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Going to NYC with unadventurous diner

I'm going into Manhattan next weekend with a good friend to see a concert and we're staying at a hotel in the Flatiron area. I'm hoping to get some good food. It would be a shame to be in NYC and not. One tricky part of all this is my buddy. He's a great guy, but he's cheap and not very adventurous. He loves Italian and "American."

I'd be trying a new restaurant that I haven't gone to yet like Marea or Alto or even some faves like Craftbar. Those are out of his budget. I'd like to avoid going to a red sauce Italian joint or some crappy sportsbar near MSG. A chain would be even worse.

I hope this is enough information to help. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions that are in the general Flatiron vicinity (we're willing to explore beyond but that's where our hotel is located) for a meal that's on the end of cheap (I'll probably be able to get him to drop 50 bucks total on dinner. If I'm lucky). I welcome suggestions for all cuisines, but we'll probably go to a "safer" choice.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Piccolo Angola on Hudson and Jane. It will be a stroll. It's a win for budget a as well as typical italian and atypical.. Godd luck. I need a reservation. It's busy place.

    1. Is that $50 total per person, or $50 total for both of you? If it's for both of you, you're talking about approx $15 of food each before taxes (nearly 9%) & tips (18%). That's sandwich territory. If he's not adventurous, then various ethnic places will be a problem. I don't know whether there's a good pizza place in the area, but the equivalent of Angelo's pizza would work very well. The nearest is at 57th bet 6th & 7th. There's one on B'way at about 52nd, but for some reason it's not as good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jane A.

        That's 50 per person. It allows for some options, but not many. He'll branch out to some of the more common ethnic foods but not all.

      2. Just to get the ball rolling I'll throw these out there and you see if anything will work (and I'm not limiting suggestions to any neighborhood so...):


        The cost should be able to stay in the budget you mentioned, they are good solid restaurants that offer enough of a difference to "standard" stuff but not so off the beaten path (food wise) to scare your friend away whikle at the same time having some interesting stuff for you.

        299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

          1. re: ecwashere7

            Probably my favorite "go to" restaurant in all of NYC, though some other CHers might disagree. I highly recommend it and it does fit into your criteria.

            1. re: ttoommyy

              I love Otto because it doesn't take too long to grab a seat at the bar, the bartenders are friendly and provide great service (table service can get iffy at times), and I find a meat plate, cheese plate, salad, vegetables, gelato meal to be satisfying when I'm in the mood.

          2. Sorry about my earlier reply, I completely spaced on the fact you were looking for Italian or American.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Spiritchaser

              I think DBGB is probably close enough, though, if he likes sausage and such. August is Mediterranean, so close to Italian. Might that be a little above $50/person, though?

            2. I wonder if Ilili's menu wouldn't suit both of you. There are some "safe" options on the menu like lamb sausage, falafel, kebabs, lamb chops, lamb burger and steak for him. And for you, there's bone marrow, (incredibly good) chicken livers and kibbeh nayeh. The restaurant has a $39 prix fixe dinner menu from Sun to Wed.

              If not Ilili, look into Hill Country barbecue.

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

              236 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001

              1. The pub room at Keens is close to Madison Square Garden and is a good fallback option -- unadventurous diners are typically comfortable at steakhouses I find. There's also the Breslin in the Ace Hotel (no reservations) which has some more "foodie" options. I think I would characterize it as meat heavy & British influenced.

                If he's willing to branch out to more "ethnic" options, try Madangsui for Korean BBQ.

                Nearby also is Hill Country BBQ, Hill Country Chicken, Eataly (Mario Batali's chaotic indoor shopping & dining bazaar), Blue Smoke (BBQ but they also do a mean burger), Primehouse (the burger they serve at the bar is also quite good), 'inoteca (Italian), Rye House (bar with food but they have good sandwiches & small plates), and Shake Shack. SD26 and A Voce are also considerations but are probably out of your price range.

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

                A Voce
                41 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010

                35 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001

                Blue Smoke
                116 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016

                323 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010

                The Breslin
                20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

                Rye House
                11 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011

                19 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010

                200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

                Hill Country Chicken
                1123 Broadway, New York, NY 10010

                5 Replies
                1. re: kathryn

                  Kathryn, have you tried Bar Stuzzichini? I found it pleasant, a solid 1-star restaurant in my New York Times-style ratings system (where Babbo would get a solid 3 stars, based on one meal, and Lupa, a good 2 to 2 1/2, based on a bunch of meals). I am in no huge rush to go back but would return more quickly if I lived closer to it. My meal there was probably in its own way, on about the same level as Cacio e Vino, a restaurant I patronize more often, due to proximity.

