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What's after Babbo - two days/one night in February?

Wife and I are heading to the city first weekend in February with another couple for some fun and great food. They haven't been to NYC in ages, and really only know Midtown...so we're showing them our New York (below 14th).

Anyway, we've already eaten at Babbo...and Scarpetta...the Dutch...Market Table...and many other foodie destinations. Trying to come up with an utterly fantastic and memorable dinner without returning anywhere (selfish we know). Babbo is definitely our favorite restaurant, and I'm hoping to find something equally amazing. Food is priority, but we also need fun/vibrant scene. Right now I'm thinking either Minetta Tavern or Locanda Verde, but want to make sure I'm not depriving them of anything because I still feel we should go back to Babbo (my wife wants something else). I loved atmosphere at Forgione as well.

Looking to avoid the Ultra Exclusive EMP and Per Se as I want a more relaxed vibe. While they're also in midtown, I'm not ruling out Le Bernadin though. Might do brunch at Balthazar so not thinking that.

Any cuisine is fine, he was once a chef and we all just love fine food. I'm also thinking Momofuku Ssam for lunch (can we make it to a matinee in Times Square if we do?).

Hoping for some reassurance or anything I should absolutely be considering in addition to Minetta and LV!

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  1. Would anyone recommend any of the adorable little West Village spots over Minetta or LV? Little Owl, Perilla, Joseph Leonard? Are there any that are far and away better?

    3 Replies
      1. re: sean_f

        These are all good neighborhood spots but not really destinations. If you really want to do one, maybe Joseph Leonard for brunch, but if you have only one dinner slot, do something else.

        1. re: sean_f

          Would not recommend any of those over Minetta Tavern.

        2. If you are only here two days and one night, then Minetta Tavern would be my choice. Especially if you love steak. Great food, fun scene, great atmosphere. Not cheap and a little crampy and noisy. But it's classic NY to me.

          Instead of Momofuku Ssam for lunch, make a reservation at Ma Peche. It's much closer and also delicious. If you want to be in a food coma, reserve the excellent chicken and rice meal. Though you might sleep through the play unless you grab a cup of Stumptown from Milk Bar on the way out.

          For brunch, you could do Locanda Verde then, instead of Balthazar. Their ricotta with burnt orange toast is excellent, as is the eggs modenese, breakfast pastries, and cocktails.

          2 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            My wife actually had breakfast at LV (without me) and was really unimpressed with the famed ricotta pancakes. But maybe I can sway her.

            Thanks for the reassurance, so far in the responses I think I'm leaning towards Minetta. Now to secure a coveted reso.

            1. re: sean_f

              I think their pancakes/French toast are only OK at LV, I prefer the egg dishes, pastries, and more "lunch" type items. Personally I find the lemon curd on the LV pancakes to be too much.

          2. Minetta Tavern is great. Other alternatives to Babbo:

            The NoMad

            Momofuku Ssam Bar is quite far from the theater district. You should estimate about 30-45 minutes by subway. Ma Peche or Marea might be better options depending on the day of your matinee.

            Le Bernardin is great though the cooking is far more subtle compared the other restaurants on your list. Consider the lounge for a more relaxed atmosphere.

              1. If you loved Babbo, try Manzo at Eataly, though it's not below 14th. Yes, it's in the middle of crazy busy Eataly, but it is shielded from the hustle and bustle. The quality of the food is excellent, but the atmospherevis definitely more relaxedvthan EMP. And bybthe way, whilevthe food at LV is good, the service is not always so. In fact, it can be poor. See this thread (be sure to read all of it):

                1 Reply
                1. imo, i'd recommend you should look further afield...

                  imo, Babbo (and all the quasi-associated Batali establishments) are utter crap...formulaic lard+lemon+$=food for tourists, w/ staff who sell that as they are told to do and smugly justify their day jobs by smarming their way through their hours...

                  the David McChang chain is similar...

                  Consider: Marea, Osteria Morini, Rouge et Blanc, Bar Pitti, Scarpetta, The NoMad, and our many fine Japanese restaurants as better and more honestly delicious options...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Simon

                    So you don't consider Scarpetta to a formulaic chain? I'm just not sure I agree with you about Babbo being crap.

                    Although I would love to try Rouge et Blanc, I'm leaning more towards a "grander" scene. Osteria Morini sounds delicious too.

                  2. Babbo is also, for my money, one of my favorite restaurants in NYC, but here are a few others I'm known to haunt...

                    +1 for The NoMad, though I'm not as big a fan of the room as some others.

                    ACME might fit the bill - fun, boisterous crowd, excellent food, around the same price point (even slightly lower)

                    It's no rez, but Momofuku Ssam Bar is fantastic - again, similar price point, VERY relaxed vibe, fun adventurous menu, hearty bold flavors.

                    Marc Forgione is another good option in that vein, his "classic" dishes (Chili Lobster, BBQ oysters, Halibut Proposal) are as good as anything in town.

                    Locanda Verde is good, fun ambience, though food-wise not on the same level as Babbo.

                    Minetta is great, but not really a "destination" place IMHO - the food is all well executed, delicious, but not terribly creative. Also, if you're planning on hitting Balthazar for lunch, you might not want to do both. Better to mix it up a bit.

                    If you're in town on a weekend, PUBLIC for brunch is spectacular - no rezzies for brunch, but usually not too long a wait if at all. They're also good for dinner, but their brunch is a standout in a town of many good brunches.

