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Apr 2, 2014 08:06 PM

Gentleman Farmer, Black Tree, North River

My girlfriend's birthday is Monday and I'm wondering if anyone has any input on the above three places I mentioned - North River, Black Tree and The Gentleman Farmer.

I've done some reading on Yelp, but curious to know what the Chowhound community has to say.


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  1. The original comment has been removed

      Genleman farmer info is older:

      Nothing on chow re: north river, (which may say a lot in and of itseld) this was on serious eats about brunch there:

      1 Reply
      1. Black Tree's very good. I've never been to the other two, but I think it's going to depend on what kind of vibe you want, e.g., Gentleman Farmer is a lot less casual than Black Tree.

        21 Replies
        1. re: loratliff

          Black Tree's menu looks very good. The entree menu is all sandwiches tho. I don't want to limit my gf to only sandwiches for her bday dinner. I'm pretty intrigued by North River, so we'll see.

          1. re: willscarlett

            the entree menu isn't all sandwiches. look above. there's one featured animal per cycle - fish right now - and there are two or three apps, two or three mains featuring that protein. it was beef last month, with steaks, tartares, etc., and rabbit the month before that. just fyi

            1. re: debinqueens

              But the OP is not incorrect that it is sandwich-focused... That's why I said a few posts above that the vibe might not be right.

              Can I throw Miller's Near & Far into the ring? I think it's likely much stronger than the other two. One of my personal faves.

              1. re: loratliff

                I'll investigate Miller's Near & Far. I'm the kind of person who is always worried that I've made the wrong restaurant choice.

                1. re: willscarlett

                  I like Black Tree a lot. But it's really informal. Make sure that's a vibe you want for a birthday meal.

                  1. re: Elisa515

                    Yummy food is the key here. I don't know what to do. The other day, her mom asked her to choose a restaurant in NJ for us to eat at on Saturday night, only she asked me to do this on Friday night!

                    Only able to think of two restaurants, I booked us at The Grand Cafe in Morristown, NJ. I told her mom, who approved, and also told my gf where we were going. After checking out the menu, photos and Yelp reviews, she wasn't feeling it and asked me to cancel.

                    So yes, I'm on edge about where to go!

                    I took her to Momofuku Ko for her birthday in 2012, so it's time to scale things back a bit. Can't always be dropping major coin on meals.

                    1. re: willscarlett

                      Where does gf want to go for her bday dinner? Maybe say you found a few that look good but would like her to have the final say since its her bday meal.....?

                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                        My gf has this whole mentality of the guy is in charge and takes care of the planning, etc so even if she does want to go somewhere, she'll never tell me.

                      2. re: willscarlett

                        So why these three? There are whole host of restaurants that are better, more formal, and aren't nearly the cost of Ko. What about Estela, Pearl & Ash or Alder?

                        1. re: loratliff

                          Ok, why those three? A while ago, we were randomly walking through the East Village and happened to pass Gentleman Farmer. I thought it looked intriguing and always kept it in mind. We were recently watching Diners, Drives-Ins and Drives (feel free to smack me now) and Black Tree was on and she was like "Wow, we should check it out!" As for North River, it just came up when I was looking stuff up about the other two.

                          Alder may be an option, as we did eat at wd~50 in 2012. I really liked it, but she was more ehh on that place. I'll look into the rest, thanks!

                          Maybe I'll just have to put off having dinner tonight, as I'm not sure I'm feeling any of the three I initially had in mind.

                          1. re: willscarlett

                            Black Tree was on Diners, Drive-Ins etc? I wonder why. (I like that show)

                            How about starting at Black Tree first for drinks and appetizers. Stay if she seems into it, or walk around the corner to Allen Street to Pala for dinner. Then maybe go back around the corner to Stanton Street for coffee (cute espresso shop between Allen and Orchard, north side of street).

                            Shows planning on your part, which is something she appreciates. Plus, with the variety, there has to be something she'll enjoy.

                            Or if the weather's nice enough, you can walk up 1st Ave. for coffee and dessert at Veniero's.

                            1. re: Elisa515

                              Veniero's is one of the best NYC has to offer.

                              How are the prices at Pala?

                              I've actually got a decent plan going, it's just the dinner part that I was freak out over and second guess myself. First, oyster happy hour at Cull & Pistol. Then, Angel's Share... then dinner, then who knows. I was looking at a few rooftop places instead of Angel's Share, but today's weather isn't rooftop worthy. In addition, we've been to Angel's Share before and she likes it.

