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Great but non stuffy restaurant recommendations

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Hi everyone
I along with my mum and sister are taking a much anticipated trip to NYC for Xmas. My mum is a big foodie and I'd love to treat her to a fabulous meal. She tends to go to Michelin star restaurants when she is holidaying. Basically I was hoping to get a few recommendations. The only thing is she has stated that she doesn't want anywhere too fussy or uptight. So I guess some recommendations for places with a somewhat comfortable atmosphere. That means I have ruled out the likes of EMP Daniel and jean George's. I was wondering about WD-50 and KO. The other concern I have is with getting reservations. We will be there over Xmas and were thinking about going for dinner on the 26 December or the 23 December. Will it be impossible to get a booking? Any advice would be very much appreciated.
Em

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  1. A few questions:

    Where are you traveling from?

    What is your budget, before tax, tip, and wine/drinks? It is easier to give recommendations if you have a dollar figure in mind, per person, for JUST food. Don't forget that sales tax is almost 9% here, and to account for a 20% gratuity.

    It sounds like you are a party of 3? Ko does not take bookings for parties of 3, they only do 1, 2, or 4, given the way the space is laid out. It is one long L shaped counter, the party of 4 sits at the bend.

    Most restaurants (but not all) in NYC book 28, 30, or 31 days in advance.

    Since you are planning ahead of time, you should be OK, especially if you are flexible on time (7-8pm will go the fastest). Especially if you call or use OpenTable exactly when their books open for the date that you want.

    1. The Modern
      Marea
      The NoMad
      Cafe Boulud

      1. You should also consider Atera and Jung Sik. I've had great dinners at both restaurants, and both have recently been awarded Michelin stars (Atera received 2 stars; Jung Sik received one star-but deserved 2 stars).

        2 Replies
        1. re: ellenost

          Hi everyone thanks for the replies. Good suggestions that I haven't come across up to now. Also good questions kathryn. We are travelling from Ireland and I suppose roughly our budget is 150 dollars per person without drinks, tax etc. So I suppose that won't get us to Per Se but we can be somewhat flexible around it. Thanks also for the information on the booking system. I'm new to all this!

          1. re: Emerate

            Marea
            Lincoln
            La Silhouette

        2. "Great but non-stuffy" = Babbo, to my mind.

          EMP I wouldn't describe as "stuffy" or "uptight" - they're actually quite relaxed in comparison to their Times four-star brethren. There's no jacket requirement, and the mood is more fun than reverant. But they're a little above your price point now that they're tasting-menu-only.

          That said, a couple things to consider - would your mother prefer menu choice or pre-set tasting menus? Because the latter is the only thing you can get at WD or Ko.

          I don't think there'll be problem getting a rez at WD if you book right away when the date you want comes open. They don't usually fill up instantly, the way a Ko or Brooklyn Fare does. But for that time of year, you never know. Hit Opentable first thing in the morning on the appropriate date, you should be fine.

          Keep in mind that many older patrons (and heck, some younger ones) find the backless barstool seating at Ko quite uncomfortable, especially over the lengthy period of a nine course meal. David Chang - love him to death, but he just doesn't get the concept of "chairs" for some reason.

          Otherwise, the suggestions above are all good - I'll second Marea (though I'd skip the secondi and go with pastas as mains), Lincoln, and Cafe Boulud for sure.

          I'll add:

          Bouley - again, not as stuffy as the Daniels and the Jean-Georges and Le Bernardins. Being downtown it doesn't have that "Midtown Corporate" vibe those places can.

          Aquavit - much more relaxed since they changed the dining room. Food is out of the park of late, just got their first (well deserved) Mich star.

          Corton - another place to consider if you're looking towards doing a tasting menu.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sgordon

            Babbo came to my mind, for "great but non-stuffy", too!

            Good to hear Aquavit has been so good lately. It's been on my wishlist for a long time.

            Maybe Wallse would also work for the OP.

            1. re: prima

              Again thanks so much for the replies I have a great list and I will just see who I can get a reservation for. Thats great information about Bouley and Ko as I would have thought from other posts Bouley was a bit too stuffy and I personally would find the backless chairs a bit of a distraction from delicious food!
              I am there for 10 days and my priority is to get a good restaurant to bring my mum. If I seem to be able to get swing a few reservations I will make them for other nights. I will feedback on my experiences afterwards....very excited!