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Good Dinner spot with a hard to please group!

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Hello wonderful Chow NYC Folk-

My family is visiting the city is visiting the city at the end of Feb. We are looking for a fun restaurant (nothing on either the UWS or UES.)

We have a couple limitations:
1. Nothing too noisy
2. My father is a self proclaimed "foodie" who lives in the city and in the wine business. He usually is unimpressed with a lot of restaurants and says, "I can do that."
3. We have a vegetarian in our group.
4. Something newish, since we have been to many places around town.
5. Non-Asian (have someone with a MSG allergy)

Any ideas? I know it's quite vague..but I am looking for somewhere that would fit the bill. We could do $15-$30 mains.

We like New American, Italian, farm fresh, etc.


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  1. ABC Kitchen?

    ABC Kitchen
    35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003

    1. ABC Kitchen is wonderful, but it's very much an "I can do that" kind of place for someone who cooks a lot.

      $15 - $30 mains is a huge spread, pretty much anything besides your $$$$ places.

      If you can stretch the budget a wee bit, WD-50 is the most obvious "I couldn't do that" place. And since the menu changes so frequently, even if you've been before, there'd be new things to try. They're also vegetarian-friendly - if there aren't any veg apps & mains on the menu proper already, the can often alter one of the other mains to fit the restrictions - i.e. they'll do the "eggs benedict" as "eggs florentine" for veggies.

      For a little less - keeping the entree strictly under $30 - Public is a great choice. It can be bustling, but because the room is rather airy it doesn't feel loud. The food is adventurous - snail & oxtail ravioli and kangaroo carpaccio are probably not something your father would be making at home. But there are also more approachable dishes (and always vegetarian choices) for anyone not prone to trying a bit of 'roo.

      The new Acme is great, New American local/seasonal with Scandinavian touches - but it can be VERY noisy. If you're going on a weeknight, and get an earlier table, it shouldn't be too bad - but if it's on the weekend, I'd probably skip them if noise is an issue.

      Speaking of New-American/Nordic, Vandaag might be a good choice as well - their original chef left, but it's still pretty solid for the price point. Also significantly less noisy.

      You might also check the offerings on Savored.com - 30% off a number of places, which could bring a few places that'd be just above your budget down into it. Aquavit (more Nordic... a theme is developing...) and SHO Shaun Hergatt are both excellent "can't do that at home" places, and with the discount would be about $60/pp for the prix fixe - about what I'd expect a place with $30 mains to be for app, entree & dessert, give or take a few dollars. Also, both give you more than the standard three courses - 4 and 5 respectively. For a la carte fare, they have some pretty good offerings - David Burke Kitchen, Nuela, DB Bistro Moderne and Devi are probably the standouts in the next-lower price range - DBK probably having the most playful "I couldn't make that" menu items, and also being the newest of them. Devi, OTOH, has a full vegetarian menu along with the regular meat-fare. And actually, all four of those could be doable without the Savored deal if your party is too large (some restos cap the savored rezzies to 4- or 6-tops)

      50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

      8 East 18th Street, New York, NY 10003

      DB Bistro Moderne
      55 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036

      210 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

      9 Great Jones St, New York, NY 10012

      SHO Shaun Hergatt
      40 Broad St, New York, NY 10004

      ABC Kitchen
      35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003

      43 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

      103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

      David Burke Kitchen
      23 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

      1 Reply
      1. re: sgordon

        Thank you SGordon! You are wonderful. Vandaag sounds interesting!! I've been to ABC Kitchen and it was ho-hum to me. I was looking at Acme, but it sounds like it could be noisy and I couldn't find the menu online.


      2. BABBO !

        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

        8 Replies
        1. re: teddym

          I thought of recommending Babbo, but... quiet it ain't.

          Also, I find some of the portions at Babbo seem sized with a four-course meal (antipasti, pasta, entree, dessert) in mind - wholly appropriate, given the cuisine. So while many of the entrees might be under $30... if doing a three-courser, some folks might leave hungry. I always do the "Full Italian" when I'm there.

          1. re: teddym

            We have been to Babbo! Loved it, but want to try something different. We are going to a show in Union Square at 10 PM. It seems like everything is booked already! There is a wedding at Public. Acme is full. Vanadaag is too far east! What to do? What to do?

            1. re: chadradchad

              What night is it? And how far is too far East (or West)? To New Yorkers, Vandaag -> USQ is nothing to walk. But I'm guessing you have non-NYers with you...

              Also, how big is your group? 4-top, 6-top, more? Booking a big group can be harder...

              Devi is right near USQ, and if your dad doesn't normally cook Indian, it would avoid the whole "I can make that" issue...

              1. re: sgordon

                Casa Mono, in Gramercy Park, on 17th St. A truly authentic place for "Farm to Table" dining.