                              I currently booked us at Jewel Bako for dinner. She dropped a few hints in 2011 and 2012 that she really wanted to go there and we've yet to go. So, maybe tonight is the time for that.

                              Degustation and Gentleman Farmer both look interesting as well. Thanks all for the advice!

                              1. re: willscarlett

                                Check out Pala's website. You'll be sharing most things. It's best to go there in nice weather. Maybe check out on not such a special occasion?

                                Can't comment on the other places since I haven't been to any of them.

                                She sure better appreciate all your effort!

                                1. re: Elisa515

                                  Sometimes casual is good tho, eh? I've done all the celebrations at Momofuku Ko, Eleven Madison Park, etc

                                  1. re: willscarlett

                                    Well, if she's become acclimated to Ko, EMP, etc for birthdays, you're potentially risking a let-down. If you're rollin' that high for birthdays (and not just big ten birthdays) that would make a place like Bako more of a "nice night out" sort of place. I dunno, maybe you should go high-end (if not quite EMP high-end)

                                    1. re: sgordon

                                      This actually is a big ten birthday. Oof. Just because we've been to places like Ko and EMP in the past doesn't mean she loved them, loved them. Ko was a decent experience and the service at EMP outshone the food. The food was good at both, but I wouldn't call either the best we've ever had.

                                      Been to Gramercy Tavern before (loved it), Blue Hill at Stone Barns (loved it)... I actually just had to buy a new car, well a new for me, but 2011 used, so I'm not looking to break the bank on this dinner either.

                                      Anyways.... ugh, this is why I hate birthdays. There's also a 5:30 at Babbo. 9pm may be a bit late... hmm, we'll see. Babbo would have the wow factor in it tho.

                                      1. re: willscarlett

                                        Given it's a big ten, if I had to pick (and it's just my personal taste) I'd probably go for Babbo, or Aquavit if you want to give in and splurge for something that feels fancier. Been very into what Bouley's been doing the last year or so, but given how good their lunch deal is I almost can't imagine going there for dinner prices anymore.

                                        What places WERE among the best you've (or more importantly, she's) had, food-wise? Might be easier to get a bead on a good choice starting from there.

                                        1. re: sgordon

                                          I would say Gramercy Tavern and blue Hill at Stone barns. However, it would be nice to try something new instead of returning to the same old. I also really like Le Cirque. Have yet to make it to Daniel, Le Ber, Per Se etc. if we go to those places, I want to do it right, and now is not the time. For Italian, Felidia is excellent.

                                    2. re: willscarlett

                                      There is, surprisingly, a two-top available at 9:00 at Babbo tonight. It's nowhere near as expensive as an EMP but it's still high-end-ish and carries a bit of "wow, you scored a really tough reservation during prime dining hours" cache.

                                      Of course, it might be gone by the time you read this.

                                      Also seeing prime time tables at: Blue Hill (more romantic), Aquavit (a little more adventurous food), Bouley (again, more romantic), Brushstroke, Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, Gato (again, surprising... figured on them being booked solid for the next month or so...)

                                      Actually, lots of places on OT listed that are usually booked solid - is no one going out tonight? I know Mondays are traditionally slower, but certain places (like Babbo or Le Bern) very rarely have multiple same-day prime openings.

                                      1. re: sgordon

                                        One thing that really annoyed me about her birthday at Ko was that they refused to do anything, saying their venue was too intimate. Hey, I wasn't looking for Joel Grey to do his Cabaret routine on the bar, but given the price, a little recognition, please. They did tell me I could buy a bottle of champagne from them for the celebration tho.

                            2. re: loratliff

                              Maybe we'll just go to Degustation or Jewel Bako. She once told me how she wanted to go to Jewel Bako because her friends went there and really liked it. Whatever at this point.

              2. Black Tree is a place to check out on a casual evening out, not for a birthday dinner. Actually, I wasn't terribly blown away by their sandwiches the couple times I tried them, even - I found them underseasoned, and with a pretty poor fillin's:bread ratio to boot. Also there was one time it took, like, twenty minutes to get our sandwiches even though there were a grand total of six people in the whole restaurant, three of whom were just drinking beers at the bar.

                Gentleman Farmer is a little nicer. It's a cute, cozy place.

