Best Lunch for under $50 that allows casual dress?
Solo diner! EMP was delicious but expensive. I don't have a preference for a particular type of cuisine.
As a side note, is there any orgasmic, filling Italian food/pasta comparable to what you could get at a trendy place in the Cote-D'Azur or Italy?
Most places are significantly more casual at lunch than dinner. I think even Jean Georges has dropped the jacket requirement for lunch hours. (Le Bern still has it, though, except in the casual lounge up front)
I've been to Del Posto for lunch in a t-shirt and jeans. There's no dress code any time of day, technically, but at lunch things are certainly more casual crowd-wise. Prix fixe $39 / 3 courses, $49 / 4 courses.
All Kathryn's suggestions are good, as always. I'll note that Momofuku Ssam Bar serves lunch every day, it's just the menu is slightly different on the weekends. Great place to dine solo any day of the week, though. The duck over rice is justifiably loved by most 'hounders.
If you can splurge a teensy bit more, the lunch at Bouley is a fantastic deal - $55 for 5 courses (about $70 with tax & tip) with a number of options per course (even though they call it a "tasting menu") - not Italian, but more interesting than most of the midtown French joints. Sweater & cords would be fine there for lunch.
Personally? Bouley. They're kind of similar, in their Asian-influenced French way, but I just find the atmosphere at Bouley more relaxed. JG is a bit "Midtown Corporate" for my taste, kind of blah, and sometimes I find their service a bit stiff. I'm a Downtown boy, what can I say?
Also, the lunch deal at JG - while cheaper - isn't quite as an amazing deal as Bouley's is. The Bouley lunch is really more like a dinner, and for half of what you'd pay at dinner.
Also forgot, another option for the OP: Did lunch at Lincoln recently, it was fantastic. Great Italian, nice room, very casual. Hearty portions. For the primi I had pappardelle with duck confit & shaved foie gras, fantastic - maybe a bit one-note but it was one heck of a note. Secondi was the beef with horseradish - fabulous. Skipped dessert, was so stuffed after just those two dishes (the pasta wasn't downsized because I had it as an app, that's for sure...)
How casual is casual? You can get away without wearing a jacket at lunch at a lot of upscale places. Or are you looking to dine in jeans/t-shirt/sneakers?
Maialino - $35 for 2 courses with biscotti for dessert, they also have a Sunday pasta tasting for $55.
Babbo - $49 for a four course tasting (BTW the addition of lunch is fairly recent), only Tuesday through Saturday.
ABC Kitchen - 3 courses for $32, includes their famous sundae, not upscale, more "shabby chic" and "reclaimed furniture," weekdays only.
Momofuku Ssam Bar - 3 courses, weekend lunch only. I think it's still around $25 or so.
Kin Shop - 2 courses and ice cream for $20, daily.
Le Philosophe - $18 prix fixe - Choice of appetizer and entrée / Add dessert $6
Lots more options (including some nicer than others) here:
I'll probably be wearing something like a sweater, corduroys, and sneakers. I wore that to EMP without getting any weird looks, but I'd rather not attempt to waltz in Le Bernardin or wherever similarly attired.
Thanks for the recommendations. I'll try one of those places. I've been to ABC Kitchen and enjoyed it.