                Casa Mono
                52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: ospreycove

                  Hmm. Casa Mono crossed my mind too, though I feel the vegetarian might be a little left out of the fun. There are a few veggie dishes, but overall they're not terribly exciting ones. A generic salad, maybe some roasted beets (with bacon...) - unless they're one of those "fake" vegetarians ("well, I eat fish sometimes...") they'd be SOL.

                  If your group is cool with eating a full vegetarian meal, Dirt Candy is a spectacular little place that even this near-carnivore loves. Fun presentations, Chef Cohen is kind of the Wylie Dufresne of vegetables - definitely "can't make at home" stuff - and the food is surprisingly hearty given its all-veggieness. Entrees were all under $20, last I was there.

                  Dirt Candy
                  430 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10009

                  1. re: sgordon

                    Yeah...it isn't that long of a walk. I thought of Devi, but my partner's mom is a Midwest lady. She doesn't like Indian! We have been to Dirt CAndy, it was fun but nothing I wanted to go back too. Casa Mono looks like the veggie will be eating goat cheese and beets!

                    Sorry to be so tough!!! Ciano looked too pricey. I guess we can do Italian. But I was looking more outside the box.

                    1. re: chadradchad

                      If Ciano is too pricey ,then Babbo is definitely too pricey. Casa Mono is not good for vegetarians and is very noisy and crowded. Greenwich Grill or Ristorante Aglio might be a good choice ,. Both are quiet and there are vegetari options. Recette is perhaps a good choice, it's a nice location in W. Village and is quiet, the food is very good and not "i can do that ", and the prices are reasonable. A vegetarian can get the cheese, salad, pasta, steel cut oatmeal with berries and nuts, desserts. Any of the places can make a pasta and hold the meat or fish.
                      or Cercle Rouge might work too.( can your dad make good foie gras?) So i'd say if not , cercle rouge is not an I can do it.

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

                      Greenwich Grill
                      428 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10013

                      328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014

                      Ristorante Aglio
                      277 Church St, New York, NY 10013

                      1. re: chadradchad

                        If you're limiting the options to within a short walk of Union Square, you've really only "inside the box" choices.

                        How many people are in your party / what night is it? We can look over Opentable and see if anything jumps out.

                        It seems your dad's "I can't make that" requirement might be the toughest one to fill, at least within the limited geographic parameters. As someone who can make quite a lot at home, I know where he's coming from.

                        So, if you're to tell your dad to just be happy everyone else is having a nice meal and not grumble about it, there are a few decent places - Craftbar is pretty solid, and the price is right. Also the Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern, but they don't take rezzies.

                        I was thinking Aldea as well - even though I'm not personally their biggest fan, I know I'm in the minority on that opinion - but it seems the prices on their entrees have gone up. I swear last time I went they were all under $30, with maybe one or two outliers, but now they're all in the mid-30s, with a couple token under-30 dishes.

                        But really, I'd say go for Public or Vandaag and just keep a little money set aside for a cab.

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

                        900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

                        210 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

                        31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

                        103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

            2. IL Mulino is good also !

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

              7 Replies
              1. re: teddym

                Don't try to please everyone in the group......It never works..........

                1. re: teddym

                  Il Mulino is very expensive. When the OP says $15 - $30 for mains, I'm thinking he isnt looking to end up with $100 a head after drinks and apps. and dessert. Il Mulino is usually closer to $160 per person. Plus they will be sitting so close to other people, it is uncomfortable.

                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    Public looked perfect! They are closed for a wedding that evening. We are fine with walking. It doesn't have to be in Union Square, just thinking about time constraints. But if we have a 7:30 res, I think we can get to the show by 10:00 PM. I've been to Craft, and I was fine with it. It didn't blow me away. I'll look at Aldea! Is Ciano that expensive? It looks like it could be a good option. We are looking for February 25th at around 7:30.


                    1. re: chadradchad

                      Most of the secondi at Ciano are inthe $30+ club. You'd be limited to pastas as your entrees, which might not be enough if you're good eaters since they're sized Italian-style (as opposed to Italian-American style)

                      Craft would be well above your price range, anyway - Craftbar, which does fully composed dishes - would be reasonable, though, and right by USQ.

                      900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

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

                      45 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

                      1. re: sgordon

                        How is Beauty and Essex? Is it too trendy and not good food? Sort of sounds fun if we get there early for the group. We now have a 5:45 reservation. We aren't going to the 10 PM show, we are no doing a matinee and then going to dinner. My partner's mom loves Chickalicious, so we will go after dinner.


                        1. re: chadradchad

                          I love Chickalicious too.

                          203 E 10th St, New York, NY 10003

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            We ended up at Beauty and Essex and Chickalicous. Both were a MAJOR hit with the group. Thank you for the help!