                Looking over opentable, tables for two tonight in that general area, I'm seeing tables at Acme (great lately), Alder, Apiary, Degustation, Hearth, Skal (hip new Nordic-themed place), Pearl & Ash... all good options.

                1. Well, first of all, I think you're way overthinking this. I also think that you have a weird range of restaurants--I get that you don't want to break the bank at EMP or Ko or wherever, but Pala and Black Tree and even Gentleman Farmer and North River are more in the realm of extremely casual dining.

                  Like I said, it seems like you're missing the very special, excellent restaurants that aren't expensive compared to the "top" spots... So, in my mind, the best examples of this are restaurants like Pearl & Ash, Estela, and Alder. I'd also include Louro, Piora, Narcissa, Navy, Skal, Contra, etc.

                  Either way, I hope wherever you ended up that you had a nice night.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: loratliff

                    I agree that I'm way overthinking this. I'm always worried something won't be good enough, which has stemmed from my girlfriend telling me weeks after an outing that she didn't really like it or expected more (wd~50, Ko and probably a few others I can't think of). I guess you could say that as long as the food is yummy, the environment doesn't matter so much. Back when I could afford to try fancier places like Ko and EMP, I was all for it, but that's no longer the case today, so I have scale back a bit.

                    In the end, we ended up at Babbo and had the pasta tasting menu. It wasn't what I wanted, but my girlfriend wanted it and it was her birthday. Aside from that tho, she is the boss in general :)

                    As for the food at Babbo, it was excellent, as was the service. Babbo's pasta is truly Italian, as in what you get in Italy. Not to say that everything in Italy is good, but Babbo brought the best of Italy with their cooking, which really impressed me. However, since the quality of Babbo's pasta is what I've grown to expect from true Italian food. Even tho they do it better than most, there wasn't really a "wow" factor in terms of their doing anything new. I guess we'll leave that up to Wylie and his team at wd~50.

                    I admit that may sound a bit snobby, but especially with Italian food, I'm a bit of a food snob, which is why I overthink food decisions a lot. My parents lived in Italy for five years while my father was in veterinary school at the University of Bologna. While living in Italy, my dad learned how to cook from his grandmother in Rome, so suffice to say that when it comes to Italian food, I have high expectations. That's also why I don't like to go out for Italian food very often. Just regarding food in general, I don't think anything will ever top my meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

                    Speaking of other Italian restaurants that are worth it, I'd highly recommend Felidia. Of course, it helps that my parents have been friends with Lydia for 20 years and they know her executive chef as well, Fortunato.

                    I also had an excellent bowl of carbonara at Rosi Parmacotto a few weeks ago.

                    Before dinner, we stopped in at Cull & Pistol for their oyster happy hour. The availability at places like Babbo and Le Ber was affecting Cull & Pistol as well. We walked in at 4:30, fully expecting a wait and unsure if we'd even be seated there with our 6pm res at Babbo... only there was no wait at all. After dinner, we hit up Angel's Share for the first time since Sept 2010. All in all, a very good night :)

                    Thanks to all who contributed to this thread in terms of suggesting restaurants and looking up availability on Open Table!

                    1. re: willscarlett

                      Glad it worked out. I personally wouldn't go for the pasta tasting either - it just seems like overkill to me. And I while I like the pastas there quite a lot, I find they work best as a shared "middle course" between antipasti and secondi, in the Italian tradition. Though invariably, every time I'm there at least one neighboring table is doing the tasting. And invariably, if they were seated before us, one of them leans over and suggests we order the same. So some people like it.

                      I think they allow one person to get the pasta tasting and the other to get the chef's tasting, since they're the same number of courses, but I'm not positive about that - and either way, too late.

                      Babbo doesn't claim to re-invent the wheel a la Dufresne - there are certainly some "wow" dishes on the menu (the octopus antipasti is deservedly lauded) but mostly they hew somewhat traditional - just executed really, really, really well.

                      I haven't been to Felidia in years, it kind of dropped off the radar for me. You should have had your parents call Lydia before you went last night - after all, her son is the co-owner. Maybe could have pulled some extra-special birthday treat for you.

                      1. re: willscarlett

                        Glad you had a good night- I hope the gf recognizes how much effort you put in to this....!

                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                          Yes, she does recognize all the work, thanks for inquiring and for your help! :)