one classic nyc dinner experience
I'm a former New Yorker (9 years in Seattle) bringing a friend to NYC for her first time ever. We are only going to be there for 3 days (4 nights) and would like to have one nice dinner to round out the Katz's-soup dumplings-pizza-falafel-garlic knots-cocktails. I'm thinking more on the classic, long timer and still fresh side than hip-eat-here-now. My initial thoughts were Po, Da Umberto, One if by Land, etc. Am I heading in a good direction? Suggestions are hugely appreciated!
I think you're headed in the wrong direction.
Po is fine -- but nobody would think about it ever if Mario Batali hadn't cooked there 15 years ago. Now, it's just one of many pretty good mid-priced Italian places in New York.
One If By Land is barely decent.
Da Umberto: OK, but why travel to go there?
I think the best Old Skool Still-Existing New York Places are the Meat Houses: Luger's, Keens.
If you don't want that, maybe an Old Skool French place like L'Absinthe (for my money, perhaps the single most underrated place in New York City) or, the usual choice in this category (but to me, very pricey for its quality), Le Grenouille.
Le Bernardin has been open longer than Po and remains about 18 times as good. But I suspect you (justifiably) don't want to spend that much money (although One If By Land is pretty costly).
Actually, speaking of Po, if you're willing to spring for One If By Land, you should be willing to spring for Babbo. Which IS a genuine New York Classic.
My list of classic NYC restaurants would include
Smith & Wollensky
Grand Central Oyster Bar