10 Places All 20-Somethings Should Check Out For Restaurant Week

image - Flickr / Alexis Lamster
image – Flickr / Alexis Lamster

As a 20-something living in Manhattan, I must admit that Restaurant Week is a bit confusing. On one hand, NYC is a foodie’s paradise and Restaurant Week – or month, rather – is wonderful because it places some of the city’s finest culinary jewels within our financial reach.

Still, it’s expensive.

I’ve only been out to lunch a handful of times during my three years in the city and not once have I spent $25 on it. (Note: Restaurant Week’s three-course lunch is set at $25, while the three-course dinner seating is $38.)

Of course, my experience isn’t reason enough to invalidate another’s. However, I think it’s safe to say that most New Yorkers between the ages of 20 and 30 would prefer to shell out $38 for a nice dinner with friends, rather than pay $25 for a lunch they never would have had otherwise. Going out for dinner is simply a more fulfilling experience, and let’s also not forget, most of us have day jobs that preclude us from the fine-dining luncheon, anyway.

So, while both Zagat and CBS have their own recommendations, I offer a separate list that provides recommendations specifically geared toward 20-somethings who are looking for that little bit of an extra bang for their buck, without spending hours on Yelp.

Here are my criteria and top 10 Restaurant Week picks for 20-somethings:

1. The Restaurant Must Serve Dinner

This knocks out a slew of favorites from other lists. For example, while it’s wonderful that Nobu is participating in restaurant week, with only the lunch option available, it gets a swift kick off the list and we’re left to favor little bro Nobu Next Door, which does serve dinner.

2. The Cuisine Must Be “Worth it”*

… As in French, steak, seafood, upscale American or Japanese.

Allow me to explain the exclusivity: I grew up in a part-Chinese household and spent a summer in China eating the most delectable, hand-crafted dim sum and $1 noodles around. So, while I am sure Midtown’s Hakkasan is delicious, it’s difficult for me to justify spending so much money on basic, over-priced ingredients for a cuisine that is meant to be inexpensive.

The same goes for Mexican fare and soul food. Don’t get me wrong; I understand that fusion restaurants are all the rage and that the innovative quality of these cuisines is absolutely growing. However, to me, the beauty of these foods lies in their historic comfort, simplicity and casual enjoyment.

The beauty of Restaurant Week is the ability to enjoy something a bit more special.

3. The Ratings And Atmosphere Must Be Just Right

All 10 restaurants on the list below have something unique about them. Whether it’s the perfect setting for a corporate celebration or a romantic speakeasy from the 1920s, each restaurant encapsulates a uniquely New York atmosphere that the pros have tried and tested. While anything over a 20 on Zagat is a solid score, I aimed strictly for 23+ ratings on the food.

Here are my top 10 suggestions in no particular order:

Bar Boulud

Cuisine: French

Rating on Zagat: 24

Where: Upper West Side
Vibe: Sophisticated Casual


Lure Fishbar

Cuisine: Seafood
Rating on Zagat: 23
Where: SoHo

Vibe: Classic/Nautical


Le Cirque

Cuisine: French
Rating on Zagat: 25
Where: Midtown
Vibe: Posh


21 Club

Cuisine: Classic American

Rating on Zagat: 23

Where: Midtown

Vibe: Historic Speakeasy


Nobu Next Door

Cuisine: Japanese Peruvian

Rating on Zagat: 27

Where: Tribeca
Vibe: Iconic


Perry Street

Cuisine: New American

Rating on Zagat: 26
Where: West Village

Vibe: Chic/Modern


Po

Cuisine: New American
Rating on Zagat: 25

Where: West Village
Vibe: Charming/Cozy Romantic


The Sea Grill

Cuisine: Seafood

Rating on Zagat: 23
Where: Rock Center

Vibe: Special Occasion


Perilla

Cuisine: New American

Rating on Zagat: 26
Where: West Village
Vibe: Polished/Intimate


The Capital Grille

Cuisine: Steakhouse

Rating on Zagat: 24

Where: Multiple Locations

Vibe: Corporate/Celebratory


Bonus Recommendations:

Butter

Cuisine: Seafood/Steak/American

Rating on Zagat: Not Yet Rated

Where: Midtown
Vibe: Stylish/Romantic


Fig & Olive

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Rating on Zagat: 21

Where: Multiple Locations
Vibe: Chic/Trendy

So, there you have it, friends. Skip the overwhelming search and check out some recommended spots — then, start nommin’! Of course, feel free to share your own tips and recommendations in the comments below. TC mark

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