We assembled over 50 "Quick Escapes" from around the country, ideal when you don't have a lot of time to get away….but still need a break. Leave Saturday morning and come back Sunday night, refreshed and rejuvenated. Click Here!

Best Weekend Finder

Select your criteria and we will match it with our destinations.

Click Here
Notes from
the Road

"Notes From the Road" Our Free Email



Hear About Our Latest Discoveries Before Anyone Else

New York, NY Weekend Vacation Getaway

Reserve Now!

Where To Dine

The New York restaurant scene is the most vibrant in the world. Any list of the top restaurants anywhere includes a strong representation of New York favorites. As a chef, the phrase, "if you can make it here.." couldn't be more true. New restaurants crop up nearly every week and sadly, some old favorites, whose time has passed, close their doors.


Unlike in smaller cities or resort towns, it is impossible to visit all the good restaurants in New York. We try hard, but that would be a full time job in itself. So, our recommendations are a list of those we have been to, but not a complete list of all the good restaurants in New York.


To make your selection easier we have added some descriptors at the beginning of each review. At the top of each review you find:

  • Whether it is a "Special Occasion" experience
  • Location
  • Formal, semi-formal or casual
  • Whether it is a romantic restaurant
  • If it is open for lunch
  • The price per person

Daniel  |  Le Bernardin
Aureole  |  Del Posto
La Grenouille  |  Bouley
River Cafe  |  Gramercy Tavern
One If By Land, Two If By Sea  |  Scalini Fedeli
Erminia  |  Quality Meats
Craft  |  Balthazar
The Place  |  The House
'Cesca  |  Ouest
Minetta Tavern  |  Avra Estiatorio
Union Square Cafe

Daniel
60 East 65th Street
HALL OF FAME

Click picture to enlarge
Special Occasion...Uptown...Formal...Romantic...$100+pp

There may be no more perfect restaurant in New York for a very special occasion than Daniel, Daniel Boulud's eponymous Upper East Side salon. Earning near perfect marks for food, decor and service from Zagat, Daniel stands at the top of a very impressive list of world renowned New York restaurants. If you are truly a lover of food and wine, this will be your Mecca.

The main dining room is dramatic and nothing short of spectacular and a 2008 renovation freshened and softened the look. Fashioned in a Venetian Renaissance style with soaring 18 foot ceilings, massive chandeliers and marble columns, it is bathed in soft light and decorated in hues of silvery gray and chocolate brown. The dark carpet sets off the creamy wall panels and rich red leather chairs add a splash of color. The main dining floor is surrounded by intimate dining knooks and there are fragrant bouquets of flowers everywhere. The artwork, personally selected by Boulud, is quite spectacular.

Cocktails are an art form at Daniel, so you'll want to be sure you arrive early enough to enjoy one in the bar, a fashionable UES haunt in its own right. Perhaps a DB Blini; Grand Marnier, OJ, peach and Champagne or a fig and cinnamon infused vodka with lime juice or even a White Cosmo; vodka, Elderflower St. Germain, lime juice and white cranberry.

No expense has been spared to make this a truly extraordinary experience. Crystal, china, silverware, candle votives and linens have all been custom designed just for Daniel and are elegant and substantial at the same time.

Boulud has a wide ranging culinary empire from the U.S. to London and China, yet he seems to keep a firm grasp on his operations. He still cooks and you will never hear “he’s stretched too far” as you do with other celebrity chefs.

Boulud's acclaim comes from delivering quality ingredients, expertly prepared and presented in a way that dazzles. The presentation is so terrific, you hesitate to disturb it. Unlike many high end restaurants, there is no obsession here with obscure ingredients. Rather, the obsession is with wonderful seasonal items paired with items that perfectly compliment the main item. Imagine Carolina shrimp with a basil pistou, toasted pine nuts and thyme croutons and a tomato confit. Delicious!

I love when Boulud offers one item prepared a number of ways; a trio of sea scallops, a duo of Abalone (where other than the West Coast can you get Abalone?) or a quartet of milk fed pig Provencale to name just a few. It's like getting multiple meals in one.

For dessert we shared a chocolate upside-down soufflé served with pistachio ice cream and paired it, at our server's suggestion, with a 2004 Maury Mas Amiel. Just amazing.

The service is impeccable and manages to be both efficient and unobtrusive. Often, in places like this, the service is somewhat stuffy, so I was pleasantly surprised that our wait staff was pleasant and had a sense of humor.

The wine list is remarkable both for its depth and very fair pricing, unusual at a restaurant of this stature. 15 countries are represented in over 2,000 selections and 25,000 bottles. There are about 15 wines by the glass, starting at $12, lots of half bottles and 100 full bottles priced at $50 or less. Of course, if money is no object, there's a Romanee Conti for $10,000 and a Lafite that dates to 1798. Daniel takes its wines seriously and it is evident in the knowledge of its wait staff.

Three course fixe prix menu is $108 and $168 with wine pairings. Six course tasting menu is $195, $300 with wine pairing. Our meal with a $75 bottle of wine was about $450. Not something most of us can do every day, but boy you don't want to miss this every now and then.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Very high, this is a wonderfully seductive restaurant.

WHAT OTHERS SAY...
Michelin 3 Stars
AAA 5 Diamond
Forbes 5 Star
Wine Spectator Grand Award

“When you want the best of everything”, Daniel Boulud’s “stately” East Side namesake delivers the goods, “perennially” inspiring “superlatives” for its “breathtaking” New French prix fixes, “stellar wine list” and “world-class service”; at the “zenith of formal” dining (“jackets required”) with prices to match, it’s “worth every centime” to “celebrate in style”; P.S. the slightly less “lavish” lounge menu is Ă  la carte. ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
Click picture to enlarge

back to top

Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st Street
HALL OF FAME

Click picture to enlarge

Special Occasion..Mid-town..Formal..Romantic..Friday Lunch...$100+pp

Fish is not usually my first choice for a meal when I dine out, but that may be because I had never experienced Eric Ripert’s cooking before. This is unlike any seafood you have ever had. But, I’ll get to the food in a minute.

I knew that Le Bernardin has been the top rated New York restaurant for food in the Zagat’s survey for a number of years and that it ranked near the top for dĂ©cor and service as well. What really intrigued me though, was a panel in New York Magazine who were asked “where would you have your last meal on earth”. Two of the four said Le Bernardin.

To describe the dĂ©cor as “modern” might suggest surroundings somewhat austere or sterile. Le Bernardin is anything but. While the style is modern, the feel is one of warmth and elegance. Rich blue walls offset by light oak furniture and paneling, stunning artwork, huge vases of flowers and soft lighting create a mood of romance even at lunchtime.

My meal began with a delicious smoked salmon and herb spread served with thin sliced crusty bread. The first course was an “almost raw” thyme crusted yellowfin tuna with mesclun greens and a truffle vinaigrette. The thyme added a wonderful flavor layer to the tuna and the vinaigrette the perfect accompaniment.

What came next was probably the best fish I have ever had. Wild striped bass, steamed in a delicate ginger, scallion and tomato broth. The thick pieces of bass were so perfectly cooked, so tender, so juicy that I began to cut it into tiny pieces so that it would last longer. The broth added a hint of flavor that enabled you to taste each of the flavors without any overpowering the dish. I was truly sad when it was gone.

Dessert was a salted cashew and chocolate tart, red wine caramel banana and a malted rum milk chocolate ice cream. Small tastes of each, just enough to stimulate the senses. It was wonderful.

