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High-End Dining with Some Special Factors

Okay, so I'm a humanties academic (read, not so high-income) taking my 13-year-old son with me to NYC midtown as I combine research with checking out the city in my spare time. I drink little or no alcohol. So far my food plans include typical Chowhound foraging. I think we'll go try Di Fara and maybe John's, Joe's and some other pizzas. I want to go to Turco's Grill because I am fanatically hopeful of finding German-style Döner Kebabs in the USA.

But now I'm also considering trying one top-flight restaurant with my son. Right offhand, Le Bernardin sounds good, because he and I both love seafoods. My son is 13 but totally cool with new foods. So pleasing a "kid palate" is a non-issue here.

How much forethought do I need to bring to being a rather odd couple in such places: a father and young teen son, no wine component to the dinner, etc? Will these places roll with that or are we going to feel out of place? Wearing sport jackets is not a problem, by the way--my son happens to like them.

Also, of course, I'll welcome recommendations about places just now, and also thoughts on whether one misses much by way of food experience if doing lunch instead of dinner. Thanks in advance!

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  1. If you're both wearing jackets then Le Bernardin would be delighted to have you. You won't feel out of place at all and you won't find any difference in quality between lunch and dinner.

    For another seafood meal, consider 15 East for sushi.

      1. re: chompchomp

        I love Marea -- one of my favorites in NYC. That said, I don't really consider a "splurge" type of restaurant.

      2. If you are going to "splurge" on one high end meal I don't think Le B would be my first choice. Now Le B is one of my absolute favorites in NYC but as you already know, it's seafood focused and they, IMO, are unmatched when it comes to fish. However, I think there would be other restaurants you could try with a wider vision. I immediately think of Bouley or Jean George which does wonderful things with both sea and land based proteins (Per Se and EMP aren't mentioned because the cost is quite high).

        Regarding your concerns of being an "odd couple", not an issue, as long as you are respectable you'll have no problems fitting in anywhere.

        Regarding lunch vs dinner, personally we do most of our meals as dinners but only because that's what works best for us. When we can find time to do lunches we've found they can be much nicer than dinner for several reasons, amongst thm, beautiful light, leisurely pace, often a relative bargain for the exact same food as dinner service. It's conceivable you could do two "fancy" lunches for the price of one dinner.

        And kudos on liking the jackets, I never dine out in these types of resturants without a suit or sports jacket regardless of lunch or dinner (but I am becoming an endangered species).

        1 Reply
        1. re: Spiritchaser

          as someone who visits nyc frequently - and is from chi-town originally - i like bernadin, jean-georges, emp, per se among the top rank places.

          i am especially impressed with the bargain lunches at J-G.

        2. If you're going to splurge, do EMP or Per Se.

          No one will look at you (or your young aspiring son) odd for dining together, nor will you feel out of place. Anyone that takes a second look at you two are no doubt just envious and wish they had such a wonderful dad growing up.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            You're very kind in your remarks, ipsedixit. Thanks!

            1. I personally think your putting too much thought and concern over the 13 year old father and son combo. Especially if he is going to be dressed appropriately AND not asking for chicken fingers, any fine dining establishment is going to welcome him. My son use to enjoy wearing suit's etc. as a young man, now at 15, not so much. We use to have boy's night out....we would put our suits on.....go out to diner.....I would get a martini with olives, he would get a Shirley Temple in a martini glass with cherry's. I'm smiling warmly at the memories of these nights together as I type this.

              Anywho......since it seems you have some apprehension about this....take a page out of my old play book, and maybe try a steakhouse? There is no where more welcoming to men of all age's than a NY City Steakhouse. It's almost a right of passage teaching your son about the delicate nuances of a prime dry aged piece of meat.

              Just something to think about. If it's of interest I'll give you a list of my fav's.

              23 Replies
              1. re: jrvedivici

                Thanks for your thoughts, and I welcome recommendations. But you underestimate my exposure--which is nil--to high-end Manhattan destination restaurants. I'm sure you're right that nothing is "likely" to be troublesome, but I felt it was worth asking. For example, it's not clear to me if some tasting menus presuppose accompanying wine courses.

