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Sep 26, 2012 06:17 AM

challenge: one affordable, casual meal to impress bostonian

My boyfriend and I will be in New York in 2 weeks for a family event. We only have one meal free -- dinner Saturday night. I'd like to take him somewhere we can't necessarily get in Boston that will really knock his socks off.

He likes places that are ethnic, un-fussy, casual, fun, and affordable -- or at least a great food-to-value ratio. I'd like to keep it under $100 for the two of us, with a drink or two each. Great beer or cocktails are a plus. We're staying in midtown, so any neighboorhood is fine, though Manhattan is preferable. Could possibly do Brooklyn for the right restaurant. To give you any idea, I'm thinking maybe Kuma Inn, Hill Country, Roberta's, one of the Japanese places on 9th St like maybe Soba-Ya, sushi somewhere...

If anyone knows Boston, our favorite restaurants here are Strip-T's, East Coast Grill, Highland Kitchen, and Myers + Chang.

Thanks for any ideas!

Bonus challenge: We're having lunch on Saturday at Inside Park at St. Barts... has anyone been? Is there anything better in the area for Saturday brunch/lunch for 6-8 people? The Smith midtown was shot down because we went there on our last NYC trip. Unfortunately it must be in midtown because of various other plans that day.

thanks again

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  1. $50pp with one cocktail ($14 or so) each, before tax and tip or after?

    If its before tax and tip, you could do Momofuku Ssam Bar. I think it is better than Kuma Inn, Hill Country, Roberta's. It'll be hard to do "knock your socks off" in your price range AND great beer/cocktails. However, Kuma Inn is still BYOB, maybe that will help?

    Knock your socks off sushi for $50pp including a drink is also asking a lot.

    The restaurants with the best cocktail programs are probably:
    Empellon Cocina
    Momofuku Ssam Bar
    Fatty Cue
    The NoMad
    Ma Peche
    The Breslin

    But it's going to be tough to do dinner and a cocktail at your price range IF you are including tax and tip in that $50pp figure.

    For Midtown, Saturday lunch, maybe Bar Room at the Modern? Tulsi?

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks, Kathryn. Yes, the $100 (up to $125) is hopefully after tip & tax... but we are happy to split 3-5 appetizers / small plates / sides, and also happy to sit at the bar (if the restaurant has a comfortable bar area where people won't be leaning over us all night).

      Peels / Freemans are both great ideas that I always forget about, so one of those could work.

      How crazy is Momofuku Ssam on a Saturday night? Years ago, right after it opened, I lived across the street and the wait seemed to be hours long every night.

      Thanks again!

      1. re: nyc_to_ma

        Im a big roberta's booster, but it can be just as crazy as Ssam on a busy night - especially as it cools off and they cant use the outside space. that said, i think it pretty well fits your budget - looking at the current menu, the two of you could split an app/veg plus pizza, plus two plates from the kitchen (which are split out but cost between 17 and 25) and two drinks for about 100-125 depending on specifics. I personally would be very happy with a cannery row (10), coppa (10) a white and green pizza (15), the sweetbreads (13) and any of the "mains" (25-27). That would be 83 bucks with two drinks (less if youre having beer) before T and T.

        1. re: nyc_to_ma

          The wait is a little better now, especially on the early side. Also! They now have a molecular cocktail bar where you can wait, that serves pickles, hams, buns, and other snacks. It's called Booker & Dax, and is really fun.

      2. I'll throw in Francisco centro vasco. A fun authentic Spanish place and a lobster paella to die for.

        1. Your Kuma Inn pick is interesting, since it's kind of cool as far as being hidden upstairs. The food is ok, but not great. Hill Country, really isn't that good. Fette Sau in Brooklyn would impress more. I think you are best off with something Japanese. Boston lacks in this area. My suggestions would be Robataya on 9th St.), Ippudo, Sakagura ( also cool that it's hidden in a basement), Soba Ya and Soba Koh are also good but not impressive. Sushi would be good but most of the good places are expensive, maybe Kanoyama but not the omakase is a good choice.

          1. Mission Chinese Food and Spotted Pig come immediately to mind. Though expect crazy waits. Good thing about both places is the proximity to other cool bars to grab a drink while you wait

            Would also recommend Rubirosa (great cocktails as well), Pylos, and for something different try Yakitori Totto. Can't imagine anything like Totto in Boston. Some skewered chocked thighs and skin, a bottle of shoju... just perfect.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Rizzobert

              Mission Chinese takes reservations via email. The cocktails aren't that good though.

              1. re: Rizzobert

                Thanks... would love to do Spotted Pig, but don't know if I want to spend hours waiting for a table.

                Yakitori Totto might work, though. BF loved Gyu-Kaku on our last New York trip, and it would be fun to do another style of Japanese food we've never tried. Do they take reservations? Will it be mobbed on a Saturday night at 8 or 9ish?

                1. re: nyc_to_ma

                  Yakitori Totto takes reservations until 7 pm, after which they're walk in only. I've felt a strong turn tables push from them when they get busy, which is understandable but annoying. Highly recommend the salad with tiny fried fish, and the chicken meatball skewers. But the lamb/beef really don't compare with the chicken, and aren't worth the $/stomach space.

                1. re: tongue_to_tail

                  My usual orders at Danji are 3-5 dishes and a cocktail each for 2. usually runs $70-$80 before tip. You can easily go over $100 if you do multiple cocktails or a bottle of wine but the food is priced very reasonably especially per quality.

                  1. re: halo

                    Thanks -- Danji looks great... it might work.