tavern.

                  1. re: susabella

                    For another view, went to Gramercy with two chefs about 2 months ago. Seated in 'fussy' room, service, appearance, wine list were great. Desserts as always were wonderful. ALL other food items were in a word boring and very small portions. This was my first time and their manyeth time but none of us would want to return very soon. Babbo l love.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      Just as a clarification, my recommendation was only as between GT and Gotham for this particular diner. Although I like it fine, I don't frequent GT very often, as it doesn't make my "greatest hits" list and is too expensive for a neighborhood standby.

                      1. re: planetjess

                        Well, how about neither one? The more I look at Gramercy, the more I don't think it's a good choice. How about Mas? Or is there somewhere else you would recommend? Thanks for your help!

                        1. re: susabella

                          For luscious food and a high-end experience, I would suggest Eleven Madison Park. For a locavore, yet high-end experience, I would suggest Blue Hill. Top of the line Indian in a dreamy setting--Devi. For the smoothest, calmest fancy meal you'll ever eat, I love Chanterelle (not hip. not happening. just a restaurant where they know what they've been doing for many years and do it well). I haven't done dinner at Jean Georges, but I did lunch there a few weeks ago and was blown away. SHO Shaun Hergatt opened up on Broad Street in the Financial District recently; it's fancy but edgy (I think it might be interesting to a young foodie)--I ate there and was impressed. To be fair, I don't think Gramercy is a bad choice, but I just think there's better out there. Explore some menus and the recent thread about posters' top 10 favorite restaurants in Manhattan--you'll see a few places come up again and again in the high end. Browse some menus and see what inspires you (I'm leaving off my favorite restaurant in New York, Daniel, because I think it's too prim for what you want, and there have been reports of some service issues lately).

                          1. re: susabella

                            Mas was a wonderful time, my chef friends from the Gramercy thinks it is the bomb in NY. Tough ticket but Minetta Tavern is McNally at his best. Guess l am old fashioned but still think Chanterelle is super.

                        2. re: Delucacheesemonger


                          I believe I emailed you but you responded as if I were someone else.
                          Perhaps I did not make it clear. Poor introduction on my account.
                          "Fussy" room. I am sure they will not be changing it to that, officially.

                    2. Have been to Babbo and Gotahm- both are fantastico. I also echo the comments on EMP.

                      1. Was at Gramercy Tavern earlier this year with my wife and 11 year old daughter in the "formal" dining Room and had a wonderful time. Our server was gracious and welcoming and our daughter had a great time. Had the tasting menu at EMP in June with our 14 year old son and had a similar positive experience.