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May 3, 2011 10:14 AM

Rookie here, I apologize if this is a tired topic...need a cool, romantic spot for Saturday dinner...

I've been dating this great-looking woman for a few months and am hoping to take her to dinner this Saturday where we won't be out of place if we're dressed up (suit for me, chic red dress for her). I realize it's a lot to ask on short notice, but I'm looking for a place with a little bit of energy but not a club that happens to serve food. I'm not too picky about location within Manhattan. She's 31 and I'm 36.

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  1. What cuisines do you and the woman prefer? It would also be helpful to know your per person budget for *food only*, but keep in mind that you will have to add the cost of beverages (wine, cocktails, etc.), nearly 9% tax, and 20% tip.

    18 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      I'd say she's pretty adventurous with food, and I can eat just about anytihng. I realize the tab might be high; I was hoping to keep it under $200.

      1. re: ClayShaw

        Just to be sure there is no misunderstanding, is that $200 per person for food, i.e., up to $400 total for food?

        1. re: RGR

          I guess I was hoping to keep the entire bill under, say, $200-225

          1. re: ClayShaw

            $225 / 1.2875 (tax + 20% tip) = $175 for food and wine, give or take a dollar, so $87/pp total.

            Wine is a big factor. If you go by the glass, with one glass per savory course, assume that'll be around $25 - $30/pp. That'd be cheaper than one bottle per course, for sure - these days, the cheapest bottle you can find at most nicer places will be $40 - $45.

            So that leaves, assuming $30 for wine, a budget of $57/pp for food. That leaves out the top places, of course, and most upper-midrange places. (I know, it's ridiculous - how around $100/pp actually winds up being only around $60/pp after all the extraneous things are subtracted...)

            Assuming food means one app, entree, and dessert per person, my top two suggestions would be Prune and Marc Forgione. They might stretch the budget a tiny bit, but as long as you're not ordering the most expensive item from each course you'll do fine. Either is the kind of place you could dress up or down, as you like. I wouldn't do a "business" suit - skip the tie and you won't stick out.

            My GF and I went to Forgione recently and had a great meal - three apps and two entrees and a bottle of wine ($65, IIRC) - for about $225 total. Just do two apps and add a dessert, have your wine by the glass or get a cheaper bottle, and you'd come in under budget.

            I liek Vandaag as well, and it'd be in your budget, though I wouldn't use "romantic" to describe the ambience.

            If you drink less (say, you're only one-glass types) you could up things considerably: Blue Hill, WD-50, Falai, and The Orchard could be possibilites (off the top of my head), depending what you ordered.

            50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

            Blue Hill
            75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

            The Orchard
            162 Orchard St., New York, NY 10002

            68 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

            54 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003

            Marc Forgione
            134 Reade Street, New York, NY 10013

            103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

            1. re: sgordon

              Do you think they might feel a little overdressed for Prune? It's a small cozy restaurant and I'm not sure if I've seen people in suits there.

              1. re: kathryn

                Without a tie, and a casual jacket, I think he'd be fine. Like I said, not a "business" suit.

                Of course, this is coming from someone who wears a suit approximately once every two years, if that.

                1. re: sgordon

                  I'd say maybe fashionable jeans and a sports coat but you'd probably still be dressed better than anybody else in the room. The servers all wear purple t-shirts that say Prune, right?

              2. re: sgordon

                I love when you break those figures down, sgordon! It really is helpful.

                I was having trouble coming up with a place that would fit the budget, and where Clay and his date could dress up, i.e., suit and chic (cocktail?) dress. I've not been to either Prune or Marc Forgione, but I know you prefer to dress very casually. So, will they feel comfortable dressing up at either of those two places?


                1. re: RGR

                  can't dress up at Prune. it just wouldn't work in that atmosphere (tiny, relatively loud, very casual)

                  maybe Peasant? Dovetail? those two places might work a bit better for you.

                  194 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

                  103 West 77th Street, New York, NY 10024

                  1. re: nmprisons

                    This has all been extremely helpful, thanks so much for all the input. I think I need a fairly fancy place because she'll be wearing the dress at the link below. A friend suggested Le Caprice, which isn't fully booked. Would that do the trick:?


                    1. re: ClayShaw

                      Yeah that dress is way too fancy/sleek/etc for Prune.

                      Regarding what sgordon said above, are you guys planning to drink with dinner?

                      If not, you will open up a few more options (assuming they are not booked yet for Saturday night).

                      1. re: kathryn

                        We will probably have a drink or two.

                        1. re: ClayShaw

                          Perhaps, Ai Fiori would work. It has some energy but also understated elegance. You'll probably see a mix of dress, so a suit and that lovely number she bought would not be strange.

                          The food is delicious. You can go the a la carte route (sharing a pasta -- portions are generous -- will the cost down a bit). Or if you feel you can splurge a bit over budget, opt for the 4-course prix-fixe for $79.

                          Ai Fiore photos here:

                          and here:


                          1. re: RGR

                            Along those lines, I'd suggest Osteria Morini. A bit more casual w/ a great downtown vibe (same chef too).

                            Osteria Morini
                            218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                            1. re: Sugar

                              OP did specify "romantic" (and not particularly casual), so why Morini?. It's a scene, loud and cramped. Not romantic and not a place for dressing up. And the food, though good, does not compare to the other Michael White places.

