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Best restaurant with a high energy environment?

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Visiting NYC this summer for my wife's 40th birthday celebration, and I'm looking for the best restaurant that has a high energy environment. We want good food first and foremost, but she doesn't enjoy going to places that feel too quiet or reserved.

It doesn't need to be over-the-top loud, and as much as I would like to go to places like EMP, Jean-Georges, or LeBernardin, my gut tells me she just won't enjoy the environment.

Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about any of the above places listed or any of the other high-end restaurants as our trips to NYC are few and far between, so my knowledge is all second hand. I just want to make sure she has the best 40th b-day possible.

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  1. Minetta tavern?

    1. Babbo
      The NoMad

      1 Reply
      1. re: thegforceny

        I don't find NoMad or Babbo to be high energy. The bar area of Babbo is crowded (because the area is tiny), but the rooms could not be described as high energy, especially upstairs.

        NoMad is not high energy either. It's a little buzzy because the tables are close together, but far from high energy.

        The Breslin is frenetic. That's high energy.

      2. Momofuku Ko

        21 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          While the food may be good at Momofuku Ko, it's a stretch to call it high energy. It's so small, and the only noise comes from the loud rap music the chefs blast. (I've asked them to turn it down)

          If his wife likes a buzzy, high energy environment coming from people, this is not it. It's tame with loud music.

          1. re: Pookipichu

            Ko no longer plays the music loud (probably not for the past year or so).

            1. re: ellenost

              Thank goodness, I've complained about it, especially since the music had profanity.

              1. re: Pookipichu

                Last year I had to smile when a song from Air Supply played while I was having dinner. I'm probably one of Ko's few guests who know who Air Supply is.

                1. re: ellenost

                  I love Air Supply :) I wouldn't classify any of their songs as high energy, but it's a much better accompaniment to the food at Ko than rap music blasting with all sorts of curse words.

                  1. re: Pookipichu

                    Air Supply???? Opposite of energy. Sucks all the energy out of the room. I wonder what you must think that my wife wanted Nirvana's hit Rape Me played at our wedding because she loved the song. Any who...

                    1. re: Bkeats

                      A wedding is a different matter, whatever music you enjoy should be played, whether it be Billy Ray Cyrus or Deaf Leopards.

                  2. re: ellenost

                    I love Air supply...went to concert during christmas.

                  3. re: Pookipichu

                    Isn't Ko an adult restaurant? I'm wondering why profanity is an issue.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't like hearing profanity, especially not when I am trying to enjoy a meal.

                      1. re: Pookipichu

                        I'm surprised you can even make out the lyrics while enjoying a meal.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          The first time I was at Momofuku Ko, a rap song was blasting that used the N word repeatedly and it literally made me feel sick to my stomach.

                          1. re: Pookipichu

                            Well, that's certainly not a nice feeling to have when you're shilling out that kinda dough.

                      2. re: linguafood

                        For me, profanisty is an issue not because of the actual idea of profanity, but because of the negative/violent/overtly sexual feeling used with the words. At a party at home? In the car? Listening with ear buds? Sure. Of course! While dining out at a nice restaurant? Not at all. I wouldn't want to hear the words "vomit" "puss" "stab you in the neck" or "anal bleeding" while dining in public either, and none of those words are profanity. It's the idea behind the words in the context of the song that makes me uncomfortable; not the actual use of profanity.

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          I guess, unless I am actually familiar with a song, I just don't pay enough attention to lyrics while I am busy eating an expensive meal.

                          1. re: linguafood

                            If the volume is loud enough, no matter what the price, I hear the music. I have always been and will always be a music lover. Although I am almost 53, I keep pretty current and am familiar with a lot of music. If a restaurant is playing a mix of good music, I will "tune in" no matter what the bill is. Just like I will notice the artwork, the furnishings and the rest of the environment. It's just the way I am wired. :)

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              I'm a professional singer, so I'm no stranger to music myself '-D

                              That said, I rarely ever pay close attention to rap lyrics. It's just not my thang.

