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Please help with input for just the right place

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I'm coming in to NYC for 4 days to celebrate my birthday in April. I have reservations for Scarpetta on Friday night and Louro on Saturday night. I plan to breakfast at the Breslin Saturday morning and do a bit of a bakery crawl on Friday morning. But I need help with Thursday night.

There will be 5 or 6 of us and I'm looking for delicious food in the $20-$35 pp range (not including drinks or tip) with an ambiance that's comfortable and allows for conversation. In other words, not a shoulder to shoulder place where you can't hear yourself talk, never mind your table mates. I'm open to almost any kind of food (new American/farm to table, Indian, Thai etc) Pretty much anything other than Middle Eastern or African (although we're doing Italian on Friday so that wouldn't be my first choice though I would consider.) Downtown is better than uptown. Village East or West, SoHo, Chelsea, etc all ok.

Here's the challenge: I'd prefer something where we could get a reservation for 7:30 or 8:00 on a Thursday night only a few weeks away (April 18.) I looked at Back Forty, Northern Spy, Schillers, and Zee but none of them take reservations and I'm imagining that we'd have quite a wait at prime dinner time at any of these places. I have no familiarity and don't really know where to begin to find a Thai or Indian place that fits my criteria so please chime in with any and all suggestions. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Opentable shows Kin Shop has an opening for 6 people at 7:00. It would be a great choice for Thai food. A cheaper but excellent Thai place is Zabb Elee. They don't take reservations but I think for a larger group they might.

    1. Schiller's absolutely takes reservations. Go on opentable.com - I'm seeing tables for six on the 18th open every half-hour from 6:00 to 7:30. They're exactly the spot I'd recommend for that price range as well.

      A few other places with openings around that time, that might fit the budget:

      Beauty & Essex
      Freeman's
      Kin Shop
      Aamanns
      Blue Smoke
      Empellon Cocina (8:30)
      Ngam
      Mehtaphor
      The Smile
      Sorella

      3 Replies
      1. re: sgordon

        Last time I was at Empellon Cocina, it was pretty loud. There was a good amount of space between tables, but the place was full and you did have to raise your voice a little to be heard.

        1. re: kathryn

          On the weekends, for sure it can get noisy (but what place in the East Village doesn't?) - I've found on weeknights that, while not exactly sedate, they have a pretty reasonable noise level.

          1. re: sgordon

            Was last there on a Thursday, group of three, sat in the back. Maybe it is better with only two or on the banquette. Still had to repeat yourself occasionally to be heard.

      2. Is Schillers reasonable in terms of the noise/crowded tables thing?

        1. Thanks so much for the suggestions. After looking at them all I'm between Blue Smoke and Beauty and Essex. I know the style of food is very different but which one would you say has better quality of food and what about ambiance?