                The steak house is an idea, but I'm a serious home cook with some good food sources (Mid-West is not so bad in that regard!), so I tend to make my own steaks. When I go out to eat, I target places that do things I cannot readily do at home--stuff that requires time and preparation techniques that make their best sense at large scale (like much Japanese cuisine, which calls for lots of specialized ingredients); wood- or coal-fired oven temperatures; complex or delicate sauces; etc. Those pros have equipment and economies of scale, and that's what I think I can take advantage of in this visit.

                I also like to go out for Indian foods for the same reason, given the complexity of ingredients and sauces and the near-impossibility of replicating tandoori oven conditions at home or those large iron platters they use to make dosas in South Indian cuisine. I don't really notice much chatter about Indian food in the Manhattan board, interestingly.

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  My husband and I don't really drink wine, and we've had many tasting menus paired with only water. We've never experienced any issues. Many people prefer to have cocktails only pre- or post- dinner, or prefer beer instead, or avoid alcohol altogether (pregnancy, medication, religion, etc), so it's not uncommon.

                  > When I go out to eat, I target places that do things I cannot readily do at home

                  You dry age steaks for 28+ days at home? ;)

                  > I don't really notice much chatter about Indian food in the Manhattan board, interestingly.

                  There's been a fairly active thread on Malai Marke recently.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/889897

                  And here's one on Dhaba that just popped up again:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/709887

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Thanks!

                    Actually, I haven't dry-aged steaks, although I've tried some of the dumbed-down, fridge-based, air-drying approaches. In addition to my garden outdoors, I've corned briskets, made sauerbratens, cured guanciale in my basement, and more. I've seriously considered building a wood-fired oven in my back-yard. So, yeah, I go to extremes!

                    I think that's why my son is how he is: from a young age, something new was always around the bend, and often he was involved in the making. It's been splendid.

                    edit, p.s.: If I can find some genuinely good Indian food in Manhattan, that opens a whole new wrinkle. I'll study your links.

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      I know this isn't really what your looking for, but it is my personal favorite so I can't help talking about it. I will share with you my explanation about true prime dry aged steaks prepared properly as in most NYC steakhouses.

                      Peter Lugar's is widely accepted as the Grandfather of most traditional NY Steakhouses and most copy or prepare their steaks in a very similar manner. For years I could never understand the draw of the place (BTW was non-formal dining as you can imagine, although most men are in suits from Wall St. etc.) then I actually went there and tried their steak.

                      I am a HUGE red meat eater, and I love steak. Everyone has a different palate we call have our preferences on what we like or don't like, so even though personally Peter Lugar's represents the epitome in red meat preparation, I can't promise you would feel the same as I do about it. I can however promise you this, after trying the steak at Peter Lugar's or a few other similar NYC steakhouses, you will walk away and say, you have never had a steak with the same flavor before. That is what I tell everyone who I introduce to this type of steak, you might not love it the way I do, but I promise you will say you've never had another steak like it!

                      Anyway.......enjoy your tip to the city! Most importantly enjoy the time spent with your son!!

                      1. re: jrvedivici

                        Thanks for following up jrvedivici/kathryn on the steak thing. I understand the principle of dry-aging, and I know that it is not the same as simply drying a steak out for a while in an arid fridge. In fact, I believe that genuine dry-aging involves significant extra cost because the outer layer of meat has to be cut away as waste. I will seriously investigate this option, because I'm figuring that, while we're there, we should try various samples of the best in NY that we can find time and funds for, high and low--bagels to bluefin (although I do fret about sustainability on the last count--I'm just reaching for alliteration :).

                        1. re: jrvedivici

                          Don't take this the wrong way, but I wished you'd have spelled Peter LUGER correctly especially since it's your personal favorite. Plus, let it be known, it is not Peter Lugar's ... just Peter Luger.

                          1. re: RCC

                            For the record let me clarify a few things;

                            Peter LugEr steak is my personal favorite, not the restaurant.

                            Although I'm very fortunate to be able to dine at places like Peter Luger, that still don't make me too bright!

                            (Ben and Jacks in Manhattan which are PL descendants is actually my personal favorite. The quality of the steak and it's preparation , as well as side dishes, is as equal to PL as I have been able to find. The excellent service and dining ambiance is far superior to PL.)

                          2. re: jrvedivici

                            So Peter Luger (I've been googling) is evidently not in Manhattan anyway. I think I'll have my car at the hotel (alternative being stashing it upstate and taking the train in). I'll do some investigating about NYC steakhouses that might be closer to midtown. Then, too, I'm close to Chicago, and they have serious steakhouses there, too.