                              And I hate the way they blast music in restaurants nowadays, making it near impossible to have a conversation without screaming at each other.

                              Guess that's the "high energy" factor some folks much younger than I are into.

                              1. re: linguafood

                                I don't think I'm a prude but it's hard to ignore when the N-word and B-word are being blasted at you in a small restaurant. :) There are some words that cause a visceral reaction when you hear them, much the same way I'm fine with bodily functions in general but I don't want someone pooping next to me when I'm eating in a "fancy" restaurant.

                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                  I guess I'm not that sensitive to those words as you are.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    As someone who has had both lunch and dinner at Ko more than 50 times during the past 5 1/2 years, I have never heard any music that was at all offensive (used to be louder), and I'm turning 55 this summer.

                                    1. re: ellenost

                                      I have, I guess I was I unlucky.......or perhaps because I complained.

              2. Betony
                Rouge Tomate
                SD26
                Maialino

                We are going to the NoMad tonight, for the first time, so I will comment on that shortly.

                2 Replies
                1. re: rrems

                  Well, having just had dinner at NoMad, I can say this is the place. The roast chicken for 2 is wonderful. We had a great meal, I love the beer selection, and it is lively and loud without being ridiculously so. Service is excellent, and atmosphere is nice. Be sure to reserve as soon as your dates become available.

                  1. re: rrems

                    Rouge Tomate?? I consider it one of my favorites in terms of food but I go there for the peace and quiet!!

                  2. Agree with previous suggestions, and adding:
                    Pearl and ash
                    Betony

                    1. The NoMad

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Spiritchaser

                        +1 for The NoMad (especially in The Atrium).

                      2. If you enjoy Chinese food, Hakkasan and Buddakan. Both are very energetic. They both have a high energy, party atmosphere.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Pookipichu

                          Buddakan, sure. But the food is average generally.

                          Hakkasan, I do not consider high-energy. The times I've been the room has been, at best, 3/4 full. Generously, speaking. And I'm talking Sat. night. Weird techno pop music, as well.

                          Between the two, I would definitely goto Buddakan.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I probably go to both more frequently, Hakkasan has been packed. Buddakan has a more "exciting" crowd, but the food at Hakkasan is better.

                        2. i often find myself suggesting Empellon and will do so again. Cocina is probably more bustling, but i like the music and vibe at Taqueria better.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: coasts

                            I'd toss osteria Morini into the mix as well. It has energy to spare, not sure if the new UES outpost is the same, but I like the original. Pasta dishes are the way to go,in my experience.

                          2. I'm going to come out of left field and suggest ISodi on Christopher Street. We were there last year and the food and service were wonderful. We had a 7 pm reservation. When we got there it was somewhat quiet, but by 8 pm things picked up and it had a nice, steady high energy vibe going that was still in full swing as we left at 9:30. I Sodi does not get recommended on CH a lot (not sure why) but we have been there a number of times and the food and service are always top notch.

                            http://www.isodinyc.com

                            Edit: i just reread your OP and now I am thinking that you want more of an "event" type of place. For that, I really have no suggestions. Perhaps the answer is dinner at a buzzy reataurant and then a club afterwards for more of an "event" feel?

                            Second edit: perhaps Manzo smack dab in the middle of Eataly might fit the bill. Excellent food in the middle of a very busy/buzzy Italian food market.

                            http://www.eataly.com/manzo/

                            Ok, I'm done!

                            1. What does high energy mean to you? Is that loud music, women in short skirts and guys in shiny shirts? Or is it something else. The places you listed aren't that but they're not libraries either. They will be full of smartly dressed people who will be having conversations enjoying their meals. I will be at two of the listed places over the next month. It's not a nightclub scene if that's what you're looking for. Most places that are scenes tend to have shitty food. There are exceptions but I don't think of them as 40th birthday places but hey that's just me.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Bkeats

                                I think I understand what the OP is looking for. Not everyone wants to celebrate at an EMP, Jean Georges or Le Bernadin. That may be hard for some Chowhounders to wrap their mind around, but places like the aforementioned can seem reserved or even dull.

