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girls trip... craftbar vs the modern bar room?... or esca?

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Toronto chowhounder headed down to NYC for a girls weekend trip (with 2 less adventurous eaters). Having missed out in booking Babbo, I've got reservations for craftbar, the Modern Bar Room, and Esca. I know Esca is a the odd ball of the group but I have a temp reservation for it so might as well ask for your opinion on that also.

Now I'm the type who doesn't mind going all out for a meal but my friends are more casual and hoping to keep the budget under control. They're both sensitive to gluten/wheat and one doesn't eat pork or beef (blasphemy, I know). So what are your rec for a semi-casual saturday night dinner with great atmosphere and food?!

Thanks in advance ;)

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Babbo
110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

Esca
402 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

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  1. The Modern Bar Room has the most atmosphere because it is also a bar. I have never been there on a Sat. night but on a weeknight it gets pretty busy. Also, you can eat varying amounts of food - very upscale bar food.

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

    10 Replies
    1. re: JC2

      TM-BR would be at the top of the list you have if it were me. Very "energetic" atmosphere that lends it self well to the type of place it is (but you won't like it if you are adverse to noise). I think I understand what JC2 is saying when they call it "upscale bar food" but IMO that does it a disservice. The food is easily the best of your list and the menu is very condusive to sharing, they are also very good with food sensitivites.

      Another place you may want to check out is Public, it's a pretty good scene, recent food I had was the best I've ever had there, quality to cost is, IMO, really good.

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

      Public
      210 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

      1. re: Spiritchaser

        I agree with Spiritchaser. It's a bar with counter, a lounge (with both "couch" furniture and a banquette), also with some free standing regular tables as well. And they serve exquisite small plates in a sleek, modern atmosphere, with an energetic crowd. I've eaten there on Saturday nights and while it's not 100% full like it is on a weekday, it's still bustling.

        The only downside would be portion size to price. If price is a big issue, you may end up overspending at the Bar Room at the Modern.

        1. re: kathryn

          The Modern Bar Room is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Expect to spend about $50 per person on food. The Alsatian Country Soup is sensational and now is just the right weather for it!

          Some pictures of the restaurant and the food, to give you an idea: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cheeryvi...

          1. re: Cheeryvisage

            i had a feeling u all would agree on the modern bar room :) that's my choice too, my friends were swaying towards craftbar simply because their website looks more casual (shake my head). i'm going to have to try to redirect them a bit with these pictures and your reviews. thanks!!

            1. re: Demeter

              The Bar Room also has excellent cocktails. The Hinny Kick is my all-time favorite in New York.

              1. re: Nancy S.

                Hinny Kick easily in my top 5 list, great drink.

              2. re: Demeter

                Your friends would be correct, way more casual from an atmosphere perspective, I like Craftbar but not for anything more than a quick drink/snack, nothing special about it. TM-BR will make you feel like you are "out" with your friends. And don't be too concerned with your level of dress, you'll see the full range of attire from jacket and tie/dress to blue jeans and polos.

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                Craftbar
                900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: Spiritchaser

                  thanks for all the suggestions! i'm pulling out the veto card and decided on TM-BR. excited!!!

                  1. re: Demeter

                    Will you only get one dinner during your visit?

                    1. re: Spiritchaser

                      unfortunately, yes... friends have plans for the sunday night. lunches will also be on the fly.

      2. One of my favorite places is Flex Mussels, it's almost 100% mussel/moules-frite and seafood dishes that I think would work well for your friends' dietary restrictions, otherwise you can let the server know about allergies when you're ordering. It's always jam packed when I've gone and the atmosphere is casual but really lively.

        I've been to Esca only once for pre-theater dining and it was maybe 2 or 3 years ago, Our server was such a great guy, he explained almost the entire menu off the top of his head that we actually let him order for us. The sommelier actually came over and helped with the recommendations also. They were very playful and fun to talk with and we wound up having every dish served table-side and shared. The worst part was having to leave to go to the show. None of us wanted to go, lol. We would have rather have stayed a little longer.

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        Esca
        402 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

        Flex Mussels
        154 W 13th St, New York, NY 10011