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dinner to convince a friend to love new york?

You all have always been very helpful with my somewhat offbeat requests... and now I have another.

A friend of mine was recently transferred by her employer to Manhattan and she (sacrilege, I know) so far hates it. The reasons are far-ranging, but I think one of the problems is that she works very long hours and hasn't really had a chance to explore. I'll be heading down to New York in a few weeks, and I want to take her for a meal or experience to convince her to like her new city.

I'm open to neighborhoods / boroughs, and this can be for any meal or even a non-meal experience. I'd like to spend no more than $150. She does not really drink, so bars or anything drinking-centric won't work. She appreciates good food but is not really adventurous -- I'd prefer Italian, Mexican, or American food.

Any ideas for experiences that will 'wow' her?

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  1. vinegar hill house in vinegar hill/dumbo could work here.

    perla is another solid option if you want to keep it in manhattan.

    1. Riverpark for an early evening al fresco dinner or brunch.
      Central Park stroll on a Sunny Sunday afternoon.

      1. I forgot to mention that we are both in our 20s, though rec's don't necessarily need to scream YOUNG.

        And, she lives in the East 30s but we can travel anywhere.

        12 Replies
        1. re: nyc_to_ma

          If you didn't want to go far, you could have a fun time at Salvation Taco in the Pod Hotel. If the weather is nice, their rooftop bar is really lovely.

          Perla would be tough to do for under $150, in my experience.

          1. re: loratliff

            its quite easy with 2 apps, 2 pastas, and 2 glasses of wine...

            1. re: sam1

              Assuming you ordered the cheapest things, you'd be at about $100, post-tax but pre-tip.

              I think $100 for two people for pasta is excessive and I personally haven't found the pastas to be very filling. I now only go if someone else is paying. I don't find it to be a good value at all, but to each their own.

              (Plus, since the OP has a gluten intolerance, it's now a moot point.)

              1. re: loratliff

                gluten free and wants italian? what a weird world we live in.

                perla's pastas are the reason to go in my opinion. their entrees arent particularly amazing.

                the beef cheek agnolotti is probably the most filling dish on the menu. im pretty fit, but i can barely finish half of the plate. perhaps you have a bigger appetite than i do.

          2. re: nyc_to_ma

            > I'm open to neighborhoods / boroughs, and this can be for any meal or even a non-meal experience.

            You should definitely post on the Outer Boroughs board, as someone who works long hours and lives in the East 30s (and hates it) might like the Brooklyn neighborhood vibe a lot more.

            I'm thinking a Danny Meyer restaurant would be a nice treat. Maialino, Union Sq Cafe, the Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern?

            The "Today" prix fixe in the Tavern Room at GT sounds really nice. Four courses for $48.
            http://www.gramercytavern.com/_media/...

            Review from earlier this year:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/903603

            1. re: kathryn

              its kind of a schlep from the east 30s, but with your other parameters considered, Prime Meats in BK might be a good choice. we recently had a stellar meal there that made me want to move in upstairs (were already walking distance).

              1. re: kathryn

                Thanks - I just posted to the Outer Boroughs board. Maialino might be perfect if I can get a reservation.

                I'm not sure a prix fixe would quite work, though, as I'm afraid its is too adventurous for her, and I have some food restrictions (gluten allergy).

                1. re: nyc_to_ma

                  BTW, there's a small note under the pastas on the Maialino menu:
                  *Gluten free options available*

                  In general, Danny Meyer places are going to be allergy-friendly, just make a note when you reserve and again when you sit down. They have some of the best customer service I've ever had at any restaurant.

                  Here's one blogger's experience at Maialino:
                  http://allergicgirl.blogspot.com/2012...

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Thanks, Kathryn. Maialino would really be perfect except they only have 6:30 and 10:00 available on the day I'll be in town - August 17. Perhaps I'll try to call them tomorrow.

