Ask the Critic: Where to Have an Anniversary Dinner, Food Walking Tour Near the Empire State Building
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 find a fancy (but not too fancy) restaurant for an anniversary dinner, and put together an eating-and-sightseeing tour with both in equal proportion.
This is a great question, so I'm plucking it from Talk:
It's my anniversary in June, and being the sentimental so-and-so I am, I want to take my boo out for a REALLY nice meal. Eleven Madison Park is like WOWZA prices for me—this is a writer's budget, here—but I'd like to spend around 250 bucks (bottle of wine, too!) I've thought about Marc Forgione's restaurant and Hearth, but I'm coming up blank mostly. Any good places to recommend? P.S. No seafood places!
Eleven Madison Park is like WOWZA prices for me, too (editor's budget, here). And here's the other thing: Unless you and your boo are really, truly food-obsessed, I don't know if an epically long tasting menu is the best choice for a celebration. Anniversaries should be about the two of you, enjoying each others' company, not enjoying each other's company but pausing every 15 minutes to marvel at the artistry of what's put down before you. I'm a food writer, for Pete's sake, and I'd still rather a slightly lower-key restaurant for my anniversary, because the memories of a meal at Eleven Madison Park are going to be about Eleven Madison Park. (Not everyone feels this way, but I do.)
Anyway! Ideas. Harold Dieterle's Perilla gets less attention than his newer restaurants, Kin Shop and The Marrow. But it's more elegant, more sedate, a place that feels like a neighborhood restaurant in its warmth, but a destination restaurant in its polish and in its gorgeous menu. You'll be well taken care of.
Other excellent restaurants you could certainly manage, within that budget: NoMad, the more casual brother restaurant of EMP; Telepan, an elegant uptown spot with a gently-priced 4-course tasting; the lovely Annisa, with an Asian-influenced modern American menu; Craft, Tom Colicchio's flagship.
But I'd rather err on the side of slightly less expensive, because you don't want to be keeping one eye on the tab at your anniversary; if you start lower, you've got more room to go a little crazy. While you can't do reservations, consider the more casual Gramercy Tavern front room, with food the equal of the fine dining room in back, but less buttoned-up and less expensive; or the swanky Minetta Tavern, where you can do the dry-aged Cote de Bouef for two if you feel like it, but the $26 tavern steak and a hell of a lot more wine if you don't.
Eating (and Walking) Tour of NYC
When I visit New York, I like to combine eating with walking around, maybe to not feel too guilty. It would be great if you could recommend some routes to combine sightseeing with good food, maybe by neighborhood?
Excellent question—one that we'll probably turn into a series, at some point! But for now, let's start with the lowest-hanging fruit: Midtown. When I have visitors, they don't always want to go up the Empire State or to the Top of the Rock, or actually do much in Times Square, but you still sorta have to see 'em once, right?
Let's start near the Empire State. Fuel up with a macchiato at Stumptown Coffee in the Ace Hotel, and if you're ready to start out strong, stop by No. 7 Sub also in the hotel for sandwiches with genuinely oddball (and often awesome) fillings you won't find anywhere else. (The hotel's other two restaurants, The Breslin and John Dory Oyster Bar, are both fantastic, but we can't fill you up on the first stop, can we?)
Much of the 30s are a culinary wasteland, but there are happy exceptions—chief among them, Koreatown. Essentially the block of 32nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues (with some spillover), it's a micro-hood jammed with more Korean establishments than you can count. We asked our K-Town expert Chris Hansen where he'd recommend for a quick stop on a jam-packed food day. "Woorjip for a by-the-pound buffet as well as a very good selection of pre-packaged items for take away. Other options—E-mo would be a good option for kimbap, and then there's a number of options in Food Gallery 32, such as Bunch for mandoo (dumplings) or Boon Sik Zip for kimbap and other snacks."
Want to linger awhile longer? Lots more Koreatown intel here.
Look up: You've reached the Empire State. (Along with the dubious landmarks of Herald Square and the Macy's of that parade.) Walk north and you'll soon run into Bryant Park; linger for awhile on the lawn, or walk around and see the steps of the New York Public Library. If you're ready for a snack, hit up Kee's Chocolates on Fifth Ave. And because we won't have you without a meal for that long, head up to 45th Street and find the Midtown street food icon Kwik Meal. Follow that up with kati rolls from the Biryani Cart, find somewhere to sit/perch/loiter (or just go back to the park), and enjoy your street lunch the way so many Midtown lunch'ers do.
Walk west and you'll run into Times Square; spend about 3 minutes looking around; then accept that you've seen all these is to see, and head for a burger at Shake Shack. Need a cocktail to settle all this? (Believe me, it helps.) Head to Rum House or Lantern's Keep.
If your New York tour isn't complete without a slice, walk up through Hell's Kitchen (Ninth Avenue is much more peaceful than parts a block east) and stop at Sacco Pizza. In the mood for sweets? Head north and east to Rockefeller Center (which, while we're sightseeing, you should see anyway) and hit Bouchon Bakery or La Maison du Chocolat.
Below: a map!
And if all that was too much eating and not enough sightseeing, Central Park is just a few blocks north—walk around and correct that ratio however you like.
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Have more advice for these folks? Jump in, in the comment thread!