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I've done my homework, but would love your advice on my anniversary dinner picks...

We're visiting New York for our 9th anniversary, it's been a rough year so I'd like something special, we're coming from San Francisco, so we know good food & we know it usually comes at a price, unfortunately money IS an issue, would like to keep it under $300.00 after drinks & tip.

So far we got:

Babbo or Lupa
Love Mario & Lydia, is it possible to get out of Babbo on our budget? I realize Lupa is not as expensive but is it worth saving a few extra dollars for?

Minetta Tavern or Gramercy Tavern
We chose these because they just seem classic New York, figure we could get Black Label Burgers & a nice bottle of wine..

Open to knew ideas, any comments are appreciated,
Thanks,
Kristine

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  1. $150pp after tax and tip is $116pp for food and wine. How much will you spend on wine?

    Can you break out your budget for food only?

    I'd do Babbo and maybe scale back on the wine. Make sure you sit upstairs. I don't think Lupa will be comfy enough. Minetta is great but it's a bit cramped and loud, and we always get the steak there, which would possibly be over your budget?

    1. I think Babbo would be a good choice. It is a nice place to celebrate an anniversary. The food is excellent and you can order to fit your budget. You can order appetizer ( share 1), pasta and main and for $90/pp, then gauge what your drinking accordingly.
      Lupa will not feel like you're doing anything special. Minetta a bit too crowded and loud. Gramercy I'm not a fan of.
      Babbo is my choice

      1. Coming from SF, not sure that Babbo or Lupa is something you can't find back at home. Same with Grammercy Tavern as SF does the whole farm-table-thing quite well.

        From your list I would go to Minetta Tavern. Good food, and NYC vibe.

        Also might consider Gato or The NoMad.

        1. We had a terrific lunch at Babbo. Here's my little write up.

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9632...

          1. Babbo over lupa for rwasons already mentioned- did you look at felidia? Its pricey but they offer a pre and post theater menu, so if you can eat earlier or later that would allow a nice bottle of wine as well. Not nearly as busy or energetic as babbo though.

            Pass on GT, its too similar to many SF restaurants. Minetta wouldn't be ideal as "the anniversary dinner" IMO but wed-fri they do lunch so you could avoid the busiest time and go then

            1. would you consider lunch? Del Posto is one of the most romantic rooms in NY, it's a Batali restaurant and you could come in under budget with a decent bottle of wine. your anniversary is all day, so start early. maybe a heavy lunch and a lighter dinner could be a good thing for when you reach the hotel at night.

              2 Replies
              1. re: coasts

                I agree, Del Posto is a great choice

                1. re: coasts

                  +1

                  They could even just do GT tavern room for desserts and wine that evening...

                2. Babbo over Lupa, as many have said. There are number of very good bottles in the $40 - $50 range that can carry you through the meal, and reasonably priced quartinos. A rundown of a recent dinner we had:

                  3 Antipasti - Octopus, Lamb's Tongue, Testa
                  2 Pastas - Goat Cheese Tortelloni, Beef Cheek Ravioli
                  2 Secondi - Sweetbreads, Skirt Steak
                  1 Dolci - Rnubarb Crostata
                  2 bottles wine - Castello di Verduno "Bellis Perennis"

                  ...came to $330 after tax & tip. Order two quartinos instead of two bottles and you're back under $300. Or change it to one pasta as a "split" middle course and just two antipasto, you're back under $300 again. Or just drop one secondi. You can eat -very- generously for the price there.

                  (Mind you, I wouldn't order the skirt steak - which, somehow, in the all the times I've been I'd never had before - again. Not bad, just kind of nothing-I-couldn't-make-at-home-in-seven-minutes. And the Rhubarb Crostata had too much orange peel. Rare miss for them, usually the seaonal crostata, whatever it is, is excellent.)

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: sgordon

                    Wow thank you all for your replies, looks like Babbo it is...as long as we can get in, it's not till September 2nd, (which is a Tuesday) we're still a little more than 30 days out, was planning on going through open table, or should I call?

                    I'll keep Del Posto as a back up, love the idea of GT for an after dinner drink!

                    Once again thank you all so much, I'll be bugging you guys again for more recommendations, we're there for a full week, but for now I have some more homework to do!

                    1. re: Kristine

                      For Babbo on Sept 2nd, reservations would actually open up on August 2nd (this coming Saturday). It's one month ahead to the NUMERICAL date via phone, but their OpenTable wouldn't open until Sunday. The OT policy would be 1 day behind so I'd definitely call.