                    1. re: nyc_to_ma

                      Managed to get a 7:30 reservation at Maialino - thanks for the suggestion. It's only a few blocks from my friend's apartment, I think she'll really love it, and they also have gluten free pasta for me, which will be a treat.

                      I'm planning to balance the fine dining(ish) of Maialino with a daytime excusion to either P.S. 1, the Red Hook ball fields, or the Brooklyn Flea / Smorgasburg.

                      Thanks again to everyone for your brainstorming!

                      1. re: nyc_to_ma

                        i say this with some hesitation, as i have enjoyed meals at Maialino, but i don't know if it's right for your intention. actually, i could see how someone could be put off to New York by Maialino. small plates of pasta at higher than average prices... the crowd of pretties... the always out of reach.

                        why not go for something a little more casual and cool like Empellon or Mission Chinese, some place that's regularly attainable. if you're at all money conscious, Maialino can be a reminder of how far you are from being comfortable.

              2. Riverpark also has a small non-alcoholic cocktail menu also but it's kind of an older crowd and if you sit outside, you'll expose her to FDR noise, it might have the opposite effect and make her hate the city more. :)

                Acqua (Peck Slip) is really nice Italian. I highly recommend ths place for the outdoors, and they have separate fish/meat courses. If your voting mid-late Aug., try to reserve sidewalk seating at 7:30ish pm. The downtown area will start to light up and a nice view of FiDi. It's two blocks from South St. Seaport and you can walk there after.

                Does she like Greek food? I dined at Pylos last weekend in East Village and it was pretty awesome. I had a fish with lemon sauce that was great, and like Acqua they have a lot of fish/meat only courses. You can also order several apps and split a main. Very Greek decor, good for dinner.

                Caracas Arepas may work for the both of you. It's really fun and cheap. She might find it adventurous but in a very good way. You can get his and hers tattoos after. J/k

                Also in EV is Sundae and Cones ice cream. Every unique flavors. She can't be that vanilla? :)

                La Esquina's takeout window has Mexican corn which is really good.

                Even though your friend doesn't drink, take her up to the Ink48 Hotel lounge. She can ask the bartenders to make something w/o alcohol or even juice, soda, sparkling water, spritzer. It's got a view unlike any other.

                For weekend brunch, you should really go the Meatpacking district, even just to walk around the restaurants and shops and you can walk the Highline as well. It's a scene she'll really like or one she'll learn to like. Or hate. Lots of sweets are sold on the Highline. People's Pops are gluten free.

                There's the new bike share program that just started recently. You could do that along the west side bike path which is safe from vehicular traffic.

                5 Replies
                1. re: mushroomaffairs

                  Great ideas -- I've actually been to Pylos with her before years ago (when she was the visitor and I was the New Yorker), and I think she really liked it. A fun East Village evening might work.

                  1. re: nyc_to_ma

                    If you do an East Village evening throw in a stop at Big Gay Ice Cream and/or Cha'an for tea and desserts.

                  2. re: mushroomaffairs

                    The non-alcoholic drinks at Riverpark are amazing. Oddly enough there is very little FDR noise. Watching the boats go by while the sun goes down is priceless.
                    If you go be sure to check out their veggie garden.

                    1. re: Motosport

                      I did find it to be rather windy when we went. It wasn't a super hot day so I found myself a little chilly when the sun went down.

                      1. re: Motosport

                        It's also located inside the confines of a medical center.
                        Certainly an only in NY experience, it's not for everyone.

                    2. Go to M. Wells Dinnette, have lunch there and then... dance. There is a dance party at PS1 on Saturdays and the atmosphere is exciting and really very fun. If you don't like to dance, wander around the museum and enjoy the art installations.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Pookipichu

                        PS 1's Warm Up is outside isn't it? If the OP's friend isn't a fan of NYC's summer weather, maybe not the best choice.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          I didn't see any mention of his friend not liking summer weather? PS1 Warmup is outdoors but there are shaded areas and also there is water streaming down that is cooling, it's really a fun, uniquely NY environment and the kids (20's) there all seem to love it. If they don't like being outdoors or dancing, they can go inside the museum which has AC. The restaurant of course has AC as well.

