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Russian Tea Room

I made a reservation at the RTR on an impulse for my anniversary dinner...I'm only in town for a few nights (from LA) and was looking for something romantic and different for my husband and I's wedding anniversary. I looked the Russian Tea room up after watching an episode of friends...(yes that is how out of touch with NYC I am) and went to their website...it looked perfect! Then I went to Yelp and am now doubting my decision! I'm looking for a landmark iconic/romantic/sexy restaurant that is purely New York! I like dark settings which is why the red and dark light interior of RTR struck my fancy.

So should I cancel my reservation @ the Tea Room? Any other suggestions in midtown/Theatre district area? Doesn't have to be Russian food, although I was really looking forward to that since I've never tried it.

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Russian Tea Room
150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

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  1. I can't believe that place is still open. Do not waste your time and money. You're in NYC, for goodness sakes! There are literally hundreds of better (and less expensive) options.

    1. I have to agree with southernitalian. I don't think the food is appalling -- they actually do a good bowl of borscht -- but mostly, it's not very good, either. There are better restaurants, even Russian ones, in Manhattan (for instance, Mari Vanna, a pretty restaurant in the East 20s: http://www.marivanna.ru/ny/#/).

      As far as iconic, romantic and sexy restaurants go in Midtown: Look into La Grenouille and see if that might suit.

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      La Grenouille
      3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

      Russian Tea Room
      150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

      Mari Vanna
      41 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003

      7 Replies
      1. re: michelleats

        I love Russian Tea Room, but would not choose it for your big special dinner. The atmosphere is great and cozy and different, but the food is not up to snuff for the occasion. I think maybethe food used to be better when it was a true expat russian hangout; I have the old RTR cookbook and there are lots of great russian recipes in there.

        Michelleats made a great suggestion in La Grenouille, that place is absolutely fantastic and special and gracious.

        But if you like high tea, and you have time during your visit, you might want to hit RTR for tea in the afternoon, say starting at 2 or 3.. Also: Make sure to request a booth when you make the reservation.

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        La Grenouille
        3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

        Russian Tea Room
        150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

        1. re: pauliface

          I think La Grenouille is the perfect place for an anniversary dinner -- totally romantic!!!

        2. re: michelleats

          La Grenouille is not sexy. I love the place, but it is not sexy.

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          La Grenouille
          3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

          1. re: gutsofsteel

            I agree - I also love the place, but it ain't sexy when the average age of the clientele is 60.

            1. re: uwsister

              An ageist comment if I ever saw one! Who says people in their 60's -- and beyond -- can't be sexy?

              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

              1. re: RGR

                Ageism, I agree! I also do not equate sexy with romantic. Here's why La Grenouille is romantic: The flowers! The hushed atmosphere where you can have a nice quiet tête a tête. Gracious, seamless service, where waiters don't introduce themselves or intrude on conversation. Beautiful, comfortable room with nicely spaced tables and lovely paintings. Excellent, classic French food. And, of course, the flowers!

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                La Grenouille
                3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                1. re: RGR

                  That's not what I said. Of course people in their 60s and beyond *can* be sexy. However I believe a restaurant generally isn't considered "sexy" by most people if the average clientele is in their 60s. Most people feel sexier in their youth than in their 60s. I say this as someone who's married to a man twenty years senior than her - if my opinion makes me an age-ist, then hey, I guess I am.

                  I agree that La Grenouille is very, very romantic - but not sexy.

          2. Twenty-five years ago, hell yes. Now? No effing way.

            1. i had a meal there a few weeks ago. like many readers of CH, i often take photos of the plates before tasting them. nothing that was served to Ms. Coasts or myself looked good enough to photograph. we left having taken zero pictured. neither of us finished dessert and it wasn't because we were so full from dinner. i vote cancel.

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              Russian Tea Room
              150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

              1. It should be clear by now that the RTR is a bad idea, but I'll add my voice to the chorus. I went there for an event earlier this year, and the only good thing I can say is that at least I wasn't paying for it. Happy hour at the Russian Vodka Room before moving on to a nice dinner somewhere else could be a fun option.

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                Russian Vodka Room
                265 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019

                1. Tourist trap. Food isn't awful, but it's WAY overpriced.

                  My "celebrity" sighting, as everyone seems to have one, maybe 25 years ago: Joel Higgins, who played the father on "Silver Spoons" - not exactly Warren Beatty. My mother struck up a conversation with him. His dining companion was much more interesting, though - a voice actor, don't remember his name but he's done a million commercials. Specialized in rustic/Americana voices. Was the voice behind Pepperidge Farm, Country Time Lemonade, a number of other products back in the 80s.

