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Looking for a fun, unique restaurant to celebrate a birthday

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I am taking my guy out for dinner in manhattan for his birthday in a couple of weeks. This is his first trip into the city and I want to take him somewhere awesome. I'd like the restaurant to be casual, fun, lively, quirky, not terribly expensive, and have amazing food. No vegetarian, no seafood. We might be willing to venture into Brooklyn as long as it's not too far - he's staying in the east village. Any suggestions?

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  1. What day of the week / calendar date is this? It will influence ability to get reservations. Hopefully you're planning far enough in advance that it will be OK.

    When you say not terribly expensive, what price range were you think? $50 per person for just food? More? Less?

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      It's a Wednesday night - May 11.

      1. re: kathryn

        as far as price, I'm thinking yeah, $50 per person just on food.

      2. Freeman's wins on quirky, fun, lively, not terribly expensive, and casual. food is better than average, but not amazing.

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        Freemans
        Freeman Alley, New York, NY 10002

        1 Reply
        1. re: coasts

          I'll check out Freeman's. Thanks!

        2. My thoughts:

          Vandaag: conveniently in the East Village, great food of a style one doesn't see too much of, but is on the cusp of the culinary zeitgeist: Northern European / Scandinavian. There's a bit of seafood on the menu, as one would expect given their heritage, but they're heavy meatheads as well up there in "Europe's Canada" - the menu varies, but last time we were in the mutton pie was great, the Bitterballen (oxtail croquettes) are always delicious, the Mangalitsa pork entree (it varies in cut / prepartaion) has always been a knockout. And the "Het Bliksem" - potatoes, apples, bacon, and sweet "stroop" syrup - is as good & hearty a side dish as you'll find. Only thing I'd skip would be their "Ham" Burger - a bit underwhelming, and missing that juicy burger goodness. One of the best new restaurants to come up in the last year.

          Casa Mono: fun, interesting food, wide variety. Plates aren't huge but most things are in the $15-$19 range, so you could easily order 5 or 6 things to share (the plates are meant for sharing) and tour the menu. Big, bold flavors, lively atmosphere.

          Frankies 17 Spuntino: Great Italian-American. The house-made cavatelli & sausage is becoming a classic. Easily do app/entree/dessert for $50/pp, and the wine is reasonably priced too. Bustling, nice Lower East Side energy, very popular with locals in the neighborhood.

          Double Crown: hip East Village location, interesting menu of "colonization cuisine" - i.e. British-meets-Southeast Asian food (think ribeye with Guinness & five-spice, that sort of thing) - very big flavors. Prices are all over the map, but you could certainly pull it in within your budget, depending what you order.

          Kin Shop: very happening place right now. Modern interpretations of Thai cuisine. Again, a place with plates meant for sharing - my gf and I went the other night, had four plates (all under $20 except one) with a side of roti and left stuffed.

          Lupa: similar to Frankies food-wise (Italian-American), part of the Batali empire, and busy all the time. A NYC classic in the making (if it isn't already...)

          Marc Forgione: could be done with selective ordering, the prices vary greatly. You could certainly get the "Chicken Under a Brick" (a shared entree for 2) - one of the great roast chickens in NYC - and a couple apps and be within your budget. My only negative, as pertains to you, would be that the two best apps IMHO - the BBQ Oysters and Chili Lobster - are both seafood.

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          Lupa
          170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

          Casa Mono
          52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

          Frankies 17 Spuntino
          17 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

          Marc Forgione
          134 Reade Street, New York, NY 10013

          Double Crown
          316 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

          Vandaag
          103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

          Kin Shop
          469 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

          1 Reply
          1. re: sgordon

            Wow - thank you so much! Lots of info here. Personally, I love seafood, but he doesn't. I wouldn't mind seafood on the menu, I just didn't want it to be primarily seafood. The Chili Lobster at Marc Forgione sounds delicious.

            I've heard really great things about Frankies 17, and I think we'll most definitely have dinner there one night, but not necessarily on the big bday - from what I've read, it seems a little more cozy and romantic than I was looking for. Double Crown sounds super interesting - I'd like to give it a try. I love thai, but I'm not sure how he feels about it, so Kin Shop might be out of the question. Casa Mono's dishes look awesome, so that's definitely on the list! I'll have to look more into both Vandaag and Lupa. Thanks a ton!

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            Lupa
            170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

            Casa Mono
            52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

            Marc Forgione
            134 Reade Street, New York, NY 10013

            Double Crown
            316 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

            Vandaag
            103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003