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Manhattan Chowhounds, need your advice for FIRST EVER NYC visit!! <3 group dinner/brunch/coffee/BEER <3

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My BF and I (originally from LA & currently living in Chicago) are visiting NYC for the first time next wknd!!! I need to decide on a restaurant for a group dinner (party of 7) for Friday, pick a brunch place & get some recs on local beer.

As an FYI here is a tentative list of more casual eats that we are planning (this is kind of a wish list as I don't think our stomachs will catch up with our eyes):
- Katz
- Ippudo
- Di Fara and/or Grimaldi's
- Halal (in drunken haze)
- Russ & Daughters
- Xian
- Kyotofu

1. FRIDAY DINNER

Walk in vs. Res:
Considering the party size, I am not willing to pin my hopes on a walk-in; definitely need a res.

Price point:
We would like to keep the tab hovering around or under 100/pp.

Cuisine:
I want to be inclusive in inviting recs for a wide range of cuisines, but without ruffling any New Yorker feathers, I probably should mention that we aren't looking to do a full-on dinner for either Mexican or pure (i.e. non fusion) Asian cuisines (Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Viet/Thai) as we have a long list of favorites in LA which are quickly becoming even more glorified in our memory... distance does make the heart and stomach grow fonder. I am a fairly persnickety eater and generally find fusion very disappointing, although I love it when done properly. Chicago has great Italian and steak so that would not be SUPER high on our list, although I know NYC has some great spots for both.

We love new American, seafood, gastropub/tapas/small plates; however, I'm feeling a bit wary about small plates as that arrangement tends to vary widely in terms of hassle and difficulty of ordering for large parties. In my experience, small plates are usually ideal for 2-4 people and once the party approaches 6-8 then you have to double down on some dishes and the whole exercise becomes a bit chaotic and haphazard, etc. For Friday's group dinner ALL 7 are California transplants and while none of us are vegetarians or inordinately health-conscious (in fact we love meat), we would probably welcome a lighter overall aesthetic. Although I love the food scene in Chicago, I generally find that the prevailing preference here is toward heavier, richer dishes.

Other notes:
- We are already doing wd-50 for dinner on Saturday.
- I've already made backup Friday reservations at Minetta Tavern (because of the burger) and Peter Luger (NYC landmark, I've been told); however, I was only able to get ~10pm tables, plus I've got wandering eye. First time in NYC and I want to make the most of every meal! However, I'm not that interested by the rest of Minetta's menu and would rather try to hit this around lunchtime on another day... I'm sure Peter Lugers is fantastic but am looking for something a bit more memorable/unique. - I would love to do momofuku ko for the Friday dinner but I don't think the logistics will work out bc of our party size. I would have loved to try Spotted Pig but I'm not sure I can handle that much waiting around as we will be doing plenty of that for our other meals.
- We will be HQ-ed around midtown/Times Square area, but this isn't that impt.
- For those familiar w LA/Chicago, some context if it is of any help: My favorite restaurant of all time is Providence in LA (BF agrees). In Chicago, I love Avec, Publican & Mercat a la Planxa.

So......... in addition to our reservations at Minetta & Peter Luger, we are also considering Degustation and Sakagura. What do you think??

2. SUNDAY BRUNCH
Stanton Social vs. Norma's?
... don't wanna start a war w this kind of question haha ^^
OR do you think we should do Minetta for a brunch?

3. BEER
The BF loves beer, as he should. He would most likely want to try local microbrews that aren't as accessible in Chicago.

4. COFFEE
Best coffee in Midtown??

Thanks SO MUCH for reading and for your advice!

