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Fun Place to Eat Solo In Manhattan

I have a free night (solo) in the city. Last time I was here, I ate at the Spotted Pig and loved it. Before that, I tried Freeman's Alley and also loved it there. Any suggestions on a lively, fun, people-watching place where I can sit at the bar and dine solo?

I am at 53rd & 6th Ave. But, will travel.

Thanks!
Foodie from Philly

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  1. Here's some places (not super formal but not super casual either) where you can drop in and get a good meal at the bar:

    Babbo - you might have to wait for a seat, or you could go to Scarpetta, both serve the full menu at the bar but Babbo won't do a tasting for the solo diner, Lupa and Otto are also solo diner friendly, especially at the bar
    Hearth - you can eat at the bar or ask for "the pass"... Terroir is next door as well if you want some wine and bites to eat.
    Minetta Tavern - go early or really late
    Prune - but the bar is pretty tiny
    Po - ditto
    Jeffrey's Grocery - they have a good sized bar and specialize in oysters, sandwiches, etc
    Joseph Leonard - sister restaurant to Jeffrey's Grocery, the bar is neat in that dependent upon whereyou are, you can look into the kitchen or are a level up from half of the dining room and look out onto the street, don't miss the brussels sprouts with Sriracha if you go
    Smith & Mills - tiny place but the bar has like 8 seats
    Locanda Verde - the bartenders are great, you can order off the full menu, too
    Pearl Oyster Bar - nearly 1/2 of the restaurant is counter seating anyway
    Momofuku Ssam Bar - also solo diner friendly
    Momofuku Noodle Bar - ditto, actually I bet any of the ramen places could accommodate you, like Ippudo
    DBGB or Bar Boulud - although I think the seating set up at DBGB at the bar is kind of funky
    Gramercy Tavern - the bar and casual front room have a nice vibe to them, it's a la carte unlike the formal dining room
    Bar Room at the Modern - great atmosphere but it can get a bit loud
    Union Square Care - they save the bar and some walk in tables for those without reservations
    Txikito or El Quinto Pino - Most of EQP is counter style dining anyway
    Casa Mono - also solo diner friendly and you won't have a long wait if you're a party of 1 at an off hour
    John Dory Oyster Bar & the Breslin - both newer restaurants by the chef of The Spotted Pig, both very popular
    Perilla - I think you can order off the full menu, this is Harold from Top Chef's place, also I think his new Thai joint, Kin Shop, has a bar with full menu dining but it's very popular and you might need to wait for a bar seat
    Maialino - although they don't serve the full dinner menu at the bar in the front room, it's an attractive and comfortable space, and lots of people watching opportunities
    Osteria Morini - I haven't been yet but friends have reported having a great meal at the bar there, also I believe they have vermouth on tap as wel

    -----
    Lupa
    170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

    Pearl Oyster Bar
    18 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014

    Perilla
    9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

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

    Babbo
    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

    Casa Mono
    52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

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

    Spotted Pig
    314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

    Minetta Tavern
    113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

    El Quinto Pino
    401 W 24th St, New York, NY 10011

    Momofuku Noodle Bar
    171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

    Bar Boulud
    1900 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

    Ippudo
    65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

    Terroir
    413 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009

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

    Txikito
    240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

    Smith & Mills
    71 N Moore St, New York, NY 10013

    Locanda Verde
    377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

    DBGB
    299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

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

    Maialino
    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

    Osteria Morini
    218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

    Jeffrey's Grocery
    172 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

    The John Dory Oyster Bar
    1196 Broadway, New York, NY 10001

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Wow Kathryn...So many great recommendations. I'm even more confused now :)
      I think I will stay midtown, uptown. Any of the above in my neighborhood?

      Thanks so much!

      1. re: dpavey

        You are right near the Bar Room at the Modern (in MoMA, on 53rd, b/t 5th & 6th), which I recommended in my post below, and which kathryn included in her list.

