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Moderate Priced but Memorable suggestions

DC hound here looking for some suggestions. Two of us will be visiting Manhattan the second weekend of December to enjoy the Christmas decorations. We need a place for lunch and dinner on Saturday. We want to stay under $50 per person before tax and tip and would like to stay in Manhattan. I was looking through Adam Platt's 101 for 2012 and we liked a lot of ideas. By looking at that, we decided we wanted: new American, Italian, farm to table, and perhaps seafood. We would stay away from Asian, Spanish, Mexican, and the like. Some of our favorites from browsing the list would be: Gramercy Park Tavern, Sfoglia, Craft (in tap room), Del Posto, Eataly, and Blue Hill.

Please let me know what you think.

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  1. Blue Hill is an excellent start.
    For really good Italian without being pricey there is Crispos.
    In fact, all of your choices are good ones. It really depends on where you'll be at the time.
    For brunch don't miss the historical Katz' deli.
    A unique NY experience for breakfast would be Shopsins.

    1 Reply
    1. re: arepo

      I'm not sure you can eat at Blue Hill for $50 per person.

      You certainly can't at Del Posto (unless they've reinstated their lunch deal).

      I assume dave means the bar room at Gramercy Tavern (no "Park"). That's within range. Certainly not the dining room.

      Also, Craft doesn't have a "tap room". Dave must mean Colicchio & Sons.

    2. DaCiro in Murray Hill has excellent Italian in your price range if you don't drink.
      Grand Central Oyster Bar for amazing oysters and chowder. The rest of the menu is not memorable. Make sure you eat at the oyster bar. It's a not tot be missed NYC moment.
      Penelope for an interesting Brunch
      Boca di Bacco on 9th Ave is also excellent reasonable Italian if you don't drink

      1. This might help.

        Looking for "neighborhood finds" in the mid-town/downtown area - Seafood, Italian, American Nouveau

        1. Lunch at Bar Room at the Modern came to just under $50/person, including coffee and other non-alchoholic beverages, not including tax or tip. 4 of us shared 8 savoury plates and one dessert. Memorable meal, look forward to going back.

          1. See what's available on Savored.com - 30% off at quite a few places, you can have a meal that's a step up from $50 for a bit less.

            It might be slightly over your starting budget, but Aquavit is on there and has been pretty fantastic of late - the prix fixe would be $60 before t/t at the discounted price, but it's four courses instead of the usual three. Well worth it.

            Collichio & Sons Tap Room might be doable at that price, if you liked Gramercy Tavern and Craft. Also maybe consider Riverpark - with careful ordering, you could come in at under $50, especially sharing a dessert. ABC Kitchen as well.

            The Verdure and Pesce mini-restaurants in Eataly are both great and very reasonable in terms of price.

            Maialino and Locanda Verde cound be worth looking into as well. I'd also recommend Tertulia and Salinas around the same price range but... no Spanish, oh well.

            Momofuku Ssam Bar (not Asian, as the name might suggest - New American with various fusion touches) could be good.

            Maybe check out Public - especially on Sunday nights, they do a Sunday Supper - $50 for 5 courses, all new creations not on the regular menu, it's where Chef Farmerie really has fun. A steal for the price. Great every other night of the week (and one of the best brunches in town) as well.

            3 Replies
            1. re: sgordon

              Riverpark is still closed due to the storm. That's one of the bldgs still without power due to wiring damage in the flooded basement.

              1. re: sgordon

                Maialino is wonderful. I think $50 might be tough, though.

                1. re: plf515

                  If they stick to pastas it wouldn't be an issue, though by the OP's new price point (entrees < $35) they certainly fit the bill. Other than the usual outliers (lamb and such) all the entrees come under that pretty handily, IIRC.

              2. Go to Upstate, new seafood restaurant in the east village its off the chain

                9 Replies
                1. re: AubWah

                  Thanks to everyone so far. I don't think my brain was attached to my typing hands on my initial post. I will offer some further clarifications.
                  Only one of us is drinking (and maybe I won't even drink) but that doesn't play into my budget.
                  Rather than $50 per person, maybe I should have said around $35 or less for an entree. We would likely share an app or dessert and than have an entree. I would pay for a $60 three course meal if I needed to stretch my budget a little.
                  I have been to NYC several times but the gf has not. Therefore, we will likely be eating at places that are somewhat convenient to touristy areas. This trip is hers and I won't distract TOO much by eating. Read: no ground zero touring followed by Red Rooster.
                  Yes, I meant Gramercy Tavern ( sorry for the typo) because I really admire Danny Meyer. I was also thinking Craft or Craftbar.
                  Cannot be too fancy because we will be touring
                  We will likely be eating lunch casually, like in lounge areas of nice restaurants, if possible.
                  Would aim to have something a bit healthy or at least not super heavy. Neither of us like offal.

