The Best NYC Restaurants for Birthday Dinners and Groups
First of all, happy birthday! You've managed to eke out another year in the big city, and you know what they say: If you can age here, you can age anywhere.
So where to? Choosing the right location for your birthday dinner, also known as stress, can seem daunting at first. No worries: Consider this list of 10 great spots our gift to you, and we'll even throw in some pointers on how not to ruin a birthday dinner.
① Boqueria, Upper East Side, Flatiron and Soho
The chef's menu is the only option here for parties of six or more, which in our opinion is just about the perfect size for a birthday party. The reasonably priced menu ($40 per person) covers all the greatest Spanish tapas hits, while mixing in seasonal specialties to keep things interesting. The food, like lush platters of paella, literally just keeps coming, making it ideal for your indecisive or picky pals. No cake for you: Dessert is a giant plate of fluffy churros with rich chocolate sauce.
② Momofuku Ssäm Bar, East Village
The pro move here is to book the ssäm dinner. The maximum amount of people is 10, and it's only $225 total, which breaks down to a not-so-whopping $22.50 per person. Even once you add apps (steamed buns!) and drinks, it's still a particularly reasonable celebration. The dinner consists of a whole slow-cooked pork shoulder, a dozen oysters, steamed rice and lettuce cups to make your own wrap.
③ Fette Sau, Williamsburg
Get saucy at this festive, industrial-looking BBQ spot, housed in a former garage. No worries about splitting the check here: Everyone order his or her own platter at the counter before taking over a picnic table or two. Get the smell of smoked meat all up in your hair and toast to your birth with beer by the gallon and whiskey by the Mason jar.
④ Louro, West Village
This modern American restaurant with Portuguese influences from chef David Santos (Per Se, Bouley) accommodates parties of 10 to 12 in a semiprivate back room. Reflect on your year's highs over a three-course menu ($65 per person) and tack on wine pairings for an additional $35 since you're celebrating. This is a great spot if you want to feel fancy without the panic of paying off your next credit card statement.
⑤ Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse, Lower East Side
Vodka bottles frozen in blocks of ice. Pitchers of schmaltz on every table. A piano player who successfully encourages diners to engage in the Hava Nagila in the middle of the fluorescent-lit room. If that doesn't sound like your idea of a party, avoid this classic Lower East Side Jewish steakhouse at all costs. If it does, rally your rowdiest friends and head to the basement space, where every night is a party.
⑥ Decoy, West Village
Here's the deal at Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng's subterranean offshoot of their wildly popular RedFarm: The communal table seats 22. The kitchen makes 27 Peking ducks ($78) a night, which are served with duck consomme shots, pancakes and sauces, plus an assortment of small plates and mains like Katz's pastrami triangles and lobster with rice noodles. Though they accept reservations of all sizes (up to 22, that is), we recommend going with a smaller group (six to 10) and gloriously gorging yourself on a sampling of the full spread.
⑦ Bar Primi, East Village
Drink all over the East Village, then soak up all that booze with a late-night stop at Andrew Carmellini's new pasta shop. It's loud, lively and not terribly expensive. Carbo-load with the lamb amatriciana, spaghetti and clams, and pumpkin agnolotti (and round things out with the stuffed meatballs while you're at it). If you're still going strong, get a Sbagliato, the Negroni's dirty sister, and do not leave without the airy slope of tiramisu for dessert.
⑧ Jing Fong, Chinatown
If you're in the market for a dim sum birthday brunch, this is your spot. It seats hundreds and is wonderfully over the top in terms of design: We're talking enormous chandeliers, red leather banquettes and a crazily well-stocked bar. Flag a roving cart to snag plates of har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) and sticky rice studded with sweet Chinese sausage. The banquet-style meal is something everyone should experience, but make sure to book ahead. Once you do, prepare for an epic 12-course feast, complete with a whole Peking duck and more.
⑨ Franny's, Prospect Heights
This one requires a bit of planning, but it's worth it. Call the famed Italian spot two weeks ahead to book your party of 10 or more, and request the downstairs—that's where they keep all the vino, and you definitely deserve to dine in a private wine cellar. The entire menu is a national treasure, but make sure you get at least two clam pizzas—one will not be enough. They also offer a chef's menu ($60) for parties of ten to 15.
⑩ Coco Roco, Park Slope
This laid-back Peruvian joint gives you plenty of bang for your buck: One delicious roast chicken and two sides (we get starchy with the rice and beans and spinach mashed potatoes) easily feeds four. The spacious digs and general lack of crowds make Coco a good place for a casual group. Kick things off with its plentiful ceviche offerings (the Tiradito de Lenguado and sesame salmon are the best) and a round of mojitos before the bird arrives. Bonus: The tables are covered in white paper, and crayons are on offer, so get ready for some birthday doodles.
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