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Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

Kyotofu
705 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

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

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

Stanton Social
99 Stanton Street, New York, NY 10002

Sakagura
211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017

Mercat
45 Bond Street, New York, NY 10012

Ippudo
65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

Grimaldi's
47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

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  1. For the best coffee you MUST go to La Lanterna di Vittorio in Greenwich Village!
    Ultimate Foodgasm!! Seriously...it's been 2 months since I've left NYC and I still dream about this place...!

    http://lalanternacaffe.com/

    -----
    La Lanterna
    129 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

    1. For beer, I would check out Pony Bar who serve only U.S. micros and has a pretty much constantly changing selection; Blind Tiger generally has a couple of local items on; Jimmy's No. 43 is also likely to have some good stuff as well. I don't particularly care for the vibe at Rattle N' Hum, but they do have a really wide selection and almost always have quite a bit of unique stuff and are in the area just south of Times Square. Jimmy's and the Blind Tiger have good food as well.

      I am not so sure what gets distributed in Chicago so:

      The beers to look out for would include Captain Lawrence, Kelso, Sixpoint, Barrier and Bluepoint from here in the area; Troegs and Victory from PA, Pretty Things, Smuttynose and Hill Farmstead from further up in New England.

      -----
      Blind Tiger
      281 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

      Jimmy's No. 43
      43 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

      Rattle 'n' Hum
      14 E 33rd St, New York, NY 10016

      Pony Bar
      637 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036

      5 Replies
      1. re: Alan Henderson

        Blind Tiger is also conveniently located on Bleecker St just down the street from John's, Grom, etc.

        If at Jimmy's No. 43, it might be also fun to pop into Burp Castle, just for a little bit.

        -----
        Blind Tiger
        281 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

        Jimmy's No. 43
        43 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

        Burp Castle
        41 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

        Grom
        233 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

        1. re: Alan Henderson

          Thanks so much for the rundown on local beers, this is extremely helpful!

          1. re: no1_stunnah

            While I really enjoy hanging out at Jimmy's No. 43 and certainly recommend it as a place to pop in for a drink or two at night, I'm always a little surprised it comes up as a beer destination. They have 10-12 craft brews on tap, which is no small thing. But not outstanding. Current taplist has no local beers. Burp Castle is a notable Belgian beer joint. I would consider Spitzer's Corner, in the Lower East Side, as a contender. Longer taplist, more local beers, and it is located on an lively, open corner and not underground like Jimmy's.

            Other local beer makers to keep an eye out for are Ommegang (Upstate NY), Southhampton (Long Island), and Weyerbacher (PA).

            -----
            Spitzer's Corner
            101 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

            1. re: Silverjay

              Love Spitzer's Corner but it is super-douchey on the weekends. I like to go on a weekend afternoon but leave before the crowds descend. Mondays and Tuesdays are nice, too.

              -----
              Spitzer's Corner
              101 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

              1. re: kathryn

                Yeah, lively, open corner bars seem to be fertile ground for douchbaggery in New York.

        2. > Di Fara and/or Grimaldi's

          Skip Grimaldi's. Do John's of Bleecker if you must. But I'd say that our Naples-inspired pies are the best ones in town these days. Motorino. Keste. Co. aka Company. Forcella. Roberta's. Franny's. etc.

          > Halal (in drunken haze)
          I assume you mean the one on 53rd and 6th. Remember that it's the south **EAST** corner before 8pm (catacorner from the Hilton) and south **WEST** after 8pm or so.

          Bags should look like this:
          http://www.mightysweet.com/mesohungry...

          Beware the imposter cart whose crew wears yellow (like the real one) and uses circular tins (like the real one). Just remember: EAST before sunset-ish, WEST after dark.

          > 1. FRIDAY DINNER

          Hmmm, seven is considered a pretty large group in Manhattan. But if you're talking $100pp before tax, tip, wine, you're working with a decent budget. Degustation is way too small, your group will be half the restaurant. I don't think they'll even take a reservation for a group that big. It's better designed for 2-3 people. Sakagura doesn't like what you want given that you said you wanted to avoid "pure" ethnic cuisines.

