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Jan 25, 2013 06:15 AM

Babbo, Esca, Lincoln or La Grenouille

I'm getting a bit overwhelmed trying to select a restaurant for an upcoming birthday dinner for two with SO.

Babbo - we dined there years ago and have been meaning to return. We did the tasting menu (pasta only?) with wine. We really enjoyed it but were too full to really make the most of the experience. We made the mistake of not going on an empty stomach.

Esca - enjoyed a birthday dinner there, also a number of years ago. In this case one of us was feeling under the weather so we didn't really have a complete dining experience. I think we only order a course or two.

Lincoln - have been meaning to try it, especially since we love the new Lincoln Center campus, including how Lincoln Ristorante has been incorporated. We also really like Italian food, if that's not already evident.

La Grenouille - another place we've been meaning to try. I definitely want to order the Dover sole and probably a souffle (I know, it's supposed to be about SO's birthday but he would also enjoy the "French experience"). Everything I've heard about the place (fresh flowers, etc.) makes it sound like a wonderful experience.

The birthday (a Saturday) is just under a month away so I've probably already missed Babbo as an option, unless we sit at the bar which SO wouldn't want to.

We both really dislike noisy restaurants but I don't think that should be a big issue with any of the above.

Any insights or feedback from others that could help me decide?

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  1. Both Babbo and Esca take resevations one month in advance to the numerical date--so on January 23rd, they started taking reservations for February 23rd (assuming that is your desired date). Also the first floor dining room and bar area at Babbo can be pretty noisy, so I'm not sure it's a good choice for you unless you can secure a reservation upstairs. They do have last minute cancellations they post on twitter but it is usually early/late 4 tops, 2 tops do not come up that often.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks, kathryn. Yup, we're aiming for the 23rd so I figure at this point any decent times are long-gone. Good point about the noise. We did dine upstairs last time. I don't recall any particular issue with the noise, though now that you mention it I remember it being a bit much when we were on the first-floor to exit.

      Maybe I'll call Babbo after the reservations line opens this morning at 10. I'm sure they won't have a table and then I can basically cross Babbo off the list for this occasion.

    2. I always say La Grenouille hands down. It is a singular experience and the last of the great old-guard French restaurants.

      That being said, some friends whose opinion I respect have raved over and over about Babbo. I have yet to eat there.

      1. Definitely La Grenouille!

        1. While I've not been to Esca or Lincoln, my vote is for La Grenouille. Although it's been a little over 10 years, it was easily one of the more memorable dining experiences of my entire life. I love Babbo, probably my favorite restaurant, but I just think the ambiance...combined with the food, iconic history, and rarity of its kind sets La Grenouille apart.

          1. Wow, now we really need to get to La Grenouille. Thanks for the endorsements.

            I was just looking at the menu, so many incredible dishes. Not an inexpensive proposition and I'm wondering if it's worth going there for lunch instead one day: $65 lunch prix-fixe vs. $102 for dinner, pretty big difference.

            Does anyone know if they serve the 3-course LUNCH prix-fixe on Saturdays? (Sorry, I know I can just call to ask and / or research the board.) In some ways I'm thinking we might enjoy that more than going on a Saturday night (where it might have a bit more formal feel than we would want). And then for the birthday we would maybe pick Esca or Lincoln, and save La Grenouille for another occasion where a Saturday lunch would work. I guess the atmosphere would be different between lunch and dinner, but a Saturday lunch I would think would still have an indulgent and pampered quality, right?

            1 Reply
            1. re: uwsgrazer

              The only thing that changes from lunch to dinner at Grenouille is the customer base. The service, food and ambience are all the same.

              It's a costly night out, but worth every penny.

              There is no other restaurant like it in New York.