                  Mari Vanna is fun, though I wouldn't do it for an anniversary. Right across the street from them is Gramercy Tavern, though - a solid choice, if there ever was one, often referred to as NYC's unofficial First Restaurant. Not exactly dark, but lovely upscale-farmhouse chic. That said, we're getting further from Midtown / Theater District.

                  In that part of town... with dark-ish rooms... (mind you, most fancy places aren't terribly dark - so we'll just go with "muted colors" perhaps...) the first places coming to mind are:

                  Aquavit

                  Picholine

                  Telepan

                  But I'd take the subway downtown, personally. Marc Forgione has a "dark" vibe, can be very romatic, especially on weekdays after the after-work crowds leave. And Chef Forgione is a NYC character, for sure - his father was one of the godfathers of NYC Modern American cuisine.

                  The Orchard feels positively subterranean - no windows and it's bathed in a dark orange light. Food is solid as well. Peasant could be a good call as well - rustic, hearty Italian, all cooked in a wood-burning oven. WD-50 (if you're adventurous eaters) is all dark tones, and a true only-in-NYC place.

                  All that aside, most of the "classic" NYC places - at least the high-end ones - are, sadly, tourist traps at this point. They might have had their heyday once, but are overpriced & overripe relics now. With the exception of a couple of steakhouses (Keen's and Luger's) I'm not sure I can think of any I'd recommend.

                  My suggestion: go somewhere awesome for dinner, forget about the "Classic NYC" thing. Do some classics for breakfast / lunch: Katz's, Russ & Daughters, 2nd Ave Deli, etc...

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

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

                  Katz's Delicatessen
                  205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

                  Aquavit
                  65 E 55th St, New York, NY 10022

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

                  Keens
                  72 West 36th St., New York, NY 10018

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

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

                  Second Avenue Deli
                  162 E 33rd St, New York, NY 10016

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

                  Peasant
                  194 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

                  Marc Forgione
                  134 Reade Street, New York, NY 10013

                  Mari Vanna
                  41 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: sgordon

                    sgordon, which high end "classic" NYC places are tourist traps?

                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                      RTR, 21 Club, Il Mulino, Delmonicos... etc etc etc...

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                      21 Club
                      21 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019

                      Il Mulino
                      86 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

                      Delmonico's
                      56 Beaver Street, New York, NY 10004

                      Russian Tea Room
                      150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

                      1. re: sgordon

                        I still like 21. There are a whole lot of non-tourists in there all the time.

                        But I do know what you mean...although I can't name many "high end classic NYC places" that are like those you mentioned. La Grenouille for example is a classic NYC place, and although plenty of tourists go there, there is nothing "trap" about it. A lot of tourists go to Babbo, that doesn't make it a "tourist trap." Tourists go to good restaurants all the time, in part thanks to CH!

                        And lots of bad overpriced restaurants that coast on their reputations and PR are filled with locals!

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                        Babbo
                        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                        21 Club
                        21 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019

                        La Grenouille
                        3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                          True, Babbo is a classic. I guess I wasn't specific enough - I meant old-school classic, landmark places. The places tourists had heard of before there was a Food Network. The above, Four Seasons, Tavern On The Green, etc.

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                          Babbo
                          110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                          The Four Seasons
                          99 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                          1. re: sgordon

                            Also, Elaine's, RIP.
                            Wasn't RTR closed, or threatening to be closed, at one point some years ago?
                            And, yes, I'll add my sighting: Jack Lemmon, out of the corner of my eye, about 15-18 years ago.

                        2. re: sgordon

                          I know it is touristy, but I love Delmonico's. The food is good and the price is fine. For out of towners looking for a New York landmark, it fits the bill.

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                          Delmonico's
                          56 Beaver Street, New York, NY 10004

                          1. re: jfp123

                            I must disagree about the food at Demonico's. I had a gift certificate to use there once and found the entire experience a disappointment, would not return...also does not fit the spec for theater district/midtown.

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                            Delmonico's
                            56 Beaver Street, New York, NY 10004

                            1. re: City Kid

                              I hate that your experience at Delmonico's was poor. I have been there several times and always fared well. You are correct that it does not fit the request for midtown, but I guess I sidetracked by the discussion of what does or does not constitute "tourist trap" and "classic" NYC restaurants.

                              1. re: jfp123

                                My good friend Newland Archer loves the place.