                  I hope this helps contonie the great conversation!

                  1. re: daves_32

                    Alternatively, running into a restraurant as a break from touring and have one can't miss $25 dish, I wouldn't mind doing that either.

                    Also, we will likely keep breakfast light and brunch dishes are not necessarily going to fit into the schedule.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Wow Kathryn. Thanks for all the links. I will definitely check those out. I tried doing some searching first but thought I was missing the point a little.

                        As for proximity, even though we will be touring, we want to relax and enjoy ourselves as well. My expectation is that if we found places we really wanted to eat, we would just grab a cab to that place, as long as it was not more than 20 or so minutes each way.

                        1. re: daves_32

                          It can be tough to grab a cab at some of the tourist spots I mentioned. Also between shift change (4-5pm) you'll be fighting with a lot of other people for a cab. You might end up sitting 20+ minutes in traffic when walking or the subway would have been faster. Better to have a list of close-by options so you have a plan B, C, D, E, and F, just in case!

                      2. re: daves_32

                        The geographical constraints of being near tourist sites are going to be the biggest limiting factor; many of the suggestions you've been given so far are not near popular tourist destinations like Central Park, The Met, 5th Avenue's department stores, etc.

                        Craft doesn't serve lunch and is maybe a little more formal than you want, so it would have to be Craftbar. You should also look into ABC Kitchen, which is also "farm to table" and casual. It's quite close to Union Square if you happen to be there.

                        Since you are also here on a weekend, you should note that many restaurants either don't serve weekend lunch or they are on a weekend brunch schedule for both Saturday AND Sunday.

                    1. re: AubWah

                      I like Upstate, but I think it's better for oysters and drinks pre-dinner rather than a dinner destination. Does it still qualify as new?

                      1. re: Nancy S.

                        I like Upstate too for oysters but I think it is most definitely on the chain for the other stuff

                        1. re: MVNYC

                          Oh sorry.. I am late to this party. No place that specializes in oysters

                    2. Yakitori tasting menu 'Omakase' at the 1* Tori Shin. Tasty food and exactly $50 per person!! Their chicken sashimi will definitely be 'memorable'!!!!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        ToriShin sounds good but I think the earlier suggestions are more in line with what will work for this trip

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          I will have to try that myself, sounds great. But this person says he wants to stay away from Asian; probably Yakitori qualifies as "very Asian"! (I, on the other hand, love Asian).

                        2. Sfoglia is good food but the service is spotty and the price point is a bit high. You would do better with Da Ciro as mentioned below.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: princeofpork3

                            ABC Kitchen looks like it could really fit the bill, particularly for lunch on saturday or sunday. Unfortunately, the website is wonky for me and I cannot see the whole menu. Could someone give me the two sentence description, please? Thank you!

                            1. re: daves_32

                              You can also see a representative menu on Menupages.com.

                              1. re: kathryn

                                Kathryn- do you have a blog? I would read your reviews and opinions constantly.

                          2. For Italian, I would recommend Dell' Anima, Rubirosa, or Barbuto. Dell' Anima has some of the best pastas in the city and a nice romantic vibe. Barbuto is farm-to-table Italian and has one of the best chicken dishes in the city.

                            For farm-to-table, you could probably do ABC Kitchen - though I often spend more than $50 per person there.

                            For seafood, gotta do Aquagrill - best oysters and delicious composed dishes.

                            Other places do look out include Pylos for great Greek and small plates. Also, if you don't mind waiting, then the Spotted Pig.

                            1. Thanks so much for all the great suggestions! I'm the oyster-hating gf - thought it was time I weigh in :)

                              Italian is almost always delicious. Crispo and Barbuto are singing to me - but are they unique and memorable, or just solid, delicious Italian food? Da Ciro looks great as well.

                              Dave is interested in going to a Danny Meyer restaurant, and we've narrowed it down to North End Grill, Maialino, and Gramercy Tavern. Looks like Gramercy Tavern and Maialino are the faves - any thoughts on North End Grill?

                              Aquavit looks incredible. It's definitely on the short list, even though it's a smidge expensive.

                              And we're thinking about Penelope for lunch. A few of you have recommended ABC Kitchen, but is it really good? No one's raving, and farm-to-table places seem to be hit-or-miss a lot of the time.

                              Thanks again for your help! Dave's making sure my first visit to NYC is wonderful (isn't he sweet?), and y'all's input is definitely appreciated.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: elizebeth

                                Barbuto is more unique and memorable than Crispo.