                                When I'm at a place like Breslin, Buddakan or Hakkasan, the energy is completely different, it's the energy of people having a party, many of the places suggested in this thread do not have that vibe at all. They're simply people sitting around, chatting, eating good food. They're not quiet, but by no stretch have I ever looked around the room at EMP and thought "wow, people look really animated, they look like they're full of excitement and energy". At the end of the day, it's about what will make the wife happy not about what we want the wife to eat.

                                1. re: Bkeats

                                  Thanks to everyone for all of the suggestions so far.

                                  By high energy I did not mean a night club type of environment, or anything like that. We certainly don't need a "scene" or to be seen. Just somewhere we can laugh with each other and feel like others are out having fun. Just looking for something with a little bit of a "hustle and bustle". Like I said, I wasn't sure about the places I listed, just looking for some opinions from those that have been.

                                  1. re: CU Tiger Fan

                                    Gotcha, misunderstood. That description fits the majority of the restaurants in NYC with great food :) There are much fewer places that are very quiet or have a "scene". What you are looking for is in the giant middle.

                                2. I wanted to take a step back and readdress your original comment about EMP. Everyone knows I'm a huge supporter of EMP so you can take this with a grain of salt if you would like but I wanted to say although EMP is not loud and booming it is far from boring or staid. There is so much interaction with the staff and seeing the "ballet" of service is, IMO, quite nice, the restaurant never stops moving. We have celebrated many special occassions at EMP, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc with people younger, older, and same ages as my GF and I and with all that variety of people no one has ever come away wanting more from a restaurant. Just sayin'...

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: Spiritchaser

                                    Just as a comment on EMP, I've had mostly great experiences at EMP, but for someone looking for a "scene", EMP is not that exciting. People are wearing their good behavior clothes and I've never heard the kind of excited chatter or laughter you would get at a restaurant that people feel they can let their hair down at. :)

                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                      You have interpreted the OP as wanting a "scene" which I don't think they were looking for. And I don't want to go back and forth but why does an environment with "good behavior" mean it can't have energy? A cafeteria has lots of chatter and laughing and people behaving badly, still not a place I want to celebrate.

                                      1. re: Spiritchaser

                                        I misunderstood what the OP was looking for and acknowledged that. I also wasn't telling you where you should want to celebrate, just clarifying what the ambiance is like at EMP, even if you love EMP, it's not the perfect restaurant for every person or every occasion. :)

                                      2. re: Pookipichu

                                        " People are wearing their good behavior clothes and I've never heard the kind of excited chatter or laughter you would get at a restaurant that people feel they can let their hair down at."

                                        Has EMP changed over the years in that respect? We've only been there once, about 3 or so years ago, and the "vibe" was very cheery and animated. People chattering and staff hustling and bustling about. Customers were wearing everything from suits to jeans. The only place I've really been to where the environment is ultra-conservative and quiet is Del Posto.

                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                          I didn't say EMP was ultra-conservative or quiet...

                                          1. re: Pookipichu

                                            You sort of made it sound that way. Also, I was just pointing out that your statement,"I've never heard the kind of excited chatter or laughter" is far from what I experienced. It's all good; we each have our own perceptions. :)

                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                              I think I've painted a clear picture of what I mean if you read my posts. If the OP had been looking for a "scene" then I don't think EMP fits the bill. It seems like people would recommend EMP regardless of what's asked. What's a super romantic, quiet restaurant? EMP! What's a high energy restaurant? EMP! It's everything for everyone for every occasion! :)

                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                Hey, I don't even like EMP and I'm sticking up for it! lol
                                                With MY ONE experience there, I would never recommend it for "a super romantic, quiet restaurant." Mid-level vibe to upbeat is my 3+ year old recollection of it.

                                          2. re: ttoommyy

                                            ttoommyy - Exactly my point, I have always thought of EMP as extremely upbeat.

                                            1. re: Spiritchaser

                                              I actually find EMP to be "playful", and everyone always has a "fun" time.

