Birthday Dinner Suggestions?

So my loves, I need a bit of help.  I’m going to be celebrating my birthday next week in New York and would love some restaurant suggestions for dinner with my girlfriends (including my amazing Matchbook team coming from Philadelphia, Kansas City and D.C.!).  I’d prefer somewhere low key yet scrumptious — top contenders are Schillers, Balthazar, JG Melon…any other suggestions?  I’d love to try somewhere new…

(painting by Janet Ternoff)

89 comments on “Birthday Dinner Suggestions?

  1. Nicole

    I think Balthazar is great but maybe more of a brunch spot. If your group isn’t too large, you could try Fedora on W 4th in the West Village. It’s brand new and had a rave review in the Times, so it’s always bustling! There’s a new restaurant called Imperial No 9 in the Mondrian Soho, which is on everyone’s radar right now. Hmm…thinking of others…

  2. ShoppyShops

    You might like Extra Virgin – has a slightly different “feel” than the other contenders, but really, really good.

  3. the iconic blog

    Oh my goodness! Where to start…

    -Mercer Kitchen
    -Spring Street Natural
    -Ditch Plains
    -Cafe Luxembourg – celebrity hot spot
    -Hundred Acres
    -Fig & Olive – Meatpacking Location
    -Vin et Fluers
    -The Standard Grill
    -Butter *My Fav

    I live in the city and would love to meet. Let me know if you have a free moment!xx


  4. Lauren Shia

    hey kate! go to balthazar for brunch if you can!! the waffles are to die for. And for your birthday dinner check out Mermaid Inn! Unpretentious simple decor and reallyy good food and drinks! Congrats on the blog btw! I haven’t commented but once you brought up food AND a picture of Balthazar– my favorite brunch place ever, I had to say something.

  5. Katie Armour Post author

    So many great suggestions! Thank you ladies!

    Jane – My husband (then boyfriend…) and I went to Gemma for dinner after picking out my engagement ring at Finn Jewelry’s showroom on Great Jones Street. Such a happy memory—I was giddy—and delicious food :)

    Melanie – Just went to Mercer Kitchen last month for the first time! So yummy. Thank you for all the great suggestions!

    Lauren – Long time no talk?! You have a blog too?! And you live in NY? Love it. We have to get together sometime! Thank you for the suggestions. And you’re right, brunch at Balthazar is delish!

  6. Katy

    All above are great recommendations. I would say Stanton Social. Always a favorite! MUST make a reservation, but great food and fun vibe. Can be loud, but if it isn’t a Sat night it is normally okay. If you want something different and more of an experience I would say Gyu-Kaku a Japanese BBQ place. Both are great because they take a little longer than normal so there is more time for drinks, chitty-chat and laughter! Love to see you while you are here :)

  7. John About Town

    The Mark @ The Mark Hotel – food by Jean Georges and interiors by Jacques Grange. Sant Ambroeus on either West 4th or upper Madison. Both Public and Stanton Social are always great – both were designed by AvroKO – so the interiors are fab! Speaking of AvroKO, Park Avenue Spring is gorgeous! In my opinion, Balthazar is best for breakfast, and JG Melon for lunch. Ok, I’ll stop now…

  8. Andrea

    I agree with Jane about Gemma, Pastis in the Meat Packing District is always great… also STK is delicious!!!!

  9. Cary Randolph

    Go to Balthazar for brunch. It’s an NYC institution. Melon’s is a daytime spot as well… How about the Lion? You’d love Gemma too. It’s the definition of “convivial”. Bonne anniversaire!

  10. Katie Armour Post author

    Cary – Okay, okay, Balthazar for brunch — I haven’t been there for brunch in ages, though I did go there for lunch last month :) Gemma is scrumptious. Hmmmm… Thanks love!

  11. Erin

    Fedora! Gabe Stulman is amazing. He also is the chef/owner behind Joseph Leonard which has the MOST amazing egg + manchego cheese breakfast sandwich you’ll ever have. {JL is another wonderful place, but it’s tiny…which might be a little tight for the birthday brigade.}

    Here’s a wonderful write up from foodie blogger Joanne Wilson/Gotham Gal. She has a ton of other yummy suggestions, too.

    Happy, happy birthday! xx

  12. Melissa

    Happy Birthday!

    Definitely check out Public Restaurant ( in Soho. It’s really laid back but kind of swanky at the same time. It seems like you’ve got tons of other great suggestions too :) Have a blast in NYC!

    If you are up for a trek to Brooklyn, Alma ( has delicious Mexican food and a great rooftop deck. The views of the Manhattan skyline are incredible. Plus, the margaritas are to die for! Perfect for a girls’ night!