Some other menu items that caught my attention; progressive tasting of fluke; four different cerviches; layers of thinly pounded yellowfin tuna, foie gras, toasted baguette, shaved chives and extra virgin olive oil; pan roasted codfish, sautéed baby artichokes, pistachio and parmesan in a sage and garlic perfumed broth and a whole red snapper baked in rosemary and thyme salt crust, extra virgin olive oil and a casserole of market vegetables.

Dinner for two @$250. (Based on an average dinner bill including appetizer, entrée, dessert, one drink and tax and tip). $100 and $135 tasting menus are also available.

The wine list is excellent, but heavy on the more expensive selections. Not too many choices under $60. Expect to pay $80-$100 for a decent bottle.

Jackets for the gentlemen. All credit cards accepted.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: High



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
Forbes 5 Star

“Formidable” is the consensus on this newly renovated, drop-dead “gorgeous” Midtown French seafooder via Maguy LeCoze and chef Eric Ripert, where the nuanced cooking is so “dazzling” that it’s taken Top Food and Most Popular honors in this Survey; “starchy” service, a “reverential” crowd and a “civilized” milieu combine for an “unforgettable” dining experience, and though the prix fixe–only menus come dear, the $70 lunch is a relative bargain – and it’s now possible to eat Ă  la carte in the new, non-reserving lounge; P.S. there’s party space upstairs. ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
Click picture to enlarge

back to top

Aureole
1 Bryant Park/42nd Street
HALL OF FAME

Click picture to enlarge
Special Occasion...Uptown...Formal...Romantic.. Lunch...$100+pp

There's a reason chefs become celebrities...they start out being very good at what they do and Charlie Palmer was no exception. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, he cut his teeth at the River Cafe where he earned 3 stars from the New York Times. He then created a new style of cooking at Aureole, reinterpreting classic European cooking using American artisanal products and small farm producers. Today he manages an ever growing empire, but is still very involved in cooking at his restaurants.

Housed for 20 years in an elegant old brownstone on the Upper East Side, Aureole moved in June 2009 to new more spacious digs in the Bank of America building at 1 Bryant Park on 42nd Street. I loved the intimacy of the original space, but there is a vibe here that was missing uptown. The bar area is spacious, with huge windows looking out onto the street and anchored at one end by a sophisticated bar that appears to have become a local favorite after work. It was packed at 6pm when I was there recently. Overlooking the bar area is a dramatic glass enclosed wine "cellar". The main dining room, as in the original space, is beautifully decorated and elegant, yet infused with the vibrant bar scene viewed through glass windows separating the two rooms.

Executive chef Christopher Lee continues the tradition at Aureole and turns out terrific food, beautifully presented. Service was crisp, friendly and efficient. To start I had the wonderful signature diver scallop "sandwich"; scallop and foie gras between two potato crisps and then an amazing  yellow fin tuna "wellington" with porcini mushrooms, fois gras and a red wine reduction. A spiced pumpkin souffle tart looked tempting, but I opted for a cheese course (from Murray's, the best cheese store in the world) and a glass of the Pinot Noir. If you like an after-dinner drink try the Aureole Elixir, their own delicious blend of of herbs and spirits.

The wine list is extensive, some 1000 choices and 15,000 bottles and includes all of the major regions, with a little heavier accent on French wines. There are also wines produced exclusively for the restaurant. 35 wines by the glass, start at about $10 and include sparkling, white, red, rose and dessert wines. There are about 25 1/2 bottles ranging from $38-$240. Plenty of white choices under $60 but few reds under $80. eWinebook is a very cool tool developed by Palmer to view and select wine by virtually any criteria before you get to the restaurant.

Lunch is available either a la carte with appetizers at $11-$2, entrees at $19-$29 and desserts $8-$14 or at a fixed price of $34 which is a real bargain. Dinner is pre-fixe a $84. There is also a bar snack menu and a bar menu as well as a pre-theatre menu.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: This is an elegant, sophisticated restaurant, equally good for an afternoon rendezvous as for dinner.

WHAT OTHERS SAY...
Charlie Palmer’s “flagship” near Bryant Park “wows” with New American “culinary delights” – now from a “new chef”, Marcus Gleadow-Ware – ferried by a “gracious” staff; opinions diverge on the “modern” Adam Tihany–designed space (“cool”, “airy” vs. “too corporate”) and its prix fixe–only tabs are steep – but there’s always the “less-formal”, “more lively” front bar area, whose cheaper Ă  la carte menu is a “treat” too. ZAGAT

A Relais & Chateaux, Relais Gourmand restaurant since 1997.

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
Click picture to enlarge

back to top

Del Posto
85 10th Avenue
HALL OF FAME

Click picture to enlarge
            Special Occasion....Downtown......Formal.....Friday                   Lunch.....$100+pp

Del Posto is an exciting collaboration between restauranteurs Lydia and Joseph Bastianich and Mario Batali that in 2010 received a coveted 4 stars from the New York Times. DP is the first Italian restaurant to receive 4 stars from the Times since 1974. This was as near a perfect dining experience as I can remember.

The space is huge at 24,000 square feet.....and dramatic....with soaring ceilings, marble columns and a central staircase leading to the balconies. But soft lighting, candles, area rugs and piano music transform even this vast space into a warm and cozy haven. The stage could not be better set for what is to come.

Del Posto describes its menu as "the concept of trans-generationalism which manifests itself in a cuisine that combines the creativity of contemporary culinary sensibilities with the powerful draw of classic Italian dishes.......(it) represents the food that Italians still eat". Unlike so many restaurants of this caliber, it is utterly unpretentious.

Seldom have I eaten a meal in which each course was such a revelation. Abalone (no one has this anymore) carpaccio with grilled asparagus and young ramps, handmade orecchiette with lamb shoulder sausage, crispy morels and minted soybeans and wood-grilled lobster with artichokes, hazelnuts and basil. This is exciting dining where the anticipation of what is to come is only rivaled by the satisfaction of what has come before.

For dessert the flavor parade continues with items a chocolate ricotta tortino, with toasted Sicilian pistachios and extra virgin olive oil gelato or a selection of cheeses like robiola due latte bosina, Piemonte 40 day, eggplant crostata and chocolate or my favorite four chocolates and four rums.

The wine list is remarkable both for its depth (some 80 pages) and understandable Italian focus but also for the surprising number of bottles under $100 and even under $50. Finally, a premier restaurant that doesn't gouge on the wine list!

To say that the service was near perfect would be an understatement. It was not overpowering, there was not someone hovering around the table at all times. What it was was seamless...the wait staff seemed to float around the room. They appeared when you needed them and then retreated when you didn't. It may have been the best service I have ever experienced.

Appetizers: $18-$26, Pastas: $20-$30, Entrees: $32-$65, Desserts: $15-$21. Tasting menus: 5 courses $115, 7 courses $145



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
AAA 5 Diamond
Forbes 4 Star


Like being “transported” to “Roma”, this Chelsea “Italian masterpiece” from the Batali-Bastianich bunch is “in a class unto itself” with “rarefied” cuisine, “spectacular wines” and “psychic” “white-glove” service; it comes in an “opulent” “palazzo”-like space complete with “velvet curtains, marble floors”, “dramatic stairs” and “even a piano player”; certo, “you pay dearly for the privilege”, but you’ll “relish every minute.” ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
Click picture to enlarge

back to top

La Grenouille
3 East 52nd Street
HALL OF FAME

Click picture to enlarge
Special Occasion..Mid-town..Formal..Romantic..Friday Lunch...$100+pp

Sadly, the era of the formal, traditional French restaurant seems to have passed. Lutece and my old favorite, La Cote Basque are just two of the standards who are no more. Happily, however, La Grenouille remains and flourishes. For a glimpse of old New York/Park Avenue money, this is the place to go. Everyone is impeccably dressed and coiffed. A jacket, without a tie, even at lunch, seems oddly out of place. There’s air kissing, name dropping and obvious sugar daddies, all the things that make a power restaurant interesting.

