HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Discussion

New & Overwhelmed: Looking for a few great dinner spots...HELP please

  • c

Just moved to the city a month ago and don't quite have the lay of the land yet. I have some friends visiting, so I'm looking for 4 dinners. I've been researching, but unlike my previous homes, Manhattan simply has too many great restaurants to find any kind of consensus and I'm having a tough time.

We're all adventurous, and any type of cuisine is acceptable--Italian, French, and seafood options would especially be nice. We tend to like more creative pairings and aggressive flavors, though subtle and classic is also great as long as it's done well.

One meal will be an early Thanksgiving celebration and can be more pricey (~$120pp), and the rest I'd prefer to keep a bit more reasonable (~$60pp not including drinks). Anywhere in Manhattan works.

One issue is that I've tried making reservations at some of the staples (Babbo, Lupa, EMP, Le Bernardin), and they're all pretty much booked.

PS-as a fellow CH-er, I recognize how annoying such vague posts are, but I appreciate the help!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Is that $120pp and $60pp before tax and tip as well? You have a lot of options, especially if you look for less popular options.

    How many people in your party? More than 4 is usually considered a large party in Manhattan. Are you not willing to dine early/late?

    Of those you listed, Babbo, EMP, and Le Bernardin are some of the most popular restaurants in New York City.

    Babbo books one month ahead to the calendar date. So for, say, November 21st, you would have had to call on October 21st.

    EMP books 4 weeks ahead. So for, say, November 21st, you would have had to call/try Open Table on October 24th.

    Le Bernardin is a little different from the others. Le Bernardin opens its books on the first of the month for the following month. For example, you'd need to call on October 1st for a November reservation.

    For Italian, I think closest to Babbo/Lupa would be Locanda Verde, Scarpetta, or Maialino. LV may be fully booked (you have to call) and I don't see a lot for Maialino except for 5:30pm tables, but there are some good times left at Scarpetta for parties of 4. On OpenTable, I did a quick search for 4 people on 11/21, and I see availability at Ciano, dell'anima, Esca, Osteria Morini, too.

    For Thanksgiving: What time do you wish to dine? For example, Five Points, Cookshop, Hundred Acres, and Perilla all have availability on OpenTable for a party of 4.

    Really, this will depend a lot on when you are willing to dine and how many people are in your party.

    -----
    Lupa
    170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

    Perilla
    9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

    Eleven Madison Park
    11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

    Babbo
    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

    Cookshop
    156 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

    Le Bernardin
    155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

    Five Points
    31 Great Jones St, New York, NY 10012

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

    Dell'Anima
    38 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10003

    Scarpetta
    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

    Hundred Acres
    38 MacDougal St., New York, NY 10012

    Ciano
    45 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

    Locanda Verde
    377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

    Maialino
    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

    Osteria Morini
    218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

    8 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Hi Kathryn-Thanks for the suggestions, and for looking stuff up on opentable. I'll look into those. I am on the waitlist for EMP, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Of the other places you listed, I've only been to Locanda Verde for breakfast, and wasn't a big fan. Better for dinner?

      It will be four of us, including myself. I say $120 because that seems to be a typical prix fixe charge for many of the more well-known spots until you jump up to the level of Per Se. So, I'm assuming it's not including tax, and definitely not including tip. That said, if I can find an equally great meal for less, that's always a bonus. It really doesn't even need to be fine dining, just keeping my options open.

      Regarding time, most of us eat between 6 and 8PM. Could go a little earlier or a little later. Obviously this is prime time and makes it a bit tougher to score a res.

      Any of the other Batali spots of equal quality to Babbo or Lupa? Unrelated, but is Spotted Pig still good?

      1. re: crsin

        Locanda Verde has excellent non-breakfast food. We are particularly fond of the sheep's milk ricotta, meatball sliders, any of their pastas, and the porchetta sandwich.

        Are you willing to do non-French seafood? Maybe Oceana?

        For French, it really depends what you're looking for. Perhaps one of Daniel Boulud's more casual places, like Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud?

        I've done Del Posto (much more expensive and formal), Otto (on the lower end/cheap eats/much more casual), Casa Mono (totally different cuisine -- Spanish), Esca (very good but more seafood focused), but not Manzo (the newest one inside of Eataly). I think they're just different in terms of price point, atmosphere, and focus. Babbo is probably still my favorite.

        I was just at the Spotted Pig for brunch this past weekend. The cocktails were good (for restaurant cocktails), and I split the burger with my husband. As delicious as ever.

        -----
        Babbo
        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

        Casa Mono
        52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

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

        Del Posto
        85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

        Otto
        1 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003

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

        Oceana
        120 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020

        Bar Boulud
        1900 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

        Locanda Verde
        377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

        Eataly
        200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

        Manzo
        200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

        Boulud Sud
        20 W 64th St, New York, NY 10023

        1. re: kathryn

          Thanks again. Maybe I'll give Locanda Verde another shot. Any other italian restaurants you can think of that might be better (and where I'd still stand a shot of getting a res)?