        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

    2. You are one block from the Bar Room at the Modern. Delicious food and lively vibe.

      Bar Room at the Modern photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

      Since you liked the Spotted Pig, you might want to check out another of Chef April Bloomfield's spots, the new John Dory Oyster Bar, in the Ace Hotel, on 29th, just off B'way. I haven't been, but our daughter and son-in-law went recently, and she told me it was excellent. The lobby of the Ace Hotel, which also houses The Breslin, is a hoppin' place.

      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

      ETA: kathryn is just too fast for me! lol

      1. As usual, kathryn has it covered! I would only add one place, near to where the OP is staying: Ma Peche.

        -----
        Ma Peche
        15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

        5 Replies
        1. re: scoopG

          In addition to Ma Peche (where I dined solo myself last night), I highly recommend its upscale sister--Momofuku Ko if you can get a reservation. Ko is my personal favorite for solo dining.

          1. re: ellenost

            I love both Ko and Ma Peche but I'm wouldn't say either is as lively, fun, or a good place to people watch as Spotted Pig or Freemans.

            -----
            Spotted Pig
            314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

            Ma Peche
            15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

            1. re: kathryn

              Never been to either Spotted Pig or Freemans, but I've always had a lot of fun especially at Ko watching the chefs prepare all of the delicious food! Last night Ma Peche was really crowded early so I did have a lot of fun people watching.

              1. re: ellenost

                Both Spotted Pig and Freemans are known for being loud and crowded, like 2-3 people deep at the bar, people on the sidewalk outside waiting for a table. Ko is nowhere near that lively. Ma Peche might be more lively on certain days, especially after work, but not as insane as Spotted Pig or Freemans.

                Remind me, if you sit and have dinner at the raw bar at Ma Peche, are you facing the rest of the room? I thought you'd have your back to the rest of the room but I can't remember if the counter at the raw bar is L shaped or not.

                -----
                Spotted Pig
                314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

                Ma Peche
                15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

                1. re: kathryn

                  If you're seated at the raw bar, your back is to the dining room, but you have a "front row" seat watching the chefs prepare the shellfish dishes, which I find "cool" and interesting. Sort of like Ko except the stools at Ma Peche are well padded.

                  -----
                  Ma Peche
                  15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

        2. The Freemans crew has a new place on the Bowery called Peels. I had dinner there a few weeks ago and loved it. Two bars, one upstairs and one downstairs, and great people watching.

          1. I would add Degustation to the list.

            1. IMO, NYC is perhaps the best place to dine solo in the United States - there isn't a single place you'd feel uncomfortable because it is all at once a businessman's city, an epicure's city, a tourist's city, and a local's city - from Per Se to Momofuku Noodle you'll find folks from everywhere eating solo or as large groups and the servers, largely, are extremely professional.

              Surely not all of them are "lively" or good for "people watching" - but if you want that, Casa Mono and Ssam are the two I liked best.

              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

              -----
              Per Se
              10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

              Casa Mono
              52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

              Momofuku Noodle Bar
              171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

              1 Reply
              1. re: uhockey

                Well said uhockey!

              2. My favorite solo dining is at the pass at Hearth.

                1. great suggestions here, i also like 15 East.

                  -----
                  15 East
                  15 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

                  1. May I recommend Compose? It is a relatively new restaurant in Tribeca, and the chef previously worked at Noma. They serve a ten course tasting menu priced at 120, however only ten seats are available for this menu each night. All diners who are eating the tasting menu will sit at a communal bar, which would seem nice for a solo-diner. They also have a few other tables which you can only reserve the day of.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: mjm1218

                      MJM - please tell us more about the food at Compose. Is it molecular gastronomy like Noma?

                      1. re: Riverman500

                        http://composenyc.com/Philosophy.html

                        1. re: Riverman500

                          I wouldn't be able to say too much because i have never been. I know the interior is very rustic looking but I do not think that reflects the food. I'm positive molecular gastronomy is involved in atleast some of their cooking.

                        2. re: mjm1218

                          Have you had the full tasting? How was it?

