Best....French and/or seafood... 4 people $300 dinner inc drinks
I'm from out of town but have a 40th birthday celebration coming up in the city.
Quick search has found Craigie on Main, No. 9 Park, Deuxave, Bergamot
I went to L'Espalier a long time ago but that's over the budget I think.
I guess fun with cool vibe is better than stuffy and too fancy.
If it were my birthday and I had a budget around there I'd be asking to go to Alden & Harlow.
CoM would probably be hard to stay under that line (A&H might be pushing it depending on how many drinks is involved with 'inc drinks'). Definitely a notch or two down in the ambiance/pomp & circumstance but their sibling restaurant Kirkland Tap & Trotter might be worth looking at.
Happy B'day in advance! We had a special celebration like yours a few weeks ago, a fantastic evening at Island Creek. Here's what i posted about it:
Alden and Harlow has a talented chef and is a fun spot, smallish, dark and loud. But imo, it can't match the food, decor, service, bar program and overall stylish ambience and energy of ICOB.
I love the food and service at Bergamot, but would not describe it as having a cool vibe. Someone here once described it as having a wedding reception-like atmosphere and I couldn't agree more.
What about Casa B in Union Square? I find the food and bartending there is solid and the atmosphere is pretty unique. That said, it's not as "upscale" as the other places you mentioned. (EDIT: Oops--completely missed the "French or seafood". Well, they do have seafood on the menu.....")
Otherwise, I agree with ICOB.
Row 34 is ICOB's new sibling. Smaller, buzzier.
Neptune Oyster in the N. End is popular, but another place that's hard to get into.
Bistro du Midi or Troquet, not as cool as ESK or Row 34 but not stuffy like L'Espalier either.