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Theater District with 20 yr old First Timer?

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I'm taking my 20 year old niece on a special trip to Manhattan, and am looking for a pre-theater meal somewhere near the Theater District. She lives in a small Texas town, and I'd like to take her somewhere that is not too stodgy, but with recognizable food--- a place where she'll feel like it's a special event. I was perusing the board, and also Open Table hoping for an Italian restaurant with butternut squash ravioli (a favorite!), but haven't found it yet. Budget would be around $30 an entree. When I was her age (late '70s, eek!) my parents took me on just such a trip---leaving behind that same small Texas town, and the places that made a lasting impression on me were the Russian Tea Room, Gallaghers, and a very dark, oak filled German place where the waiter showed me how to fold a fancy napkin. She's a lot more hip than I was, and a fancy place would make her a bit uncomfortable---but I'd like for her to have a Manhattan experience of "dinner and a show" that is memorable for her. Any ideas?

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  1. Up your budget a bit and go to Lincoln.

    1. Betony?

      1. Butternut squash ravioli always strikes me as more of an autumn seasonal food. May have trouble finding it right now.

        1. You would probably have to adjust your budget but I do agree with the recommendation of Betony. Another possibility would be db Bistro Moderne.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Spiritchaser

            Db bistro also has a pre theater menu 5-6:30pm, $48 for 3 courses, which could work with the OPs budget....and a not scary sounding flank steak entree
            http://www.dbbistro.com/nyc/menu/

          2. "I was perusing the board, and also Open Table hoping for an Italian restaurant with butternut squash ravioli (a favorite!),"

            Del Posto currently serves pumpkin cappellacci with browned butter which is really delicious and also similar to butternut squash ravioli. The restaurant is probably too far and too pricey for your pre-theater dinner but you could try it for lunch.

            1. Are there other things/cuisines that your niece likes to eat? If you could give some direction as to her tastes, it's easier to recommend. Butternut squash ravioli tends to be seasonal as others have mentioned.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Pookipichu

                Thank you so much for the time and effort all the responders have put in to guide me in the right direction! I'm trying to think of how to describe her taste, while still keeping the thread chow-worthy! She has not been exposed to a lot of variety in cuisine---she's a very typical, very average 20-year old in that regard. She's not adventurous in her eating---and she's not a big eater. She'll take a bite of just about anything, then politely pass on eating more (like last year, when I took her to Cinque Terra and we had sardines fresh from the sea). She really likes bread (smile). She'll be quite happy with our morning and mid-day meals snagged from hot dog stands and dashes into delis. In thinking more about it, I'm realizing that what I'm really searching for is an environment/ambience. A place with decent food for both of us, but with the trappings which place it as a special NYC dining experience, unlike what she's seen in Texas. The recommendation for Lincoln was intriguing---I couldn't get a reservation for the night I needed, but I'm going to try for another night, that looks like the type of "room" I am thinking of, but didn't know existed. And, maybe Rosa Mexicana (I remember an interesting fountain and high ceilings, and she does like Mexican food…) Thanks again. And, as several have suggested, my budget can necessarily creep up. $30 an entree is a guideline (meaning, not $75 an entree).

                1. re: Biking Girl

                  Well, if you want to take her some place someone her age might enjoy maybe you could look into The Modern (Bar Room); it's at MOMA, lots of variety on the menu, lots of energy in the room.

                  1. re: Biking Girl

                    I highly recommend Lincoln...i took my 6 yr old after a circus and she still talks about it. The food is amazing there.

                    1. re: Biking Girl

                      The other posters have made some excellent suggestions.

                      I would recommend against Rosa Mexicana (especially coming from TX), it's really become a tourist trap and the food gets worse and worse each time I've been.

                      You might want to consider:

                      Landmarc, a very NY location and feel, the food is very safe.

                      Hakkasan, very different from your typical TX restaurant and there are small dishes to taste, dim sum is very shareable.

                      Molyvos has mezzes to share and is good for people who like a bite of this and that.

                      1. re: Biking Girl

                        Please don't take a girl from texas for mexican in nyc.....(i'm sure she can find awesome mexican at home!)

                    2. Osteria Al Doge on West 44th is one of my theatre district dining favorites.

                      1. I second Landmarc for a menu with good variety. Also, since she's a small eater she might like to have 2 appetizers for dinner - more variety with smaller portions. Lots of people do that these days, so no one will think it's odd.

                        I also second avoiding Rosa Mexicana - it gets worse and worse as the days go by. Out-of-towners dragged me there a few months back and we were all extremely disappointed in every way: food, price, quality, service.

                        1. REPORT: My niece and I had a wonderful time in NYC---we ended up with two pre-theater dinner reservations. First, LANDMARC. This was a solid recommendation, and our table was very happy with our selections. There were daily specials, and as chance would have it, on the evening we were there the special was a very basic spaghetti and meat sauce which fit the bill for my youngish companion. I asked the server for her recommendation, and she steered me to a popular creamy pasta dish with peas and bacon---I don't recall the fancy details, but the flavor and richness is memorable. The only thing that detracted from this being the sort of environment that I was seeking is the location inside a shopping center---it felt fairly ordinary, and pedestrian to approach the restaurant through the retail scene which is prevalent in so many places, including Niece's home town. I wanted something that shouted "NYC--UNIQUE EXPERIENCE" a bit more forcefully. Great food, lovely service and it was a hit with us. We had plenty of other "NYC UNIQUE" experiences as the trip continued, so this is a minor detail.

                          We happened upon THE SMITH as we were hungry before seeing BLUE MAN GROUP at Astor Place, and that was a nice diversion for us as well. I had a salad, and Niece decided to try "macaroni and cheese" and "cheesy jalapeño grits" for dinner. I had bites, and both were delicious---decadent for me, absolutely acceptable fare for her. Another fly by was Jacob's Pickles, on a day where we rented bikes and rode all through Central Park with many stops--including a long (interminable) one at Strawberry Fields. We took the bikes out of the park and into the Upper West Side hunting for a real meal and visited Jacob's Pickles for an enormous spread of delicious biscuits and eggs and gravy and a very unusual (to us) 8-jar pickle flight. This was such a filling and late meal that we ended up canceling our evening reservation at Osteria Al Doge, but I'm tucking away that idea for next time. Thank you all for your help. I must say that the first response on this thread, before I got into the groove of the Manhattan Board ("up your budget a bit and to Lincoln") startled me! I thought the poster was a)making fun of my cheap budget (is $30 an entree that out of line?) and herding me off to Lincoln, Nebraska where perhaps a rube like me could dine in style on my budget. I overcame my shock, though, and googled the word "Lincoln" and NYC to find the restaurant at Lincoln Center. It was a funny episode for me! Thanks again, all---

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Biking Girl

                            Glad you had a good experience :)

                          2. Check out the menu at Becco.