Serious Eats: New York
Ask the Critic: Where Should I Take My Wife For Dinner, 'Thanksgiving Dinner,' and More
Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email email@example.com with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!
This week on Ask the Critic: We help a husband with great taste in restaurants decide where to take his wife; we help a mother find a "Thanksgiving Dinner" for her son, in February, and more. Let's get started!
I am taking my wife out for a date night and narrowed my choice of restaurants down to three restaurants we have not yet tried—Tertulia, Neta, or Perla. I have read some reviews online of each they all sound great. I am looking for an opinion from someone who has been to more than one of these restaurants and can make some type of direct comparison. PS My wife is allergic to shellfish, if that can be taken into account.
I applaud your taste in restaurants! I've actually been to dates at all three, come to think of it. They're very different places, but if you want a head-to-head comparison:
Food and Drink: Perla if you like excellent pasta, animal parts, and eating until you need an espresso and a shot of something before you walk out. Excellent cocktail menu, wine list all France and Italy. Tertulia if you're a fan of jamón and meals of many shared bites. Sherry and Spanish wine. Neta if not-quite-traditional, genuinely exciting Japanese is your thing. Genuinely novel, sometimes-savory cocktails, or sake and wine if that's not your thing.
RE: The shellfish allergy, all three restaurants should be alright, but be sure to tell your server so he or she can help you know what to avoid.
Price: None of these are cheap restaurants, and none are guaranteed blowouts, though you'll have to order quite a few dainty plates at Neta in order to really fill up. (Perla's entrées do go north of $30 but the portions are quite generous.) That said, the omakase at Neta is probably the best food experience I've had this year—if you and your wife like spending 3 hours geeking out over every piece of sushi.
Atmosphere: Tertulia has a rustic Spanish farmhouse feel, warm and cozy if not overtly romantic. Perla has the red–banquetted feel of old New York, with an edge, and a soundtrack that swings modern and unpredictable. (Both restaurants can get quite loud.) Neta will be quieter, but more sterile: spartan, brightly lit.
Bottom line? If you're looking for a night out together with a cocktail to start, a nice bottle of wine, service that makes you feel taken care of, and a few courses where every dish looks so tempting you'll be eating off each other's plates: Perla. If you're looking for a mind-blowing meal and atmosphere is less of the focus, Neta. But there isn't really a wrong choice.
'Thanksgiving Meal' For My Son
My 24-year-old son is coming home for the weekend and has been lamenting the fact that he did not have a traditional Thanksgiving meal this year (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes being the most significantly missed aspects). Are there any NYC restaurants which might satisfy this urgent need?
Tough question. Roast turkey, unless it's in sandwich form, is hard enough to find at restaurants; with stuffing, even more so.
But we did a little digging. I'm going to venture your best option is Chat n Chew near Union Square, a very self-consciously "American" spot. We stopped by to try their Thanksgiving dinner plate and can report that, while it's not a restaurant we'd go out of our way for, for other purposes, it does a perfectly respectable turkey dinner: as in, what you'd expect from a more-or-less decent home cook, and isn't that what we all want on Thanksgiving? Bonus: their menu is extensive, so if you aren't craving stuffing, you can order mac-and-cheese or a chicken sandwich while your son gets his turkey on.
NYC in 2 Days
I'd love to see an itinerary (maybe even with subway stations) for a one day or two day trip to NYC. What are your must eats for breakfast, lunch, dinner (and maybe a few snacks) for someone short on time?
Massive Only-in-NYC Breakfast: Shopsin's (F train/2nd Ave, Lower East Side).
Pizza Lunch: Motorino if you like Neapolitan pizza (L train/1st Ave, East Village), Don Antonio if you're in Midtown (1, C, or E/50th St, N, R, Q/29th St), Joe's if you want a quick slice (A,C, E, B, D, F, M/West 4th, West Village), Best Pizza if Williamsburg is accessible (L train/Bedford, Williamsburg), Adrienne's if you're way downtown (J/Z Broad, 1/South Ferry, N/R Whitehall, 4/5 Bowling Green, 2/3 Wall Street, Financial District).
Sandwich Lunch: Katz's for pastrami (F train/2nd Ave, Lower East Side), Parm for chicken parms and meatball subs (N/R Prince, B, D, F, M Broadway/Lafayette, 6 Spring, Nolita), Defonte's for subs (6 train/23rd St), Taim for falafel (A,C, E, B, D, F, M/West 4th or Christopher St 1, West Village; OR Nolita location, N/R Prince, B, D, F, M Broadway/Lafayette, 6 Spring.)
Dinner, Sit-Down: Kin Shop (L train/6th Ave, F/M 14th St, A,C, E, B, D, F, M/West 4th, 2/3 14th St, West Village), The Breslin (N, R, or 6/28th St, Midtown-ish), The Dutch (C/E Spring St), ABC Kitchen (N, R, Q, 4, 5, 6/Union Square), Gramercy Tavern front room (N, R, 6/23rd St), Fedora (A, C, E, B, D, F, M/West 4th or Christopher St 1, West Village).
Dinner, More Casual: Any of the above pizza recommendations, or Xi'an, or Parm.
No, I Didn't Want That Many Recommendations!
Fine. Day 1: Russ & Daughters, Xi'an, Gramercy front room. Day 2: Shopsin's, Katz's, Motorino. You will not have room for snacks.
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Have more advice for these folks? Jump in, in the comment thread!