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Feb 18, 2012 04:32 PM

One Man, Two Nights, Midtown

So I'll be spending a few nights in NYC next weekend. Just me. 50 - Cleveland area native, hungry for good food and eager for good drinks. Staying on W 49th St. Don't want to battle with young hipsters. Also don't want to hang with the oldsters. Want a comfortable, tasty place with great drinks and great atmosphere.

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  1. What days of the week? Friday and Saturday? Or Saturday and Sunday?

    How far are you willing to travel?

    What's your price range, before tax, tip, and drinks?

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Fri night... Sat night... a reasonable cab ride... price range of $50-$75... I am honored to have Kathryn's advice. I have been reading numerous posts from you!!

      1. re: menner

        Off the top of my head:
        Bar Room at the Modern
        Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern
        Bar at Union Square Cafe
        Ma Peche
        Momofuku Ssam Bar - though the crowd might skew a little young for you and the room may be a bit crowded/loud
        Craft maybe?

        I think the hardest part of your request will be balancing the not too young/not too old crowd and the "great drinks" bit. And on Friday/Saturday night, you'll probably have to wait for a seat nearly anywhere you go.

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

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

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

        Union Square Cafe
        21 East 16th St., New York, NY 10003

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

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

        1. re: kathryn

          As long as you go early to the Ssam Bar (5:30-6:00) you will do just fine, noise-wise.

      1. Momofuku shouldn't be too hard. There might be a short wait, but for a single diner it'd be pretty easy. Often there are single stools at the bar between two-tops. The crowd is mixed - not an oldster crowd by any stretch, but not the typical hipster crowd either. Ssam Bar also has a great lunch, and it's less crowded on the weekends when people are often looking for more "brunchy" options.

        Also, it's an easy subway ride - take the 4 or 6 from 51st St or the N/Q/R from 49th St to Union Square... short walk from there. Save the money from the cab so you can order another somethin' tasty.

        Another great brunch/lunch option on the weekends is Public - very reasonable prices for the level of food they serve, and one of the more creative brunches in town. Nearly always room for a solo diner at the bar. They're also a good dinner option as well - all entrees are under $30 currently, IIRC. And again, a number of easy no-transfer subway routes will get you to the neighborhood.

        As to other options... does $50 - $75 include tax, tip, and drinks? If not, at the higher end you could squeeze in WD-50 - the drinks are spectacular, very creative, and the food is fun. There are usually solo bar seats available, and I find it's one of the best places for bar dining, especially if Jafrul is working the bar - he's good conversation, and is the main man behind the cocktails.

        You might be able to pull off a bar seat at Babbo - the cocktails are meh but there's a good wine list, and the food is great. Dining solo one can often find seats where a two-top couldn't, since there always seem to be "odd man out" bar stools waiting. That said, I'd go there early or probably go somewhere else, or at least have a good back-up plan - right nearby is Blue Hill, which would probably have a bar seat open.

        If $75 is a total... your budget is a little more limited. $75 before tax/tip is about $58, subtract $12 (minimum) for a cocktail, you're looking at around $46 total menu price for food.

        A few other options in that price range:

        The Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern - nothing that'll turn your world upside down, but always solid seasonal fare. Many prefer it to the fancy main dining room.

        For a Downtown spin on the same, the Tap Room at Colicchio & Sons is also solid - I like it a little more than GT these days, both for the vibe and I find the food a little heartier. Prices are very reasonable - apps < $14, entrees < $23.

        A little better could be Riverpark, though it might be harder to get to, and it can be hard for a first-timer to find - that one I'd probably cab it for. I like the food better than the casual rooms at GT or C&S, though, for the same price range.

        Tertulia could be fun, though since everything is tapas-style it could empty your wallet without filling your belly. You really need to ask about the size of individual dishes, since they vary wildly.

        Vandaag is also quite good, with great cocktails and dining-at-the-bar. I had some trepidation about them since their original chef left, but the last couple times we went (one of which was for brunch, so I suppose that doesn't count) the food was right on. Maybe not quite as creative as under the old guy, but certainly tasty.

        Up closer to your part of town - Midtown is kind of tough, as there are good high-end options but mostly pretty terrible midrange ones. Alfama does decent, hearty Portuguese fare - nothing fancified, just nice bold Meditteranean flavors. The interesting Portuguese wine list is a bit overpriced, though - odd, since the food itself is pretty reasonable.

        50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

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

        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

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

        Blue Hill
        75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

        210 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

        214 E 52nd St, New York, NY 10022

        Colicchio & Sons
        85 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

        103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

        450 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

        359 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

        3 Replies
        1. re: sgordon

          Tertulia at the bar on a weekend night is pretty crowded. Last Friday, we got there at 5:45, the bar was already full, and we got the last two top seating. People minutes after us were quoted an hour.

          Tasty and great atmosphere? Sure. Comfortable sitting at the bar at 8pm on a weekend night? Not so much. Also they don't have much in terms of cocktails. We usually end up getting a bottle of wine.

          1. re: kathryn

            True that. I find that often a solo diner can sneak in to the most crowded of places, though, what with the occasional odd single seat left over. Back when I used to work in the West Village, I found I could often pop into Babbo for a snack after work if I felt like it, even with a line of two-tops waiting - maybe a 75% success rate. And that particular neighborhood offers up a number of good bar-seat options within walking distance of one another if one doesn't work out - Babbo & Blue Hill as previously mentioned, but also Blue Ribbon Brasserie, The Dutch, Empellon Taqueria, and a few others...

            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

            Blue Hill
            75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

            Blue Ribbon Brasserie
            97 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

            The Dutch
            131 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

            Empellon Taqueria
            230 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

            1. re: sgordon

              I've found L'Artusi at the counter to be an alternative to Babbo. Good cocktails and similar food, in a bigger and less crowded space.

              228 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10014

        2. Hello all -- thanks for the insights. As it turned out, I was solo only Friday night (my brother and sister-in-law ran down from CT on Sat). I took the path of least (shortest) resistance and walked the .1 mile to Don Antonio on Fri night. I found one stool at the bar and made myself comfortable. The house specialty - the Neopolitan pizza -- was fabulous! I also tried the arancini, which was nice. And their "proper gin and tonic" (Bombay, cucumber slice, ground pepper). It was very busy - and pretty young/hip. Not a problem -- it was a friendly, young and hip crowd.

          Saturday after MoMA wound up with party of 3 at Il Corso. It was much quieter. The mushroom risotto was good (not great). However, the grilled octopus appetizer was quite good and my sister-in-law raved about the ravioli special (with pig's jowl). All in all, two nice meals -- the likes of which I can't get at home. Thanks for the help!

          Il Corso
          54 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

          Don Antonio by Starita
          309 W 50th St, New York, NY 10019