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Sep 22, 2009 06:38 AM

Elegant (but not bank breaking) Birthday Dinner for 2 young adults

Good morning,
I am visiting NYC from DC in a few weeks to take a good friend out to a birthday dinner but need some recommendations. I wanted to do Le Bernadin but it is a touch more than I want to spend this time. Also, I don't want to be dissappointed if Chef Ripert isn't in the kitchen.
I am looking for something that I am not going to find in DC. Preferably, new American, French, or Italian. I would like to spend less than about $200 (for both of us with wine by the glass). Also, I would like midtown or within a half hour walk from NY Penn Station. Also, I want to make sure it is a place that will be very gracious to my friend on her birthday (not too much... no sombreros or singing).
Just to give an idea, my first choice was Babbo but I could not snag the reservations.

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  1. Gramercy Tavern - great American-cuisine, feels like you went somewhere, $82ish 3 course menu so it might end up being a little bit over your $200 limit depending on wine choices, will write happy birthday in chocolate sauce on dessert plate if you let them know it's a birthday celebration!

    Scarpetta - def the right price range, great Italian

    7 Replies
    1. re: stephaniec25

      How about Convivio? Right now, Gramercy is definitely on the list

      1. re: daves_32

        Convivio would be a great choice too. If you go for the pasta, you will leave very happy. I'd consider Scarpetta to be in the same league as well. Both would be less expensive than Gramercy Tavern.

        1. re: hcbk0702

          I've heard good things about Scarpetta. Convivio is OK too. But my favorite Italian is Lupa (The gnocchi there is my favorite). And quite honestly, I was disappointed by my last two visits to Babbo.

          If you want to go somewhere different from what you can find in DC (where you can get great Italian--Obelisk and Tosca, for ex.), I've been reading a lot about a place on this board called Eleven Madison Park (EMP). See:

          I'm sure other hounds will chime in with more info and recs.

          1. re: Gigi007

            I certainly am a fan of Tosca. I go there nearly every month. EMP (Eleven Madison Park) is $88 prix fixe. Still looking a touch cheaper than that.

            1. re: daves_32

              Glad you like Tosca too.

              For the price range you're looking for, I think the Italian options already mentioned would work, but am curious to see if someone comes up with a different type of cuisine and restaurant recs.

              P.S. The Bar Room at the Modern is fabulous and innovative. I am fairly certain it's within your price range.

            2. re: Gigi007

              I also love Lupa but I thought it might be too busy and crowded for a special celebration.

              1. re: stephaniec25

                I've been to Lupa for many, many birthday and anniversary celebrations. They've always been very accomodating to my friends and family. But looking at the OP's original post again, Lupa might be too informal. It's not elegant like Tosca in DC. Maybe that's why so many people prefer Babbo, which I've found to be pretentious in recent visits.

        1. Howabout Aldea? $75 tasting menu, a la carte would be less

          12 Replies
          1. re: shanshan

            ok so help me make the decision. My options have been limited to Convivio, Aldea, Bar Boulud, Del Posto, and Blue Hill.

            1. re: daves_32

              I think Convivio would be a safe bet. Though not on your short-list you might might consider Scarpetta too. As for Aldea, I'm interested in trying it, but have read some mixed reviews. Of the others, Bar Boulud isn't anything special, Del Posto is OK (but not on the level of Tosca). I have no idea about Blue Hill.

              1. re: Gigi007

                Having eaten at all of those restaurants I would go with Convivio then Blue Hill, then Boulud and Del Posto and lastly Aldea.
                Convivio has great pasta's, you have a lot of choice/ variety in what you're eating and the wine program has lots of good by the glass choices.
                Blue Hill is very good as well, and I haven't been in the past year, but it is a solid choice. I've eaten in the back garden area each time I've gone, and it has been great. The cooking there highlights the ingredients much more than other places.
                Bar Boulud is great, and a little livelier atmosphere when I've been there.
                I think you would be happy at any 3 of those locations.

                1. re: UWSEater

                  I made a mistake on my list. I meant CAFE Boulud. Does this change any opinions?

                  1. re: daves_32

                    Cafe Boulud is great but currently closed for renovations, according to the website.


                    1. re: fm1963

                      I won't be there until October 17. I believe from the website, it will be open by then

                      1. re: daves_32

                        Ok, in that case Cafe Boulud would be a great choice, Not sure if this matters to you but it had a slightly older crowd (40s to 60s) the few times that I've been, but the food is great.

                        Personally I think the traditional French/Country selections are better than the more international items, but you're definitely in for a special-occasion meal.

                1. re: stephaniec25

                  I have decided on Convivio. Menu suggestions?

                  1. re: daves_32

                    I never did convivio in the fall. Now I am looking to go there next
                    wknd. However I am in my final throes of marathon
                    training. The reviews I have read in convivio make
                    it sound very heavy. Are all the options as such?
                    Any recommendations for something luxurious but with sone
                    lighter options ((simple fish etc). Please let me know

                    1. re: daves_32


                      Did you end up going somewhere else in September? If so, how did it go?

                      1. re: ml77

                        No I ended up getting stuck in dc that weekend.
                        so how me with next weekend! please! I want to be able to race in a few weeks