Many of the guests appear to be regulars and are warmly greeted by Armel, Maitre d’ Hotel. No one is rushing back to the office or anxious to leave their table. This is a place for romance and for catching up with friends.

The small 8 seat bar anchors the front of the room and serves as the place to wait for dining partners. Peanuts and chips are offered with your cocktails. The dining room is stunning with the most breathtaking flower arrangements you will ever see. The walls are decorated with oil paintings in gold frames and sconces provide soft, romantic lighting.

Waiters are dressed in white waist jackets with black bow ties and the service is effortless. It is so enjoyable to see tableside service where your meat is carved or your fish de-boned. It has become a lost art.

The “Le Potage Saint Germain” was the best split pea soup I have ever had (sorry, Mom),perfectly flavored, and velvety with tiny croutons. It is not often you find authentic Dover Sole on a menu anymore, so my entrĂ©e choice was not difficult to make. Served with a mustard sauce, de-boned at the table and perfectly cooked, I was reminded why these restaurants were so popular at one time. The fish was served with crisp delicately herbed green beans that were the ideal accompaniment to the meal. A delightful Riesling with the meal, a small cheese course with a glass of port and my meal was complete.

Cavier and Foie Gras appetizers, Frogs Legs and Pike entrees and Chocolate Mousse and Souffles are just some of the other traditional dishes you can enjoy. This is not a restaurant experience you will soon forget.

Lunch upstairs beside the fireplace is about the most romantic spot in New York.

You may order a la carte at any meal or opt for the prix fixe, lunch is fixed at $39.50 or $52 and Dinner at $87.50. Lunch is served Tuesday-Saturday. The restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday. All credit cards accepted. Jackets and ties for the gentlemen.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: The perfect seduction restaurant.

WHAT OTHERS SAY...
AAA 4 Diamond
Forbes 4 Star

Just about “every superlative” applies to Charles Masson’s “luxuriant” Midtown standard-bearer – the last (and best) of NYC’s great classic French restaurants – from the “sublime” haute cuisine and “seamless service” to the “gorgeous floral displays” and overall sense of “ancien rĂ©gime splendor”; now in its 50th year, this “time-tested” indulger of “expensive tastes” can be experienced at a “bargain” $36 lunch in the upstairs room; P.S. jackets required. ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

back to top

Bouley
163 Duane Street
HALL OF FAME

Click picture to enlarge

Special Occasion..Downtown..Formal..Romantic..Friday Lunch...$100+pp

David Bouley is a certified celebrity chef, but with the credentials to back it up. Raised in Connecticut and educated in France, he worked for some of the “gods” of modern cooking in Europe; Paul Bocuse, Joel Robuchon and Fredy Girardet. From there he came to New York where he toiled at Le Cirque, Le Perigord and La Cote Basque, bastions of modern French cooking, before getting his own show at Montrachet and earning 3 NY Times stars. From there he opened Bouley, which became one of the Zagat best rated NYC restaurants. He closed that restaurant a few years ago and re-opened the new incarnation on Broadway after a few years away from the kitchen. I can tell you he hasn’t lost a step.

There are two rooms, the Red Room and the White Room. I prefer the cozy Red Room with a table by one of the half-moon windows. The ceilings and walls are in a kind of concave style, colored in rich hues of coral in a faux marble finish. The furnishings are rich shades of deep purple, brown and blue. Intimate table lamps and fresh flowers complete the picture and make for a very romantic setting.

We tried two delicious appetizers; a satay of sea scallops and Florida shrimp with a very unique fresh bay leaf sauce and roasted Fois Gras with a fricassee of three different mushrooms, Cremini, Hen-of-the-Wood and Shiitake. Woodsy, rich and delightful. I didn’t try this, but it sounded wonderful; a steamed farm fresh egg with a black truffle, Serrano ham, parmesan cheese and 100 year old balsamic.

I enjoyed a roasted sea bass in a sea scallop crust with an intensely flavored (cooked for 24 hours) tomato, jasmine rice and a Bouillabaisse sauce. Jen had a juicy Long Island Duckling with wheat berries, vanilla glazed turnips, roasted chestnuts and white Zapote puree & Armagnac sauce. An amazing combination of flavors and textures.

I love the cheese course here ($18) with a very good selection of cheeses or the Crème Brulee with Tahitian Vanilla.

Dinner for two (drink, appetizer, entrée, dessert, tax and tip) will run about $220. There is also an excellent tasting menu at $85 and $155 when paired with wine.

All credit cards are accepted. Jackets are preferred for the men and lunch is served every day. The lunch tasting menu at $35 is a real bargain.


ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: High


WHAT OTHERS SAY...

AAA 4 Diamond

Forbes 4 Star


“Sublime from start to finish”, David Bouley’s “stunning” TriBeCa mother ship conjures “magic” with “nuanced”, “flawless” French cuisine, a “glorious” setting and pro service that “borders on mind-reading”; it all makes for an “unforgettable” experience that’s “worth” the steep cost – though the “greatest gift to Gotham gourmets” is its “leisurely” $55 five-course prix fixe lunch. ZAGAT



You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

back to top

River Cafe
1 Water Street, Brooklyn
SPECIAL OCCASION

Click picture to enlarge

Special Occasion..Brooklyn..Formal..Romantic..Lunch Every Day...$100+pp

Just across the Brooklyn Bridge, a short cab ride from Manhattan, is the magical River Café and the best view of any restaurant in New York. Go an hour before sunset and watch the skyline transform itself from daylight to evening. Sun splashed buildings give way to a twinkling light tableau. It is quite spectacular.

You arrive at the River Café entrance and drive down a narrow cobblestone road leading to a circular driveway lined with lush foliage, ivy covered walls and gardens. Tiny lights sparkle from the trees. The entry way is filled with giant bouquets of flowers and you are led down a hallway to the dining room. The first look of the Bridge above the restaurant and the buildings of lower Manhattan across the river is stunning.

This is everything you would expect of a sophisticated New York restaurant.; a lively bar, elegant surroundings, piano music, attentive waiters and oh so good food. The outside Terrace is the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail and even serves a light menu.

Brad Steelman’s cooking is superb. I started with a warm pear salad with a braised beef shortrib croquette, blue cheese fondue, baby bibb lettuce and a red wine vinaigrette. Sweet, tart and rich all at the same time. Brent had a wonderful Buffalo tartare with quail egg, cognac gelee, capers and onion on toast points. One Jenn had the spring asparagus soup with chanterelle mushrooms, herbs and a black truffle cream and the other Jen had an amazing sautĂ©ed foie gras with carmelized ruby grapefruit, cracked pistachios and a natural pan sauce.

As an entrée I had a red snapper fillet with chanterelle mushrooms, root vegetables and a fresh herb sauce. It was delicate, light and perfectly seasoned. Brent had a crispy duck breast with light pink meat, served with a delicious proscuitto and duck Bolognese sauce. Rich and very satisfying. One Jen had a king salmon with ginger tempura bay scallops and sake and soy glazed shitake mushrooms. The other had a lobster special, small tails out of the shell with a delicate shrimp sauce.

For dessert I opted for the cheese plate with a tasting of two dessert wines. It was wonderful. Jen had a raspberry linzer torte with glazed raspberries, vanilla bean ice cream and surprisingly a delicious basil syrup. The other Jen and Brent split the double chocolate tart with caramel ice cream paired with salted spanish peanuts. An interesting combination.

