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Another Post-Engagement Recommendation Request

I actually have a similar request so I'll post on this thread. We'd have a group of 6 people in mid-February. We'll be in the midtown area and looking for a reservation about 9:00pm. I think we'd like something with a little more upbeat atmosphere to celebrate and obviously good food. We're actually staying in the Gramercy area so recommendations there would be good too. Per Se, Picholine, Boulud Cafe seem a bit too formal and expensive so I'm looking for something just a notch lower expense wise. Given that we're already into January, are there places that are definitely out for a group of that size because reservations would be impossible to get?

Also, how long does it typically take go from Gramercy to South Central Park by taxi between 6pm and 9pm on a Thursday night?

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Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

Picholine
35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

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  1. How much are you looking to spend before tax, tip, drinks, if Picholine and Cafe Boulud are too expensive? How much is "a notch lower"?

    Where in Midtown do you need to be? East? West? More like the 50s? 40s?

    I think Gramercy might work better for something more upbeat.

    If you're looking for mid-February, a lot of restaurants haven't opened their books yet because they only book 30 days or 28 days in advance. So you are OK for the moment.

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    Cafe Boulud
    20 East 76th St., New York, NY 10021

    Picholine
    35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

    11 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Well has far as price goes, tasting menu at Per Se, Le Bernadin or Eleven Madison are too pricey. I was thinking something along lines of Maialino or Aldea possibly. I was thinking starters typicalling $10-$20 with entrees $25-$40 range. As far as upbeat, I'm just thinking of a place where your not closed to whispering and not afraid to laugh at loud. I believe we'll be close to the extreme south end of Central Park. Forgive my location description as I'm not a local. If the traffics not too bad, I wouldn't mind heading south back toward the hotel in Gramercy if time permits.

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      Per Se
      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

      Aldea
      31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

      Maialino
      2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

      1. re: daimyo

        I think Maialino is a good choice and it's in the same neighborhood where you're staying.

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        Maialino
        2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

        1. re: daimyo

          Maialino would be a very good choice.

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          Maialino
          2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

          1. re: kathryn

            How long is the commute from the south end of Central Park down to Gramercy?

            1. re: daimyo

              In a taxi if it's not rush hour? Are you talking from the east side or the west side?

              1. re: gutsofsteel

                Taxi, around 9pm, Thursday night. I'm not sure. Do you have an estimate for both?

                1. re: daimyo

                  Maybe tell us where you're going...

                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                    Ok. Arriving in JFK at 4pm. Will likely be taking a taxi or car service to the W at Union Square. How long will that take?
                    Once we get settled we were going to head up to the south end of Central Park to meet up with some friends. I was wanted to get there by 7:30. I was hoping we'd be able to leave by about 6:30 to get there in time.
                    We were going to be hanging out in that area till about 9pm then head out to dinner together. I was trying to estimate the time to make a reservation depending on how long it took to head back down south.

                    1. re: daimyo

                      As far as taking a taxi into the city from JFK - if you have luggage to collect....you will be traveling into the city at a busy time. Could take an hour.

                      Not sure what you mean by the "south end of Central Park" where are you going? If you take a taxi from the W at 7pm you should be fine.

                      If you're going back to Maialino or that area and you take a taxi at 9 (what does "in that area" mean?) you will be back in that area by 9:30.

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                      Maialino
                      2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                      1. re: gutsofsteel

                        Thanks. And sorry to be vague. I'm really not sure where exactly we're going to be. But at least you've given me some estimates on travel time so I can start planning accordingly.

                        What do you think of Marea? Its located at the south end of Central Park.

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                        Marea
                        240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                        1. re: daimyo

                          I was not impresed by Marea.

                          -----
                          Marea
                          240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

      2. I think Riverpark (the new Tom Colicchio restaurant) would work great for you. It's located on E. 29 St. between First Ave. and the FDR drive. The food is delicious and within your price range. It's a very relaxed atmosphere with friendly and attentive service.

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        Riverpark
        450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

        3 Replies
        1. re: ellenost

          Having been to Riverpark, I would not call its atmosphere "upbeat," as the OP is requesting. It's pretty subdued, actually. Also, if the OP is unfamiliar with Manhattan then there is a fair chance that the party will never get to Riverpark at all! It's in the most out-of-the-way location possible, on a block that maybe 0.01% of taxi drivers might have driven down, inside an office building, with no signage. Don't get me wrong, I liked the food there, but I wouldn't suggest it for this particular purpose.

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          Riverpark
          450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

          1. re: travelmad478

            Yeah, I live in the nabe and love Riverpark, but given that the OP is meeting friends near CPS, I don't think heading all the way over to Riverpark is quite what they have in mind.

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            Riverpark
            450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

        2. First, if you're staying at the W Union Square, you might as well take the subway to Central Park. The station is right there, it'll take all of ten minutes, maybe. A cab would take longer, more than likely, especially around 6:30 when there's still a bit of traffic.

          Maialino is a great suggestion, though if you're going to be cabbing it most of the day, you can be pretty much anywhere from Midtown to the LES or Tribeca in 20 minutes.

