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Mar 7, 2013 10:40 AM

Solo Dining - help narrowing down my choices

In the city 3/17 - 3/22, and I've been narrowing down some choices for where to have dinner at the bar. Love chatting up with new people, fun bartenders, and people watching. Staying in Nolita, and while I'm not committed to the area, I'd prefer to stay downtown since I'm working in midtown and won't want to go back up.

Already booked to Public for Sunday supper :)

Here's what I have so far, would love thoughts. And of course open to other suggestions if they're highly recommended:
Ssam (just did Ma Peche, but simply love his food)
L'Apicio (or should I do Dell'Anima?)
Breslin (sure, midtown, but I'm curious!)
Bistro la Promenade (see above - and he interests me)
Osteria Morini
Joseph Leonard

Just a heads up that I've already done Babbo, Scarpetta, Minetta Tavern, The Dutch, Forgione (off the top of my head).

Thanks again everyone!

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  1. I would consider the following:

    Per Se
    15 East

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Not sure I'm willing to experience Per Se, Jungsik, EMP or any Jean-Georges without the wifey. Looking for more casual this time around.

      That being said...would Soto fit that bill? Would love to try 15 East sometime as well, but think my wife would die to try that too.

      1. re: sean_f

        I don't really consider Soto in the class of 15 East or Yasuda, at least when it comes to sushi/sashimi courses.

        It is a fun and interesting restaurant, esp. if you are willing to let go of some preconceived notions of what Japanese food can or should be.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Excellent, I'm seriously considering that now. My choices could use some ethnic variation, and since I'm really adventurous, and love experiencing new Asian flavors, this might have moved to the top of my list. Will search the boards for input as well. Thanks!

    2. So you really only have 4 dinners?

      I'd drop Freemans. Aquagrill too as it doesn't seem to have much of a bar scene when I've been.

      Overall, you have a great list, though, and it's going to be really tough to choose!

      5 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        Thanks for the heads up on Freemans and Aquagrill. I was really on the fence with Aquagrill, but thought Freemans could be fun.

        If you had to pick your top 2 from my choices Kathryn, what would they be? Clearly your input carries some weight with me.

        1. re: sean_f

          Momofuku Ssam with some time at Booker & Dax beforehand, at a minimum.

            1. re: sean_f

              It is pretty solo drinker friendly. There are two bar with bar stools, plus some tall tables with tall chairs.

              1. re: kathryn

                Well, done deal then! Will be fun to people watch :)

      2. We just ate at the bar at Osteria Morini and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even better than sitting in the dining room.

        If you are doing lunch on Sunday (which you may not do since you are dining out that evening at Public) I would highly recommend eating at the bar at Gramercy Tavern or Union Square Cafe. Both have excellent food and wonderful bar staff. If you do go to Union Square Cafe, try to sit at Victoria's end of the bar; she's the one with a flower in her hair. She is absolutely my favorite bartender!

        1 Reply
        1. re: ttoommyy

          I'm glad you said that about Osteria Morini - hadn't seen anything on the board about lively bar, but it looks and sounds amazing.

          Sadly not arriving to the city until around 3:(

        2. Maybe consider The NoMad instead of The Breslin if you head up to that area.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Blumie

            Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think you can dine at the bar at The NoMad, whereas you can at The Breslin.

            1. re: Tommy D.

              Someone (Simon?) reported recently that the NoMad does have bar dining again.

              1. re: kathryn

                I just had brunch at the bar last Sunday...

          2. Good suggestions all, I'd probably scratch Freemans - good, but not terribly exciting or anything to go out of one's way for if you're only here a short time. Same could be said for Aquagrill, L'Apicio, Dell'Anima...

            Ssam is a must. The jewel in Chang's empire, I feel. Great place for solo dining, and easy to make new friends.

            WD-50 - I prefer dining at the bar where one can order a la carte. And the bartenders (especially Jafrul, he's awesome) are good company for solo diners if they're not bonkers busy - caveat being I've been going there for years so they know me at this point. Just check with them before ordering as to which dishes are more app/entree-sized, as a few are closer to amuses, and you don't want to spend $15 on an amuse. Or you can just do one of the tastings en toto. If you're a cocktail fan, they're among the best of any restaurant in the city as well, and Jafrul or Kevin will make great recommendations. Also, go on a weeknight. If a weekend, try to get there early.

            Acme is good at the bar, but go on a weeknight - it's a madhouse Friday/Saturday. Don't miss the "Barley & Clams" if it's on the menu, one of the best new dishes of the last year.

            Also on the Nordic tip is Aamanns. There are usually seats at the bar, and it's great, seasonal, tasty stuff, really reasonably priced for the quality.