          Since you were considering Minetta Tavern, Ko, Spotted Pig, and love Avec, Publican, & Mercat a la Planxa, I'd say you could do the following:

          - The Bar Room at the Modern - great atmosphere, lovely room, one of my favorite restaurants in town. Alsatian food. Large than small plates, but not huge portions. They do 1/2 size portions. And they're on OpenTable and I see openings for 7 people right now. Easily combined with a trip to the MoMA which is right next door. Spend the afternoon at the museum, which stays open later on Fridays anyway.
          http://themodernnyc.com/
          - Txikito for Basque tapas, their new room looks big enough to handle 7, and they take reservations. They do large size plates in addition to the pintxos and typically have a number of daily specials, like a suckling pig or whole roasted fish. Call for reservations. Easily combined with a walk before dinner or after dinner on the Highline.
          http://www.txikitonyc.com/
          - Prune, at the downstairs table, check out the special $65 group menu they have online. Call for reservations. Also not too far from Jimmy's No. 43.
          http://www.prunerestaurant.com/
          - Hearth, which is New American with Italian influences. One chef is ex-Craft, the other is ex-Chicago (Coco Pazzo, Blackbird and Nomi). And they're on OpenTable and I see openings for 7 people right now.
          http://restauranthearth.com/
          - The Breslin for the chef's table (same chef as Spotted Pig) assuming the menu isn't too heavy for you and they still have availability (and are willing to take 7 instead of 8).
          http://thebreslin.com/i/menu-chefstab...
          - The John Dory, sister to the Breslin, assuming that you can do the chef's table with 7, but it's $95pp before tax/tip/drinks.
          http://thejohndory.com/

          For reference, I love in Chicago, I have loved Girl and the Goat, Publican (haven't been to Avec yet), Frontera Grill, Big Star, Hot Doug's, Alinea, Xoco, The Aviary, Violet Hour, Sable, etc. to give you an example of my taste.

          > 2. SUNDAY BRUNCH
          > Stanton Social vs. Norma's?
          > ... don't wanna start a war w this kind of question haha ^^
          > OR do you think we should do Minetta for a brunch?

          Minetta Tavern would make a fine brunch and is much more New York-y than SS, and has excellent food (unlike Norma's).

          You could also do the Breslin (lamb burger!) or Spotted Pig for brunch. Much shorter waits.

          > 3. BEER
          > The BF loves beer, as he should. He would most likely want to try local microbrews that aren't > as accessible in Chicago.

          I'm not a huge beer drinker, but I know that you can take a tour of Brooklyn Brewery or Sixpoint while you're here.

          See also:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/764996

          > 4. COFFEE
          > Best coffee in Midtown??

          Check out Stumptown (closer to Penn Station), Culture Espresso (near Times Square), Joe the Art of Coffee (inside Grand Central), Zibetto (closer to Central Park). It really depends where you are -- Midtown is big.

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

          Minetta Tavern
          113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

          Stanton Social
          99 Stanton Street, New York, NY 10002

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

          The Modern
          9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

          Sakagura
          211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017

          Degustation
          239 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003

          Zibetto
          1385 6th Ave, New York, NY 10019

          John's Pizzeria
          278 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

          Norma's
          118 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

          Momofuku Ko
          163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

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

          Halal Chicken and Gyro
          106 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

          Joe the Art of Coffee
          89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

          Txikito
          240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

          Keste Pizza & Vino
          271 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

          Culture Espresso Bar
          72 W 38th St, New York, NY 10018

          Stumptown
          18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

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

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

          Grimaldi's
          47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

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

          3 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            Thank you SO MUCH for your amazing & comprehensive recommendations!!! Your advice is exactly what I was looking for <3

            Link to the real halal bags are a great touch... so helpful. Thanks a million again. I will definitely report back.

            1. re: kathryn

              Having just returned from my visit to NY I can say that Kathryn's recommendations have been spot on! Loved my dinner at Txikito and would not have found it without your help. THANKS!!

              -----
              Txikito
              240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

              1. re: rjlebed

                You are welcome! Glad to spread the wealth!

            2. - Katz I think this is a great quintessential NY pick. It is unique and you can always get food to share. An experience worth having if you have never been.

              - Ippudo Personally I really enjoy the house ramen here, however there is always a very long wait, even when I have been there only with a party of two. And I would consider this pretty pure asian, not fusion.

