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Gimmicky restaurant for 20th Birthday

My younger sister is turning 20, and I'm taking her out to dinner. She likes the idea of gimmick-y places - Mars 2112, Ninja New York - but hates the idea of going to a ridiculous place with bad food. Any similar recs that have good cuisine? Entrees in the $15-$20 range.

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  1. i've said it elsewhere and i'm not sure what the general CH opinion is, but Panna II is as much fun as one can have in a restaurant on a birthday for under $15/person. it's BYOB and totally nuts with decorations. the birthday celebration song puts a smile on the face of even the most jaded.

    4 Replies
    1. re: coasts

      Panna II is a great suggestion, but we go there with some regularity. I was looking also at Tea and Sympathy or A Salt and Battery - not gimmicky, but definitely twee.

        1. re: carolinerex

          tea and sympathy is very cramped, and a salt and battery is a bit bright, and mall like, but doesn't strike me as a special event location either. you might look into chip shop in brooklyn...and while you're at it, juniors.

          alice's teacup maybe? city crab? porchetta or the lobster roll place down the block strike me as theme like, but probably no better than a salt and battery. well, probably better food, but not ambience. dallas bbq has the big goblets of punch drinks, and the food is supposed to be edible, i hear. russian vodka room with it's horseradish infused vodkas? rolf's with it's wild decorations, and ski lodge decor. song 7.2 is really strange and might fit the bill, but the food is questionable. amy ruth's or shark bar? hill country might fit your needs.

          new york also has a number of paces which are frozen in time, that might work.

          1. re: sugartoof

            the food at Song 7.2 is decent, but not great. i would stay clear of Dallas BBQ. it's like a cafeteria, even if the food is edible. russian vodka room is fun, albeit mildly depressing, and guest of honor is only 20! food at rolf's is far from good and they're in a weird time now, with christmas decorations still adorning the walls. i realize that's the charm, but somehow it doesn't work when it's right after christmas.

            what about conveyor sushi at East on 3rd Ave and 27th(?)? Nooch for Thai on 8th and 17th. Soccarat?

      1. I was sort of tricked into going to Lucky Cheng's once. It actually wasn't that bad. The entertainment was awesome and the food not so bad. Plus I got free backrubs.

        Can't vouch for it, but I've always wanted to try that Russian Samovar place uptown.

        Also, I love Congee Village (Allen/Delancey) The food is good and super cheap. They have karaoke rooms in the bottom and it's pretty kitschy.

        Other than that, maybe somewhere with live music or bellydancing?

        Good luck and happy bday to your sis :)

        1. Sammy's Roumanian on the Lower East Side may work.

          3 Replies
          1. re: emgoodman

            <My younger sister ... hates the idea of going to a ridiculous place with bad food.>

            Sammy's Roumanian is a ridiculous place with bad food.

            1. re: small h

              You said you wanted gimmicky...

              Mars and Ninja aren't ridiculous places with bad food???

              1. re: small h

                I've only been there once - in December - and I have to say, I really had a great time, and enjoyed some, though not all, of the food. I do think it was an expensive good time, given the quality of the food though.

            2. Sammy's Roumanian, Stardust Diner, Jekyll & Hyde - all ridiculous though!

              1 Reply
              1. re: bronwen

                And way outside of the price range.

              2. I've never been, but have heard a few good things about Lips. http://www.lipsnyc.com/

                4 Replies
                1. re: ttoommyy

                  isnt lips a male review?
                  Go to magia e beve...Gimicky with more decent food than anything listed on here and in your price range.

                  1. re: smokeandapancake

                    anything colorful about the place aside from the murals?

                    i was trying to think if there was a throwback italian joint to suggest. there are a few in the east village. john's of 12th street comes to mind.

                    1. re: smokeandapancake

                      No, Lips is a restaurant where the servers are drag queens. It is not a male review. It is harmless.

                      1. re: smokeandapancake

                        what's the gimmick of Mangia e Beve? i used to work around the corner and had lunch there many times...nothing remarkable about it all.

                    2. a few people mentioned Lips, which is a lot of fun, though most women are there for their bachelorette party...
                      another place i really like is Trailor Park. the food is casual but the decor is fun, and they have great sweet potato fries :)

                      1. What is the difference between "ridiculous place with bad food" and "gimmick'y" ?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                          nothing. oh, there's also burgers and cupcakes.
                          Burgers & Cupcakes
                          265 West 23rd Street.
                          or johnny utah's for bull riding. i love cheesy..not really

                          1. re: smokeandapancake

                            I wanted to know what the OP thinks about the difference...

                            1. re: smokeandapancake

                              The Chelsea location for Burgers and Cupcakes is closed. They moved to 35th and 9th.

                          2. The Indian Places on First ave and sixth street with all of the chili pepper lights. They sing for your birthday and it is cheap. Food is meh but that's not what you are looking for.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: MVNYC

                              that's Panna II...OP goes there often.

                              1. re: coasts

                                Actually I was referring to Milon next store, it is even more hectic in there. I think it might be a little bit cheaper as well, food is about the same. Just head left instead of right when you go up the stairs

                              1. One of the places in Little Italy (I want to say Puglia?) used to have a Mexican/Elvis impersonator. He sang mariachi type music with some of the King mixed in. Don't remember much about it because it was ages ago but if he's still around I say that fits. The food was....what you'd expect in Little Italy.

                                Otherwise....Cowgirl in the West Village maybe, for margaritas? Or maybe tapas is gimmick-y enough for her? Or a place like Loreley (German beer/german food) on the LES?