            For a fancier Nordic meal, you could do an early dinner at Aquavit (since you're in Midtown already) - there's a separate bar menu that's more just snacky stuff, but if you call and ask I suspect they'd serve you the regular menu at the bar. They're also a decent lunch option, though the daytime menu skews a bit more "Swedish comfort food" while the creative fireworks come out more at dinner - that said, there are some great lunch options, like the gravlax/foie gras, the truffled barley, and an excellent Bouillabaisse.

            Public is awesome. You might consider getting a double-dose of Public and hitting them for brunch on Saturday as well - most creative brunch in town IMHO.

            I think Soto's a great choice, just shy away from the regular sushi/sashimi (not that it's bad, there are just better options in town for that) and stick to the composed plates - as I'm sure you've heard, he's particularly famous for his uni dishes. I did a make-your-own "tasting" one night of simply every uni dish on the menu - wasn't cheap, but it was seriously delicious.

            I could much of the same about Morimoto - grab a seat at the sushi bar, but don't order any sushi. Get a couple apps (maybe one raw / one hot) and an entree, or make a meal out of a bunch of apps. There's an omakase option but I find constructing one's own meal to be a bit more fun.

            I like Osteria Morini... sort of. I find many of the dishes there to be bit one-note, and a number of them fairly similar in flavor profile. It's like they're using the same base stock for every single sauce. That said, that's not such an issue for a solo diner - when sharing plates among a group it doesn't quite work so well when three of your four dishes taste nearly identical.

            Consider EMP. Dining at the bar a la carte is a very different experience than doing "The Full EMP" - it'd give you a little taste to anticipate a future meal with the wife.

            In the same neighborhood, lots of great options at Eataly, Browse the menus, see what looks good. I actually like the vegetable joint ("Il Verdure") the best.

            Gramercy Tavern actually has a pretty good bar menu - not the same as the fancy dining room, but very solid creative seasonal comfort food. Colicchio & Sons as well is very similar. In some ways I like the bar rooms at both more than the dining rooms.

            A tapas joint could be fun, since as a solo diner you'll get to try a lot of different things - my current favorites are Txikito and Salinas (the latter also does traditional size plates) - each has it's own style and things to recommend, and both trade in the kind of big, bold flavors it seems (from the places you've been) you'd dig. Macondo on Houston is fun, too - they do tapas based on Latin/South American street foods.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sgordon

              Wow...thanks sgordon for taking the time to write such an informative response. Appreciate the WD-50 tip, that was somewhat of a large concern for me. But I'll just throw myself at their mercy.

              Did some review on Soto after another poster mentioned it, and I don't think I'm going to go for it this time around. As big a fan I am of sushi, it really just isn't pulling me in. Though having an uni experience is rather enticing....

              I've done Grammercy before, and agree that the bar was excellent (can't speak to the dining room, although it's been said for some time which is more appealing). I'm from Philly so I've done Morimoto more times than I can count on two of my all-time favorite restaurants.

              Hmm, tapas...going to look into that now.

              1. re: sean_f

                I'm not 100 % on what places you would like best. You don't want the fancier places without your wife. How casual do you want to go? So here's my list with repeats of some other posters:
                -Jungski- not a lively bar at all, but amazing small dishes
                - Osteria Morini- busy bar, great choice
                -Wong- similar in vibe to Kin Shop IMO
                - Boqueria or Casa Mono- Boqueria is closer to NOLITA
                -15 East- Although Soto's 'composed plates" as another poster called them, are good. And the advice to not get the sushi/sashimi , I also agree with. The bill you will get , will be as high as 15 East. I'd go to 15 East and tell your wife , you wanted to check it out for her, to make sure it was good.
                - Kyo Ya at chef counter- another Japanese but Kaiseki style
                - Mission Chinese- good place for solo dining
                - Pig and Khao - good bar to eat at for Viet, Thai and Filipino food
                - Maharlika- good bar to eat modern Filipino food
                - Kori has nice bar with interesting drinks, for modern korean dishes
                - Morimoto's Tribeca canvas- busy bar scene, with small dishes...totally different than other Morimoto.
                - WD-50 for sure- but they close the bar for walk-ins early sometimes
                - Pastis or Balthazar- French bistro w decent food. good bar eating
                - Bugs- japanese home cooking, counter dining,,no scene
                - Neta- japanese , good counter eating
                - Blue Ribbon Izakaya- can get sushi or cooked dishes at sushi bar
                - Wolfgang (Tribeca) can eat a steak at the bar
                - Ngam- Thai food at the counter
                - Walker's- great burgers, watch sports on TV at bar

                Enjoy your solo dining, NYC is the best for that.