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Looking for a specific "vibe" for a visitor

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I have a friend coming in next month who works in design and tends to get more worked up about the space of the restaurant than the food. She especially seems to be into the homey/"faux-rustic" thing--I don't know what the hell you call it--tons of reclaimed wood, unfinished surfaces and chipped paint, exposed brick, bare lightbulbs, etc. etc. Places like Isa, Marlow & Sons, Vinegar Hill House, Edi and the Wolf, Buvette, *maybe* Freemans are springing to mind.

So my aim is to find a place with some good atmosphere to satisfy her that is serving up the best food (relatively speaking) to satisfy me, but am kind of drawing a blank. Mostly looking for Manhattan, just listed the Brooklyn examples since they seem to be all over that aesthetic. Price range under $30-$40pp (including maybe one or two dishes and maybe one beer or btg wine each, pre-tax/tip). Location doesn't matter, but I'm pretty sure this species is rare if not non-existent above 14th.

Also looking for a "modern" asian spot that's relatively inexpensive (ie., not sushi), and am debating between Red Farm or Mission Chinese. Thoughts?

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  1. For a place with filament bulbs but a more sleek/less rustic design sensibility, look into Public. They're also right in your price range and have excellent food. AvroKo is the design firm, they have a lot of interesting looking restaurants.

    Maybe one of their other restaurants, like Saxon and Parole, would appeal as well?

    For Asian, also look into Wong, where a lot of the decor is refurbished and reclaimed objects.

    You guys might also like the shabby chic look of ABC Kitchen. They reuse cardboard for coasters, use clipboards for menus, and all the serving ware is also sold by ABC Carpet and Home. Lots of "grandma plates" as well.

    Personally I would choose Mission Chinese because I love spicy food and they take reservations via email. This far in advance, you shouldn't have a problem. I don't think RedFarm takes any reservations at all, so the wait might be long.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Great suggestions, kathryn, thanks! Been meaning to try brunch at Public, so now's as good a time as any. Will have to go back and look at the menus of the others.

      I'll probably end up doing MCF for purely selfish reasons. But even without reservations, I think she'd like the novelty of the free beer : )

      1. re: crsin

        Saxon and Parole is run by a design group, Avroko, and they may agree with your friend that the space is more important than the food. I havent eaten there though, so I cant comment. I would also suggest the whole Ace Hotel complex, designed by Roman and Williams. Maybe Peels? The Wren for drinks? Peels is a bit more finished, country house, rather than barn. Keith McNally usually has great interiors in his spots, not usually faux rustic, but faux something.

    2. There's a tea house with good food and a shabby chic interior called Podunk in the east village. The have sweet and savory sets to go with the teas so it's a very good spot for breakfast or lunch (no beer though). Just turn your cel phones off and put them away if you go there, the owner objects to things like that (she wants to make it clear that it's not a starbucks). I've had a savory set there a couple times with a friend. Food was good and the atmosphere was cozy.

      1. Thanks a lot Hey19 and alkonost, all great suggestions. Also like the idea of giving her her design fix though drinks, tea, etc. and heading elsewhere for food.

        1. Sorry its not Manhattan, but I could not help but think of Aurora in Williamsburg with your parameters: great food, brick walls, wrought iron garden, found objects on the walls,plank floors and general neat and hip feeling.