          Also, am definitely okay with non-french seafood.

          I was also looking at Public, but seems like a love-it-or-hate-it type of place.

          -----
          Locanda Verde
          377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

          1. re: crsin

            For Italian, you might want to consider Ciano. Delicious food, an excellent wine program, friendly and attentive service, and very pleasant atmospherics. Depending on what you order, you can probably meet your $60pp budget. It's usually not too difficult to get a reservation as it tends to fly more under the culinary radar than the extremely popular Babbo and Locanda Verde (neither of which we've been to).

            Ciano photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

            Maialino is another great Italian option. *The* thing to have there is the maialino al forno. I think it's now $90, but it can easily feed four since you will no doubt order other things. It can be difficult to get a reservation during prime time; however, you say you're flexible, and being willing to go very early or late would work in your favor.

            Maialino photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

            Oceana is our favorite fish/seafood restaurant. Everything about it is first-rate. But it would be difficult to meet your stated $60pp budget. I'd say closer to $75pp (food only) would be more realistic. Imo, it's definitely worth it. It's a big place, so getting a dinner reservation is easy. (They are packed at lunch.)

            Oceana photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

            http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

            -----
            Oceana
            120 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020

            Ciano
            45 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

            Maialino
            2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

            1. re: RGR

              I just looked on OpenTable for Maialino and the best tables I could pull up for four were at 10:15pm on 11/21, 10:30pm on 11/22, 5:30 or 10:30 on 11/24, and nothing at all in the early evening on Thanksgiving Day.

              -----
              Maialino
              2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

              1. re: RGR

                A bit off topic, RGR, but I see from your photos that you've had the chicken at Ciano. We just had it last week for the first time. Isn't is wonderful?

                1. re: rrems

                  rrems, That chicken is, indeed, astonishing in its deliciousness! I used to have a clay pot, and it did make the juiciest chicken. The pot broke. Don't recall how it happened since it was a long time ago. I really should get another one....

                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

              2. re: crsin

                Scarpetta, if you can't get into LV. Some CHs actually prefer Scarpetta to Babbo/etc. On OpenTable, for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, they have both 7 and 8:30pm for a party of four. Don't miss their bread basket, mushroom polenta, spaghetti pomodoro, or duck and foie gras ravioli. The food is excellent and on par with Babbo and LV, IMHO.

                Public might be risky dependent upon your friends' taste. You didn't mention if you like or dislike Asian flavors, for example.

                -----
                Babbo
                110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                Public
                210 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

                Scarpetta
                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

        2. Thanks for the additional recs. I called LV and they have pretty limited openings, so I'll look into Scarpetta, Maialino and Oceana.

          Asian flavors are fine, though I'd probably avoid Japanese. The menu at Public appeals to me and I feel like it's right in line with my the people I'll be dining with.

          Any suggestions for french? What about for fine dining around $120? Jean Georges? Daniel?

          -----
          Scarpetta
          355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          13 Replies
          1. re: crsin

            I'll throw out a kind of French suggestion. The formal room at The Modern, which is Alsatian.

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

            1. re: kathryn

              If you are suggesting The Modern for Thanksgiving Day, I'm pretty certain it will be closed. Otherwise, I agree that it's an excellent choice for upscale French.

              The Modern Dining Room photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

              I would also highly recommend Tocqueville. Superb cuisine, a very good wine list, friendly and attentive service, and one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city. They are open on Thanksgiving Day and will be serving a 3-course prix-fixe for $98pp.

              Thanksgiving Day menu: http://tocquevillerestaurant.com/wp-c...

              Tocqueville photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

              Another upscale French we like a lot is Cafe Boulud. While it is Daniel Boulud's second-tier restaurant, when it comes to everything that counts, it is first-rate! E.C. Gavin Kaysen is cooking some of the best food to be found in the city, service is polished, and the ambiance is lovely.

              Cafe Boulud photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

              For French at a lower price point, I would recommend La Silhouette. We've now had two dinners there, the more recent a few days ago. The cuisine is delicious, service is very cordial and efficient, and the atmospherics are pleasant.

              La Silhouette photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

              and here:

              http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

              -----
              Cafe Boulud
              20 East 76th St., New York, NY 10021

              Tocqueville
              1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

              La Silhouette
              362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

              1. re: kathryn

                Managed to get a primetime res at The Modern, so took that. Did some research and it looks great, so this will likely be our one fine dining meal (unless there are some more suggestions--would someplace like Grammercy Tavern be better?).

                Also called again and got a decent reservation at LV. So now the question--LV or Scarpetta?

                Just need one more dinner.