                                I am no fan of ABC Kitchen -- but to me, choosing Penelope over it would be an act of near insanity.

                                I am personally a big fan of the North End Grill. The Danny Meyer restaurants you mention are all so completely different from each other that it's hard to make a recommendation without knowing what you want. (Think of it this way: it's like saying, "I want to see an MGM movie. Should I see 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'Adam's Rib', or 'Skyfall'"? Hard to answer without more information.)

                                1. re: Sneakeater

                                  Wizard of Oz for sure.
                                  You cant choose Penelope over ABC. Its not even close.

                                2. re: elizebeth

                                  Grand Central Oyster Bar also has great fried Calamari and other apps for you while the bf slurps down a hal dozen oysters.
                                  The ambience is not to be missed. Even if you don't eat there take a stroll thru.

                                  1. re: Motosport

                                    If she doesn't like oysters, she can have clams.

                                    (HAR HAR HAR)

                                    1. re: Sneakeater

                                      Funny, my wife likes raw oysters but not fried or baked oysters.
                                      She likes baked clams but not raw. Go figure?

                                      1. re: Motosport

                                        No telling on the oysters, but I'd say it's impossible not to like baked clams!

                                        1. re: Motosport

                                          My wife is exactly the same. Is your's from New England?

                                    2. re: elizebeth

                                      Sounds like we should nix Penelope and ABC altogether. Would Grand Central Oyster Bar be a decent place for lunch? It does look pretty cool! Seafood's great; anything that requires "slurping" is off my list though.

                                      Maybe we'll do Barbuto one night, and either Gramercy Tavern or North End Grill the other (no Maialino if we're getting Barbuto). As for comparing apples and oranges (or Adam's Rib and Skyfall :)...maybe Dave will weigh in later on what he's looking for in a DM restaurant. If they're both great, maybe one neighborhood is a cooler place to walk around after dinner?

                                      1. re: elizebeth

                                        Other than the appetizers, chowders and oysters at the Oyster Bar the rest of the menu is not memorable. Good but definitely not great. Use the Oyster Bar for appetizers and then head off to ............................... If the weather is nice it's a fun walk down to Gramercy.
                                        Stop at Kalustayan's if they are open. It's an amazing place.

                                      2. re: elizebeth

                                        I really like the food at ABC Kitchen but find the room a bit loud, and furniture a little uncomfortable, and it's pretty popular so needing to reserve way in advance (or waiting) can be annoying. The "shabby chic" look can be nice though. Love the salted caramel sundae. And the crab toast. There's probably more I'm getting.

                                      3. How are Asian, Spanish and Mexican " the like"?

                                        Here are some Italian that I have enjoyed:

                                        Aria Wine Bar
                                        Da Andrea
                                        Il Melograno

                                        And some others which I don't think are "like" what you have mentioned. I am assuming East Asian for Asian.


                                        16 Replies
                                        1. re: melpy

                                          Here's the plan. Critique if you wish. Thanks for all your help thus far.
                                          Friday evening: playing late casual dinner by ear around MSG and Theater District (Suggestions please)
                                          Saturday morning: Penelope (or other breakfast place around midtown)
                                          Saturday night: Gramercy Tavern Tavern room (by 6 to avoid waits)
                                          Sunday morning: bagels and coffee
                                          Sunday lunch: Barbuto for lunch/brunch

                                          1. re: daves_32

                                            How late is late on Friday? And how far are you willing to go? I don't know anything below the 50s, unfortunately, but if you're willing to trek that far, Totto Ramen opens til midnight, Don Antonio til 1AM on Friday, and Casellula til 2AM.

                                            1. re: daves_32

                                              Friday night - your late night casual dinner may be very dependent upon timing. Some restaurants close at 10:30pm or 11pm. How late is late? For example, I love Keens near MSG but it closes at 10:30pm. I love the Bar Room at the Modern on 53rd between 5th and 6th, but it closes at 11pm.

                                              Also a lot of the ones that are open may a) not be the cuisine you want or b) push your budget. Many of the good places that stay open late near MSG and Theatre District are Korean (esp near MSG), Thai (esp near Hell's Kitchen), or Japanese.

                                              I would suggest NOT playing it by ear here and having SOLID plans, especially if you are seeing a Broadway show and squeezing in before the kitchen closes somewhere. You'll have a lot more options if you go downtown.

                                              See also:

                                              Saturday morning - how about the Breslin instead? Delicious, not super expensive, but there can be long waits. They are kind of close to Midtown.

                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                Late is not THAT late. It is just dependent on when we arrive in town. Expected around 9:00 or so

                                                1. re: daves_32

                                                  OK, that makes sense. A lot of people post here looking for post-theatre late dinner recommendations. Which is why I mentioned it.