          If you want to stick to CPS, though, Marea isn't a bad choice - I didn't care for the secondi (entrees) - well, they were fine, just not at their prices - but the antipasti and pastas were great, I thought. You could easily make a meal from those.

          Back down in Gramercy, Gramercy Tavern and Craft both lean a bit expensive, but for similar food at a lower price point Craftbar is great, and quite casual. Aldea also fits into that category, though I prefer CB.

          But if you're cabbing it, you can certainly go further South. A number of good options exist if you spend about five to ten more minutes in the cab: Blue Hill, WD-50, Scarpetta, Babbo (if you can get a rez, that is), Prune, Hearth, Marc Forgione... etc, etc, etc...

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          WD-50
          50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

          Babbo
          110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

          Blue Hill
          75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

          Hearth
          403 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10009

          Craftbar
          900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

          Prune
          54 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003

          Scarpetta
          355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          Marc Forgione
          134 Reade Street, New York, NY 10013

          Marea
          240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

          Aldea
          31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

          Maialino
          2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

          15 Replies
          1. re: sgordon

            Gramercy Tavern was one I am seriously considering although its a bit more expensive. The dinner menu consists of a first and second course at $88. How are the portion sizes out of curiosity?

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

            1. re: daimyo

              First, it's three courses for $88 - app, entree, dessert - plus there'll be an amuse, and perhaps a pre-dessert as well.

              I find the portions at Gramercy pretty decent. They're not strap-on-the-feedbag, but (unlike some high-end restos I could mention) I've never left wanting to grab a slice, either. For the quality of the ingredients and preparation, you get your money's worth.

              If the price is a little high, though, take the cab down to Blue Hill or Marc Forgione - similar style of food (New American), still high end, lower price point. I probably like GT the best of the three, personally - but it depends. There are nights I'd pick Forgione over them. MF is more hearty, bold - and when that's what you're looking for, it's great. On the other hand, Mike Anthony (at GT) composes his plates a little more subtly, and has a very strong, intuitive sense of how flavors develop in the mouth - the way it takes some longer to register / develop than others, so that each bite of food can have multiple subtle sensations (not that you need to sit there lingering over each bite like it's some ephemeral jewel or anything...)

              Kinda depends on what you want out of your meal. Just different experiences. But it ain't like you're gonna have a BAD meal at any of them.

              1. re: sgordon

                Appreciate the insight. I think we'll definitely end up at one of your req's. We'll be a group of 6 and I'm between Maialino, Babbo, or Craft. I'll still have three more nights after our initial dinner so GT might be an option then.

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                Babbo
                110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                Maialino
                2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                1. re: daimyo

                  Craft can actually wind up being VERY expensive, moreso than GT even, though it depends what you order - the way the menu is designed, ordering individual ingredients, it can really add up quick.

                  If you're gonna do Babbo, make sure you call first thing in the morning a month before the date you want, otherwise you might be SOL. They fill up ridiculously quick.

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                  Babbo
                  110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                  1. re: daimyo

                    I'd choose between Maialino and Craft. Both terrific. I'm not a huge Babbo fan.

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                    Babbo
                    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                    Maialino
                    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                    1. re: daimyo

                      Babbo I think literally has one table that can fit six. It's a not a big restaurant.

                      If you want to book, call at 10am one month ahead for the same numerical date. Like January 11th if you wish to dine February 11th.

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                      Babbo
                      110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Well we're eating late so I was able to get the table at Babbo. I have to call Craft and Maialino Thursday. Between those three, are any subdued as far as atmosphere? The one thing I don't think we'd like is to have to contain our laughter and voices as we'll hopefully all be in a festive mood.

                        As a side note, I was going to call Babbo again to maybe get reservations a couple days later in case I go to one of the other choices I'm looking at.

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                        Babbo
                        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                        Maialino
                        2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                        1. re: daimyo

                          Craft and Maialino are both on OpenTable but I'm not sure they're taking reservations for those dates yet. I believe both take reservations only 28 days in advance. Confirm when you call.

                          I've never thought either were especially quiet but not really that loud either.

                          -----
                          Maialino
                          2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Yes, both Craft and Maialino are 28 days so I'll be calling on the 13th.

                            And Babbo? As far as atmosphere, noise?

                            -----
                            Babbo
                            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                            Maialino
                            2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                            1. re: daimyo

                              It's louder than the other two but not as loud as other restaurants I've been in where I've struggled to hear the conversation of the person I'm with.

                              1. re: daimyo

                                It's noisy, there is obnoxious music, and the staff has an attitude I find unpleasant.

                                Stick with Craft or Maialino.

                                -----
                                Maialino
                                2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                                1. re: gutsofsteel

                                  I disagree, I say stick with Babbo. I find it far more interesting, and the atmosphere is boisterous and fun for a big group.

                                  Craft I think would wind up being far more expensive. You feel like some braised short ribs? $36. And that's for JUST the ribs. No starch, no veg. Add some turnips and you're up to $50 for your entree already. And there's still no veg on your plate.

