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Nov 10, 2013 09:32 AM

Need recs for NYC trip

My husband and I are taking our first post-baby trip alone to NYC for a long weekend in mid-December and need recommendations for :
1. 2 dinners. Both dinners would be on theatre nights. We are okay with a very early or very late dinner. One show is from 7:30-10:30 on a Thursday at Foxwoods Theatre at W 42nd St. The other show is on. Saturday night at Lincoln Center from 8-11. What we are looking for: French or Italian would be good but we are open to others. We had thought about Marea, Colicchio and Sons, Babbo and Gramercy Park Tavern as possibilities. We have been to Le Bernadin and Bar Boulud before so dont want to repeat those. Cozy and romantic. Not pretentious or stuffy. We would like to spend between 150-250 total for the 2 of us including alcohol, tax and tip. We could go somewhat higher for something really good. Good food and ambience are the most important factors here.
2. Brunch option for Sunday. Warm, cozy, lively. A fireplace would be a nice bonus. Probably would be looking for something a little less expensive than dinner but no firm limits. We have thought about: Minetta Tavern and Balthazar.
3. Breakfast and lunch places that are tasty and relatively quick. Sit-down is fine but we would not want to do a 2.5 hr meal. Food carts and delis would be fine but we only have so much time in the city, so we dont want to spend hours waiting in line. Any area of the city is fine. Would love it if anyone had recs for somewhere that serves croissants that could even come close to what we can get in Paris. Dessert recs would be great too.

Thanks in advance for any recommendations.

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  1. Gramercy Tavern is hands down my favorite restaurant in NYC. I also recently had an amazing dinner at Fedora in the West Village. I highly recommend either of those options for dinner. Balthazar is wonderful, but definitely not a cozy brunch. I love Pastis for bunch as well.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mawnyc521

      just curious, are you from nyc?

      1. re: sam1

        Me? Yes, I've lived in NYC for 15 years.

    2. Forgot to add: prefer
      Dinner places that take reservations.

      1. 1. Can you give a firmer budget for food only, without including alcohol? Drinking habits vary widely and can really affect your budget. It's hard to make recommendations within your price range without knowing if you're going to have just 1 cocktail vs a bottle of wine, etc.

        Near 42nd St AND French/Italian AND romantic AND pre-theatre AND $75pp (really $58 for food and drink) is going to be difficult. $125pp gives you a bit more leeway, about $97 for food and drink once you factor out the tax/tip.

        For dinner Thursday night, before the theatre, I'd be worried about missing your curtain time if you did Colicchio & Sons, Babbo, or Gramercy Tavern, and needed to get to Midtown by 7:30pm.

        Also keep in mind that Marea is quite pricey, as well as near Columbus Circle so a good 20-25 minute walk south to Foxwoods.

        Given that it is in December, you might not want to make that walk if it is snowing or if you're not in appropriate footwear (heels?). Or try to find a cab and hope it doesn't get stuck in traffic, or take the train.

        December is one of the worst months regarding traffic in NYC. They have gridlock alerts basically every weekend in December due to the extra traffic that shopping & sightseeing bring in.

        Times Square will also be MOBBED in December with tourists. I would not plan on taking a cab near midtown. And you could potentially also get stuck on the subway randomly if there is a train delay/accident/train traffic.

        You could easily do Esca for a pre-theatre dinner. Make a 5:30pm (or earlier) reservation and they'll have you out by around 7:15pm. Stick to the crudos, appetizers, and pastas and skip the mains. We especially liked the raw porcinis and grilled matsutake mushrooms with Parmesan vinaigrette and the grilled Portuguese white anchovies with pickled green beans, local greens and house cured green olive tapenade a few weeks ago. They're very used to a pre-theatre crowd. Dependent upon how much alcohol you drink, you may go over your budget, but you'll probably be OK if it's not a lot.

        If you wanted to do a late dinner and required a place that took reservations, your options for French & Italian are kind of limited in Midtown on a Thursday night.

        Esca is open until 11:30pm. Jean Georges is open until 11pm (last res is at 11pm), you might be able to get there in time if you hurried. I like the atmosphere at JG, you might find it pretentious/stuffy and over your stated budget. Marea is also open until 11pm (last res is at 11pm).

        For JG and Marea, do keep in mind that that they are ~17 blocks away from 42nd Street.

        Outside the theatre district, you could do Babbo (last res at 11:15), Minetta Tavern (dinner until midnight), or Del Posto (last res is at 11pm). You might find Del Posto to be too pretentious/stuffy/over your budget.

        Atmosphere wise, Minetta is great, old school, Rat Pack-esque, and one of my favorites in town.

        Late night dining in general:

        For Saturday night, take a look at Lincoln Ristorante. It has a modern atmosphere, but I think the architecture is very interesting. The head chef is formerly of Per Se. If you did a full 4 course Italian meal, the food cost would be around $100pp, assuming you ordered the most expensive things on the menu and didn't share.

        2. For a warm, cozy, lively brunch w/ a wood burning oven, try Blue Ribbon Bakery. No reservations, however. Many brunch places don't take them.

        You might like brunch at Union Square Cafe or Maialino more. Both take reservations.

        Where are you staying?

        I do love the brunches at Minetta Tavern and Balthazar, however. Both are cozy in the sense that you are pretty close to your neighboring tables, but Balthazar has high ceilings whereas MT doesn't.

        3. Hard to give recommendations w/o knowing WHERE in the city you plan to be.

        Try the croissants at Dominque Ansel and Mille-Feuille (esp the raspberry almond if they have it).

        Best desserts is difficult because we don't have many "dessert only" restaurants (just Chikalicious IIRC). Do you seek composed plates at a restaurant or takeout at a bakery or a slice of pie/cake/etc at a diner/cafe? And also what time you want dessert--some of the great options in the city close around 5-6pm.

        2 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          Hi Kathryn,

          Thanks for the very detailed response. French or Italian is not a strict requirement, just an option. Good point on the alcohol. Lets say that we would want to stick to around $100 pp for food only. Maybe 125 pp for a tasting menu. For Thursday night, we would not want to rush, so if there are no good options near the Theatre district, we would be more likely to eat afterwards. So generally speaking, what would be your favorite options that offered later night dining options that we could likely get to on time after the play? If we did Marea, it seems that it would make more sense to do on Saturday night when we will be at the Lincoln Center. Asking about dessert places, I really mean regular restaurants that would be a good place to have drinks and dessert in the event that we ate dinner pre-theatre. Maybe pretentious was not the right word. I guess we are looking for places that are not too snobbish. Hotel reservations are not completely nailed down yet. We are either staying near Rock Center or Central Park South. We are not very firm with our itinerary, but generally will do Trinity Church and WTC Memorial on Thursday , 5th Ave shopping and a good chunk of Central Park on Friday, and the Met on Saturday. Other areas will be fit in as time permits and the mood strikes. Sunday brunch is the destination and could be anywhere. Reservations are not strictly required so long as we could reasonably get in early enough to be finished by 1:30 or so without rushing. I am definitely intrigued by Lincoln Ristorante. Recent negative reviews had scared us away a bit but user reviews can be very hit or miss and it is obvious you know NYC dining.

          1. re: Melmcc

            Post-theatre, Babbo or Minetta Tavern (my previous recs) might be fun, not too formal. Late night, are you still looking for romantic? If not, Momofuku Ssam or Tertulia might be fun. Both are on the more casual side.

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