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Dec 23, 2011 12:28 PM

2 weeks on business - need good solo places!


I will be in Midtown (Bryant Park) for 2 weeks in January and will be looking for great places to eat solo for dinners. So obviously places that have lively bar scenes that offer full menus at the bar would be great. I am coming from Vancouver, so no need for good sushi/chinese/ramen as I get my fill of that here.

I know the city reasonably well and I'm good to travel around on the subway system if it is convenient.

The goal is $40 per dinner (excluding tax and tip) and including one drink (beer, glass of house wine). Would be happy to exceed that to $50 or $60 for "Michelin" quality.

Ideally, $8-10 appy, $22-24 entree, $8 drink?

So far, my searches have brought up the following options:

Kin Shop
Grammercy Tavern
The Dutch
Fatty Cue
M. Wells

Are any of these to be avoided? Are their any other things that are can't miss these days?? Love roasted chicken, really good rustic italian, and anything will big flavour!

Look forward to your suggestions


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  1. Tertulia might be fun but it's better with more than one person so you can share more things. The front bar area is very cramped and often filled with people sitting drinking and waiting for a table, but not eating.

    Fatty Cue has a small bar, not a lot of seats. Their cocktails are great, not sure about their beer and wine. I also find it nicer to eat there with a group, as, again, it's more fun to share many things there.

    M. Wells has closed and not reopened yet.

    For Italian, Babbo, Scarpetta, Locanda Verde could be fun and all have pretty lively front bar areas. They all serve the full menu at the bar, only Babbo doesn't let you do the tasting. All of them are solo diner friendly.

    if you want bold flavors, April Bloomfield, David Chang, and Keith McNally's restaurants are usually known for bold flavors and friendliness to solo dining. The only catch is I think that Balthazar's roast chicken is for two (same for Locanda Verde I think).

    NYC is VERY solo diner friendly. More ideas here:

    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

    80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

    Locanda Verde
    377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

    359 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

    Fatty 'Cue
    50 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014

    4 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Tertulia , I don't think is good for solo dining. I don't remember seeing a bar there. The bar at Brushstroke is good and you can order a la carte instead of the tasting menu. The food is very good. Kori is good for upscale korean food and you can eat at the bar. Casa Mono is a good solo spot as is Degustation and Boqueria. Zaab Elee is good for Thai Food at the bar. Odeon, Cercle Roughe, Flor de Sol, Plein Sud, Blau Gans, Morimoto, any sushi spot, Osteria Morini is a great solo spot, Ed's or Luke's Lobster, Pearl Oyster Bar, Mary's fish camp, Wolfgang's Steak House at the bar, Brooklyn "Michelin" Fare, Kyo Ya at the chef counter, Meat Ball shoppe, etc etc Enjoy

      Pearl Oyster Bar
      18 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014

      Casa Mono
      52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

      Ed's Lobster Bar
      222 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

      239 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003

      Mary's Fish Camp
      64 Charles St, New York, NY 10014

      253 Church St, New York, NY 10013

      409 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10013

      88 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

      145 W. Broadway, New York, NY 10013

      Blaue Gans
      139 Duane Street, New York, NY 10013

      Kyo Ya
      94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

      Cercle Rouge
      241 W. Broadway, New York, NY 10013

      Flor de Sol
      361 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

      171 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

      Luke's Lobster
      93 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

      The Meatball Shop
      84 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002

      Plein Sud
      85 W Broadway, New York, NY 10007

      Osteria Morini
      218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

      Zabb Elee
      75 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

      30 Hudson St, New York, NY 10013

      359 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

      1. re: foodwhisperer

        Tertulia definitely has a bar and some bar tables.

        1. re: foodwhisperer

          i eat at Tertulia's bar frequently -- the bar is right there immediately when you walk in...are you perhaps thinking of a different restaurant?

          1. re: foodwhisperer

            Brooklyn Fare would have greatly exceeded the OP's budget.

            Tertulia has a bar and I've also dined by myself at a table. It's perfectly fine for solo dining,

        2. hi...welcome...i've been to Vancouver a few times (and lived for a month in Gastown a few years ago) and really enjoyed dining there...(my ultra-local-Gastown favs were Boneta, Salt, Marrakesh, Chill Winston...and Chambar a few blocks away)...i think you'll find that NYC is a great city for solo dining, as most restaurants that have a bar will serve full dinners there...

