Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is contributing writer, former managing and 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 protected] with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!
This week, we're chatting about two group dinner questions: a birthday party with guests who are vegan or gluten-free, and a book club dinner with guests of variously adventurous tastes.
Gluten-Free, Vegan-Friendly Birthday Dinner
Hi! I'm trying to plan a group birthday dinner for about 8 people, and am running into some real problems. First, I need a restaurant that takes reservations due to the big group size, but the real challenge is that we have a mixed group of eaters -- omnivores, vegans, and gluten-free. I keep running in circles -- "Italian is good for the vegetarians, oh but not for gluten-free." "Asian food for the gluten crowd, but oh, that's a little hard for vegans since there's chicken stock in everything." Do you have any recommendations for a small group dinner, ideally in Brooklyn or lower Manhattan, ideally seasonal/local American fare that would be able to accommodate this eclectic group -- or at least very willing to make substitutions/special requests???
How about Caracas Arepas Bar? The East Village location is tiny, but the Williamsburg location is roomier, takes reservations, and has a rum bar attached.
Arepas themselves are one of the most likable foods I know; who can't get in to griddled corncakes? That base is wheat-free, gluten-free, and totally vegan. And options run the gamut from beefy to vegetarian (and almost every vegetarian option can be made vegan). Bonus: it's cheap! Money left over for birthday drinks (or gluten-free vegan cake, or whatever strikes your party's fancy.)
Book Club Dinner
I have been asked to organize dinner for a book club that I have recently joined. We are a group of 6, some more foodie than others. A couple are vegetarian, a couple are adventurous eaters. Our budget is $20 for mains and I would like to make a booking so we don't have to wait for a table. Ideally the restaurant would be south of 14th st. I think we would eat almost any cuisine. One doesn't like Chinese food (although I love it).
Perhaps Pylos in the East Village? A warm, rustically cozy Greek restaurant that'll take reservations. Entrees run right around $20 (though lamb and whole fish will be a bit more), with sharable starters that should please both adventurous and less-adventurous eaters.
And I recommend Otto quite a bit, but for good reason. Mario Batali's most casual Italian spot manages to feel like a classy, sophisticated restaurant despite the fact that pasta entrees top out at $10, pizza at $15—so you can spend a little more on excellent meat or cheese platters, vegetable sides, or killer gelato.
Email [email protected] with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question. All questions will be read, though unfortunately not all can be answered.
Have more advice for these folks? Jump in, in the comment thread!