  13. colie

    1. Ippuddo: You will dream of ramen and pork buns for years after you eat there. Must have the Yuzu Sake on the rocks. Note, they don’t take reservations and the wait can be quite long for dinner so have someone put your name in and come back.
    2. Otto: I can not tell you how important it is to have the sformato di parmigiano and a sardinian ice tea from Otto in your lifetime. Also, it easily accommodates larger parties and the wine list is ridiculous.
    3. Butter: the name says it all.
    4. Craft Bar: As great as Craft but with lower prices and less pressure.
    5. Jack’s luxury oyster bar: tiny intimate haunt for great oysters.

  14. Monique

    Oh! So many good suggestions! Otto is really fun! Also check out Savoy ( amazing, interesting foods, a fire hearth, right in the middle of SoHo! Between all of these suggestions you will surely find something great! :)

  15. Erin

    Tipsy Parson: Best mac and cheese in the city hands down. Had a really fun group meal there a few weeks ago.

    Hundred Acres: I second that nomination, try to get a table in the back room – it’s gorgeous.

    The Breslin: I really like both the space and the food. The fries are unbelievable.

    And… Fette Sau: IF you are a meat-eater, IF you don’t mind a quick trip across the East River to Williamsburg, and IF you don’t mind dining in a former auto garage, go to Fette Sau. Best BBQ in life!

    OH and try a cocktail place for post dinner drinks:
    Madame Geneva’s (it’s across from Gemma, if you end up there!)
    Death and Company
    Little Branch
    …I could go on. :)

    Happy birthday!

  16. Leah

    Cafe Luxembourg! West 70th Street. A true neighborhood french bistro! It’s casual yet sophisticated :)

  17. Kate

    Ooh, Balthazaar brunch… Just thinking about it makes me happy! OTTO is a *great* idea, and I have to give a very, very strong recommendation for Pearl on Cornelia Street – a wonderful, charming, beautifully decorated (but understated) seafood restaurant with legendary Lobster Rolls. Tiny and charming and so, so great! It’s usually quite crowded, so if you don’t want to wait Po is right up the street.

    For more ideas, you might want to check out Have a wonderful trip – can’t wait to read all about it!


    PS – If you find yourself gallery-hopping and hungry, be sure to visit Eataly, an incredible indoor market/restaurant/bar/etc at 23rd and Broadway for a pick-me-up – it’s all Italian, a culinary tour-de-force sponsored by the Italian Tourism Commission (or something similar).

  18. Olive

    If you want to venture to Brooklyn, No.7 is absolutely fantastic. Also, Frankie’s Sputino (one on the Lower East Side and One in Brooklyn) is my favorite italian restaurant in the city.

  19. Bri

    My birthday is this Sunday! I am such a fan of your blog, and I thank you for helping me to realize that I am a neo-traditionalist :). I hope you have a great birthday! I will have to jot some of these delicious NYC suggestions down for when I take a trip to the big apple!

  20. Tamra

    Happy Birthday!!! I live in soho and live to eat.

    – Balthazar, Best for Brunch
    – Mercer Kitchen, Best for Brunch

    Fab Birthday Dinner
    – Hotel Griffou!!!!!!
    – Blue Ribbon, no resos but food atmosphere, worth every second you may wait
    – Lure
    – Il Cantinori
    – Raoul’s *ask to sit in the back garden

    Wishing you a fab birthday in the city!!! Best place to celebrate.

    Would love to meet!

  21. The Prippy Handbook

    I just had a girl’s dinner post-wedding dress shopping at Beauty & Essex and I would highly recommend it. The food was wonderful, the ambiance sublime… and there was a complimentary pink champagne bar in the exquisite ladies room.

    Have a wonderful birthday!

  22. Ronnie

    What about Daniel on East 65th or Barolo’s In SoHo? For brunch, there’s a charming little place called Brown Cafe on Hester Street.

    Happy birthday!

  23. Lacquered Life

    Hey Lady! Happy Birthday! Ok so I love all of the above suggestions, but I keep coming back to you saying low key. So I am typically partial to all things UES, and some of those suggestions were good — I have some addt’l to add … Uva (italian wine bar ish cozy), Bar Italia (fun at 2nd ave location but they just opened on Madison), Swifty’s (for a true NYC UES experience), obviously Melon’s is a favorite but prefer a late lunch w/ bloody marys, Fulton is good, ooooh Atlantic Grill is fab if you haven’t been. All of these UES options require a pre-requisit $20 martini at Bemelmans and then an after dinner prosecco at Sant Ambreous. If you wanna go downtown, one of my fave funny little places is Cuba – cuban food, live music hilarious. Let me know if you need any more suggestions! If you’re at Sant Ambreous on the UES its possible I will bump into you … xo

  24. Meghan

    Union Square Cafe!!! It’s delicious – and they do wonderful birthdays. I celebrated my birthday there this summer. The restaurant brought a delicious cake out complete with decorations and candle!