          -- Kin Shop is one of my favorities...
          -- Scarpetta is a wonderful place to dine at the bar, especially if you want to try a lot of interesting Italian wines...the black cod entree, the cavatelli w/ rabbit, the raw yellowtail starter, and the soups are the dishes that i usually eat there...
          -- Ten Bells is a lovely wine bar in the LES...delicious beet salad, wild boar sausage, happy hour oysters, and properly chilled wines...
          -- DBGB is fun solo too...the bartenders are very friendly: tell them you're in town from Vancouver and they'll be happy to gab about NYC, the food/bar scene, etc...
          -- Dell Anima is good for rustic Italian bar dining...
          -- the Russian Vodka Room doesn't have great food, but on a cold night in January, it's not a bad choice for infused vodka, smoked salmon, and you're likely to make a new friend or two there...(or for a downtown more expensive Russian bar option, there is a Mari Vanna )

          Enjoy, and please report back here on which places you visited.

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

          38 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10003

          355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          The Ten Bells
          247 Broome St, New York, NY 10002

          299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

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

          Kin Shop
          469 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

          1. I am a couple days into my trip now, so highlights below:

            Ma Peche - awesome banh mi for lunch today , and really nice bartender who let me sample their pork infused tequila! Crazy stuff, but works well with the food.

            Franny's in Brooklyn : really good wood fired pizza!!

            Wafels and Dinges - liege waffle with speckulous lived up to the hype - amazing.

            The Modern at MOMA. Great bar scene, high end food at affordable prices, and lots of interesting people to chat with.

            Brunch today at Breslin's was fun - bold flavors and great coffee. Any rec's for tomorrow brunch??

            Heading downtown tonight - thinking minetta tavern for the burger (thoughts?) or kin shop.

            Made reso's for Keen's next Thursday with work crowd.

            Looking forward to the rest of my time here!

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

            Wafels & Dinges
            New York, New York, NY 10001

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

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

            8 Replies
            1. re: kroekerj

              Back home now. Definately missing NYC already.

              The rest of my trip was great.

              After the great Banh Mi at Ma Peche I decided to make the trek down to Momofuku Noodle Bar. Great place for a solo diner! No matter which Chang restaurant I go to, I always end up meeting someone interesting to talk to and more often than not ideas on where else to eat - not only in NYC but wherever else they have been. This one guy owns a sushi restaurant in Chicago. When I was at Ssam, I got details on where to go in LA.

              Had the brussel sprouts with a big punch of mustard and sausage flavour. This was great, and the sprouts were shredded and not whole, which made it into this kind of weird hot delicious meaty slaw. Had the Momofuku Ramen....not as good. WAY too smoky to be a ramen broth, but the actual pork and other toppings (egg especially) and noodles were really good. Glad I had it...wouldn't get it again.

              Didn't end up at Kin Shop for whatever reason, but I did make it to Howard's other restaurant Perilla before comedy at the cellar one night. Tried his pan roasted chicken, which was great. They have figured out that you can't cook the whole thing perfectly, so they take the brown meat and braise it with mushrooms, nuts, kale, etc and use that as a base for a perfectly moist breast with a great crispy skin. Not the greatest scene for a solo diner, as it was mostly people at the bar waiting for a table.

              Ate some more in Brooklyn - SAUL - with 6 co-workers. Very good, simple food. We had the 4 course prix fixe for $40 (amazing value) so it wasn't his best dishes I'm sure, but no fault with anything. Nothing that memorable except for that Baked Alaska!!!

              A little dissapointed at DBGB, as it looked like a great place to eat at the bar. Unfortuantely, the bar was packed with obnoxious looking guys waiting for tables and taking all the bartenders attention. No one was really eating there, so I just got a table for 1. Good meal, great prix fixe price ($35). The best was the thai sausages, they were excellent.

              As the trip neared a close, I started panicking that I hadn't visited all the restaurants I wanted to! There are just too many!

              So...decided to go all out on my last night to make up for it - Per Se.

              People have waxed poetic about this place in all sorts of publications, so I went in with sky high expectations. They were surpassed. Probably the best few things I have ever eaten, and by far the best solo dining experience I have had.

              You walk in to the Salon, no reservations or anything, and they treat you as if they have been waiting all day just for you to walk through the door. I was given a wonderful table overlooking Columbus Circle/Central Park on what I would describe as a Chesterfield (a couch is too common a word) with a table at surprisingly comfortable height. I'm a big guy with temperature issues, and I'm never perfectly comfortable in restaurants. Here - I've never been so comfortable in my life.