                          1. re: Pookipichu

                            My friend is from Miami, so the heat isn't a huge issue. M.Wells / P.S. 1 might be a good plan if the weather cooperates and I can drag her to Queens!

                      2. Cheez Louise, all these hoity-toity recommends -not the kind of Manhattan most dear to my heart, or enough to compel me to stay.

                        I'm more inclined to recommend a Chino-Latino place on the UWS (assuming there're any left there); one or another E.European deli on the LES; Grey's Papaya; a Russian banquet hall in Coney Island; one or another of the wannabe Southern cooking places; a real dim sum spot in Chinatown; or something at the bottom of Curry Hill.

                        All these corporate-clean, antiseptic places recommended so far (and, tellingly, you haven't told us where your friend is from, but I'm guessing Southern California) are all well and good, but not distinctively New York -and, at the end of the day, not worth the effort to keep her here.

                        EDIT: In the spirit of Ogden Nash's "Candy is dandy / But liquor is quicker", you might consider a cocktail tour instead to beguile her completely. (It's worked before.)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Phil Ogelos

                          These are good ideas and include lots of things that I'd like - unfortunately my friend is not really an adventurous eater and wouldn't go for many of them.

                          1. re: Phil Ogelos

                            Yeah but he's got a pretty healthy budget, his friend doesn't drink and has a limited palate and he can't have gluten.

                            On another note, I haven't heard the term chino-latino in a long time. When I was young, I used to love this place called Bayamos down on Broadway and that's exactly what I used to refer it as, that chino-latino place. I was a kid and I thought it was the coolest restaurant, lol. It was probably awful for all I remember.

                          2. If I were going to convince someone to love NYC, I wouldn't wow her with expensive food. I'd take her to something small and cheap and quirky. Like to the scruffy B&H for breakfast.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Fida

                              B&H!!! Love B&H. Great blintzes.

                            2. If you want to dine well on the cheap, you should go to one of the great pizza places like Motorino. Then walk over to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and get a salty pimp for dessert.

                              1. If you want your friend to love this city, why not take her to Zabar's? Stroll through the place and ponder over all the cheeses, olives, coffee, fish, and housewares.
                                Or stroll along Bleecker street and stop at a café?
                                If you'll be around on a Saturday, go to the Union Square Greenmarket.

                                Sitting in a restaurant doesn't scream NYC experience to me like walking around some of our finest food shops and marketplaces does.

                                1. First of all-can you tell us why she hates NYC?

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: UES Mayor

                                    I think the main problem is that she works super long hours, and when she is not working, the nightlife of her 20-something friends is not fun for her as a non-drinker.

                                    Also, since she works such long hours she generally goes back and forth between home and work and rarely leaves midtown - enough for anyone to hate new york, I think.

                                    1. re: nyc_to_ma

                                      Perhaps the Bar at the Modern after a visit to the refreshing Rain Room?

                                      She doesn't hate NYC so much as her own daily slog me thinks.

                                      Moma Rain Room:
                                      http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/ex...

                                      and then dining at the Bar Room of the Modern:
                                      http://www.themodernnyc.com/#/restaur...

                                      1. re: scoopG

                                        Waiting six hours on line for the Rain Room would make anyone hate NY. ;)

                                        1. re: loratliff

                                          I'm member and did not have to wait long at all. From the MoMA website:

                                          MoMA members and their guests enjoy priority access to Rain Room at all times, as well as an exclusive early member viewing hour, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. daily throughout the run of the installation.

                                          ETA: perhaps it is the saps in six hour lines who have to wait behind MoMA members and their guests!

                                          1. re: scoopG

                                            I'm a member as well... and the lines are still six hours: http://gothamist.com/2013/07/22/rain_...

                                        2. re: scoopG

                                          Rain Room closes July 28, OP will be in town August 17.