The wine list is small by some standards, 500 bottles, but well constructed and thankfully, fairly priced. The restaurant has been a recipient of the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for over a decade, was recently inducted into Wine & Spirit magazine's Wine List Hall of fame. In 2001, The River CafĂ© wine list also won the prestigious Diamond Wine List Award from the International Restaurant and Hospitality Bureau.

Lunch pricing is a la carte, appetizers $14-$20, entrees, $25-$28, Sunday brunch is $35.inner for two: $225. (Based on an average dinner bill including appetizer, entrée, dessert, one drink and tax and tip) here is also a 6 course tasting menu available for $95.00. Reservations are required and jackets are required for gentlemen in the evening. Request one of the tables on the window, although there is not a bad view in the room.


ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: High on the Terrace, less so inside due to the noise. This view is magical.



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
“Million-dollar” views of Lower Manhattan, “lovingly prepared” New American food, “first-class service” and “fragrant flowers” are the draws at Buzzy O’Keeffe’s “enchanting” Dumbo water’s edge standby; even though the $100 prix fixe–only dinner may be a “splurge”, most feel it’s a fair price in exchange for experiencing the “essence of romance” or a perfect private party. ZAGAT



You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

Click picture to enlarge

back to top

Gramercy Tavern
42 East 20th Street
HALL OF FAME

Click picture to enlarge

Special Occasion..Downtown..Formal..Romantic..Lunch Every Day...$100+pp

There is good reason for the Gramercy Tavern to have been rated the 1st or 2nd Most Popular Restaurant in New York by Zagat’s for the last few years. First, it’s not stuffy or pretentious, second the atmosphere is warm and inviting and third, well, third…. is the amazing food.

With soft jazz playing in the background, your first sensation upon entering are the wonderful aromas of the wood burning oven in the large, comfortable tavern area. A large curved wood bar with copper shaded lamps anchors this wood beamed section which serves a more casual menu and does not require reservations. At the front of the restaurant are two cozy tables surrounded by two couches suitable for 4-6 people, ideal if you want to be in the center of all the action.

Complimenting the rustic décor are two huge pails filled to overflowing with fresh flowers and a farm table and hutch with kitchen bric brac and plants. The immaculate rest rooms carry the theme with stone tile floors, twig flower arrangements and real towels.

The main, more formal dining room is actually a collection of rooms with intimate tables and banquettes, china, crystal, soft recessed lighting and burgundy draped walls.

We suggest Tables #200 or #275 as the most intimate for a couple.

The food is a simple celebration of fresh, quality ingredients and perfect preparation. The wine list is moderate in length and has a fair selection under $50. In the Tavern, you can sample wines by the glass (5oz.) or the “taste” 3oz.

To assist in your wine selection, the list is organized into categories, which I think is a great idea; Champagne, Rose/Savigion Blanc, Aromatic Whites, Soft & Versatile Whites, Spicy Reds, Full Flavored Reds, Sweet Wines

On a recent visit, I started with a Portobello Salad, a mixture of portobello mushrooms, arugula, roasted tomatoes, shaved parmesan and balsamic vinegar. What an incredible combination of flavors; the steak like portobello, the peppery arugula, the intense, concentrated roasted tomato, the nuttiness of the parmesan and the tartness of the balsamic. Wow!

This was followed by a grilled half chicken, with a crispy and seasoned skin and a juicy flavorful and delicate meat. Served in a red wine broth over spring vegetables it was both light and filling.

Other menu highlights; Maine Crabmeat Fondue with Sweet Pea Puree, Bacon and Pink Peppercorn, Black Bass with Farro, Procuitto, Spring Onion and Aged Balsamic and Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Salsify, Wild Mushrooms, Bacon, Ramps and Germolata.

For dessert try the Milk Chocolate Ganache Tart with Barley Malt, Chocolate Ice Cream and Sorbet or the Maple Roasted Pear with Pine Nut Tart and Pear Sorbet.

I love the cheese course, especially when paired with a dessert wine or port; $12.50 for three chesses, $15.00 for four or $18.00 for seven.
Dinner for two-$210 (Based on an average dinner bill including appetizer, entrĂ©e, dessert, one drink and tax and tip) $80 and $95 tasting menus also available. Thankfully, the Gramercy does not follow the lead of many restaurants with a prixe fixe menu by adding “supplements” to many of the items on the menu. Only the lobster ($8) and fois gras ($10) carried modest supplements to the prixe fixe.

Dress is upscale, jackets for men.




ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: - High. This is what a restaurant should be; warm, comfortable and pleasing to all the senses.

WHAT OTHERS SAY...
AAA 4 Diamond
Forbes 4 Star


“Still a model” of New American dining “at its finest”, Danny Meyer’s “forever fabulous” Flatiron “destination” offers “inspired” “farm-fresh” cuisine from chef Michael Anthony via an “exemplary” staff that “glides you through the evening” in a “gorgeous”, “refined”-“rustic” space designed to recall a 19th century New England tavern; yes, you “pay dearly” but it’s resoundingly declared “worth it”, so “beg for a reservation” in the prix fixe–only main room, or opt for the “lower-priced”, Ă  la carte, non-reserving front tavern room; P.S. the 22-seat private room is equally appealing. ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.


back to top

One If By Land, Two If By Sea
17 Barrow Street
SPECIAL OCCASION

Click picture to enlarge

Special Occasion..Downtown..Formal..Romantic..$100+pp

Housed in a restored carriage house once owned by Aaron Burr, One If By Land is a favorite “romantic” in the City. Piano music in the background, fireplaces, brick walls, French windows onto an illuminated garden and tables with a single candle and a bouquet of fresh pink roses make you want to pop the question….even if you are already married.

The service is impeccable and unpretentious. Long-timer Juan Miguel took care of us on our last visit and he was both professional and fun. When I asked him to suggest one of two entrees, he just smiled, wrote something down and walked away. The choice he brought was perfect. We enjoyed a house cab so much we wanted to order a bottle, but it wasn’t on the wine list. Minutes later, he arrived with a bottle for the table.

I started with a delicious Parmesan Gnocchi with pancetta, English peas, basil pesto, pine nuts and a truffle oil and I tasted the Tart of Seasonal Mushrooms which was wonderfully aromatic and earthy. I come here specifically for the individual Beef Wellington, a tender Black Angus creation with mushroom duxelle and pate under a buttery puff pastry. The only other Wellington to compare is in a little inn on Nantucket. The Roasted Maine Lobster and crabmeat risotto is equally as good, as is the Roasted Monkfish with clams over fettucine with a yellow tomato-fennel confit.

For dessert, you cannot miss the decadent Chocolate Souffle.

The wine list has won the prestigious Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 1993 and deservedly so. Plenty of choices in virtually any category and very fairly priced.

The main dining room is my favorite (tables #51-72) and table #63 sits in a corner, at a window overlooking the garden. They’ll take table requests, but won’t guarantee a particular table. Tell them it’s a special occasion and you’ll have a good chance.

Dinner for two: $186. (Based on an average dinner bill including appetizer, entrée, dessert, one drink and tax and tip)


ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: May be the best in NYC.