                                  Also, I don't think of it as a real "celebration" restaurant. Ordering one ingredient at a time has its place, but I think having fully composed dishes is the better way to go.

                                  And as to the music... one man's obnoxious is another's festive. Completely subjective. I (obviously) like it there.

                                  -----
                                  Babbo
                                  110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                                  1. re: sgordon

                                    The dishes at Craft are designed to be shared, however. And I find the room really lovely and festive. I love the lighting, the size of the tables...

                                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                                      True that. And I agree, the room is very nice. I just feel that for a celebration dinner, composed plates are more fun than a series of (admittedly exquisitely prepared) ingredients.

                                      1. re: gutsofsteel

                                        Regarding the statement their designed to be shared, are you speaking of the menu portion "for the table". IE the suckling pig, porterhouse, etc? Probably the sides as well I'd assume?

                  2. Thank you for all your recommendations. I was able to get reservations for 6 on the big day (Thursday) for Babbo, Maialino, and Craft. It'll be kind of different because two of us couples will be getting engaged...hopefully!. So, I have I speak to the other guy to make sure we agree with the spot, but thanks to you I think we've got three solid spots no matter which we choose.

                    We're from California and we'll be there Thursday thru Sunday. I also have reservations for Saturday for Minetta Tavern, Balthazar, and Le Bernardin. Our friends are heading out during the day Sunday so I got reservations for Babbo in case the other "proposer" didn't want to go there Thursday. So, I THINK our final lineup if I get it my way will be....

                    Thursday: Craft, but I'm still wavering with Maialino
                    Friday: Open for whatever and wherever
                    Saturday: Le Bernardin, but Minetta if our friends don't want to drop the coin.
                    Sunday: Babbo

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                    Babbo
                    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                    Minetta Tavern
                    113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

                    Le Bernardin
                    155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                    Maialino
                    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: daimyo

                      I would drop Balthazar - if you've got Minetta, no reason to keep it. As nice as Balthazar is, it's not really an "only in NYC" kind of place. While it is one of the best of its kind, its kind is fairly common in most major metropolitan areas.

                      For Friday, maybe do something a little more midrange and very NY - Momofuku Ssam Bar (or Noodle Bar) could be a fun one. If you hit them for lunch, it probably won't be too busy. Or make it a Chinatown night, if you don't have good Chinese where you're from - South China Garden or Oriental Garden are generally tops.

                      Any way you look at it, you've got a number of good meals ahead of you!

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                      South China Garden
                      22 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

                      Momofuku Ssam Bar
                      207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                      Oriental Garden
                      14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

                      1. re: sgordon

                        You're thinking exactly what I was for Friday. I figured we'd play it by ear that day, but I had one of those Momo's in mind since they only do the fried chicken/ssam reservations. ForI was also thinking a pizza spot like Motorino or Keste if the group wanted to do that. Otherwise maybe Breslin or something else that won't take reservations.

                        Thanks for the chinese req's. I hadn't really heard of those. I was mainly thinking Grand Sichuan, Ny Noodletown, or...I can't think of it now. I'd have to go back and look at the other threads. I'm from SD and we have a solid sichuan spot so part of me wants to compare. The other part figures I can always get good sichuan, maybe I should try another style. Either way, chinese was also a possibility for Friday.

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

                        Motorino
                        349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                        1. re: daimyo

                          I wouldn't do the fried chicken or Ssam - they're good, sure, but it'd probably be more fun just to order a bunch of different stuff to share. Motorino is a good back-up if they're mobbed, though lunch hours scoring a table is pretty easy at either Momo.

                          Grand Sichuan is great, for sure. NYN is, while good for its price, nothing terribly special. It's a "cheap eats" standby - if you were to do a place like that, go for something more esoteric, like Xi'an Famous Foods (Western Chinese mountain cuisine - really different and tasty) - Xian is best for lunch though, I think.

                          I figure, though, for a dinner, high(-ish) end Cantonese might be the way to go if you're only doing one Chinese meal here. It's great for groups, too, since it's very festive and all served family-style. There are many reviews / threads about Oriental Garden (probably the best in Manhattan, especially for fresh seafood) and South China Garden (a little cheaper, may be better if you're going for mostly land-fare) - both worth looking into. Lau, a regular commenter here who REALLY knows his Chinese cuisines, did a great write-up of SCG recently: http://bit.ly/eIfTSh

                          -----
                          South China Garden
                          22 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

                          Oriental Garden
                          14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

                          Xi'an Famous Foods
                          81 St. Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

                          Xi'an Famous Foods
                          88 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

                          Motorino
                          349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                          1. re: sgordon

                            Thanks for the chinese req's. I had totally forgotten about Xian. That was where i was really looking to try!

                            Its crazy doing research for NY. There are just so many options and opinions you kind of get lost the more you read. You end up just drawing a line in the sand and hope you didn't forget anything. Thanks for reminding me on Xian.

                            1. re: sgordon

                              Xian has the same exact food at lunch and dinner, normally, so which meal it's better for is totally a matter of individual preference.

                      2. STK

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                        STK
                        26 Little West 12th St, New York, NY 10014