                -----
                Scarpetta
                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                1. re: crsin

                  So your line-up is The Modern, LV or Scarpetta, plus two others? What did you decide upon for your third dinner? Where will Thanksgiving be?

                  -----
                  Scarpetta
                  355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Sorry, correction to my OP--only will be having three dinners. So lineup thus far is The Modern, LV (contemplating Scarpetta), then....still working on finding an interesting place for #3.

                    Oh, and since my group is leaving on Thanksgiving Day, our "Thanksgiving" will be at The Modern.

                  2. re: crsin

                    The styles of the cuisines at The Modern and at Gramercy Tavern couldn't be more different, i.e., Alsacian-French vs. contemporary American. I am not a fan of the food in Gramercy Tavern's dining room. In fact, it has the dubious distinction of serving me my worst meal of 2009. In contrast, every meal we've had at The Modern has been stellar.

                    For your third meal, if Oceana is too expensive, you might want to consider Aldea, which serves delicious Portuguese-inflected contemporary American cuisine.

                    Aldea photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                    http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

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

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

                    Oceana
                    120 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020

                    Aldea
                    31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

                    1. re: RGR

                      Yeah, I'm done thinking about GT. I'll have to try it at some point, but reviews seem to be a bit more varied than The Modern. I think it's the right choice.

                      Great suggestion with Aldea. I had looked at it earlier but it got lost in the shuffle, so thanks for recommending it. I looked at Oceana and, while it clearly has stellar reviews, the menu just didn't grab be, so couldn't get too enthused. I'll try it another time.

                      Looks like I'll be doing The Modern, Aldea, and Locanda Verde. Thanks for both of your help.

                      Oh, and any thoughts on LV vs. Scarpetta?

                      -----
                      Oceana
                      120 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020

                      Scarpetta
                      355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                      Aldea
                      31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

                      Locanda Verde
                      377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                      1. re: crsin

                        Of the two, I'd say Scarpetta wins, but why not Ciano (recommended by RGR above). The food is spectacular, atmosphere warm and service attentive. I was a fan of Scarpetta, but I've come to like Ciano better.

                        1. re: rrems

                          I refuse to go to Locanda Verde because of the exceedingly high noise level that you and others have mentioned.

                          While I enjoyed the two meals we've had at Scarpetta, like you, I prefer Ciano -- both the food and the ambiance. In fact, we are having a family gathering there (eight of us) the day after Thanksgiving.

                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                          1. re: RGR

                            I like the atmosphere at LV, though I've only been for breakfast and it was not crowded. Noise generally doesn't bother me, though, until it starts verging on nightclub.

                            Menus at LV and Scarpetta appeal to me a bit more than Ciano, and they both seem like they're a bit more rustic (correct me if I'm wrong)--which I want.

                            Discounting atmosphere, and even service, is the food at Ciano vastly superior to LV and Scarpetta, or are they just different? What about food alone Scarpetta vs. LV?

                            -----
                            Scarpetta
                            355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                            Ciano
                            45 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

                            1. re: crsin

                              If I absolutely had to choose based upon food alone, Scarpetta, but I'm a huge pasta fan and I dream of their spaghetti, but that may just be me.

                              -----
                              Scarpetta
                              355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                              1. re: kathryn

                                Interesting. Well, Scarpetta has plenty of openings for the night that I'm looking for, so I can book it.

                                Curious, why is a res at LV so much more difficult to get than Scarpetta? Is it just more of a scene?

                                -----
                                Scarpetta
                                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                              2. re: crsin

                                Yes, food at LV and Scarpetta is a bit more rustic than Ciano. I do feel that the food at Ciano is superior. I think there is more care in the preparations. Regarding Scarpetta vs. LV, I would say Scarpetta is a shade better, but if you are chosing between the two, go with whichever menu appeals to you more. Oh, and yes, I think LV is a "scene", and that is why it is harder to reserve. Scarpetta used to be much harder to reserve, but I think it has lost some of its trendiness, and I see they are now showing all times on Opentable, whereas before you had to call to inquire about prime times.

                2. Turns out we will have an extra night for dinner. Thinking about trying Public or Ma Peche (any opinions between these two?), or...other suggestions?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: crsin

                    Look into Buvette or any of April Bloomfield's restaurants (I prefer breslin and john dory over spotted pig, though spotted pig's chicken liver toast is one of the best bites in the city). Places are livelier and more casual than the places you've been to and i think it'll be a change of pace and better representation of the diversity of restaurants in the city. Downside is none of these places take reservations but all three have great cocktail programs (Buvette just has wines and aperitifs and also makes a great manhattan).

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

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

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

                    Buvette
                    42 Grove St, New York, NY 10014

                    1. re: crsin

                      I really think you should look into Picholine especially now that they have game/game birds back on the menu. Honestly one of my favorite places in NYC.