              - Di Fara and/or Grimaldi's Even as a born and raised NYer I have never been to either. However even though I have always wanted to try diFara, it is a major trek, and there’s not really anything else there. Although living in Chicago I would suggest trying some NY pizza. I don’t know if you had it in mind but Paulie Gees in Greenpoint is quite good, plus you can always hit Diamond Bar or Spyten Dyvil for your boyfriends beer tastes afterward, two of my top picks for beer.

              - Halal (in drunken haze) personally I do not think you need to be in a druken haze in order to enjoy the halal cart, I love it any time of the day 

              I am also a HUGE fan of Publican in Chicago, with that said I think you would enjoy Stanton Social, a place I really enjoy for its eclectic nature. Although I have never been for brunch, so I cannot speak to that.

              I also love Sakagura but it is what I would consider much more authentically Asian.

              Degustation does a wonderfully priced meal, however it is a very small restaurant. I would definitely check with them about accommodating your party.

              momofuku ssäm has a prix fix for a large parties, might be worth considering. DBGB might also be worth checking out, I am a huge Boulud fan and café bolud or db bistro moderne would be much higher on my recommendation that WD-50.

              For beer scene in New York I recommend the ginger man, you can do great flights here and staff is really knowledgeable. Also Blind tiger is a great idea. Like I mentioned before Spyten dyvil and the diamond bar are great in Brooklyn, as is Brouwerij Lane.

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

              Stanton Social
              99 Stanton Street, New York, NY 10002

              Sakagura
              211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017

              Ippudo
              65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

              DBGB
              299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

              Grimaldi's
              47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

              2 Replies
              1. re: Asumnuthin

                Gingerbread Man? Or did you mean the Ginger Man?

                Momofuku Ssam's prix fixe is only for parties of 10 or more. They'd probably ask that you make a reservation for a regular bo ssam for a party of 7. I just logged in and only the 5pm and 11:30pm slots are still available for August 5th. The Bo Ssam is also a really heavy meal.

                If you wanted to dine at Momofuku Ssam Bar and keep it light, you could do it, by ordering a la carte. But not I wouldn't advise doing it with a group of 7 on a Friday night.

                Menu-wise, I'd say that Publican's menu and Ssam's menu are in the same sandbox -- oysters, local produce, raw bar, lots of pork, country hams, etc. Both are also pretty hip and loud. But Ssam Bar has dark wood, whereas Publican has light. :)

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

                Ginger Man
                11 E 36th St, New York, NY 10016

                1. re: kathryn

                  Yes I meant Ginger Man, thank you!

                  -----
                  Ginger Man
                  11 E 36th St, New York, NY 10016

              2. consider The Breslin and/or DBGB...both have interesting beers and yummy gastropub-ish fare...

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

                1. There's a couple of places for food. Try Prime Meats in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn (they don't take reservation, try to get there before 8), Bar 89 or Lure (both on Mercer) and for brunch try for Essex Market.

                  And for beer try Manchester Pub (it's a small bar on the upper east side (49th and 2nd) they tend to have a number beers from microbreweries (I'm there once a week and the beer line up is never the same).

                  -----
                  Lure Fishbar
                  142 Mercer St, New York, NY 10012

                  Manchester Pub
                  920 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10017

                  Bar 89
                  89 Mercer St, New York, NY 10012

                  Essex Street Market
                  120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: aznknites

                    If you are willing to go out to Brooklyn (just a short subway ride on the 4,5, or 6 train, I just ate at Frankie's Spuntino which is also owned by the same people as Prime Meats. It was WONDERFUL. The outside area is so lovely. Had a wonderful dinner topped off with the most terrific dessert of prunes and mascarpone. Would highly recommend it and it would give you a chance to see another area of NY.

                    1. re: rjlebed

                      to the best of my knowledge, the 6 train does not go to Brooklyn...

                      1. re: Simon

                        Oops, correct, I switched from the 6 to the 4..........

                      2. re: rjlebed

                        Frankie's 17 is also owned by them, and in Manhattan.

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