              In the salon you order a la carte, and service is included, so it really isn't THAT expensive. What is expensive is alcohol, so I skipped wine and cocktails here ($20 for Maker's Mark, $40 for most glasses of wine) and opted for free sparkling water. I was already in a cheery mood from Free Happy Hour at my hotel anyways (nice perk from Bryant Park Hotel).

              I ordered the foie gras and the colette of bouef as my starter and main. I enjoyed the obligatory amuse's (cheese croquettes and salmon cone) before setting my sights on the bread basket with three types of bread with organic butter from california. Pretzel bread was the best, but they are all good.

              Both dishes were fantastic, with the foie gras (a cold terrine, not a seared lobe) being somehow just much better than every other one I have ever had. With it were little pieces of butternut squash, roasted marshmallow, walnuts, 30 yr old balsamic, fresh black pepper, and two kinds of salt from brittany. As a vessel, they bring you a new mini brioche roll every 5 minutes or so, just so they are always warm. All of these together on a little piece of brioche was nothing short of heaven. Not too rich, not too sweet, just the perfect blend of balance and richness. The surprising bit was how much the black pepper really elevated the dish. I'm asking for it next time I have foie gras! I'll dare say that this was amazing value at $40 (service included).

              The colette of beef was a cross-breed between Angus and Wagyu. They don't even ask you how well you want it, they just cook it "a la pointe"....or something like that. Pretty much, they do it perfect, so why would they want you messing it up?? My waiter said if you wanted something well done, they could prepare something braised, like a short rib. This got me can't just "whip up" a braised short they purposely make things in the rare instance that someone wants well done beef. Crazy. This is what makes Per Se what it is....more on this later. With the beef was some pearl onions, some spinach, and a potato truffle hash that required some intense skills. Each piece of potato was the size of a pin head, and each one was seperate, and they were all perfectly cooked. $46. Again, I'll say great value.

              Dessert. I happened to know someone who has worked with Mr. Keller at the French Laundry, and I wasted no time in sending him a message bragging out my upcoming visit to Per Se. He said one thing to me - order "Coffee and Donuts" for dessert, it doesn't matter if it is on the menu or not. Ok.....I guess there is a secret language at Per Se

              There was no mention of coffee or donuts on either the $295 prix fixe or my salon menu....but I went ahead and ordered it..."Certainly sir!" Would you like coffee with that? I looked at him funny, because I foolisly thought coffee was part of "Coffee and Donuts."

              So out comes this "signature" dessert, which looks just like a cappucino and donuts. The donuts are indeed donuts, but very good donuts simply dusted in sugar and cinnamon. The cappuccino, though, is a cappuccino flavoured semifreddo. It was sublime. Simple, but sublime. I owe my friend a coffee...maybe even a donut to go with it. So they make these just in case someone asks? I don't get it....but I like it.

              Then came miganardines, then a little to-go bag of lemon thyme shortbread (the wife liked that I brought those home), then a tour of the kitchen.

              All of that came to $100 plus tax.

              Next time in New York, I'm eating there every second day. $2 pizza slices, then Per Se. Repeat.

              Great way to end the trip.

              Per Se
              10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

              9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

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

              299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

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

              1. re: kroekerj

                Wonderful report...glad you had such a great trip, and thanks for details and impressions...

                1. re: kroekerj

                  Thanks for the report! Glad you had such a good time!

                  1. re: kroekerj

                    This is a terrific post. Come back soon and write (and eat) more!

                    1. re: kroekerj

                      Fabulous report - thank you. I'll remember the Coffee and Donuts - a great tip.

                      1. re: kroekerj

                        Yea, it's hard for Per Se to say "no". Some items might be already cooked sous vide for days which is how they can "whip" something for you. I could be wrong. Happy to hear you had such a great time in the Salon. I've gone once to the main dining room, but I wouldn't mind getting the "greatest hits" a la carte and save some money.

                        May I ask how much was the "Coffee & Donuts"? I've seen the Salon menu a few times and if I recall correctly, it's around $12-15 for those desserts.

                        1. re: kroekerj

                          Didnt read further down, and responded too late. But I loved your Per Se report.

                          1. re: kroekerj

                            I thought I'd never be able to justify the expense of Per Se, but at those prices, it might be reasonable to do for a special occasion. So glad you had a great time, and thanks for the excellent report!