WHAT OTHERS SAY...
AAA 4 Diamond

So “devastatingly romantic” that it’s “even good with your wife”, this 40-year-old West Villager seduces “fine-dining” fans with “outstanding” American food and a “serene” setting carved out of Aaron Burr’s former carriage house; piano music and a roaring fireplace will “make you want to propose”, even though the prix fixe–only tabs “aren’t for the lighthearted.” ZAGAT


You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

back to top

Scalini Fedeli
165 Duane Street
SPECIAL OCCASION

Click picture to enlarge

Special Occasion..Downtown..Formal..Romantic..Friday Lunch...$60+pp

Slightly off the beaten path, downtown, the romantic Tuscan delight, Scalini Fedeli, embraces you from the minute you enter. The warmth is reflected in the greeting at the door and the vaulted ceilings, recessed lighting, soft background opera, huge Corinthian columns and hanging tapestries set the mood. The elegance of the room is further carried by fresh flowers, oil paintings, antique sideboards and plush furnishings.

There is no celebrity chef here at this highly rated Italian and it is just as well. The attention is on the food and no one is running off to a book signing. The menu offers plenty of choices with some 17 appetizers and an equal number of entrees. As with most great restaurants, the selections reflect a creativity not available in lesser establishments. Consider pappardelle in a game sauce with venison and rabbit finished with a Barolo wine and bitter chocolate. Chocolate? But, oh did it work! Also tried a delicious shrimp in a Roma tomato, mustard and basil reduction with prosciutto, marinated melon and buffalo mozzarella. And these were just the appetizers.

For entrees we selected a perfectly seared tuna with short rib braised lentils (worchestire, capers, balsamic) and a parsnip puree in a red wine reduction that was magnificent and a melt in your mouth braised short rib with a cherry pepper glaze and fried potatoes.

While we normally skip dessert, two items caught our eye and for once we couldn’t resist; a warm carmelized apple tart was baked in a fillo crust, served with a brown sugar crumble and cinnamon gelato and a chocolate tart in a vanilla flecked crust with thinly sliced carmelized orange peel. Now I understand why people eat dessert.

Waiters in black tuxedos provide effortless service, attentive, not too obtrusive. Our waiter on this visit, Oscar, was particularly helpful, explaining complicated dishes and suggesting an unusual wine to accompany the meal.

Meals are a modest (by NY standards) $60pp prix fixe with very few supplements. The wine list is understandably heavily Italian

Best tables for intimate conversation are #1 by the window, #16/17 between the columns or #19 next to the column.

All credit cards accepted. Jackets for the gentlemen.


 ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: High


WHAT OTHERS SAY...
AAA 4 Diamond


So “devastatingly romantic” that it’s “even good with your wife”, this 40-year-old West Villager seduces “fine-dining” fans with “outstanding” American food and a “serene” setting carved out of Aaron Burr’s former carriage house; piano music and a roaring fireplace will “make you want to propose”, even though the prix fixe–only tabs “aren’t for the lighthearted.” ZAGAT


You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information. 

back to top

Erminia
250 East 83rd Street
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge
Special Occasion...Uptown...Formal...Romantic...$60+pp

This small seductive Italian on the Upper East Side may be one of the most romantic in the City and combines delicious food with near perfect service. Erminia's ivy covered exterior with its rustic front door looks like a trattoria you might find in a small Italian village. The Lattanzi family has owned this little gem for 23 years and has been recognized for its food, service and romantic quotient.

The interior is dark and rustic with brick walls, slate floors and wooden beams. Candles and lace covered hanging lights illuminate the room, the white linens are crisp and the glassware sparkles. There are only a half dozen or so tables and they are nicely spaced to facilitate conversation.

There is no bar and if you arrive early, you may have to wait outside to be seated. If you arrive on time, you will be seated immediately. If you would like a cocktail before dinner, I would suggest the Boathouse in Central Park (72nd Street), weather permitting The Rooftop at the Metropolitan Museum (5th Ave. 81st/82nd) or Bemelmen’s Bar at the Carlyle (76th Street).

This is not fancy cooking with ingredients you never heard of, but wonderful classic Italian dishes with its own twist. Everything is so well prepared and beautifully presented, it is the kind of place you will want to just sit back, relax and savor each course. Get your taste buds moving with steamed clams and mussels in a white wine broth or an peppery arugala salad with fennel and shaved parmesan. The pastas are homemade so don’t skip that course, if only to share one. Fettuccine with shiitake mushrooms, shallots, sage and chopped tomatoes was delicate and woodsy.  We both selected grilled entrees (over mesquite wood) I had Rollatine di Vitello allo Spiedo, a skewer of rolled veal filled with prosciutto, pecorino cheese, pine nuts, raisins and chopped tomatoes. Wonderful with the raisins adding just a hint of sweetness. Jen enjoyed Spiedino di Pesce, a skewer of lobster, scampi, swordfish and calamari served with clams and mussels oreganata. The mesquite, shellfish and oregano was a delicious combination.

The wine list is mostly Italian at about 100 bottles. There are some excellent choices and thankfully very reasonable prices, particularly for New York. We enjoyed a delightful, crisp Orvieto with our appetizers and pasta at $32 and a very good Nero D'Avola from Sicily with our entrees for $46.

Much of the staff has been here for years and that level of experience is evident throughout the meal. The formally attired waiters are pleasant, knowledgeable and unobtrusive

Salads, $9-10 Appetizers-$11-$17, Pastas, $20-$22, Entrees, $22-$36.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT- High. Very romantic, very conducive to conversation.

WHAT OTHERS SAY...
With its “dimly lit” “farmhouse” setting, “luscious” Roman cuisine and “impeccable” service, this “intimate” UES “hideaway” remains “worthy of its reputation” as a “sentimental favorite” for “romance”; paramours primed “to woo” hardly mind if it’s “pricey” and quite “compact.” ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

back to top

Quality Meats
57 W. 58th Street
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge
Midtown...Semi-Formal...Friday Lunch...$60+pp

I don't know anyone who doesn't love a good steak and in New York a new one pops up virtually every day. The pure male bonding haunts still draw them in, but a new breed is emerging that keeps the basic tenets intact, but adds some nuances that expand the appeal to a larger audience. Quality Meats, from the people who bring you Smith & Wollensky, The Post House and others, is just such a place. How can you not be enamored with a classy place that serves Pabst Blue Ribbon beer in cans at the bar?

The decor is a take on 19th century New York butcher shops. This is a very cool design that manages to be contemporary, yet still warm and inviting. The use of brick, walnut plank walls, butcher block, vintage scales, bare filament light bulbs and meat hooks cleverly create a butcher shop mind image that isn't really there.

First departure from the norm is a Charcuterie Bar with delicious cheeses and hams and Parmesan fries that are to die for. Great start to a meal or as a snack after a show or game.

Oysters, shrimp and lobster cocktails are fresh and perfectly chilled. A tomato and mozzarella salad with roasted red pepper aioli and country ham crisp is excellent. Try the Meyer lemon calamari too.

Steaks come from two legendary family butchers, Milton Abeles and Strassburger Meats and they are delicious. I've enjoyed the aged bone-in sirloin, the three filets and the long short rib. All expertly cooked, juicy, with great taste. Another departure and a great touch are the tasty steak sauces whipped up tableside. For sides don't miss the Parmesan fries, corn creme brulee and the Cipollini onions.

8 choices of ice cream and 4 toppings are a nice change on the dessert menu, but the blueberry cobbler I had was amazing. I'll get it again.

A strong wine list is a staple in Stillman restaurants and it's no exception here. I like this list a lot for a number of reasons; interesting choices, wonderful descriptions and side notes about the wines ("This is essentially a declassified Barolo bottled under a broader appellation.") and very fair pricing. If you are looking for the big dogs they've got some terrific choices, but you can also find value. As an example 8 of 26 Italian and Spanish reds are priced under $60. My favorite idea though is the Sommelier's Bin. Every time they update their list and clean up the cellar, inevitably they find some odds and ends around. These are wines that normally sell for $150 or more. They put these wines in the Sommelier's Bin for $75. It's a roll of the dice because you don't know what your getting until it comes to the table. Great fun and I've never been disappointed.

