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Special Occassion, Not Too Dressy

I have been lurking for years and have spent many hours trying to find the right place. I'm finally admitting I need some help.

My husband and I will be celebrating 25 years together with a visit the last week of July. He also owes me a foodie birthday dinner. I prefer WV, Soho, LES, EV areas, but am willing to branch out if need be for the perfect spot. He won't be packing a suit, and I doubt even a sport coat.

Food is my thing, I love to eat it and prepare it (yes, I love to watch Top Chef, especially the Masters). To him, it is sustenance, but he has been known to enjoy the finer things.

Price range: $300-ish for 2 with wine. Could possibly inch that a bit higher (he has owed me this dinner for 2 years and I do have yet another birthday between now and then I could use for leverage)


Me: Cucumbers, oysters, watermelon, beer
Him: Anything too adventurous (thinks I'm crazy eating sweet breads), spicy cuisines (Indian, Ethiopian for example), tomato based sauces


Me: Tasting menus with wine pairings (but not all seafood), champagne/sparkling wine, fried chicken, potato salad (anything Southern/Midwestern)
Him: Steak with a good Cabernet, oysters, seafood pasta, corned beef, matzo ball soup, foie gras

Would like to avoid Sushi, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese (we live in Southern California).We rarely order desert, but if we do it's usually dark chocolate, berries, or something lemon. Neither of us drink coffee, but some good tea would be nice at the end of the meal.

I have already been to Babbo which I enjoyed, but want something different. We love a place here called Watermarc Grill that has small plates and wines by the 1/4 and half glass so would be open to something similar. Someplace romantic, a nice view, and/or outside dining would be nice, but not necessary.

I hope that helps to narrow things down...and isn't too picky

I am also looking for somewhere casual (jeans & T-shirt) to eat after a Wednesday night concert at MSG, possibly with a few friends.


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  1. My last two favorite birthday dinners have been at Union Square Cafe and Locanda Verde. I would also suggest checking out Eleven Mad Park, Tocqueville and Degustation, purely based on what I've read/heard about them. I haven't had the pleasure of trying those myself, but I think they might fit your requirements for something special. (Although, I have to say I'm not sure about the dress codes. I know you can go more casual at USC and LV, because I saw people wearing jeans at both places, even though I was more dressed up...)

    Happy anniversary and enjoy your trip. FYI, NYC Restaurant Week runs until July 25, so maybe you can catch a good deal, depending on the exact dates of your trip!

    Locanda Verde
    377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

    1. Union Square Cafe is one of my favorites but I also like Gramercy Tavern, Gotham Bar and Grill and Eleven Madison Park. Either one would be outstanding for your 25th. I'm glad you like Babbo. I like it too. Balthazar is another favorite but it's pretty loud at night. A big favorite of mine is The Water Club at 30th. The view is outstanding and the food is nice also. I also like Artisinal Bistro on Park and 32nd. How's the weather in Southern California. Good luck.

      Eleven Madison Park
      11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

      Gramercy Tavern
      42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

      110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

      Gotham Bar and Grill
      12 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003

      The Water Club
      500 E 30th Street, New York, NY 10016

      1. Eleven Madison Park.

        Eleven Madison Park
        11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

        1. For something a bit more casual than EMP (which is fabulous, by the way), you may want to try Recette in the West Village. New American small plates restaurant that does wine pairings. It is much smaller and more casual than EMP, and not as refined, but very good.

          328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014

          3 Replies
          1. re: kiworan79

            What a great rec! I just checked out the site/menu and now I want to try it. Looks amazing -- and has sweetbreads! I loved the dessert and brunch menus, too! Thanks! Room looks nice, too -- at least in the pictures without people! How's the noise level?

            1. re: saturngrrl

              The food is excellent, and it is not noisy, just a nice lively feeling. Tables are fairly close together, but not uncomfortable.

              1. re: saturngrrl

                I have to give credit to rrems, whose initial recommendation brought us to Recette!

                Because the tables are so close together, the noise levels depends on your neighbors. When we were there last, we were seated next to a four-top with some very loud women diners, so it was not as quiet as we would have liked. However, I think that our last experience was a bit of an anomoly, as it is generally not as loud.

                Enjoy and congratulations!

