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Jan 30, 2011 10:35 AM

lunch recommendation

Hi, I'm a Washington CHer and I'll be up in NYC for a couple days. I have one day where I'm on my own and I'm looking for a lunch recommendation. I'll be hiking around the city during the day so I'd prefer some place that's dress code friendly. Budget is not a concern. If WD-50 offered lunch or Le Bernadin or Per Se would let me in without a jacket the choice would be easier. :) So I guess I'm looking for the best food that allows business casual dress or less. I also don't mind going for a late lunch to avoid the business crowd if that helps or going somewhere that has bar seating with a full menu.

Glancing through some places with open reservations I see places like Aquavit Bistro or maybe the Tavern portion of Gramercy Tavern (described as "more rustic" so I assume less formal). I'd definitely prefer something unique to NYC.


Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

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

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  1. Washington state or Washington DC?

    What date are you here? For a weekday, I assume?

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      sorry, DC. During the week; specifically this Thursday.

    2. There are plenty of upscale places that will allow you to lunch in casual dress. Oceana is a favorite of mine because there is plenty of seating in the bar/lounge area, which might be more comfortable for a casual/solo diner.

      My favorite recent solo lunch was a Clinton St. Baking Co., a casual spot that serves one of Manhattan's more popular breakfasts/brunches. Getting in on the weekends requires a long, long wait, but a solo diner going for a weekday lunch can get seated much more quickly (if you don't mind sitting at the counter). Unable to choose between the sweet and savory sides of the menu, I ordered blueberry pancakes AND huevos rancheros and was very, very happy!

      120 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020

      1. Per Se does not require a jacket, especially not for lunch. If I were you, I'd have lunch at the salon there. As long as you have on slacks and a button-down or something similar, you'll be fine.

        Per Se
        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

        6 Replies
        1. re: loratliff

          Unfortunately they only serve lunch on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I called to confirm this.

          1. re: dacfood

            Aw, shame. I've not been for lunch, so I didn't know. Too bad.

            What about Eleven Madison Park?

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

            1. re: loratliff

              You are wrong about the jacket requirement at per se. They are definitely required at both dinner and lunch. (We have had lunch there.)

              I certainly agree with your EMP suggestion. Jackets are not required at either lunch or dinner. One can even wear jeans at lunch and feel comfortable. Although there is bar dining, I would definitely opt for the dining room as solo diners are treated extremely well and made to feel very comfortable there.

              Photos of lunch at EMP:


              1. re: RGR

                Will concur with the EMP suggestion. I've recently experienced a solo lunch there and thought everything was great. I ate in the dining room and thought that service was a bit more engaging since I was dining alone, but never felt it was intrusive. Food was great and the restaurant is much more relaxed compared to dinner service. Also, lunch allows for a beautiful view as you get all the sunlight from the large windows overlooking the park.

                Here are photos of my lunch at EMP:

                Full review:

              2. re: loratliff

                Per Se requires a jacket for lunch, even in the Salon. They will lend you a jacket if you show up without one. The dress code is on their website, under Reservations/Information.

                Jean Georges now requires a jacket for lunch as well. Here are a few options where you will be fine with business casual:

                Ai Fiori
                The Modern
                Cafe Boulud (although I'm not a big fan, others on this board seem to love it)

                Per Se
                10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                1. re: Riverman500

                  Hm, sorry, didn't know. My BF is of the persuasion to always wear a jacket, so it's never been an issue that I've had to investigate. ;)

                  I do agree with you, RGR, that solo diners seem to be treated very, very well at EMP from what I've seen.

          2. Bar Boulud
            abc kitchen
            bar americain

            Bar Boulud
            1900 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

            1 Reply
            1. re: carub

              The o.p. wrote: "I'm looking for the best food that allows business casual dress or less."

              While they may fit the business casual of less part, Imo, Bar Americain and Brasserie Cognac in no way fit the "best food" category. In fact, I had one of my worst meals ever at Bar Americain. As for Bar Boulud, while it is one of 4-star Chef Daniel Boulud's restaurants, again, it isn't the best that is available in the city.

              We have not been to Koi or ABC Kitchen, so I can't offer an opinion based on personal experience, Still, from what I;ve read, although they may be very good, I would question whether they are "the best."


            2. Thanks so much for everyone's input. I ended up at EMP for lunch and it was exactly as you guys described; actually better because it's pretty hard to describe how great the experience is.

              I had planned to get there around 1pm but I got turned around a bit when I walked over the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn into China Town and all the celebrations going on. I ended up getting to EMP around 1:45 and I was worried that I'd missed the lunch service. They could not have been more gracious and friendly and were happy to seat me as a single, slightly disheveled diner.

              They offered a choice of either a 3 or 4 course meal. I went with the four. If you include all the "free" courses it came out to 9, or 10 if you include the bread which you really have to.