                            I have tried the local Ruth's Chris, and I know I won't shell out again for that, relative to what I can make on my own.

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              Peter Luger is the standard which I use to compare steakhouses to for the quality of steak. Peter Luger as a restaurant I wouldn't recommend unless for a one time experience to say you have been there. As I said if you were interested I would gladly give you recommendations. The highest of which would be Ben and Jacks Steakhouse.

                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                (leave the car upstate and take the train, if you're planning to stay in Manhattan)

                                for what it will cost you to park, you can instead go out for that indulgent dinner :)

                                1. re: Elisa515

                                  Believe it or not I found a Groupon Last week for overnight parking in Manhattan at any of 90+ locations for $20. Only downside was it was only for 1 night per location, so you would have to move the car each day.

                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                    You don't want to be driving a car around. And if you move the car, you pay again to park--or go to a place where you don't understand the parking. Driving and parking in NYC simply isn't for out of towners.

                                    (and there are plenty of Groupons for Icon parking at $16, and great parking deals can be found through bestparking.com. But I still think out of towners shouldn't bring their cars into the city when staying at a midtown hotel and then thinking they can drive to Brooklyn or wherever for a meal.

                                    Maybe this isn't food related enough to stay in this thread.

                                    1. re: Elisa515

                                      Thanks. Personally, I'd call your comment food-related, because how one means to get to food, in a regional board, has much to do with planning the eats.

                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                        While I'm not going to say Elisa is giving you bad advice, I personally believe driving in NY City is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives!

                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                          I have done it a few times and only once, in or near little Italy, was it a gridlock thing. I think driving's fine there. Just parking is a PITA. Any estimate on comparative drive-versus-subway times to get from midtown (high 30s) to DiFara in Brooklyn? I see that DiFara is right by a subway stop.

                                          1. re: Bada Bing

                                            Totaly depends on time of day... but while driving in Manhattan is a must do experience to some... most would say it is not. The subway to Brooklyn is an ought to do. And if driving is a must do, parking is a try to avoid experience. And apoligies if it was said upthread where you are coming in from... but if NJ, park along the hudson on the other side at a PATH station or a ferry station (check online to see what parking costs), if Westchester or CT look by Metro North trains.. and enjoy like a real NYer with no car (I have one that I drive every day, would be thrilled to be out of it)

                                2. re: Bada Bing

                                  If steak is on the table, how about Keen's? I feel like a 13-year old dude would love that place. Civil War relics!

                                  1. re: chompchomp

                                    My first time at Keen's I asked the waiter how their Mutton was, he gave me his lengthy answer to which I responded, "You ain't got nuttin on my mom's mutton".....and he stormed off apparently not a fan of my humor.

                                    Keen's is definitely a must experience for any steak fan.

                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                      This is another place I might try to work in. Mutton chop sounds terrific. A look at my thread history will show how often I'm working away at lamb.

                                    2. re: chompchomp

                                      Interesting about the Civil War relics: I've actually been thinking we might visit Gettysburg on the way to NYC. My son's big fan of military history.

                                      In fact, also on the way to NYC, we're going to an historical aviation and reenactor extravaganza near Detroit Michigan August 10. So maybe Keen's will give us the military history trifecta...

                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                        I am not sure what Civil War artifacts Keen's might have, but they do have a vast collection of pipes - including Douglas MacArthur's. Since 1885.

                                        http://www.keens.com/AboutKeens/History/

                              2. re: kathryn

                                Many good recs above. I would add though that some of the top flight places are sorta romantic and some are less so. I would not take a son to Jean Georges... the room is a jewel box. Le B is a little less pretty. EMP lunch is probably in reach and that room is also beautiful but less pretty (whatever that means.. I'm a grumpy 50year old guy.... some places are date places to me, some less so) Anyway, look at the picks.

                                I would also tend toward lunch, you can nearly get to the top of the pile at lunch and stay out of the $$ stratosphere...

                                1. re: dyrewolf

                                  > I would also tend toward lunch, you can nearly get to the top of the pile at lunch and stay out of the $$ stratosphere...

                                  Not really at EMP. EMP lunch is only Thursday, Friday, and Saturday now, and the cost is the same as dinner, $195.