                328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014

            2. How about Morandi? It can get loud, but the food and wine are excellent (particularly the roasted veal chop)

              211 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

              1. most places dont require jackets. maybe casa mono, clinton st baking co, craft, or keens. degustation and EMP are fantastic but i think those are better choices for adventurous eaters, but they're so good I still think you should give one of them a try. i personally like degustation better and im pretty sure it is less dressy than EMP. I only went to EMP once for lunch and I was the only guy there without a suit lol.

                1 Reply
                1. re: daffyduck

                  Degustation may be just right. It is definitely more casual than EMP, but still has an upscale feel and a warm atmosphere. The 10-course tasting with wine wil run about $300 or less.

                2. Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I'm leaning toward EMP or Degustation.

                  If I choose EMP it will probably need for be for lunch. Dinner prices a little steep. Degustation is good price wise, but I am concerned it may be too adventurous for the hubby.Maybe a good opportunity to open him up to new things.

                  Has anyone been to Perilla? That looks to be a good option too. The tasting menu price is right. But how is the food? It's close enough for quick stumble home after a bottle of wine.

                  I recently made a reservation for Artisinal for an early dinner before our concert in case nothing else works out. I keep missing Balthazar everytime I'm there. I'm determined to get there for lunch some day while we are there. Maybe even takeout if they are really busy, which they always seem to be when I walk by. Now that there is a Craft is Los Angeles I figure I will try that out here.

                  Littleman, the weather here is warm and sunny, as it usually is.

                  Saturngirl, I was hoping Restaurant Week would fall the last week when we are there ,but alas, not. The last day (Sunday) will be my only chance. Waiting for the menus to come out.

                  9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nocukes

                    Perilla is excellent, but I see it more as a great neighborhood spot than a destination for a special occasion.

                    9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

                  2. Surprised no one's mentioned it, so I suppose I will: WD-50. The tasting menu is $140, so that might break the budget if you were to add drinks. But you could do a make-your-own multi-course tasting - two round of apps, entrees, split a dessert - and still have enough for a couple good bottles or a few of the (spectacular) cocktails.

                    People tend to think they're odd/weird/precious but actually it's a lot of fun. My father - a very steak-n-potatoes guy if there ever was one - loves it. It's not "adventurous" in terms of weird ingredients - just in presentation. In fact, many of his dishes are modeled after classic flavor pairings, just reconstructed into something fun and new. One of my old faves was a dish of pork belly in Swiss cheese "consomme" with caraway spaetzle - a ham and cheese on rye.

                    Contrary to the impressions many have, it's as unpretentious as it gets. And they're very casual, you don't need to dress up all high-falutin'. And if either of you are techie types and just fascinated by the wacky processes and equipment, you can go into the kitchen and watch Wylie & the crew do their thing. They've also REALLY upped their game and found their groove in the last few years - note more recent reviews tend to be much better than ones from '06, '07, etc.

                    Perilla I was thoroughly disappointed in. Recette is good, but there isn't really any "wow" factor.

                    If you liked Babbo, Del Posto might be worth a look. I'm pretty sure they're not jacket required at dinner - as I recall, Batali has thing about "I never wear a suit, why should my customers?" And Mark Ladner is doing some really amazing stuff there lately.

                    Or, for a couple other Italian recs - Scarpetta is great, and Marea of course. Neither are jacket required.

                    For casual post-MSG fare - I used to live in that area, and there's not much, especially if the concert gets out late. Your best bet, IMO, would be to hit Koreatown (32nd between Broadway & 5th) and get a fix of kimchee pancakes and bibimbap. A lot of places there are open 24/7 - Kum Gang San one of the better joints. Or there's Baden-Baden, a "hidden" second-floor beer hall / restaurant that makes some great Korean-style fried chicken and pig's foot terrine - they're a bit different than the usual Korean fare.

                    For bistro fare, you could walk over to Les Halles. Nothing mindblowing, but good for its price point. Will certainly appeal to Mr. Steak and Potatoes.

                    There's a couple good barbecue options as well - you're withing walking distance to Hill Country and RUB, and both are great. Don't know how late they stay open, though.

                    50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

                    Hill Country
                    30 W 26th St, New York, NY 10010

                    RUB BBQ
                    208 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011

                    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                    Del Posto
                    85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

                    Kum Gang San
                    49 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

                    Les Halles
                    411 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016

                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                    240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019