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Inexpensive Friday night dinner

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A group of college friends are planning a going away dinner for one of us. We want it to be:
-a place that we can most likely linger (not be rushed out the door)
-be less than $50pp including alcohol (even less would be idea- BYOB would work)
-include at least some gluten free options (I'm the GF person- it doesn't have to be a dedicated menu, I would just like a couple of options)
- We don't care if it's a whole in the wall type of place
-ethnic food is fine (we especially like Spanish type food and tapas)
- we are coming from Penn station/Grand Central station so somewhere accessible to both locations would be ideal- but we can work with it.

Can anyone help me out? There will be 5 25 year old former college roommates getting together for the first time in awhile. Thanks a lot.

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  1. Why not come to Queens? Take the 7 train from Grand Central to Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights and try a really good Thai restaurant, such as Zabb Elee (71-28 Roosevelt Ave). There are plenty of gluten-free options as long as you stay clear of anything Chinese origin--ask the waiter, stress that you are allergic to soy sauce (uncommon in Thai cuisine). Call them ahead (718-426-7992) about their alcohol policy, but I don't think BYOB is going to be a problem, perhaps for a small fee.

    Buy your wine or liquor from an inexpensive and friendly Indian-owned store on the north side of the street as you get off the subway, maybe get some Indian sweets at Mumbai Grill (37-33 74 St), then walk back two blocks up Roosevelt Ave to Zabb. On a Friday night, the clientele is mostly young ethnic couples and groups, cheerful but not too loud, and the restaurant is open late: until 12 AM at the earliest. There is also a lounge/karaoke room nearby.

    Work with your waiter on the menu and let them drive the selection unless you are familiar with the dishes: please note that this is an authentic restaurant that specializes in northern Thai and Lao cuisines. If you order family-style, $40 X 5 buys you a lot: you will most probably spend less. They have a very good chef. You will have a remarkable dinner.

    1. Pio Pio on 10th Ave. It's a cab or sub ride up from where you're meeting, but it's a nice place. If you want to stay in the area, Havana Central is fun, especially if you get an upstairs balcony-visible group table. They have dancing. You should be able to get out under $50 unless you blow it all at the bar.

      There are pre-theater places, but I enjoyed Pio Pio more.

      1. Not sure why someone would send you all the way out to Queens. Zabb Elee's not a bad choice, but there's one in Manhattan which would take much less time to get to. Food is cheap, mostly served in family-size portions, and the beer's not terribly expensive.

        Should ask regarding your GF-ness - is this just a gluten-free diet, or do you have Celiac's? If the latter, soy sauce could be an issue, which would rule out pretty much any Asian restaurant.

        If you're okay with soy sauce - or even if not, as the menus tend to be pretty extensive - Koreatown could be a good option, and it's within walking distance of both stations. Again, many things are served in big, family portions, so the pp cost winds up being fairly low. Other than the location, Chinatown is a good choice as well.

        There's a couple decent Turkish places - Bi Lokma and Sip Sak - in Midtown. Entrees mostly under $20, could fit your budget.

        Can't really think of any tapas places that would be both cheap and good - meals tend to add up quite quickly at the better joints (Salinas, Txikito, Tertulia, Casa Mono, etc) and none of them have particularly cheap wine options.

        There are lots of little pubs where you can do basic burgers & beer, fish & chips, etc between the two stations as well.

        A lot depends on how much you plan on eating - were you looking to do a full dinner - i.e., apps, entrees, desserts? Or just a place to grab an entree each and a couple drinks?