  25. Sandra

    I agree that Balthazar is a fantastic brunch spot, but I haven’t had the best times there at dinner. I have had really great nights at the Waverly Inn at dinner; same with Minetta Tavern.

  26. Katie Armour Post author

    Oh my goodness — I am going to have to compile all of these into a list! Hopefully I can visit all of them over my next few NY visits. To think, I lived in Manhattan for a year and yet have been to so few of these seemingly yummy places! That’s life, I suppose… Thank you everyone so very, very much! xoxoxo

  27. Anna

    Cafe Cluny in the West Village is really simple and cozy and charming. And Prune, of course.

  28. NatalieEve

    Bianca! It’s this really wonderful Italian restaurant on Bleeker Street. It’s low key and the menu is absolutely incredible, I also have a strong feeling that you will love the setting, its very cute!
    I have lived in NYC my whole life and this is one of my favorite spots.

    Have a wonderful time celebrating! can’t wait to read about your time in NYC.

  29. Josefina

    Happy Birthday Katie!

    I would recommend Ippudo, the food is absolutely delicious and the drinks are awesome as well (


  30. Hayley

    Locanda Verde is amazing! It’s in Tribeca, on Greenwich, right next to the Greenwich Hotel. I went there last week, it is a great atmosphere and delicious food (Lamb meatball sliders! Ricotta cheese whipped into a hummus-like frenzy served with bread to dip!) AND, bonus: I ended up sitting right next to Natalie Portman and her fiance! It is popular for it’s great food yet casual, sophisticated atmosphere. I highly recommend it! Have fun and Happy Birthday! :)


  31. Amanda

    Love Balthazar, but you should go to Alta if you haven’t already. Tapas–all the food is SOOOO good, the drinks as well, and it’s in a townhouse on West 10th street… super cool.

  32. The Buzz - Diane James Home

    Katie – any chance you could meet up for coffee in Soho on Friday? I’ll be there shopping for some furniture… I would definitely look into The Cookshop on 10th – farm to table cooking, relaxed and friendly service and you can hang at your table all night long.

  33. Alexandra

    Head to Brooklyn! There are so many amazing restaurants to try! Rye in Williamsburg is my absolute favorite, but I also love Dumont, The Brooklyn Star, Five Leaves, Oak Wine Bar, and the Manhattan Inn to name a few.

  34. Victoria

    Hi Hi, Happy Birthday!

    I can’t believe I’m posting this for all to see, but there is a great new top-secret restaurant whose food is to-die-for. It is called hudson clearwater and it has a secret entrance on Morton and Hudson in the west village. The chef makes delicious food like you can’t imagine – and it is endlessly cool because it is secret – so very speakeasy like and so very neo-traditionalist.


  35. Caitlin

    I went to barmarche for my sister-in-law’s bday on Saturday night. It’s up the street from Balthazar. It was perfect- beautiful atmosphere and the food is amazing. You don’t get the feeling that they are trying to rush you out, which they so often do at certain nyc restaurants.

  36. kbd

    I went to Schillers last time I was in New York… it was lovely. Great food. Really good service, and really nice wait staff… I highly recommend it. Just don’t go before noon, if you want a mimosa with your brunch! (but that’s a New York rule, not a Schillers rule!)

  37. sheilaliehs

    HAPPY HAPPY (almost) birthday!

    I suggest Perry Street for their elegance, Falai if the group turns out to be smaller (white, bright, delicious!!), Thalia if you’d like to start with oysters, and Anja Bar (“Buddha Bar”) for an ambiance that is so very different…

    Keep us posted on where reservations are made! :)

  38. Nicole

    Freeman’s! Have you ever been? If not it’s a must. You will absolutely swoon…it has, in my opinion, the most unique and incredible ambiance in NYC! I went there for the first time a few years ago and was blown away…tucked away down a tiny alley-way strung with twinkling lights on Rivington…

    Seriously to die for! I’m going on Saturday night to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday :) Enjoy your time in NYC!!

  39. Kristen

    All of these are great suggestions, but with only a week’s notice, you might have a hard time getting a table for a group.

    A few great options that tend to have last-minute availability:

    Mercat — Catalan tapas in NoHo
    Socarrat — Paella bar — two locations (Chelsea & Nolita)
    August — Great modern American in W. Village

    You have a lot of great options to choose from!