                                      3. I didn't mean to start any arguments over what defines a high energy restaurant ;-)

                                        Perhaps I should try a different tack. Of the typical highly recommended, high end restaurants (EMP, Jean Georges, Per Se, Le Bernardin, Daniel, Jungsik, Ko, and any other I may be leaving out), which of those would have the most energy and buzz?

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: CU Tiger Fan

                                          I don't think you started any arguments, everyone is just trying to be helpful.

                                          I would recommend EMP over the other restaurants on your list, it's the most fun and the food is excellent.

                                          1. re: Pookipichu

                                            Sorry it came off as argumentative, don't want to spoil your opinion of Chow : )

                                          2. re: CU Tiger Fan

                                            "I didn't mean to start any arguments over what defines a high energy restaurant ;-)"

                                            That's just us on the Manhattan board: high spirited, passionate debaters. Not arguing at all! We're NYers after all! :)

                                            1. re: CU Tiger Fan

                                              Well I like most of the places you listed. I am going to EMP and LeB over the next couple of weeks. Have been to both several times before so I will report back about energy level at both places though I will say upfront that I agree with sgordon that EMP seems a bit more lively. All the suits in LeB make it feel like there is more corporate dining going on there. But in either place I would not worry about you and your wife having a lively conversation and having a laugh or two or even three. Taking my son to EMP for a big birthday for him. He loves the place even as a teen.

                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                The last time I was at EMP I was in a cardigan over a t-shirt and jeans. At the table to my right was an older couple, he in a business suit. To my left were two girls in their twenties who may or may not have been dressed as anime characters.

                                                So, it can be a fun mix of types. Le Bern, yeah - very corporate vibe.

                                                That said, ambiance-wise you can certainly have a spirited conversation at any of them. You wouldn't want to whoop & holler, but none of them are the sorts of places where one must sit in hushed reverence of the chef's art for three hours.

                                                As for "buzz" in the room - EMP for sure. People are just -excited- to be there. There's a sense of conviviality, that you're all sharing this great experience. That night we were among the last tables seated and we wound up closing the place, along with a few other duos and groups. We all just hung around drinking the brandy and chatting with each other until the wee hours, it turned into a little mini-party. I can't imagine that happening at Daniel or JG or Le Bern.

                                                There's a certain similar conviviality at Ko as well - people seem more than happy to talk to their neighbor, since it's such a small space - but everyone's meal is pretty regimented / timed, there's no dawdling around.

                                                1. re: sgordon

                                                  If it would work for the OP and his wife, the lunch at Ko is a more leisurely and luxurious meal. Since there is only one seating, the pace of the courses is a bit slower--figure a 3 hour lunch with 16 courses. Ko may have relocated to their new space by the summer so things may or may not change.

                                                  1. re: sgordon

                                                    " To my left were two girls in their twenties who may or may not have been dressed as anime characters."

                                                    I nearly choked on my coffee! That's hysterical....!! Love this city.

                                                    1. re: sgordon

                                                      "To my left were two girls in their twenties who may or may not have been dressed as anime characters."

                                                      Could they have been harajuku girks from Japan?

                                                2. EMP has a more relaxed ambiance than JG or Le Bern - there's no jacket requirement, etc, they're a bit more egalitarian that way. It's still very nice, but doesn't have the stuffy vibe that many find the other four-star gastro-temples do.

                                                  Depends on your definition of "high-energy" though. Babbo is a good call. Minetta Tavern and/or Balthazar as well, though the food there is fairly straight-forward, certainly not as adventurous or modern as an EMP.

                                                  1. I have another suggestion (although I said in an earlier post that I was done.) How about the Tavern room at Gramercy Tavern? That definitely has a great vibe. The only problem is that you cannot make a reservation. Drinks at the bar while waiting can be fun though while you wait!

                                                    1. STK? LAVO?

                                                      1. If you'd like a high-energy Asian-fusion restaurant, try Tao.

                                                        http://taorestaurant.com/