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Dec 1, 2009 06:36 PM

NYC Help!

Hi NYC Chowhounds,
We are coming to NYC for our annual weekend get away (staying in midtown) from Norfolk, VA. We would like to find bars/restaurants to have drinks and appetizers (small plates, tapas, nothing too heavy). We love to sit at great bars...looking for contemporary american cuisine, french, or italian. We are in our mid-30's and enjoy cool, fun urban scenes...we've really gotten into a habit of sitting at our local bar having a few drinks and nibbling on appetizers. I drink wine and SO drinks bourbon/whiskey.

In the past we have dined at some of the city's great restaurants (Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Cirque, etc.). I don't know if we can spend that kind of money this year but I love the ambience of these restaurants so I was wondering if any of them have "less formal" areas/rooms where we could have appetizers and drinks? Whereas we've spent almost a thousand dollars on a meal on JG in the past, we'd like to spend <$350 on our biggest meal this year.

I also love big city bakeries--I've learned you can get such better baked goodies in big cities than where we live (cupcakes, etc.) so would love recs on that as well!

Any advice would be much appreciated! So excited to visit again! Thanks!

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    1. Picholine has a "Menu d'Economie", served only in the bar, with lots of choices of small plates. Very reasonable, and superb food. They also offer a lower priced 3 course menu in the dining room ($58 as opposed to $92 on the regular menu).

      1. Here's a short list of some suggestions:

        Wine bars: Terroir, Gottino, Casellula
        Wine-focused restaurants (expensive): Veritas, Adour, Cru
        Cocktail bars: Death & Co, PDT, Pegu Club
        Bakeries: Two Little Red Hens, Bouchon Bakery, Levain Bakery

        If you're looking for a special meal at a top restaurant, go for lunch at Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, or Eleven Madison Park. The lunch at Le Bernardin is easily the best IMO, but JG and EMP are considerably less expensive. All three are a great way to experience some of the best food in NYC at a lower cost.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hcbk0702

          A note about Cru: It is no longer a "high-end" restaurant like Veritas or Adour. To survive in this economy, they have dropped prices and become less formal. It is all a la carte and main courses are all under $30. The food is still great and they still have the incredible wine list.

        2. Thank you!
          So far, I have lunch reservations at Le Bernardin and EMP.

          Other restaurants on my list include: Stanton Social, Degustation, Alta...for small plates/dinner.

          Also wondering about Cafe Boulud (Daniel is my favorite restaurant of all time), Scarpetta, and Babbo--would we be able to do either of these within our price range (2-300 or so for dinner, have to have a few glasses of wine)? What's Craftbar like these days?

          I'm looking through all of the posts, trying to find my own answers, but it is overwhelming....takes hours and hours. So, thank you for helping me! :)

          5 Replies
          1. re: alsky

            Scarpetta and Babbo will be in the $200 range, so should not be a problem for you. Degustation is wonderful, in fact I will be going there tonight, and will give you a quick report afterward.

            1. re: rrems

              Degustation was great again. There were a number of new dishes in the 10-course, which we appreciated. Some highlights were sweetbreads, octopus, celery root puree with sea urchin and apple, venison (this was an extra course they comped us), oxtail canneloni (we'd had this before but with different garnishes, duck confit on flatbread. There were 2 dessert courses, the first a disappointing ricotta with figs, the second the delicious caramelized brioche. With a bottle of wine at $44, total was just over $250 with tax and tip.

            2. re: alsky

              Cafe Boulud is a long-time favorite. The cuisine is superb, service is polished, and the surroundings, recently refreshed, are very pleasant. There is also a new, very attractive bar down the hall, where you can comfortably relax with drinks before dinner. $200-$300 is definitely doable for dinner.

              We recently had a wonderful lunch there. Prices on the lunch menu are quite similar to those at dinner. We each had three courses, and my husband paired wines with two courses. Our bill (which also included two drinks in the bar) came to $189 before tax and tip..

              Photos of our meal can be seen here:

              (Note: At lunch, in addition to the a la carte menu, Cafe Boulud offers a prix fixe: 2 courses for $28; 3 for $35. Two choices are offered for each course.