Service is friendly and efficient. On one trip our server even gave us a complimentary glass of port after our meal.

Appetizers-$9-$19, entrees-$29-$44, desserts-$6-$10. All credit cards.



ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Hey, it's a steak house! But dining upstairs is a little more intimate.



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
Expect an appropriately “quality experience” at this “hip”, Stillman family–run Midtown steakhouse famed for its “powerhouse” porterhouse and “standout” homemade ice cream; faux–butcher shop decor – a mix of “bricks and meat hooks” – lends a “trendy” air, though the “not-cheap” pricing is on par with the genre; P.S. a Bowery spin-off is in the works. ZAGAT.

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

Click picture to enlarge

back to top

Craft
43 East 19th Street
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge

Downtown..Casual..$60+pp

This is our second Tom Colicchio restaurant recommendation. Craft was the first in a series of restaurants (Craftbar, Craftsteak) whose concept was to offer everything a la carte and allow the diner to “craft” their own menu from a collection of choices. While this can lead to an expensive bill if you are not careful, it allows you to pick and choose among a number of delicious items and create a meal that suits your tastes. You’ll keep the tab reasonable by sharing first course and side dishes which are adequate in size for two people.

The décor is interesting if somewhat trendy. Floor to ceiling front windows add light to the space accented with roughly tiled pillars, hardwood floors, clusters of hanging incandescent lights, and leather covered wall panels with brass trimmed doorways. The tables are oak, the chairs leather trimmed oak. The marble bar is surrounded by glass enclosed wine vaults. The look is casual, comfortable and stylish.

For a drink before dinner, the bar has about 25 wines by the glass ranging from $8-$27 with some interesting choices. Try the ginger martini or the Prosecco with strawberries, two great house cocktails.

First course choices ($12-$26)are fish & shellfish, farm egg, charcuterie, meat and salads. Main dishes ($28-$50) include fish & shellfish and meats. 21 and 30 day dry aged beef is also a choice at $125. Side dishes ($10-$16)are vegetables, mushrooms, potatoes, grain & beans and pasta. Everything is prepared either roasted or braised. Few sauces are used, most items served in their natural juices.

Crunchy, rustic bread with sweet butter was served on a wood cutting board and followed by a wonderful shrimp, cucumber, tomato and pine nut amuse bouche, tossed in a delicate vinaigrette.

We shared a delightful smoked chicken ravioli over nettles (it’s like a spinach) sprinkled with a ricotta as an appetizer.

Our entrees arrived in cast iron pots along with baby carrots and Russian banana fingerlings. The method of cooking the meats and vegetables intensifies their flavors and allows you to enjoy their natural tastes unburdened by sauces and creams. The side benefit is that everything is tender and juicy. Both my braised short ribs and Jen’s roasted organic chicken were fall-off-the-bone delicious.

Dessert starts with a blackberry ginger amuse bouche and is also an a la carte approach and you can select a pastry ($8), ice cream, sorbet and fruit ($4 each). A cheese course is available with three cheeses for $12. We had a roasted peach over a chocolate tart and some fresh peach sorbet that was fabulous.

The wine list is excellent, extensive, organized by grape and fairly priced. Enough choices under $50 to satisfy anyone. I particularly like the “Indigenous and Esoteric” wine sections (both red and white) where you will find some very unique wines at some great prices. Wonderful selection of ports, cognacs, tequilas, rum and scotches for after dinner drinks.

Typical of Colicchio restaurants, service, led by Senior Captain, Carlos was impeccable.

Our dinner, with two cocktails, a $40 bottle of wine, one appetizer, two entrees, two sides, dessert and an after dinner drink was $258 with tax and tip.


ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Can be kind of noisy. Ask for a table in the right rear along the wall, it's the most private.


WHAT OTHERS SAY...
AAA 4 Diamond

Ever a “knockout”, this Flatiron flagship of Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio is still “hard to top” for “exceptional” ingredients “crafted with care” but “without fuss” into “impressive” New American cuisine; “paying per item” raises the Ă  la carte bill “sky high”, but given the food quality, “anticipatory” service and “seductive” setting, there are few complaints. ZAGAT .


You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

Click picture to enlarge

back to top

Balthazar
80 Spring Street
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge
Downtown...Casual...Lunch Every Day...Under $60pp

Balthazar is my favorite all around restaurant in the City. I have eaten every meal here, breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. When we are New York for the afternoon, we always stop for wine and a cheese platter or some delights from the raw bar. When we want really good bread, we get it from the Balthazar Bakery.

The look is as close to a Parisan bistro as you will find outside of Paris. The space is a converted wearhouse with high ceilings and columns and gold walls covered with antique mirrors. Small bistro tables and chairs sit on black and white tile floors and waist high partisians with brass railings divide the room into intimate sections. Waiters in long aprons scurry about and even after 10 years, there's still a buzz here. Odds are pretty good you'll even see a celebrity or two.

The food is classic French bistro. I've eaten here so many times that it would be impossible to remember all the meals so I'll tell you some of my favorite dishes; any croissant in the morning, an omlette with herbs, Gruyere and home fries, brioche french toast, warm goat cheese and carmelized onion tart, steak frites, toasted French ham and Gruyere cheese on country bread, escargot in garlic butter, grilled chicken paillard, and sauteed skate to name just a few.

The wine list, as might be expected, is all French, but surprisingly very affordable French. There are about 17 wines by the glass, priced at $9-$15 and about 18 1/2 bottles, $24-$125. Lots of full bottles under $40 and very little over $100. This is a fun list and an opportunity to try some good French wines without taking out a mortgage.



ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Not in a traditional sense, but there's something sexy about wasting an afternoon here.



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
A “perpetual” SoHo “star”, Keith McNally’s “gorgeous” “Left Bank” brasserie facsimile is “buzzing” “morning, noon and night” with everyone from “celebs and power brokers” to “wide-eyed tourists”; “preposterous waits”, “crowds” and “noise” are the price for “delectable” French classics, “congenial” service and “people-watching” – all in all it’s like a “ticket to Paris.” ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
Click picture to enlarge

back to top

The Place
310 West 4th Street
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge
Downtown...Casual...Romantic...Under $60pp

This is The Place, one of those undiscovered pleasures that you stumble upon only in NY and then become a huge fan. Moderately priced with excellent food and atmosphere like few others.

In nice weather you can grab a table on the outside terrace on this quiet and pretty tree lined Village street. Otherwise, you’ll descend to a cozy little bar, with candles and dried and fresh flowers all around and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.

Low ceilings and stone walls create a feeling of dining in your own private underground cave. A fireplace in one room, candles everywhere and soft hues of gold and burgundy set a wonderful tone of intimacy.

Thankfully, The Place is not just about romance, it’s also about food. We started with a delicious green pea and mint soup with crème fraiche and garlic croutons and a frisee salad with blue cheese, roasted pears, pistachios and a sherry wine dressing. The table next to us had the fresh pappardelle with braised duck, baby artichokes, tomatoes and shaved parmesan which I will be sure to try the next time, it smelled wonderful.

For the main course I selected the roasted leg of lamb, perfectly pink on the inside, crusty on the out with rosemary potatoes, Provencal vegetables. Wonderful for this chilly night. Jen had a flavorful char grilled hanger steak with mashed potatoes and French green beans. A wonderful Michel Torino 2005 Malbec, was the perfect accompaniment.

For dessert we shared a Granny Smith apple tart with scrumptious homemade cinnamon ice cream and a Godiva chocolate martini. This was a perfectly satisfying meal in a delightful setting.