                  170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

                  Bar Stuzzichini
                  928 Broadway, New York, NY 10010

                  Cacio e Vino
                  80 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003

                  1. re: Pan

                    No I've not, what did you have there?

                    1. re: kathryn

                      This was the week my mother died, so my memory is a little fuzzy. The best my girlfriend and I can reconstruct, we got the Orecchiette with cauliflower and breadcrumbs and, we think, the Pasta con le Sarde, which I think was a bit salty. We also got a salad or contorno or something; we just don't remember. We do remember getting an excellent combination of Chocolate and Red Sour Plum gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato for dessert.

                  2. re: kathryn

                    I'm gonna second Blue Smoke, their food is really great (BBQ is delicious but I always have trouble resisting their burger) and if you want you can catch a jazz show at the Jazz Standard which is downstairs and serves food from Blue Smoke as well.

                    I Trulli is also next door, but it may be a touch out of the price range depending on how many courses you want. It is italian food and is somewhat pricey but I enjoyed my meal there.

                    Also second the Breslin.

                    Blue Smoke
                    116 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016

                    I Trulli
                    122 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016

                    The Breslin
                    20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

                  3. Thanks for all the great advice. I know that I'll be back many times, so I'm definitely going to reference this list again and again. I'm staying at the Ace Hotel, so the Breslin is an option if we're really lazy. I'm probably going to explore the city a bit. Otto and Blue Smoke are at the top of the list right now.

                    Any recommendations on bars with a relaxed vibe with great beers? I'm usually one to go for the craft cocktails but my buddy is more of a beer drinker. I still might drag him to the Flatiron Lounge or Pegu Club, though. :)

                    Blue Smoke
                    116 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016

                    The Breslin
                    20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ecwashere7

                      Top 10 Bars for Beer Snobs:

                      You can do a decent beer crawl on the weekend as long as you don't mind the crowds. I recommend starting early and working your way around the East Village and Lower East Side. Afternoons at a lot of these places are pretty relaxed, but it gets really crowded and loud at night.

                      Spitzer's Corner -- pretty good food, packed on the weekends, decent brunch too
                      Marshall Stack -- more of your typical bar food, good for what it is, grilled cheeses and sliders and fries, that sort of thing
                      Zum Schneider
                      Jimmy's No 43 -- more interesting bar food selections, pretty unique in terms of the small plates/gastropub for NYC, interesting selection that rotates
                      Burp Castle -- known for shushing you if you get too loud, sometimes they bring over frites from around the corner, Belgian
                      Loreley -- lovely back garden, decent food and service, big portions of German food, pretzels are OK as is the burger, I really like the meatballs
                      DBA -- can get loud/crowded on weekends though
                      Weschler's -- they have currywurst which I guess is a novelty here, not so much in the UK
                      Shoolbred's -- newer, I've not been yet
                      McSorley's -- old timey NY where they only have two kinds of beer, light and dark, sawdust on the ground, no standing in the backroom, and a piece of NYC history, loud/crowded on the weekends so we prefer to go in the afternoon. A must visit. There's an unproven rumor that President Lincoln drank here.
                      DBGB -- probably the best/more ambitious food you're going to find given that Daniel Boulud is in charge. I really like their sausages and charcuterie. The bar seating is weird, though, it's like this double seat that two people share, but there's tables in the bar room too, as well as a formal dining room. Oh, and they serve brunch here, too! It's also located right on Bowery and Houston, so you can go north afterwards to hit up the East Village spots or south afterwards to hit up the Lower East Side spots
                      Vandaag -- brand new spot, very sleek and modern decor, it's a restaurant with specialty beer and bakery and beer cocktails, might be worth a stop. I really liked my meal here last weekend.

                      If you're really a beer nerd, though, you should make the trek out to Brooklyn to visit Spuyten Duyvil.

                      7 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

                      Spitzer's Corner
                      101 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

                      Burp Castle
                      41 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

                      Marshall Stack
                      66 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

                      197 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                      299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

                      Zum Schneider
                      229 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                      103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                      1. re: kathryn

                        What did you have at Vandaag? I'm intrigued by the place.