Where would you have one nice meal in NYC?
April 20, 2015 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I need some help narrowing down options for my one nice ($$$) meal in New York City.

Ok, here's the specs:

1. Never been to NYC, very excited, 4 days in town and budgeting one $$$ meal.

2. Travelling alone, need somewhere I will be comfortable dining for one (seating at bar?).

3. Nicest outfit I will have: Italian boots, new jeans, dress-ish shirt (no dress pants, jacket or tie etc).

4. I like all food, would definitely lean more towards historic and classic rather than hip and painful (I'm kinda dorky and shy).

Any other mefitips for NYC would be appreciated too, foodwise or other (Hotel is booked already, flying into LGA)
posted by Cosine to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (26 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Eat at the bar at Blue Hill. The food is amazing, and you can do the full menu at the bar. They don't require a reservation for eating at the bar, but I would lean toward the earlier side of the evening before the bar fills up.
posted by bedhead at 8:37 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

What's your budget? $$$ is kind of vague, and you can do a lot more with, say, $500 than you can with $100 even though both are high.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:37 AM on April 20, 2015

How much is $$$ to you? In NYC you could spend $300+ on a single meal. Do you mean that level of spendy, or more like $75-100? Including alcohol?
posted by gatorae at 8:38 AM on April 20, 2015

Response by poster: Budget-wise I am flexible but the upper limit would probably be $300ish.
posted by Cosine at 8:39 AM on April 20, 2015

Peter Luger.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:49 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Eleven Madison is quite an experience. You have to make reservations way in advance, though. Don't know what the situation at the bar is there, you might want to look into that.

I haven't been to Blue Hill, but eating at the restaurant at their farm upstate was the singular best dining experience of my life, so I suspect the city version is also pretty great.
posted by overhauser at 8:51 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Le Bernadin. To me, there's no contest -- nowhere else in the city touches it. They do have bar seating, and the full menu is available there, as well as a lounge menu.
posted by holborne at 8:56 AM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

We had a notably great meal at Aldea a year or so ago, exceeding even the experiences of some much higher ranked (and more expensive) restaurants.

While the food was fantastic, it was service that really made the meal there. We had direct service from the Chef for a course, and the sommelier herself took over our wine service when it became apparent that we were really enjoying the wine pairings. It's relatively small and thus allows for that kind of intimacy. We had a great time.
posted by bonehead at 9:05 AM on April 20, 2015

Del Posto is my current favorite fancy restaurant. I think men may be required to wear a jacket, but I've seen people walking around without them. The food is great and the service is beyond amazing. I would definitely feel comfortable as a solo diner there.

I wasn't overly impressed with Blue Hill (haven't been to Stone Barns though). I'd recommend Dovetail instead (super interesting wines there and you'd be fine outfit-wise).
posted by snaw at 9:16 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

This all depends on what you're looking for, since NYC has so many great options at every price point. What kind of cuisine? Do you want something with a scene? (You can have a scene with classic/historic as well).

If you enjoy Japanese, consider Sushi Nakazawa (opened by a former Jiro Sushi chef).
posted by vlotty at 9:30 AM on April 20, 2015

Le Bernadin requires suit coats for men, so does 21.
Nthing Blue Hill and Peter Luger.

Other old school places: Keen's (their mutton chop is lamb) and the Grand Central Oyster Bar.
posted by brujita at 9:41 AM on April 20, 2015

Le Bernadin does not require jackets in the lounge area (where they are merely recommended). And it is the most extraordinary meal in the historic/classic genre that I have ever had in NY.
posted by willbaude at 9:52 AM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh, I'll throw in another one: the chef's omakase at Sushi Yasuda. Best sushi in the city, full stop -- just totally swoonworthy. It can sometimes be difficult to get a reservation, so best to plan this one reasonably far in advance.
posted by holborne at 10:52 AM on April 20, 2015

If you can get in, a seat at the bar at Kajitsu for the Hana menu and Sake pairing would fit the bill nicely.
posted by multics at 1:16 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: NYC has tons of solo travelers, especially those on business. There is absolutely no stigma to being a solo diner at a table, unless you feel uncomfortable. Many chefs take it as a compliment, because you are there purely for the food, and nothing else - not a date, not a business dinner, not an anniversary, just there to enjoy a great meal.

Being that you won't have a suit jacket, you would not be able to dine at: 21 Club, Per Se, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin (dining room), Daniel, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, River Cafe, Le Cirque, maybe a few more.

Some are jacket preferred / recommended like Eleven Madison Park or The Modern. Or as mentioned above, the lounge at Le Bernardin has a similar dress code.