 The wine list, while not lengthy, has interesting choices from a variety of regions including Argentina, Spain, France, US, Australia and Italy. Numerous choices in both reds and whites under $40. Is this New York?

 Service was excellent. Waiters are friendly and helpful and know their food and wine.

 Appetizers, $8-$12, entrees, $19-$25, fresh fish priced at market, all desserts $9.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT. Very High. One of the most romantic in the City.

WHAT OTHERS SAY…
Just the place for a “great date”, this “well-established” West Villager has the “comfort factor” down pat with “cozy”, fireplace-equipped digs, “wonderful” Med–New American food and “personable” service; seating “thisclose” seems to be the sole hitch, but none of the “romantic” couples seem to mind. ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

back to top

The House
121 E. 17th Street (between Park South and Irving Place)
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge
Downtown...Casual...Lunch Saturday/Sunday...Under $60pp

One of the great things about my job is discovering new or unheralded places before the masses do. The House in the Gramercy Park area is one of those finds.

A restored 1854 carriage house is the stage for a wonderfully charming restaurant, equally enjoyable for brunch as it is for dinner. The main floor parlor is cozy and intimate with a small bar, white marble topped bar tables and a fireplace.  Stark white walls are offset with black trim and hardwood floors. Antique chandeliers and wall sconces cast a romantic glow over the room and porthole windows provide a peek at passersby. When the weather cooperates there are a few tables set outside on the terrace.

3 choices for dining; fireside in the main floor parlor, upstairs in the sky lit room, (which has its own bar as well) or downstairs at the Chef’s Table.

“Small plates” is the theme here and it is done very well. There’s a full raw bar and each day there is a “rotisserie” special with things like organic Amish chicken with Asian BBQ sauce or loin of Berkshire pork with apple mango chutney. Small plates include a 3 or 5 piece cheese plate, duck done 3 ways; confit, smoked breast and fois gras mousse, a lobster club on sourdough and coriander crusted tuna with capers, red onion, Yukon gold potatoes, olives and a lemon vinaigrette. Do not miss the salted, roasted fingerlings with truffle oil and pieces of black truffles. Amazing! Plates run from $12-$25.

12 countries are represented on the nearly 150 bottle wine list that highlights Italian wines. There are about 17 wines by the glass ($13-$18) and they are served quartino which is 1/3 of a bottle. Have seen this concept before and love it, you get at least 2 glasses out of it. Also about 11 ½ bottles. This is a carefully constructed list of wines, many of which you probably haven’t heard of before. But that’s what makes it fun and the staff is more than able to guide you. Enough choices under $50 to satisfy just about anyone.

Go on a weekend and you’ll enjoy the company of bartender, Shannon. Model pretty, great sense of humor, wine knowledge and the best Bloody Mary I’ve had in a long time….from scratch.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: This is a sexy place very conducive to intimate conversation.

WHAT OTHERS SAY...
The “romantic”, “charming” air of this “beautiful” tri-level Gramercy “getaway” ensconced in a carriage house dating to 1854 almost “eclipses” its “tasty” New American fare and “knowledgeable” service; kinda “costly” checks help keep it a “well-kept secret.” ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
Click picture to enlarge

back to top

'Cesca
164 West 75th Street/Amsterdam Avenue
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge
Uptown...Casual...Under $60pp

I wish 'Cesca was in my neighborhood and not on the Upper West Side. I am sure I would be there a few times a week. There is so much to like about this place it’s hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start in the bar, a gathering place for the local 30 somethings…you almost expect to see the Sex and the City women here.

An iron chandelier with electric “candles” hangs over the long granite bar. The walls are raised panel wood with delightful artwork softly lit by tiny lamps. You can enjoy cocktails at the bar, in a little sitting area with a couch by the window or at one of the farm tables in the center of the room. Along the walls are intimate, dark brown velvet booths for dining.

The walls of the main dining room are a stenciled ivory and are trimmed with dark wood accents The chairs and booths are covered in dark brown velvet as well and wall sconces and floor lamps create a soft lighting effect. Soft jazz in the background and the aromas of a wood burning oven in the open kitchen complete the mood.

On this very warm summer night, I started with a delicious cold Zuppa di Pomodoro, a rich and flavorful tomato soup with garlic, olive oil and other herbs over a crusty crouton. My entrĂ©e was a Chicken Scarppiello, roasted chicken with sausage and ricotta gnocchi cooked together in a ceramic dish. I ended the meal with a marvelous lemon olive oil cake with wild blueberries. Couldn’t have been a more satisfying meal.

The wine list is worth the visit alone. Virtually all Italian and with every region in Italy represented. I like to think I know something about wines, but there is so much here that I have never heard of. The good thing is that the bartenders and servers are very knowledgeable and will even give you a taste before you buy. There are 18 wines by the glass or ½ liter and another 18 dessert wines. A 2003 Rapitala Casaly from Sicily that the Mark, the bartender suggested, was just wonderful.

Being a “booth guy”, I like the booths either in the bar area or the main dining room.

Dinner for two @ $95 (Drink, appetizer, entrée, tax and tip). ½ liter of wine adds about $18.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: While the noise level can get pretty high, the booths along the wall in the bar can be pretty intimate.

WHAT OTHERS SAY...
“A rarity on the UWS”, this “higher-end” Southern Italian delivers “dazzling” food and wine in “rustic yet elegant” surroundings manned by a “pro” staff; it’s typically “humming” with “convivial” devotees who declare “sophistication” makes the “steep” price tag “bearable.” ZAGAT
 
You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

Click picture to enlarge

back to top

Ouest
2315 Broadway
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge
Uptown...Casual...Under $60pp

This the second Tom Valenti restaurant among our favorites and while he is no longer associated with ‘Cesca, that restaurant and Ouest have re-defined the term “comfort food”, but in a way you have seldom experienced. This is marvelously flavored and wonderfully presented food without pretense. I have followed this creative chef since he ran the delightful Alison on Dominick down in the Village and will follow him anywhere.

Comfort starts with the space itself, a narrow and sexy room with a stylish bar at the front that opens to a room with wonderful circular red leather booths in the back. Dining at the bar is as much in demand as the booths.

No better way to begin than with a cocktail at the bar. It becomes clear right away from the camaraderie between the staff and patrons that this place is a huge neighborhood favorite. They offer a number of signature drinks, but I suggest you start with a French martini; Grey Goose, Lillet (a French aperitif with hints of orange, mint, lime and honey) They serve it with a pickled string bean, but ask for an onion stuffed olive on the side, they’re delicious.

There are so many great things on the regular menu that it is hard to know where to begin. My favorite appetizer is a charred lamb carpaccio with roasted red peppers, feta cheese and olives. Close your eyes and you are in the Mediterranean. A close second is the goat cheese ravioli, tomato, pancetta and fresh basil.

Apart from the nightly specials, the free range roast chicken with mashed potatoes and a garlic jus is wonderful as is the rabbit three ways (roasted leg, bacon wrapped stuffed saddle and confit). The braised short ribs are intensely flavorful and tender and the roasted rack of lamb with rosemary and roasted garlic lamb sausage is nothing short of brilliant.

I love this wine list because Valenti puts as much effort into his list as his does his food. It has all the countries and regions you would expect, but also lots of unusual things you find in few other places. Take a test, how many of these have you seen before; Tocai Friulano, Marsanne, Roussanne,  Nebbiolo,Tempranillo,Corvina & Rondinella? Best of all, the prices are very reasonable…at least for New York.