                          1. re: kathryn

                            I have not been to compose yet. It doesn't have as much curiosity surrounding it as I would imagine, and I am wondering why it has not been popping up more in the times, nymag etc.

                            1. re: mjm1218

                              Likely because only 50 people can eat there per week. :-)

                              If none have reported back by then (and even if they have) I'll have all my rambling thoughts on it up after my meal on 2/16.

                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                              1. re: uhockey

                                uhockey - did you reserve through Opentable or by phone? OT has no open spots (no surpise). Any particular time?

                                1. re: deepfry7

                                  Friend did it, 12:05 in the AM on 1/17 for a reservation on 2/16 at 7:00pm (the only seating.)

                                  He called the day before and apparently they only take Opentable reservations, none by phone.

                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    Uhockey - I'm going to Compose that day as well (this upcoming Wed). I initially had a reservation a few weeks ago for this past week, but then couldn't make it. So the next available one was the 16th.

                                    Enjoy your time in NYC. Maybe we'll say hi.

                                    1. re: deepfry7

                                      Very cool - they called to confirm the reservation today, actually.

                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                              2. re: mjm1218

                                I can only speculate it's also because not enough people recognize Noma in NYC and we're all tired of chef's table/impossible to reserve restaurants! Also probably not best to open a new restaurant right before the holidays when all the press folks are busy with 2010 roundup lists.

                          2. i'd add Keens to the list...and if the OP decides to head downtown, Kinshop...

                            1. Marea is also close to your hotel. The bar is gorgeous and serves the full menu.

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

                              1. For the view and the music rather than the food, although they do serve a full Southern type menu - Dizzy's club coca-cola.

                                1. If im awake early enough I will either do Breslin from breakfast solo or Shopsins which i prefer going by myself.

                                  Havent done it yet ,but I am assuming omakase at Yasuda or 15 east would be a good option

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

                                  1. I've always been impressed how Daniel and Per Se treat their solo diners.

                                    -----
                                    Per Se
                                    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: steve h.

                                      Could not agree more - same with Picholine, Le Bernardin, Scarpetta, Ssam, and Alto actually.

                                      Was less impressed with the solo dining at Jean-Georges, Marea, and Ko.

                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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

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

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

                                      Marea
                                      240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                      1. re: uhockey

                                        "Was less impressed with the solo dining at Jean-Georges, Marea, and Ko."

                                        Just curious about your experiences? I've had enjoyable solo meals at all three.

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

                                        1. re: peter j

                                          Even before I becam a regular solo diner at Ko, I was always treated very well (that's the reason why I became a regular at Ko. Same at Ma Peche).

                                          1. re: peter j

                                            Jean-Georges I think it was a waiter issue - guy had no personality and tried to tell me the Foie that tasted like petrol was "how it is supposed to taste" when the replacement tasted just fine - I think the brulee container simply got too close. Food unfortunately didn't wow, either.

                                            Ko - I felt like I spent $175 to get minimal service, less-than-stellar dish explanations, and to sit on hard stools. A few dishes were great, most were "good," some just okay. For similar cash there are 20+ places in Manhattan I'd go first, and if comparing that "style" of restaurant (chef's table, impossible reservation, privilage to experience our genius, etc) the service was MUCH more friendly at Schwa, Volt Table 21, and Vidalia 24.

                                            Marea - the place was dead (no one there,) Michael White was personally serving a table of bigwigs (still not sure who they were,) waiter didn't seem to enjoy his job much.

                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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

                                            1. re: uhockey

                                              Interesting. During my one dinner at Ko twelve months ago, I found the chefs to be chatty and forthcoming about the food, and one of them even gave some recs for notable dishes at other restaurants.

                                              Marea is always crowded nowadays, one of the more difficult reservations in town, though it's still possible to have a meal at the bar without a wait during off hours.

                                              As for Jean Georges, I've learned to stick with his classic dishes. Some of his newer offerings don't seem to be at the same level. In my experience, service has always been professional and very friendly.

                                              -----
                                              Jean Georges
                                              1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

                                              Marea
                                              240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019