                                1. re: RGR

                                  I think Ai Fiori would be a budget breaker - even were they to skip the pasta course entirely, and simply order the cheapest antipasti (the generic "mixed green salad" - blah), the cheapest secondi, and the cheapest dessert, they'd hit $56.

                                  Quick rant: It is alarming, to me, when threads like this come up, just how much higher the cost of fine dining has gotten in the city over the last ten years or so. Anyone else remember when Ducasse was practically laughed out of town for the ridiculous excess of having a prix fixe that broke $100 at the Essex House? And that's when the economy was good, no less. Now that price is de riguer at any four-star. Who else remembers when there'd be at least one wine-by-the-glass under $10 on every menu? It's sad that putting together a romantic dinner for two with a couple glasses of wine seems to require dropping three bills these days...

                                  Okay, rant over...

                                  As to how the girl is dressed, I find it doesn't matter. A girl can dress "up" in a "down" place and dress "down" (to some extent) at a fancy place, as there's nothing really codified as to what "dressing up" means for ladies as there is for us fellas - The Suit. But Prune, true, is a bit cozy (in the tables-close-together sense), so perhaps romance isn't their strong suit. The food is romantic and lusty, sure. Forgione would be the better choice of the two, certainly. It's more of a "mixed" crowd - some suits, some casual. Typical Tribeca scene. So for me it's more, "will there be other men in suits, or will I stick out like a sore thumb?"

                                  Regarding Le Caprice: from what I gather the food is nice enough, well-prepared, but nothing terribly exciting or interesting. Pretty straightforward stuff.

                                  Anyway, I looked over the opentable options for Saturday night and of course it brought to mind a couple places I hadn't thought of before - someone else mentioned Telepan, which isn't a bad choice. It's quiet and serene, the tables are well-spaced, and you can go for a walk in the park after if the weather's nice. There's a four-course prix fixe for $59, only a couple dollars over your budget, where you pick one from each a la carte category (app, pasta, entree, dessert) - a good deal, for sure. The portions are scaled down a bit from the standard ALC portions, but with four courses you won't be left wanting. Telepan, though, last time I went didn't thrill me so much - it always struck me as a bit "Gramercy Tavern Lite" - but then, I'm a fairly experienced eater, and for someone who hasn't dined out as much Telepan could be fantastic. And given the price difference between them and GT, they're very good for what they're charging.

                                  Another that popped into my head was 5 Ninth - not going to blow anyone away with their creativity, but they're good for what they serve. The price is right - most entrees are under $20, in fact - and the ambience is very romantic.

                                  For Indian, Devi is always a solid option - haven't been to Tulsi yet, and while I hear it's good, Devi runs a very reasonable make-your-own-tasting, four courses for $50.

                                  Riverpark, which again someone else mentioned - good call. Very romantic setting if you get a table by the window. It's just kind of out-of-the-way. There isn't a lot there for after dinner wandering, if you wanted to.

                                  Most of the places that really work that I'm thinking of are just slightly over the OP's budget, and often that's on account of wine: At WD-50, for example, the cheapest wine-by-the-glass is $14.50, one white and one red - if they had a $10 option, that'd be a $25 difference for four glasses, once you factor in the tax/tip - bringing a potential meal there back into the OP's budget. That would stand for any of the above "next level" options I mentioned (Blue Hill, Falai, etc). What his town needs is cheaper wine.

                                  50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

                                  8 East 18th Street, New York, NY 10003

                                  72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023

                                  68 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

                                  5 Ninth
                                  5 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10014

                                  211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

                                  450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

                                  Ai Fiori
                                  400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                  1. re: sgordon

                                    5 Ninth is an interesting suggestion. Weather permitting, there is a nice garden and you could go for a walk on the Highline afterward...very romantic!

                                    5 Ninth
                                    5 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10014

      2. Getting a res for this Saturday will be tough but here are some ideas. My top pick would be Annisa. Call and see if they might have a cancellation. Other possibilities are Junoon, Nuela, La Silhouette, Kittichai, Riverpark.

        1. If I'm not too late, Asellina on Park Ave South is certainly chic, and the wild boar ragu is simply wonderful. So was a pasta with butter and truffles that the chef was nice enough to make as half-order. The house pastas are hand-made and good, and I wouldn't go for the pizzas.

          The space is very sleek and glam, but food is the focus. Lovely cocktails too, but they are pricey at $15. They've only recently opened and haven't gotten pro reviews, so reservations might be easier to get. I walked in the Saturday before Easter and requested a quiet table and got a sweet booth in the corner. Music level is a wee bit loud for me but not a conversation killer, and the vibe is romantic. An excellent wine list. (If you like red wine and are eating meat, I recommend the Dolcetto at $50.)

          420 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10016

          2 Replies
          1. re: barberinibee

            Thanks to all. You people are a veritable resource.

            1. re: ClayShaw

              You might like Telepan. The four course prix fixe is $59, the subdued lighting and stylish room romantic enough for a date, and there were quite a few men in suits during my recent dinner there. The restaurant has a nice buzz but isn't noisy, and the local, seasonal menu is delicious.

              72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023

          2. I just went to Hotel Griffou last night. I think this may be perfect for you. There were lots of men in suits and women in chic dresses. The food is great and it's a very nice place.

            Hotel Griffou
            21 W 9th St, New York, NY 10011

            1 Reply
            1. re: rrems

              what about Butter? the upstairs space is romantic, but still lively and you wouldn't be out of place in a casual suit.

              415 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10018