                                                  1. re: kathryn

                                                    They are all great recommendations. I was thinking more along the lines of sandwich, pizza, or noodle shop. Street food over nice sit down restaurant for Friday night.

                                                    I think we will do Breslin on Saturday morning

                                                    1. re: daves_32

                                                      Lots of sandwich places in Midtown close on the early side, since they get the big crowds during lunch (due to all of the office workers in the area).

                                                      For pizza, would Don Antonio, mentioned above, work?

                                                      For a noodle shop, are you saying you DO want Asian for this meal? Like Totto Ramen or Pure Thai?

                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                        I would recommend Yakitori Totto for midtown - it's a little further uptown, but close enough to the Theater district. It is open late night and popular with chefs. A sit down meal, but also quite casual.

                                                        A more casual option would be the 53rd and 6th Halal cart. It isn't the best halal in the city, but it is the most famous. Chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and one of the hottest hot sauces out there. It's a long line... but one of those only in NY things.

                                                        If you are into spicy Chinese food, then there are some good Szechuan restaurants near Penn Station. Szechuan Gourmet is my favorite... but Lan Sheng and Cafe China are also good options. The Mapo Tofu and the Double Cooked Pork Belly are must orders.

                                                        Lastly, there is always Shake Shack.

                                              2. re: daves_32

                                                "Bagels and coffee Sunday morning" we want you to experience the best!!
                                                In my order of preference:
                                                Ess-A-Bagel 2 locations
                                                Tal Bagel 2 locations
                                                Vic's Bagel Bar on 3rd Av and E 36 St.
                                                Hit the one that is the most convenient. They are all very good.

                                                1. re: Motosport

                                                  Help us refresh this list. Staying near Gramercy Park. Eataly? Gramercy Tavern (Tavern room) on a Saturday--long wait? Neightborhood place? Other ideas?

                                                  1. re: daves_32

                                                    Where did you end up last time? Did you stick to your previous plan?

                                                    Still $50pp before tax/tip? American, Italian, seafood, farm to table, only, no oysters and no other cuisines?

                                                    1. re: kathryn

                                                      confession time: I got sick in November and we did not do the November trip. We still stay around the same criteria. I am digging the idea of the tasting menu at Gramercy Tavern. we will now be there on saturday and sunday nights (through monday morning)

                                                      1. re: daves_32

                                                        I'd try to squeeze in a brunch at ABC Kitchen. GT's front Tavern Room to save money. Eataly's seafood counter would be good, too. Look up Ponty Bistro as well, which has gotten some good reviews here. A little further away is Northern Spy Co, Hearth, or Motorino. Maybe breakfast at Maialino before you leave. Defonte's or Lamazou for sandwiches for the trip home.

                                                        1. re: kathryn

                                                          I used to like Hearth, but it got less and less memorable and after my last rather expensive and not very tasty trip, I gave up. There was never anything bad but the sometimes way too slow service, but I think it's a poor value.

                                              3. re: melpy

                                                melpy, which dishes do you recommend the most at Akdeniz? TIA.

                                                1. re: prima

                                                  I believe we had the falafel and the mixed grill.

                                              4. Thanks so much to all of you for the great suggestions! We had the most wonderful weekend in New York, despite the cold wind. I think we are both already ready to go back!

                                                Here's where we ended up:

                                                Saturday lunch - Margon: a hole in the wall Cuban place with a hearty, warm lunch...probably not going to win any prizes but we really enjoyed it.

                                                Saturday dinner - Eataly: Uhh, we are SO glad we didn't miss this. The mozzarella they make onsite is amazingly good, great drinks in the upstairs restaurant/bar, and great, simple pasta dishes. Also, the gelato was the best I've had in the states. And, while waiting for a table in the pasta restaurant, we were able to sample cheeses from the huge cheese counter in the prosciutto/cheese section.

                                                Sunday breakfast - Ess a Bagel: perfect.

                                                Sunday lunch - ABC Kitchen: maybe we ordered the wrong stuff, but our food was just so-so (and the coffee...yikes). A+ for atmosphere though.

                                                Sunday dinner - Gramercy Tavern (Tavern Room): Great food (we ordered duck consomme to start, arctic char and pork chop as main dishes, and went elsewhere for dessert). Nice atmosphere. Kind of a long wait, even though we got there at 5:45 (surely because it was a holiday weekend). And a slightly condescending server, but she was attentive nonetheless. We were both pleased with our meal there, for sure...the dishes were really nicely composed.

                                                Again - thanks for the input. We were super grateful to have recommendations to lean on and didn't have a single unpleasant meal. And we are planning to go back in the spring, so we'll get to try some of your other suggestions next time!