Help me with my dirty 30.
March 6, 2009 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Plan my 30th birthday in NYC. Dizzying amount of parameters within.

For my 30th b-day I'd like to have a pretty special night out in NYC. I already spend a decent amount of time in the City as it is, so I'd like to find some extra dynamite destinations. I am looking for interesting, eclectic, fun places to spend the night and here is what I have in mind for the whole event:

1. Go on a 5ish mile run with a couple friends. Do you have a favorite route?

2. Get pre dinner cocktails.

3. Eat a delicious dinner (Outstanding, interesting, eclectic sushi preferred. Otherwise, exceptional other kinds of restaurants are great, too. Just not Ethiopian).

4. Hang out in a bar after dinner with friends.

My only real restrictions are geography and that things are fairly affordable. On the geography front, I'd like to be in either Manhattan or Astoria, Queens for the whole event.

Moneywise, we're all willing to splurge somewhat, but as a barometer, bars that offers only $15 cocktails and restaurants with main courses upwards of ~$25 ain't happening. At the pre-dinner bar I'd like to be able to sit, relax, and get decent whiskey/bourbon and/or interesting cocktails. The after-dinner bar, as long as a group of 8ish can fit, sit and hear ourselves talk, divey is totally fine, if not preferred.

I realize I'm asking a bunch of things in one question, which may not be kosher. If you have suggestions for any of the four above, that's cool, you don't need to craft my whole b-day package or anything.

posted by sneakin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How many people are in the pre-dinner cocktails group? The whole 8-ish or is it a smaller set?
posted by jeb at 1:56 PM on March 6, 2009

Also, where are you staying? Because if you are staying in Astoria, but you do the run and everything else in Manhattan, what will you do about the shower/change between the run and everything else?
posted by jeb at 1:58 PM on March 6, 2009

Ok, one more question: what day of the week is this going to be on?
posted by jeb at 1:58 PM on March 6, 2009

Response by poster: Really good questions. Sorry for the oversight.

This will be on a Saturday.

I am staying with friends either on the UES or in Astoria (depending on what gets planned...).

Pre-dinner drinks and dinner will be about 8 people, 10 max. After dinner drinks will be more, maybe many more.
posted by sneakin at 2:04 PM on March 6, 2009

Best answer: Ok, I'm gonna throw out some ideas then:

Sushi that goes beyond "outstanding" into "eclectic" and "interesting" that's both reasonably-priced and in Manhattan is tough. I mean you don't have to go Masa levels, but the place I was going to suggest, 15 East, is pretty spendy. Not sure how spendy exactly. I haven't actually been to 15 East, but its masterminded by the guy who used to run Jewel Bako back when it was the jam. The omakase there is probably the best sushi I've ever had. I loved classic-era Jewel Bako, and 15 East is apparently the new incarnation. The sushi there was definitely in the area where you were like, "i have no idea what this is, and even when the waiter explained it to me, I didn't know that was a real sea creature, but it is insanely delicious."

There used to be this place on E. 5th called Tab Tos that was insanely good and insanely affordable. The service was...Seinfeldian, but the sushi was absolutely remarkable. I bring this up, because the people who ran it sold it and opened a new place on the UES BUT I CANT REMEMBER THE NAME. Maybe your UES friends know? That would be my other sushi rec.

If you like good whiskey, and you go the East Village route, I would suggest D.B.A. This is a pretty low key joint with a zillion types of whiskey that you can bring a largish group too. A lot of the other cocktailian bars downtown that other people might rec are going to be tough with a group of 8-10 (PDT, Death & Co., Milk & Honey, etc.). Those joints are also real spendy. The one cocktailian downtown bar I can think of that is worth going to with this size crew is Pegu Club. Its on Houston. As far as post-dinner drinks there's 200 dive bars on every corner there. Go to one thats not too crowded or too empty.

Now, a whole other way to go is get dinner at Tomoe in the WV. A lot of people swear by this joint, including some insufferable sushi snobs. Some people bag on it (like my brother, but he bags on every sushi place in NYC). I think its v. good but idk if I'd put it in the insane category. A possibility for the pre-dinner cocktail here is Tailor in Soho (but over there on the west side IIRC), which has crazy cocktails and is doable with a bigger group. A good normal bar over there is Blind Tiger. My friends own and work at this bar over there called Rabbit Lounge that is a pretty cool beer bar/speakeasy, but the beers are super expensive. Blind Tiger is a casual beer-nerd bar. For a straight dive bar, the only traditional one I can think of over there is Johnny's, but its quality. You're not that that far of a walk from my favorite dive, Nancy Whisky Pub, on Lispenard. That place also has shuffle board. The WV also has what I call 'strange' bars like the White Horse. Nominally famous because Dylan Thomas drank himself to death there, when you go in there now, its filled with a mix of people who would be attracted to the kind of bar a literary hero drank in, and drunks who went to the closest bar near their house. I wouldn't necessarily describe this as "fun" but it can an interesting change of pace, especially if you bring your own friends.