Peter Luger really needs to be booked 6-8 weeks ahead of time; it's often difficult to get someone to actually pick up the phone there (from my own experience). I don't believe they allow eating at the bar at all - never seen it happen. The bar and front area can get crammed in with people waiting for their tables. No required dress code, though. I've seen people in head to toe Jets gear here. It has a bright beer hall-like ambiance, so a very different experience than an EMP or Le Bernardin.

Eleven Madison Park is fantastic but they only serve a la carte at the bar and lounge. Not the full tasting menu. It may not be worth it to you in that case. Jacket is preferred but not required. If you want the full experience, try to make a reservation for a table for 1 at EMP - they do take single diners at tables. They are also known for exemplary customer service and making people feel welcomed.

Nakazawa does not take reservations at the sushi bar for solo diners & if you're not at the bar, you'll miss all the fun and interaction with Nakazawa-san, which is what makes the meal really special anyway.

Since you lean more towards the historic and classic, I would go for a table at EMP (book precisely 4 weeks in advance at 9am, and be on the phone & OpenTable at the same time, I'm not sure when your trip is?). Then if you strike out, I would first get on the wait list, and then consider a table at The Modern in the Dining Room. The only hesitation I'd have about the lounge at Le Bernardin is that they take walk-ins only.

EMP and Le Bernardin are two of the very top restaurants in the city / country. Both focus on more clean, subtle flavors, just so that you're aware, and less so anything very bold or punchy.

(If you do plan to end up at Le Bernardin, make sure you grab a copy of Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain, and read the chapter about Justo Thomas beforehand. Then order the crispy black bass.)

Here's a rough guide to eating in Manhattan for visitors that I've written on Chowhound.

Have a great time!
posted by kathryn at 1:24 PM on April 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you very much for the response kathryn, knowing that NYC is cool with loners helps.

I will probably skip sushi as I eat a lot (maybe too much) nice west coast sushi regularly.

I am going in a week so EMP is out unless I try the lounge (Modern also booked). I would have planned ahead but this trip is a bit last minute.

I've found some good suggestions for nice places with bar seating, just nothing from the top of the Michelin list. I've also got a seat at Keen's booked.
posted by Cosine at 1:43 PM on April 20, 2015

Take a gander through the Bib Gourmand list too. Good food, lower cost, more casual.
posted by shothotbot at 2:00 PM on April 20, 2015

You're welcome!

Give Eleven Madison Park and the Modern a call and get on the waitlist. You might get lucky.
posted by kathryn at 2:14 PM on April 20, 2015

The jacket is not a deal breaker at Le Bernadin -- last time we dined there, my brother in law showed up with no jacket and the staff easily found one that he could borrow for dinner.
posted by xo at 4:16 PM on April 20, 2015

best kept food secret in the city is the 3-course, $45 City Harvest lunch at Le Bernadin.

I'd say, go to EMP for your spendy meal and hit up the lounge at Le Bernadin for lunch (a different day!).
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 5:44 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Marea. I'm tellin' ya. So good.
posted by greta simone at 8:19 PM on April 20, 2015

Waitlists have never panned out for me. I cannot think of one instance where a restaurant called back with an open seat. What sometimes but rarely works is calling the morning/afternoon of, or better, just crashing their front (in attire) and asking politely.

For the fancy restaurants it doesn't hurt to just grab a copy of the Michelin guidebook (I know, paper books!?!?!), and just go with the descriptions that sound good to you. The reason I say this is because high-end (read: consistent quality) restaurants seem to differentiate their offerings by the character of their cuisine, thus making things more a matter of whether the style suits the diner's interests and tastes. Have a look at their online menus, skim over their nytimes review to see what kind of cooking the restaurant does, and pick what seems to resonate with you.

There's so many good choices, you can't go wrong with any of the ones mentioned already. I miss that city!
posted by polymodus at 3:44 AM on April 21, 2015

momofuku ko
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 6:38 AM on April 21, 2015

The new Rainbow Room lounge is open. It's not cheap, but less expensive than prix fixe and you can pair it with spectacular views if that's your thing.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:42 AM on April 21, 2015

Italian: Il Mulino. Get the rack of lamb.
Japanese: Sasabune @ the bar. Just sit down and eat what they give you. It'll be amazing.
posted by Freen at 2:26 PM on April 21, 2015

I asked a similar question previously, although without the restriction of solo dining. We ended up at Annisa and momofuku ko and enjoyed both greatly, although it sounds like Annisa might be more to your personal taste. I'm pretty sure there were multiple people dining alone at both places. Honestly, I wouldn't worry about that too much; I think there are enough moneyed foodie business travelers that it's pretty common for people to eat alone at fancy restaurants in NYC.

If we had been there at a better time of year (i.e. right now), we would have gone to Blue Hill either in addition to or instead of Annisa.
posted by slenderloris at 4:35 PM on April 21, 2015

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