                      1. re: Kristine

                        Yeah - definitely call, be flexible on the specific time, and you should be able to get something, especially given that 9/2 is a Tuesday night. Be ready to redial a LOT.

                        Normally I dine fairly late - it's not uncommon for there to be OT rezzies there at 10:00 PM and after, and those are fine with me. I actually prefer being in the last seating for a table - no rush. But I had to call a few months back as I was having dinner with my visiting mother, so only earlier times would do (and it was for a Saturday night, no less) - I just starting calling a couple minutes before 10:00 on both my work and cell phones, just got into the redial-rhythm as soon as I'd hear the "line not open yet" message or busy signal. Only took a few minutes before one connected, scored a 7:00. It's annoying but it was worth the bother. (Made my mom happy...)

                        I'd also request, if/when you get through, an upstairs table if they can do it - downstairs the two-tops are packed a bit closer together, upstairs has a more romantic / "anniversary" feel, even if the food's all the same. They might not be able to guarantee one, but it doesn't hurt to be at the front of the line.

                        If for whatever reason you can't get a table, I'd highly recommend Lincoln right now, if you want to stay with the Italian theme - they're a little more modernist than Babbo, but Chef Benno has been killing it lately, and the prix fixe is really reasonable - $60/3 courses or $75/4, a real steal for the latter. Leaves a bit more wiggle room for vino. Beautiful room, too, very anniversary worthy. I'd actually probably go there over Del Posto, especially considering that DP is nearly double the price. (Though admittedly, there are a lot more perks / extras with the DP meal)

                    2. Oh, also to clear up some minor confusion: were you planning on doing Babbo or Lupa AND Minetta or Gramercy? Or is it meant more to read as Babbo or Lupa or Minetta or Gramercy? Nobody's mentioned the latter two, really.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: sgordon

                        We were planning on either Babbo or Lupa OR Minetta or Gramercy, just one of the four for the actual anniversary date, but now I'm thinking of going to Minetta on one of the other nights were there to share a Black Label Burger & get a nice bottle of wine, do they not like it if you ask to split a burger? Don't want to embarrass myself.

                        I'll check out Lincoln too, it's not really important to stay with the Italian theme, we love it but I think we just want a quintessential New York restaurant, that's why Minetta & Gramercy were on the list.

                        1. re: Kristine

                          They'd be fine with it if you're sitting at the bar (which is no-rez) - if you reserve a table and then only order one or two things they'd probably be a little irked. Actually, a lot irked, but they're pros so they wouldn't show it. Unless one of those two things is the Cote de Boeuf or something.

                          I'd say if you can get the Babbo reservation, go with that, as it's the toughest of the four (with Minetta a close second) - though again, for a Tuesday night it might be easier than usual.

                          I don't know if Minetta (in its current incarnation) has been around long enough to be considered "quintessential" yet - but it's certainly headed that way.

                          1. re: Kristine

                            The BLB at Minetta is not so big that it could be shared. I would feel cheated only having half.

                            1. re: Kristine

                              You should definitely not feel weird about sharing the burger. I'm a local, and I went to Minetta with my wife a few weeks ago and shared the bone marrow and then the burger. Was enough for us on that night, and I didn't feel the least bit concerned about it.

                              I don't get the idea that has begun to take hold in foodie/chef culture that the diner needs to please the restaurant instead of the other way 'round.

                          2. I have not been to the other restaurants (always wanted to go to Babbo), but I did go to Gramercy Tavern for an anniversary and they really do make it special. This was last year (I don't know if they've upped their prices since then) and we didn't order a lot of drinks, but I think it amount to just over $300, including tip.

                            Our server greeted our table with a complimentary champagne congrats and left us with little crumb cakes for next morning's breakfast.

                            1. Sorry...I know it's not on your list...and a few others have suggested it...but I feel Del Posto ( on their more affordable lunch special) will leave you with such a memorable special dining experience...everything from the grand entrance, the impeccable service, the many surprise extras, beautiful room AND the piano music in the background!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: smilingal

                                I hope their current pianist is better than the one that was there when I went for a not very impressive lunch a few years ago. He screwed up a lot and also repeated one tune 3 times while we were there, and otherwise just wasn't very interesting. (Note that my girlfriend and I are both professional musicians, and my brother is also a good musician who has previously done professional work.)