So that's two different possibilities. If you figure out what the uptown Tab Tos equivalent is, that could be a third one (bars up there are grim though). The one thing I'm leaving out is the running. I don't run, unless I'm in immediate corporal danger. However, I do know from some running friends of mine that there's a ~5mi loop in Central Park. If I was going to run, that sounds like something I would give a shot to.

Even though this explicity violates your key params, I'm going to throw out another option: Williamsburg. Do the run wherever. Then go to Williamsburg. For a pre-dinner cocktail, go to either Hotel Delano (cool place, old timey design, awesome cocktails), DBA williamsburg (again, for your whiskeys), the bar at Dressler (awesome cocktails, awesome design). Then get your sushi dinner at either Bozu or Zenkichi. These both have really good eclectic sushi and other eclectic sushi-like plates that are super good and they are _way_ more affordable than anything comparable on the other side of the river. Same for the bars. After dinner, you got a lot of good options. Williamsburg has the highest density of good bars in NYC (even though it has one achilles' heel now that Southside Lounge is closed). Go drink some liters at a picnic table at Radegast, play buckhunter and connect four at the Levee. I mean really, there's so many choices that match your ideas its hard to even suggest. I'd actually recommend a mini-pubcrawl post dinner. Changing venues always makes a night funner. The main reason I'm bringing this up is cost: unusual sushi in manhattan is crazy expensive, so are good cocktails. In Williamsburg, everything is on sale and its all closer together.
posted by jeb at 2:38 PM on March 6, 2009

I'll go ahead and jump in on the dinner bit, because as a non-runner I wouldn't have the slightest clue where to tell you to run (though my runner friends prefer running along the river). My favorite sushi place in NYC is Lan, on 3rd Ave between 10th and 11th Street. The sushi is fairly reasonable, the entrees are mostly under 25 bucks (and some much cheaper - but some, like Kobe beef steaks, much more expensive). It's not the most unusual sushi I've ever had, but the sushi chefs there do accommodate special requests and it's all really, really delicious. They also have a prix fixe menu on the weekends that's $25 (but call and ask, we haven't been there early enough on the right days for it lately and it may have changed). I have been going there for over 10 years and every single thing I have ever eaten there is amazing. Plus, if you call ahead and make reservations for the group they are very accommodating and will probably do a prix fixe for your dinner group if you ask. They have done so for us in the past.

For after-dinner drinks in the area, there are a number of choices, but I prefer Grassroots on St Mark's between 2nd and 3rd. Cheap, big tables, but crowded. The bartenders are kind of grumbly, they have popcorn for $1, and sometimes they have a bar cat and/or bar dog sort of meandering around. You can also try McSorley's on 7th Street bet 2nd & 3rd. Beer only, their own brew, light or dark, surly Irish waiters. Order the cheese plate. It is $3, maybe less, and is hilariously un-snooty.

If you want good food and cocktails in one place, try Galaxy Global Eatery on 15th and Irving Place. Great, eclectic menu - everyone from vegans to die-hard meat-eaters can happily eat there, and they have a full bar. The menu is reasonable- no entree over $20 - and the bar is not overpriced either. No sushi, but they have a great menu. We love it so much we had our rehearsal dinner for our wedding there (which was very informal, lest you think it's all fancy or something). Bonus: easy access to Queens AND UES via Union Square, one block away.

Good luck, and happy birthday!
posted by bedhead at 3:08 PM on March 6, 2009

Running on the streets in Manhattan is no fun, really, so I would do it in Central Park if you want to stick to Manhattan. Running over the Brooklyn Bridge is fun, though, so you could start near City Hall, then run over the bridge and back (map it -- that's probably less than five miles, but you could run around Brooklyn for a bit then back over the bridge to get to five). I find running along the East River to be flat and kind of boring.
posted by Airhen at 3:28 PM on March 6, 2009

Run: central park is good. if you're lower than midtown, you can run along the east river or the hudson river down to battery park and then back.

after-dinner drinks: Flatiron Lounge, 18th & 5th (or around there). Super classic place, not too loud or crowded. One of my favorite places to take visiting friends.
posted by nyc_consultant at 5:32 PM on March 6, 2009

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