              The meal started out with three free amuses. The first was a teacup with some kind of smoked fish steeping in hot water so you ended up with a really nice fish broth along with two sesame wafer crackers. The second was an eggshell filled with smoked sturgeon sabayon and chive oil; really good. The third was a black truffle "beignet" with a dipping sauce. I'm pretty sure I was supposed to eat it in one bite but I managed two just to savor it a little more.

              Then they brought out the bread. The bread was two small loaves; one french baguette and the other the same but with rosemary. I count this as another course because they served it with two kinds of butter. One was cow's milk and the other was goat's milk butter. The "regular" butter was very good but the goat's milk butter was amazing. I've never had it before and it was a very different - in a very good way - taste.

              My first course was a hamachi crudo with shaved fennel and horseradish and a lemony sauce. It was very good. My only small complaint was that I would have liked a little more hamachi. There was much more fennel than fish.

              The next course was lobster poached in butter with dried citrus and edamame. Really good stuff. This really showed off a combination of flavors and textures that worked out in an amazing way.

              My "third" course was, according to the menu, veal. What it actually was were veal medallions perfectly cooked, sweat breads, and smoked marrow. It was another complete dish that, along with the roasted vegetables, was hard to describe how good it was.

              Before I was allowed my dessert course they "forced" me to cleanse my palate with a jasmine sorbet with tangerine, a shortbread crumble, and cilantro. I could have eaten a giant bowl of this creation.

              My dessert course was "chocolate". I tried taking a picture but it didn't come out well. RGR had a really nice picture of the same dish on his blog he cited, Once again it was a prefect combination of flavors, textures, and presentation. I was a little worried about combining dark chocolate ganache with butternut squash sorbet but it was an amazing combination along with the pumpkin seeds and everything else. I came as close as I could to cleaning every bit off the plate without actuall licking it clean.

              The additional dessert course was composed of three bonus treats: a dark chocolate frozen banana lollipop, a disk of peanut brittle, and a disk of dark chocolate with caramel and 2 or 3 different salts. A great end to a meal.

              The service could not have been more attentive and friendly. Before my server took the order back she asked if I had any food allergies or dislikes. They were willing to accommodate any request I had. I told them I had total trust in their abilities and I was not wrong. It was one of the best meals I've had and well worth the money. The portions were just the right size overall so I didn't roll out feeling stuffed. That's not to say I wouldn't have loved to have more of everything.

              I also ate at the Minetta Tavern and Momofuku ssäm bar. I had to try the Black Label burger at the Minetta Tavern. It was very good but my favorite remains the burger at Michel Richard's Central here in DC. I did sit at the bar while waiting for my cousin and that was a fun time. The bartenders there were very friendly and I would like to go back and try some of their other dishes which looked really good.

              I ate with two of my cousins at Momofuku ssäm bar. This worked out well in that we were able to try/share a bunch of dishes off of the menu. My favorite was the short rib sandwich. All of it was very good and I'd recommend everything we tried (sorry I can't remember everything we ordered but given that it was all good I wouldn't hesitate to order anything they offer).

              Thanks again for your help and a top notch recommendation! I look forward to my next visit!


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

              Minetta Tavern
              113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

              4 Replies
              1. re: dacfood

                Sounds like you had the quintessential EMP experience. It's a gem. (And, yes, isn't that butter heavenly?)

                Next time you're here, skip the Black Label burger and try the lamb burger at The Breslin—it's the best.

                1. re: dacfood

                  Thanks so much for this wonderfully detailed report, David! I'm so glad you enjoyed your lunch at EMP which, as regulars on this board know, is our favorite NYC restaurant.

                  Hospitality is one of the many attributes of EMP (it is, of course, owner Danny Meyer's credo), so It doesn't surprise me that you were warmly welcomed despite being late and "slightly disheveled." And as you found out, solo diners are always treated with care and attentiveness.

                  The base for the broth in the first amuse is halibut. Light and refreshing with a lovely flavor.

                  Btw, I'm a "she." :)


                  1. re: RGR

                    I knew it was a fish that started with 'H' but I had hamachi stuck in my brain and I knew that wasn't right.

                    Sorry I don't know why I assumed/wrote "he" - maybe I read "RGR" as Roger? I'll claim exhaustion from an excellent two days in NY. I know I was trying to pull all the details I could remember before they faded away. Sorry again and many thanks for the advice!

                    1. re: dacfood

                      No need to apologize. It's easy for that kind of mix-up to happen with screen names that are not obviously masculine or feminine. I've done it myself. Actually, there is a hint about my gender in the url for my blog which includes my given name.

                      Anyhoosle, putting together all the details about the restaurants you went to is much more important. Great job there! I'm glad that all your experiences during your two-day stay were excellent.