                    Le Bernardin is decidedly not a relaxed vibe. Very corporate / hotel lobby. Not as stuffy as, say, Daniel, but still pretty stuffy. EMP is actually far more relaxed in atmosphere - you could show up in jeans and a t-shirt if you like, and you'll get the same excellent level of service as anyone else. That said, it's significantly more expensive.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: sgordon

                      > you could show up in jeans and a t-shirt if you like

                      What? Can I try this?

                        1. re: sgordon

                          I'll make sure to bring a folded-up blazer and collared shirt, in case.

                          1. re: calf

                            Well, I've been there and done it, so I can vouch for my own veracity on this. And I wasn't the only one in the room dressed that way, either. Just be clean (don't wear holey jeans) and I'd stick with a solid-color shirt, not some garish Ed Hardy abomination that looks like a clown vomited on it.

                            Of course, this time of year it's a bit chilly to be going anywhere in just a t-shirt. So maybe throwing a swetaer or cardigan over it would be wise, if only not to catch your death of cold.

                      1. re: sgordon

                        > +1 for The NoMad, though I'm not as big a fan of the room as some others.

                        It also kind of depends which of the rooms you're seated in.

                        > Minetta is great, but not really a "destination" place IMHO

                        It is one of the top steaks in the city, though.

                        There aren't many places that have that old school NY type of room AND good food. Keens, Minetta, Monkey Bar...

                        > If you're in town on a weekend, PUBLIC for brunch is spectacular - no rezzies for brunch, but usually not too long a wait if at all.

                        Weekend before last, we tried to walk in around 2pm with a party of 4 at Public, and they told us it would be a 1 hour wait for brunch. We ended up grabbing seats at the bar in order to eat.

                        When we left, there were a few parties of 2 still waiting as well.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Does Monkey Bar still have good food? I heard their flirtation with quality was pretty short-lived before the chef took off.

                          To me, a place whose main claim to fame is a good steak isn't "destination" worthy, personally. I mean, if you come from a major metropolitan area (admittedly, we don't know where the OP is coming from) - a great steak is... not something to go out of one's way for. There's probably equal (or near-equal) back at home. I would seek out places with more chef's creativity.

                          Also, since they were planning on hitting Balthazar anyway, I wouldn't see too much reason to do both - they're very similar, though I think Minetta is better, most of the time. They could swap one for the other, though (do Public for brunch instead of Balthazar...)

                          Of course, going back to Babbo is always a good option as well! I could eat the octopus and tongue apps once a week and never get tired of them, frankly. (Okay, maybe once a month...)

                          To me, getting seats at the bar at Public is the same as getting seats at a table. If it's a big party obviously that wouldn't work. But that aside, I'd try to get there <12:00 for the best shot. 2:00 is prime brunch time everywhere.

                          1. re: sgordon

                            Would you say that ACME is more chef driven than Minetta? I did a search for ACME here, and noticed that recently you said the scene was very much akin to the Dutch. Whose scene we really loved and would be spot on for what we're looking for. But it got me thinking about our huge desire for making food the parallel star of the night (execution, creativity, taste, etc).

                            1. re: sean_f

                              Acme is totally chef-driven. The chef who drives it was a co-founder of The Most Famous Restaurant In The Entire World.

                              1. re: Sneakeater

                                Absolutely chef-driven. Although his influence on Noma's success is to be debated (I think many would say that it's Rene Redzepi & Claus Meyer who really defined the restaurant, and it only hit its stride after Refslund left) he's an enormously successful chef in his own right, and his solo venture after Noma (Restaurant MR) certainly racked up the plaudits, if not quite so high as Noma's

                          2. re: kathryn

                            I think Minetta is so good at what it does -- and, really, so much better than everyone else in NYC that tries to do it -- that it kind of becomes a destination by default.

                            (I agree that it would be a waste to go to both Minetta and Balthazar in a short visit. But between the two, I think Minetta is the clear choice -- IF you can get a reservation.)

                            PS -- Sgordon, you don't consider Luger's a destination? REALLY?

                            1. re: Sneakeater

                              Well, it depends where a person is coming from - if they're coming from Boston, LA, Chicago, Toronto, some other big city - then no, I don't. Why waste a meal on something you can get (or get near to) at home? Go someplace more unique, somewhere chef-driven.

                              If someone's coming in from, like, Eastern Connecticut, though... or if someone isn't terribly interested in creativity / cheffiness, just meat & taters... yeah, sure, hit up Luger's or Keen's.

                          3. re: sgordon

                            Acme is a GREAT suggestion for these guys.

                            1. re: sgordon

                              ACME Is a great suggestion, I'm putting that in the running. Thanks sgordon!

                              1. re: sean_f

                                Just get your rezzies as early as possible - especially on weekends, they fill up quick. (could say the same for most of the above places)

                                ACME I believe does one month calendar-date advance on rezzies - so, If you're coming in Friday Feb 1, check opentable on New Year's Day.

                            2. I'd consider Perla over Locanda Verde. (Then you could get your Little Wisco on, too.)

                              1 Reply
                              1. Just saw the offer on gilt for the five course tasting at Public - so torn now?!? Was going to send the menu link for ACME and Minetta, but now I feel Public deserves serious consideration. Guess I should make res at each awhile, availability will certainly be a factor.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: sean_f

                                  You can get a 5 course dinner at Public on Sundays, for $50 without having to buy any sort of deal.

                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    The offer includes the wine pairing, which would cost an additional $45 on Sunday. Not to mention that we'll be there on a Saturday night. But good to know!