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Oct 17, 2012 07:30 AM

Dinner rec's, not stiff white table cloths

I'm visiting New York with my SO in a few weeks. Staying just south of Central Park, but we can dine anywhere in Manhattan.

I've been a couple of times before. My favourite experience has been eating at the bar at the Gramercy Tavern - lots of fun talking to random people, and even sharing the meatball dish with the stranger next to me (he assured me it was the best meatball I would ever eat in my life, haha!). So, I will likely go to the Gramercy Tavern again and try and get a spot at the bar.

I'm looking for some fun and interesting dinner's. We like gourmet food, but not in stiff, white table cloth restaurants (boring!). Any suggestions for fun/different restaurant experiences in NY? Maybe somewhere with communal tables? We aren't interested in dinner theatre, as we want the food to be the main interest.

For reference, we loved the Purple Pig in Chicago (big communal tables, tapas style food), and I do love eating at the bar at the Gramercy Tavern (I've also had the tasting menu at the back of the Tavern, which was great food, but a little 'conserative' compared to the front bar).


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  1. "Not white tablecloth" still leaves a LOT of restaurants that you could possibly enjoy.

    Given the references to Purple Pig and Gramercy Tavern, it seems like you're most interested in American/French/Mediterranean food? What about Italian? Asian?

    What's the price range you're thinking of, per person, for just food?

    Off the top of my head, you might like:
    Momofuku Ssam Bar
    Joseph Leonard
    Prune - great bone marrow dish
    Any of the Blue Ribbons
    Mission Chinese
    Salumeria Rosi - great charcuterie
    Bar Boulud - great charcuterie

    5 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      We are coming from Toronto, which has a good selection of Asian food. So, other than probably getting a cheap lunch in chinatown on day, we probably won't do a Chinese dinner. And we probably wouldn't do Italian as that is our least faroutie (eating out) food.

      So American/French/Medi is mostly what we are looking for.

      I think I've already read that Bar Baloud has a communal table? And Also Ssam interests as it seems to get a lot of reviews on chowhound (even if it is Asian, we we may not do for dinner!). I haven't hard of the others on your list, so I will look them all up. Thanks!

      1. re: Tboy

        Well now that there's 4 Momofukus in Toronto, you might be OK skipping Ssam Bar, although it is excellent and what Momo is doing in Toronto is quite different.

        For your inexpensive lunch, I would recommend Xian Famous Foods. Or for something completely different and quite creative, try Mission Chinese Food (which is a San Francisco transplant).

        1. re: kathryn

          Yes Momofukus opened about 3 weeks ago in Toronto just by my apartment, but I'm yet to go try it.

      2. re: kathryn

        Price range, up to $25 for a main course dish. We are willing to pay more, but it would have to be good food. I love the prices at Gramercy, the bar prices are excellent value for the quality of the main dishes. We do love tapas style though (like the purple pig) where you can have more of a selection of food.

        1. re: Tboy

          For creative small plates,I do like Momofuku Ssam Bar, Bar Room at the Modern, Txikito, Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya, Tertulia, Kin Shop, Fatty Cue, ABC Kitchen. Mission Chinese is very shareable as well. And I've heard great things about Danji. And even though you don't seem to love Italian, Sorella does some nice small plates as well.

      3. If you re going to be in town on a Sunday and loved the bar at Gramercy (as we do), then make sure to sit at the bar for lunch at Union Square Cafe (another of our favorites). The bartender Victoria (the one who always wears a flower in her hair) is such a sweetheart! She will make your afternoon a dining pleasure. Plus, the food is excellent.

        Also, try sitting at the bar for lunch at Otto when Dennis, the bar manger, is on. Order some antipasti, a salumi or two and share a pasta. Ask Dennis for some wine suggestions. Another great meal and experience.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ttoommyy

          We actually leave on a Sunday. Is the Union Sqare Cafe worth visiting on another day, or are you saying specifically just on a Sunday is worth a visit?

          1. re: Tboy

            USC is wonderful any day of the week, but the regualr table seating may be too "formal" for what you have requested. That's why I recommended the bar and I know for sure Victoria works Sunday lunches. You could always call the restaurant and see if she is working when you want to go.

        2. You might enjoy the sausages at DBGB, appetizers and dumplings at RedFarm, and small plates at Yunnan Kitchen, Wong, Empellon Taqueria, Modern Bar Room, Cannibal, Tap Room at Colicchio & Sons, Salumeria Rosi, and Kin Shop.

          7 Replies
          1. re: peter j

            I was going to second RedFarm. They also have communal tables if you want.

            1. re: melpy

              Dim Sum would be interesting. There aren't many decent Dim Sum places in Toronto. RedFarms looks good but the dim sum menu is kinda short. I expect there are some chinatown dimsum places with a more extensive menu?

              1. re: Tboy

                I'm quite shocked that you don't think there are many decent Dim Sum places in Toronto. Having lived in Toronto for almost 13 years and gone back to visit family on a regular basis, I would venture that dim sum in Toronto is far and away superior to most of what New York has to offer. I do have to qualify my statement by saying that I have not been to RedFarm or Hakkasan, though.

                1. re: kyph0515

                  I live right downtown Toronto and there are only a couple of Dim Sum places in the downtown area. To get good dim sum you need to go around an hour north of downtown to Markham where there is a big Chinese community. I live downtown and don't have a car, so I'm limited to the 3 or so "ok" dim sum places. Are you talking about the north of the city restaurants when you visit your family?

                  1. re: Tboy


                    I lived in Markham and then in Richmond Hill. I reckon Highway 7 alone has more quality dim sum places than NYC does. When I go back and eat out I eat almost exclusively Chinese.

                    1. re: kyph0515

                      I'm glad you clarified! For a moment I thought there was going to be a dim sum place downtown that I didn't know about! :)

                2. re: Tboy

                  Hakkasan in Times Square supposedly has great dimsum but I haven't tried it yet.

                  In Chinatown, Dim Sum Go Go is where I, umm, go. I'm not a huge fan of the rolling cart places but other hounds might have some recs.

                  Red Farm serves creative dimsum. It's not traditional if that's what you're looking for.

            2. A little off my own topic, but anybody think the Grand Central Oyster Bar (just for Oysters) would be worth a visit? I've walk ed past a number of times but never gone in. The oyster list looks pretty long.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tboy

                they oyster list is impressively long and they do a huge volume too - its a great place to sit at the bar with a beer and enjoy a wide array of oysters and watch the guys shuck (they work hard). general advice is to avoid any of the other food - the cooked items are nothing special and pretty pricey. I love the space and id say its a must-see for an oyster fan.

              2. Pylos has a communal table in the back. It's a good Greek restaurant that's pleasant and has fun decor, but I think everything is about $5 overpriced or so.