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Low-key romantic downtown dinner with spacious seating

I'm looking for a suggestion for dinner for the two of us for a special occasion. Has to be low-key (no dress code), not looking for ultra hyped-up places that have long lines and wait lists and snotty attitudes. Also would like there to be enough seating space to enjoy a private dinner without my elbow in our neighbor's lap. Anything from French, Italian, new American, etc. is fine. Nothing too eclectic or modern. For context, I've lived in Manhattan for over a decade and sampled/enjoyed everything from the holes-in-the-wall in the LES/EV/HK to high-end dining to foodie paradises. I'm just coming up short this time, so need a little help!

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  1. If Jungsik isn't too strange of a menu, I recommend it highly. The food is amazing. I would request either the corner booth or a table in the rear room, both of those are comfortable seating. Although it is high end, and high end service, they are not snotty at all. As far as dress codes, I have gone in jeans. Check out the menu and see if it works. It isn't cheap though. I prefer to order a la carte there.
    Pepolino ,,, another Tribeca restaurant, excellent Italian food, and plenty of room. They have tables upstairs and downstairs.

    1. Try Buenos Aires in alphabet city, call them to see if you can reserve the window table (usually for 4):


      Get the skirt steak for two with a salad and the garlic fries.

      Have them recommend the wine, they sometimes have special south american reds that are not on the list.

      They may also have other goodies not on the menu, ask.

      We love this place, it is small, informal and intimate atmosphere, the beef is amazing. I bet you will like it. The last time we were there it was a weeknight and not too busy. The owner was sitting at an empty table doing the books with a glass of wine keeping an eye on everything.

      Flan for dessert.

      3 Replies
      1. re: vikingkaj

        Yes thanks - I've been here before and it is good. But I didn't find it great, and I regularly cook skirt steak (with and without a chimichurri marinade) , and dare I say it tastes better! They have good rib-eyes and t-bones too and I have good memories of the place. Will probably skip for this occasion though, but thank you for reminding me of this place!

          1. re: vikingkaj

            WV, Soho, EV, LES, Gramercy all fine.

      2. Is annisa too eclectic and/or too fancy/dressy? (there was a recent conversation about the formalness there - its not stuffy and im pretty certain theres no dress code but some folks may be dressed up). The tables are very well spaced and the setting quite intimate compared to many places in the city.

        1. Peasant
          Marc Forgione
          Mas Farmhouse
          En Japanese Brasserie
          Perry St.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Desidero

            Thank you for all these suggestions. Will check them out. Never been to any of them.

          2. More uptown, but we also like Maialino, even if it is Danny Meyer. Not too stuffy and the cured meats are good.

            Also, if you wanted to slum a bit, Cafe Katja. It's kind of small but the food and atmosphere are great.

            3 Replies
            1. re: vikingkaj

              Cafe Katja is indeed good. I think of it as a very nice neighborhood restaurant and maybe a little more than that, but more low-key than romantic.

              1. re: Pan

                Always wanted to try this, but couldn't convince my dining partner that the menu would have things other than meat-heavy options.

                1. re: Pan

                  I like low key and informal, and for a northern european nothing says love like schnitzel and strudel in a darkened restaurant.

                  Maybe we could hire a gypsy with a fiddle?

              2. +1 for Jungsik; I had dinner there two weeks ago and it meets all your criteria: a wonderful menu and a wonderful space (although I'm not sure it passes your 'eclectic' test.)

                And, as always, Tocqueville, which meets your needs +5 or so, especially in terms of ample space and quiet (and cuisine!)

                8 Replies
                1. re: Phil Ogelos

                  Well Jungsik looks great. I eat a lot of Korean and love it but I usually don't like watered down or fancy ethnic cuisine unless its very tasty. Is this similar to Danji in HK but better? I like that place.

                  1. re: manny6

                    Jungsik is nothing like Danji. The food is way better than Danji and more choices. It is not watered down Korean, It is not trying to be Korean. It is just great food.

                    1. re: manny6

                      While not as good as this board would have it (3 Michelin stars MY ASS), Jungsik is a very special restaurant that deserves and will reward any discerning diner's patronage.

                      1. re: Sneakeater

                        Thanks for the tips on Jungsik. I will definitely try it out this time or another time in the near future.

                    2. re: Phil Ogelos

                      While I love Tocqueville and think it fits the bill for most of the OP's requirements, I do feel that a "dress code" is somewhat enforced, if not by the establishment then by most people who dine their. No?

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        Yes, ttoo, you're right -and I realised it only after my editing window had closed.

                        (I did want to add that I'm bemused by the number of recommends here for places that I think of as loud. I know each has his own standard, but when I think "low-key romantic", I think that space should be quiet enough to hear my true love's breathing.)

                        1. re: Phil Ogelos

                          Agree. Plus recos for places I find kind of cramped. OP did use the word "spacious."

                          And on that note, I think most places with lots of room between tables will most likely be the ones with "long lines and wait lists" since the better restaurants can afford to have less tables per square foot.

                          1. re: Phil Ogelos

                            I agree, romantic, is a place wear you can hear your true love breathing. or wheezing or at least talking. Too many loud places around.
                            BTW I am happy you like jungsik

                      2. My husband and I just went to Louro for the first time last week and I think that may be a good choice. While it might not be overly romantic (although I saw some couples sitting a corner tables, which some may consider romantic), it is in the WV, the food is good to great, it's casual, and I found the seating to be surprisingly spacious for the neighborhood. We were seated in one of the front booths, but from what I noticed nobody was banging elbows in the tables in the back area either. I'm sure someone who has more experience with Louro will correct me if I'm wrong about the tables in the back.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jessbnjess

                          I've been sat next to a couple at a corner table at Louro and been able to hear their every single word (about her mom, his ski trip, some friends of theirs getting married, Facebook, blah blah blah), which I found to be annoying.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            I might try Louro and request a booth.

                        2. Definitely second Marc Forgione. Though it can be a bit boisterous on the weekends, so it might depend which night you're going. The food is playful but very approachable. The chicken-for-two is romance on a plate.

                          I'm not as big a fan of Annisa as some others, but the ambience would probably be good.

                          At a slightly higher price point, Colicchio & Sons (Main DIning Room) or Gramercy Tavern (also Main Dining Room) could work. The GT tables are particularly well-spaced, and I've dined there in a t-shirt and jeans on numerous occasions and never felt weird about it, even if other nearby tables were suited.

                          1. perilla
                            le philosophe
                            ciano (is it already closed?)

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: TitoSofrito

                              Per cianonyc.com, yes:

                              "WE'RE MOVING

                              Ciano is closed and moving to the Upper East Side

                              Re-opening Summer of 2013"

                              1. re: TitoSofrito

                                Perilla is excellent - been there before and want to try something new. Will check out the others - thanks.

                                1. re: TitoSofrito

                                  I love Le Philosophe though the space is a bit cramped.

                                2. Mas la Grillade
                                  Colicchio & Sons
                                  Union Square Cafe