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Sep 20, 2011 10:37 AM

Last minute cocktails and dinner to show NY at its best

Hi All

I'm posting in the hope that somebody will be able to give me some quick advice! I have to pick/book a restaurant for tonight for a client - who has become more of a friend over the years - who is in town unexpectedly. It's a bit like the blind leading the blind, as I only just moved to New York on sabbatical a few weeks ago - athough I have a bit of a love affair with the city, and have visited a number of times before. My friend has only been here once or twice before on very short trips.

I want to get it right as she and I have an ongoing debate about which is the best city in the world. She says London. I say New York. I'm hoping this evening will help in swaying her over to my side!

I've been on the site, researching like mad, but am running out of time. My hopes of getting a last minute cancellation at Minetta Tavern - preceded by cocktails at the Pegu Club - (both picked based on recs on here!) have just been dashed. They have no spots until 10:00, which will be a bit late with her jet lag. We are heading out after a meeting ending at 7:30.

Where else would you try if you were in my shoes? Would Peels fit the bill? DBGD?


Perametres (obviously, the lateness of the booking places significant perametres already, but to help narrow down my request), as I see you are -rightly- not fans of overbroad ones!):

Price: Minetta Tavern is actually probably a tiny bit pricier than ideal, but anything up to and including that kind of price is ok. I'd ideally be looking for entrées at about $22 to $28, rather than $30+ (not including tax and tip) if that makes sense.

Cuisine: she has requested American or European. I'm all Italianed out, after feasting - a bit too much - on delicious pasta from Otto and Peppe Rosso, etc, in the last couple of weeks (thanks again to recs on here!).

Location: I thought of Greenwich Village as it's so lovely, and an area I know, and we could wander through the square, listen to music, etc, if the rain held off. However, she is staying up near the UN, and I live in the East Village, so anywhere East would also work (or anywhere else in mid to lower Manhattan in fact... just trying to keep my request not too crazily broad).

Ambiance: preferably real New York (whatever that means). I have loved Little Owl and Tartine (thanks again to recs on here), but they are probably a little too intimate, and maybe a little too European. The likes of Otto (particularly the back room)/Ippudo, however, would probably be a bit too large and noisy. Places like One if by Land, and the Gramercy Tavern, are out of price range, though I have loved them both (I only had drinks at OIBL). It doesn't have to be swanky, and would hopefully not be too 'sceney', just basically a nice, atmospheric place with a bit of a New York vibe, in a nice area, to wile away a few hours, talking and catching up. A recommendation for a place nearby for a quick cocktail would be a bonus. We could do somewhere v. nice (e.g. the Plaza, etc) if we were eating nearby, but it doesn't have to be swanky either. An old time New York place would more than fit the bill. I've been to a few lovely old speakeasy type places over the years, but memory fails me on their names.

Us: we are both women in our mid to late 30s, in case that's even remotely useful to know!

Thanks hugely in advance for any tips!

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

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

Little Owl
90 Bedford Street, New York, NY 10014

253 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

Pegu Club
77 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

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  1. I would go to the bar at Craft relatively early and take the two seats on the corner. The bartender there (Shawn, or, maybe, Sean) is one of the best in the city, so you can get your drinks and distinctly American food in the same place.

    If you want something a bit more rambunctious, what about Ssam Bar?

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

    43 E. 19th St., New York, NY 10003

    1 Reply
    1. re: nmprisons

      I like Ssam Bar but I like the food better at Ma Peche. It also has a better atmosphere for talking but still has a good vibe. If you want a setting for a cocktail that is spectacular and shows a glorious view of NYC, I would head to MO bar at the Mandarin Oriental. The scale of NYC from there puts London in second place IMO.

      80 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10023

      Ma Peche
      15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

    2. For something very "of the now" in NYC, yeah, Momofuku Ssam Bar or Momofuku Noodle Bar could be a good calls. At noodle bar, split a bowl of ramen, an order of pork buns, and get a couple things from the seasonal menu to round it out. At Ssam Bar, just order whatever tickles your fancy. It's good sharing-food, good for catching up with old friends. Then you can grab a cocktail afterwards at Death & Co or Mayahuel or PDT (if there's room)

      Vandaag is another excellent choice in the East Village, food is very solid (though I haven't been since the chef left a month or so ago - from all accounts his old assistant / new chef is doing fine) and their cocktails are fantastic.

      I'm not a fan of DBGB, personally. At least not the bar menu - the burgers and sausages and whatnot. The composed dishes in the restaurant part are decent, though.

      Craft would be far, far, more expensive than the OP's budget. Maybe Craftbar could work, though. Another possibility near Union Square (though it might be mobbed) is Casa Mono.

      Casa Mono
      52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

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

      900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

      43 E. 19th St., New York, NY 10003

      Momofuku Noodle Bar
      171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

      Please Don't Tell
      113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

      Death & Co.
      433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

      304 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003

      299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

      103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

      1. If you really want to, you could your name down at Minetta Tavern as soon as possible after work and wait for a table. Some people on here have reported good results with doing a walk-in. Also the cocktails there are excellent.

        Another idea is calling for a last minute reservation at Prune or Pylos.

        On OpenTable I see that Hearth has a table for 2 at 9pm.

        Minetta Tavern
        113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

        403 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10009

        128 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

        54 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003

        1. When you mentioned the Plaza you hit something you may not have been aware of.

          I'm not sure if it's the best of NYC (what really is?), but the Plaza has a very nice, upscale, food hall on its bottom level that has seated service where you are waited on. It's fun and the food is actually very above average. I definitely enjoyed it. Given the short notice I think this could be very nice. And it would give you lots of food options.

          Menu -

          Also, Seasonal Restaurant is right around the corner from the Plaza and is very good Austrian food. Recc'd that place as well.

          132 West 58th Street, New York, NY 10019

          Plaza Food Hall
          1 W 59th St, New York, NY 10019

          1. You are absolute lifesavers! Thank you so much.

            I have a reservation booked for Craftbar! We can go to Craft first to check out Sean's cocktails, and have a wander round Union Square after. She can see the Flatiron, and even do a spot of ultra bargain shopping in Filene's after if the desire takes her! Perfect.

            The Momofuku places are definitely on my radar, after reading so many good things on here about them. Another friend - who is a big noodle fan - has just called to let me know she's also in the city unexpectedly this week, so I'll see if we can get into one of them. Thanks for the menu tips too. Half the job is finding the good restaurant, and the other knowing what to order when you get there...

            I will also definitely be checking out Prune and Vandaag - and those amazing-looking cocktail bars - in the near future as they are right in my neck of the woods. and the Plaza foodhall is fantastic to know about for future visitors.

            Thanks again!

            p.s. I had a real bad experience at Hearth a year or so ago. I have a terrible onion intolerence which has landed me in hospital on one occasion - it's more like an allergy - so I avoid them like the plague (its a HUGE pain, as although I eat practically everything else, it can make me seem like a bit of a picky eater). The chef point blank refused to cook me anything on the menu without, saying that all their sauces were preprepared (!), and he wouldn't serve food without sauce as it wouldn't be *his* dish. Very bizarre. My worst ever NY dining experience. I know others think it's great though.

            403 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10009

            2 Replies
            1. re: MaeveG

              I sympathize -- I too have am "allergic" to onions and garlic. I find that it's difficult to go to the "mid-tier" restaurants for similar reasons.

              1. re: MaeveG

                BTW, the ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar is not actually rated that highly by ramen-o-philes in NYC.

                Momofuku Noodle Bar
                171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003