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

                      1. re: Spiritchaser

                        Thanks for the suggestions. Picholine looks great, but I agree with goldrush, and am looking for something a little more vibrant and relaxed. Is it good enough to substitute in for either The Modern or Aldea?

                        goldrush-all three places look perfect. Problem is the wait...they will have just flown in, and all of us have to be up fairly early the next day. How long would the wait be around peak time (7-8) on a Thursday night?

                        Buvette especially looks awesome. Have been looking for a weekday breakfast/lunch place, so maybe it would be a better option then? Their website isn't exactly forthcoming--when do they transition from one menu to another? Is it good for breakfast and/or lunch?

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

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

                        Aldea
                        31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

                        Buvette
                        42 Grove St, New York, NY 10014

                        1. re: crsin

                          I wasn't really recommending Picholine for the casual part of your search, it was more along the lines of your higher end places. If you are looking for casual with great food then I totally back your idea of Public, been numerous times and never disappointed, lively without any air of pretention (except sometimes at the bar).

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

                          Public
                          210 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

                          1. re: crsin

                            waits at those places can definitely get up there sometimes. went to buvette a couple of saturdays ago at 8pm. as a party of 2 i was able to slip into seats at the counter right away (the counter is really where you want to be sitting anyway). you get to talk to the line cooks as they prepare the food in front of you and they'll move your order slip to the front of the line if you're nice. problem is parties of 4 were quoted a 1.5 hour wait. thursdays are probably better but i would expect 30 minutes at a minimum. i haven't been there for breakfast or lunch yet but i know that the croque monsieur has gotten a lot of press. if you do decide to go, get the oxtail marmalade, one of my favorite bites in the city right now. also if you are looking for a good breakfast/lunch spot, dominique ansel bakery on spring is awesome. chef there was pastry chef at daniel for a while. now does great breakfast foods and pastries, though a bit on the pricey side. space is great. there is an outdoor area in the back, and if it's too cold there is a enclosed greenhouse area too.

                            -----
                            Buvette
                            42 Grove St, New York, NY 10014

                            1. re: crsin

                              Weekday breakfast:
                              Clinton St Baking Co
                              The Breslin
                              Locanda Verde (takes reservations)
                              Maialino (takes reservations)
                              Peels
                              'ino
                              Balthazar (takes reservations)
                              Cookshop (takes reservations)

                              -----
                              Cookshop
                              156 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

                              Balthazar
                              80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

                              'ino
                              21 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014

                              Locanda Verde
                              377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                              Clinton Street Baking Co.
                              4 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

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

                              Maialino
                              2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                              Peels
                              325 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

                        2. Just wanted to report back with the results. Won't bother with elaborate reviews since every place we visited has been discussed ad nauseam on this board for years.

                          The original plans got fairly jumbled up due to time constraints (several reservations were way too early), so I had to drop The Modern, which was unfortunate. Ended up having dinners at The Breslin, Babbo, Aldea, and Locanda Verde. Only lunches were at Ma Peche and Buvette. Everything ranged from very good to excellent, without a single disappointment to be found. When all is said and done, I'd have to rank Buvette and Locanda Verde as the top two meals.

                          Highlights:

                          The Breslin-The thrice cooked chips are simply awesome. Super crispy exterior, fluffy, hot interior, nicely seasoned; these are some of the best fries I've ever had. Also loved the cauliflower salad. I was expecting something warm, earthy and umami-rich, but was pleasantly surprised by the very vinegary dressing, the the balance achieved with the raisins and almonds, and the herbs which kept everything nice and bright.

                          Buvette-starting to feel ridiculous for doling out more superlatives here, but damn that is one hell of a Croque Madame. One of my favorite sandwiches, and this is far-and-away the best I've ever had. Killer chocolate mousse, too. If you're a chocolate fan, this is a must.

                          Babbo-Pastas were all cooked perfectly and were delicious. My favorite dish of the night was the octopus, which was mild, nicely charred and smokey. Really enjoyed it.

                          Ma Peche-Enjoyed the meaty pork buns and spring rolls quite a bit, but the standouts were the vegetable sides (potatoes and brussels sprouts) which were excellent.

                          Aldea-Had the shrimp alhinho and arroz de pato. Both have some pretty well-documented love around the Internet, and for good reason. Both were great.

                          Locanda Verde-I was hesitant to go here since the hype overshadowed the experience when I tried it for breakfast awhile back. However, this ended up being our favorite meal (yes, preferred it to Babbo). Start to finish, bread through dessert, everything was exceptional. Highlights for me were the mushroom crostini, ricotta, and gigantone. Really, though, everything I tried was fantastic.

                          Success. Thanks for the help, everyone.

                          -----
                          Aldea
                          31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

                          Locanda Verde
                          377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

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

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

                          Buvette
                          42 Grove St, New York, NY 10014