              We've had two excellent meals at Scarpetta. Photos can be views here:


              and here:


              1. re: alsky

                I ate at Craftbar the night before Thanksgiving. Really enjoyed it. Risotto balls were a really tasty appetizer. Main course was pork belly, which was SO good. Each element of the plate complemented the pork belly, which was cooked perfectly. Finished up with the olive oil cake and some cinnamon gelato that I ordered a la carte. Loved the cake. Again, each element really added something to the dish. Walnuts, pear, and orange cardamom ice cream blended with the cake to create a very interesting and satisfying flavor.

                I'm still thinking about that pork belly. Based on this meal, I'm surprised that Craftbar sometimes gets mixed reviews on this board. In addition to the courses mentioned, my wife had her own main (the hanger steak-solid) and her own dessert and we still got out of there for about $100 (we didn't order wine). So it's a nice lower-priced alternative to Craft.

              2. We have returned from yet another amazing trip to NYC. Thank you for your dining recs!

                We came into town on the morning of Thurs, Dec. 17 and had a 12:15 reservation at EMP. What a wonderful space! I had a gnocci appetizer, and salmon for my main course. My husband had tuna tartare for app and a lobster pasta for main course. We also had a few cocktails (modern mull) which were very good. The salmon melted in my mouth--amazing. We enjoyed everything, including the bread and amuse. Service was perfect.

                The next evening we went to Cafe Boulud. First, let me say that I went to Daniel several years ago and had one of the best dining experiences of my life. I wanted to spend a bit less this year, hence CB. Overall, I was not impressed. The service was poor (inattentive) even by Norfolk standards (where we live) and exceptionally snotty (It may be obvious to NY'ers that I don't live there, but I dress and act appropriately so no need to make me feel inferior!). Our table was not ready on time and they sent us to the very nice bar next door. When they came to get us (about 20 mins after our 9 pm reservation time), they said they would take "everything" to our table for us, so we left our drinks. The only thing they "brought over" was the bill--so we left our $50 worth of drinks sitting on the table to be thrown away.
                My husband really liked his meal--he had a short rib and a petite filet for main course, and peekytoe crab for app. I had a lamb shank for main course--it tasted like pot roast with lamb--to me. Very southern despite coming from the "world" menu. From the description, I would not have guessed that it would have tasted like pot roast. The lamb also seemed to be cooked beyond medium rare (which is usual for lamb--and they did not ask me what temp I would like my meat). I can't remember what I had for an app (bad sign). Desserts were good...I had molten choc cake and husband had apple tarte. The bread was good, but they ran out of several flavors during our meal. We had a bottle of wine and finished it toward the end of our main course. We were without drinks for at least 20 minutes. Planned to order another bottle but by the time she came back, we were ordering dessert and did not think we could drink another bottle. After being seated late, I felt rushed through the meal. They also would not help us secure a car back to our hotel. Blah! Such a disappointment as I had high hopes for Boulud's original restaurant...

                Anyway, on to the next day. Lunch at Co (pizza). Wonderful! Husband had pizza with veal sausage (yum!) and I had Stracciatella, which was amazing. Service was great, good beer, etc.

                We also went to Jacques Torres chocolates and had a coffee beverage and dessert, bought some gifts, etc. Neat space. Mr. Torres was in there working and talking to the children. We haven't tried the chocolate yet but it's a cool place to go, as they are making the chocolate right there and you can watch.

                Bouchon Bakery for lunch on final day. Very good sandwiches. Service OK. Doubt we will do that again but wanted to get a tiny bit of exposure to Thomas Keller (last time, we tried to get into Per Se, but could not). A fine lunch but nothing memorable.

                Thank you again for your recommendations! Love NYC and trying new places! Chowhound makes the dining even more fun!

                2 Replies
                1. re: alsky

                  Hi Alsky, sounds like a good trip overall and too bad about the negative experience at Cafe Boulud. I have loved both the food and service there, but haven't been in a excuse for snooty service! You would have been well within your rights to point out to to whomever escorted you to your table that you had not finished your drinks and would they kindly bring them over or replace them if it was too late. Also, lamb shank is always served well done. In fact it is a cheaper cut of meat, like pot roast, as you noted. It needs to cook a while to break down the toughness or it is inedible.

                  1. re: City Kid

                    Yes, absolutely, it was a fabulous trip! Thanks for the info re: lamb shank. I think I've only had lamb chops and rack of lamb before, so I didn't know...Rack of lamb is one of my favorite dishes so I had my hopes up for something different...
                    Thank you!