Just a couple of budget-conscious food lovers, looking for a moody Manhattan evening
Thanks for your romance suggestions earlier. My husband and I are both in the food world, and we appreciate good meals. We also do not have a ton to spend. We're looking for someplace to eat before the theater, but Midtown has disappointed us with touristy places or places we just cannot afford. We're looking for something cozy, locals-only-ish, and ethnic -- we love red-sauce Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Asian. We're happy with anything that isn't an over-the-top steakhouse or precious 30-course tastings. We want a true NY experience without enormous sticker-shock or clubby vibe. We're not seeking the Ateras or the Mareas of the world -- just a moody night out in Manhattan, preferably someplace that takes reservations.
A wonderful neighborhood Italian place, somewhere with lovingly prepared organ meats, or a hidden delight Spanish spot, would fit the bill.
Under consideration now:
Takashi (though they don't take res.)
Esca (a bit pricy for us, but we'd try it)
Locanda Verde (too sceney?)
Perla (looks very pricy, but the ambience is what we want)
Marea (again, a bit out of our budget range)
We could dine anywhere so long as we could make a res. and cab quickly toward midtown.
I'm not exactly sure that I understand your list. None of the places on your list seem like neighborhoody places. Takashi has no atmosphere and you'll probably get all smelly from the grill and it's pricey. Esca is touristy and pricey, LV very sceney as you say and touristy and pricey, Chez Sardine is tiny , crowded , loud, and hipster with nothing good to eat, Perla is pricey, Marea you already realize how pricey, Casa Mono, tia pol, Txitkio, throw in Boqueria none of which fit your description. Also, as Kathryn said, you are better off eating closer to the theatre or you'l be late. So I will recommend Danji, which is not pricey and is ethnic. Tom and Toon on 51st St. is a friendly atmosphere. Toon is a really good Thai chef. Bekko which is touristy but if Lidia is there she makes the place have a warm atmosphere and they have red sauce and the food is good.
Manhattan is touristy, no way around that.
Of the places you listed I've been to Locanda Verde, Perla, Marea, Casa Mono, and Ssam Bar. Out of those I'd recommend Perla, Casa Mono, and Ssam Bar. (I like Marea too, but it's very pricey.)
Most of the places you listed are pretty pricey. Takashi, Esca, Locanda Verde, Perla, and Marea will almost certainly set you back $50++ for the food alone (before tax & tip), and so might Casa Mono, Red Farm, and Ssam Bar if you do these places for dinner.
> We're looking for someplace to eat before the theater, but Midtown has disappointed us with touristy places or places we just cannot afford.
What IS your budget, then?
If you are interested in Ssam Bar, why not try Ma Peche?
I also have done pre-theatre at Bar Room at the Modern and come out at about $50pp.
If dining pre-theatre on a weekend night, you really do need a place that takes reservations AND is nearby, or you risk missing your curtain. Relying on a cab can be risky due to traffic.
> We're looking for something cozy, locals-only-ish, and ethnic
Ethnic usually means no reservations and not a romantic atmosphere. For example, nearby I really love Szechuan Gourmet but without much ambiance.
I'm not sure what you mean by "moody" -- did you mean the cranky/surly/sullen sense of the word? Or did you mean "mood-setting" and "atmospheric"?
Have you looked at Cheeryvisage's Times Square list?