Salads, $9-12, Appetizers, $11-$16, Entrees, $21-$32, plus specials. Open for brunch on Sundays.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT:  HIGH. Nothing more intimate and sexy that a private booth.

WHAT OTHERS SAY...
“Well-heeled” Upper Ouestsiders tout Tom Valenti’s “stylish” New American offering “refined”, “wonderfully prepared” comfort items in a “smart” setting fitted out with red leather banquettes; some fret it’s “too pricey for every day”, but an early-bird menu lures the “mature” set. ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

back to top

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal Street
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge
Downtown...Casual...Under $60+ pp

Keith McNally and his team have a particular genius in creating themed restaurants fashioned after another time or place….Balthazar, Pastis Pravda and Schiller's to name a few. Excellent food, a casual atmosphere and moderate prices make these restaurants favorites of many New Yorkers. Testament to their popularity is that they are always busy, any day, any time of year. In fact, we never miss stopping at Balthazar or Pastis when we are in that part of the City…and Minetta now joins that group as one of our favorites.

Minetta Tavern was opened in 1937 on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. Over the years it became a hang-out for various literary types including Ernest Hemingway and Dylan Thomas. The McNally group took over in 2008 and despite extensive renovations, the restaurant looks like you would imagine it looked in the ‘30s….mahogany bar, black and white tile floors, wood paneled walls covered with photographs, tin ceilings, red banquettes, crisp white tablecloths and gleaming stemware. Today, the restaurant is one of the most sought after reservations in the City.

Menu highlights include appetizers like “classic” beef tartare, roasted bone marrow, salt cod, potatoes and summer truffles and entrees like their to-die-for Black Label burger, a selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts with caramelized onions and pommes frites, roasted free range chicken with braised chard and pommes aligot and of course the bone-in New York strip which is one of the best steaks I have had in New York. A selection of farmstead cheeses and a glass of port end a truly memorable meal.

About 18 wines by the glass priced in the $12 range and with good selections. The full wine list has good choices but is a bit pricey. Great tap and bottled beer choices like Old Speckled Hen and St-Feuillien Saison and an excellent assortment of spirits, many of which you probably haven’t even heard about like Wray and Nephew rum and Basil Heyden’s bourbon.

Appetizers: $14-$19, entrees, $17-$54, desserts: $9-$18



WHAT OTHERS SAY…
Keith McNally’s “remodel” of a 1937-vintage Villager offers “excellent” French bistro cooking in an “old NY” setting, and is famed for its “epic” burger and “major celebrity” scene with nonstop bar action; it’s no surprise that reservations are “tough”, but definitely “worth the struggle”; “ask for the back room” – the “elbow-bumping” front bar is “so crowded even Yogi doesn’t go there anymore.” ZAGAT

“The best steakhouse in the city” Frank Bruni, New York Times

“Another McNally Time and Again Mirage. There’s pleasure in everything we’re eating.” Gael Greene, The Insatiable Critic

“The setting itself is classic McNally genius and feels as it did 60 years ago.” Mimi Sheraton, former food critic, New York Times.

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
Click picture to enlarge

back to top

Avra Estiatorio
141 East 48th Street
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge

Mid-town..Casual..Under $60pp

Avra is a largely undiscovered Greek gem on the East Side is a favorite for seafood. The beautiful space is so cozy and warm you feel transported to a Greek Isle home. Whitewashed walls, limestone floors, fresh flowers everywhere, comfortable couches in the bar area, intimate booths, a bountiful raw bar, rough hewn woodwork and a wonderful outdoor patio on a not very busy street make this a very special place.

What is unique and wonderful about this restaurant is that they specialize in freshly caught fish purchased through select European exporters and with special arrangements with local purveyors at the New York Fulton Market. Fish is grilled on charcoal with fresh lemon-olive oil and herbs in cages whose handles are bent away from each other. This done so that the fish is kept elevated from the fire, therefore cooked evenly with crisp skin. The fish is then cleaned of all the bones and seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano and a light lemon and olive oil sauce. The head and tail are left on.

Many of the fish are species of which you have never heard, like Loup de Mar a white, mild, moist, sweet, fish very popular in Europe especially France & Greece or Rouget: a Mediterranean Red Mullet, very bony but extremely tasty and sweet when pan-fried.

The wine list is interesting with many Greek choices (ask for help) and very reasonably priced. After dinner there are many single malt scotch, grappa, port and coffee drink specialties.

Lunch appetizer prices range from $7.95-$15.95, there is a great raw bar sampler for two for $34, salads, pastas and sandwiches are under $20 and there is a $24.95 3 course fix prixe. 10 a la carte house specialties (6 fish, 4 meat or poultry) round out the menu priced in the $17.95-$28.95 range.

Dinner for two: $135. (Based on an average dinner bill including appetizer, entrée, dessert, one drink and tax and tip)

Weather permitting, ask for a table outside. Inside, ask for a wall booth.
This restaurant has it all; ambiance, great food and wonderful value. Don’t miss it.


ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Medium, this is a lively place, not necessarily the most intimate for romance.



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
The “Mediterranean meets Manhattan” at this “fabulous upscale” East Side Greek seafooder that’s “always jammed” with seekers of “meticulously prepared meze” and “perfectly grilled” fish; look past the “noise” and “Olympian” per-pound pricing – just focus on the “fresh” catch. ZAGAT



You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information. 

back to top

Union Square Cafe
21 East 16th Street
EXCELLENT

Click picture to enlarge

In a city like New York, it is pretty amazing that a 27 year old restaurant is voted the #1 most popular restaurant virtually every year. Such is the case of the Union Square CafĂ©, Danny Meyer’s first venture in the City. Meyer went on to open Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park and The Modern to name just a few of his highly acclaimed outposts.

It’s not so amazing, however, if you have had the pleasure of dining here. USC is wonderful for lunch (or brunch), it’s great to eat alone at the bar for dinner and yet it is warm and cozy for a romantic meal with someone special.

The feel is comfortable and warm, just what you might expect in a “cafĂ©” with gleaming hardwood floors, crisp white walls above hunter green wainscoting and striking artwork for a bit of color. Chalkboard specials, waiters in long aprons and great lighting complete the “cafĂ©” look.

The menu is Chef Carmen Quagliata’s American cuisine with an “Italian soul”, using fresh ingredients from the local Greenmarket. It is basic food, expertly prepared and oh so satisfying. The menu changes, but here are some things not to miss if they are on the menu: iced oysters…always delicious, lasagna Bolognese, butternut squash tortelli with cranberries, balsamic and sage brown butter, grilled tuna with a white bean puree, braised rabbit leg with fennel sausage, rosemary cannellini beans, warm garlic potato chips, the USC burger, Farmstead cheeses and the apple tart

Very good wine list (Wine Spectator Award of Excellence) with plenty of reasonably priced wines. About 17 wines by the glass and the same number of half bottle choices. Great selection of craft and imported beers and some pretty neat cocktails. Even some cool sodas like Bartlett pear-rosemary, pomegranate-hibiscus and granny Smith apple-ginger.

Appetizers: $4-$16, pastas: $17-$21, entrees: $28-$37, desserts: $9-$9.50

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Lively, yet seductive at night.

WHAT OTHERS SAY…
Diners have an “emotional connection” with Danny Meyer’s “sentimental-favorite” flagship off Union Square that “never gets old, just better” thanks to its “full-flavored”, “Greenmarket-fresh” American cooking, “on-the-ball” service, stylish surrounds and that “camaraderie” at the bar; it’s “lasted an eternity in restaurant time” – 27 years – in part because “you can carry on a conversation” here. ZAGAT

You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
Click picture to enlarge

back to top