                                          1. re: kathryn

                                            Right! It then will be (where it is already now) to PS1 so it might work with Pookipichu's recs upthread.

                                            http://www.momaps1.org/expo1/venue/mo...

                                          2. re: scoopG

                                            The long wait for the Rain Room may be a deal breaker.

                                          3. re: nyc_to_ma

                                            My comment isn't particularly food oriented, but its on topic. She doesn't hate NY, she hates her lifestyle. As a 20 something in NYC beginning my working life, I worked 6-7 days a week often putting in 80+ hours a week. That was the norm for business I was in. I joked that there was no reason for me to have an apartment as between the hours in the office and traveling, I rarely saw it. I regularly missed going out with friends because work made it impossible. I used to think I hated NYC too. Solution to that? Changed jobs. One night out probably wont change your friend's mind.

                                          1. I vote for the NoMad if you can get a table (the one in the NoMad hotel, not the Ethiopian place in the EV). It's buzzy, great food, great vibe, and their bartender was interviewed back in February about creating a new list of non-alcoholic cocktails: http://www.grubstreet.com/2013/02/leo...

                                            Alternatively, I'd also check out Il Buco Alimentari for the same reasons. I had a dinner there for a pregnant friend and they created a fabulous sparking rhubarb mocktail. I realize dinner isn't all about drinks, but I think it's good to show your friend there are places she can go have a nice "drink" - even if there's no alcohol in it.

                                            1. Nyc is hard to love when you sleep under your desk.... Been there! I have a very different suggestion- rent citibikes. She will see soooo much more of nyc that day than she has the past month! Its an easy ride from murray hill to the east village or lower east side,and wander the neighborhood, grab a snack at big gay ice cream shop. Then take her for an outdoor concert or movie with a picnic,
                                              http://www.nycgo.com/free/
                                              has a comprehensive listing.
                                              And have a heart to heart with her about finding a new job or signing up for online dating (seriously! People in love are happy people!)

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                And thus singlehandèdly did Ttrock change the gestalt of Chowhound from gastonomic site to sidebar in TONY; salamaat, tt!)

                                                1. Originally from the Midwest myself (40 yrs ago), I've had great NYC experience success taking visitors for dim sum; also with Chez Josephine (the wonderful sexy paintings of her combined with the live piano music and the charm of the owner). From left field: when I was new to NYC and careful about budget, my friends and I loved Puglia (Little Italy) for the sheer conviviality and live music, and the house red wine and the garlic bread.

                                                  1. It is in OB but Traif in Brooklyn.

                                                    1. I'm thinking you need to plan a night rather than a single dinner. If the problem is your friend isn't exposed to the magical side of New York, then it's not about one meal, it's about experiencing the feeling that at every turn there's a new snack or shop to explore. In that spirit I would suggest leaning towards her idea of comfort food, whatever that might be, and then find an ice cream or bakery stop around the corner. Better yet, make your own dinner, dividing your night up at multiple establishments.

                                                      Most of us fall for NY the second we arrive, so if that's not working with your friend, maybe the best strategy is to go where it doesn't feel like the city at all. Brooklyn is good for that. Why not pick a place neither of you know too well, and go check it out? It might be more fun.

                                                      Finally, if your friend isn't inclined to enjoy nightlife, why not pick a weekend morning/afternoon instead, or hit up the most New York places you can think of, like Oyster Bar, or New Amsterdam Market, where even if the food isn't perfect, the charms are unavoidable.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                        FYI, the next New Amsterdam Market isn't until September 29. No more weekly markets. :(

                                                      2. Suggest, you consider a night out.

                                                        Maybe do Rockwell Music Hall for a few tunes after work
                                                        Stop by Angel Share/Summit for a few cocktails
                                                        Have dinner at somewhere like Cafe Mogador or Arcane (down the way from Summit Bar)
                                                        And if on Friday night, go see the Doo Wop band and Elsas