    I can’t wait to add some of these suggestions to my go-to list!

  40. ccnyc

    All we talk about at work is food! So here are some of my favorites:
    – l’artusi
    – tartine
    – osteria morini
    – corsino
    – cafe cluny
    – alta

    All of the above have great food and a nice atmosphere.

    For a good croissant and coffee, try doma on perry st. For a good cupcake and glass of wine, go to sweet revenge.

    Hope this is helpful!

  41. Mackenzie

    My three suggestions would be:
    ABC Kitchen
    Modern at the Met
    They are all delish, have great ambiance and are low key but sumptuous!
    Have a happy birthday!

  42. lauren

    Lately my go-to scrumptious spot, yet good with friends is Bar Baressco or you can hop next door to Bastardo..which ever strikes your fancy:) But amazing italian, great wine selection and the ambiance is nothing short of perfect!

    Also, more of a brunch spot (perhaps you can go the morning after) is YUCA BAR in the east village…HOLY BRUNCH it’s SO GOOD.

    Happy early Birthday!

  43. Tara

    Gemma at the Bowery Hotel… it’s so cute! Or Peels which is just down the street from Gemma and opened not to long ago.

  44. Danielle


    Happy Birthday!

    As a New Yorker, Balthazar is totally a brunch place- show up after you all have had a long night out and need lattes and mimosas to take the edge off. :)

    For dinner- do Aldea on W.17th Street. Chef George Mendes is very up and coming- the cocktails are fabulous and the food is inventive! (Nouveau Portuguese) There’s also a special chef’s area where you can sit and watch them cook in the kitchen. After, you should all go out for cocktails in the area, there’s a fabulous “speak easy” style lounge on the same block and some other fabulous places in the area.

    Have a great time!!!

  45. Hilary

    Come to Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill Brooklyn (& keep your eyes peeled for our adorable neighbors Michelle Williams, Alexis Bledel, Maggie Gyllenhall & Keri Russell. ;) I celebrated my birthday in the small side room at Apartment 134 & we did my roommate’s at Chestnut, both on Smith St. There’s also a tiny French place on 5th Avenue at St Mark’s where you’ll basically be the only people in their because it’s so small & the French owner will so make you feel you’ve escaped to a European cafe! After dinner drinks at Black Mountain Wine Bar would be cozy too.

    with grace & gumption,

  46. Wendy L.

    Have you ever been to Alta on West 10th in the Village? It’s a gem! As you enter the bar it seems like you are just walking into the downstairs of a regular brownstone, then VOILA! You’re inside a building that’s been “hollowed out” with a main floor dining area in front of a roaring fire and a dining “balcony” up above. It’s so special! The other secret is that many scenes from the classic Hitchcock/Grace Kelly movie “Rear Window”were filmed in the (original) building. All this aside, the small plate/sharing food is wonderful — especially the Brussels Sprouts one of my favorite dishes EVER!

  47. Jessica Kelly

    I recommend Carmine’s! Its family style served Italian food, that is so good you will have a mouth orgasm bite after bite…and I do NOT say that about every place I go to. I recommend the UWS location to avoid the touristyness of Times Square. But its a cozy atmosphere and delish food!

    Happy early birthday!

  48. Jessica

    I recommend Carmine’s! Its family style served Italian food, that is so good you will have a mouth orgasm bite after bite…and I do NOT say that about every place I go to. I recommend the UWS location to avoid the touristyness of Times Square. But its a cozy atmosphere and delish food!

    Have a lovely birthday my dear! Any birthday in NYC is exciting no matter which fantastic place you choose!

  49. Katie Armour Post author

    I am officially stumped. They all look/sound so delicious — how will I decide?! Adding these to the list of possibilities, thank you friends! xoxo

  50. Lauren

    I love Otto. It has amazing wine, delicious pizza and pasta perfect to share with friends! I’m sure whatever you decide will be perfect!

  51. Meg

    I second the Prune suggestion! I’d also think about these…

    – Kasadela (Japanese izakaya in the EV)
    – Wallse (Austrian and fabulous)
    – Blaue Gans (Wallse’s pubbier younger brother)
    – Osteria Morini (Italian in SoHo)
    – Frankies’ Spuntino (INCREDIBLE Italian on the LES)
    – The Tipsy Parson (delectable Southern in Chelsea)

    Above all, have fun!

  52. Valerie

    Happy birthday!!! I would recommend either Alta and Aldea.

    At the risk of adding more confusion, I would also suggest Piadina (West 10th and 6th Ave) across the street from Alta. They are willing to accommodate a large group without providing a credit card. The only draw back is that it’s cash only. Look forward to hearing where you decide to go. xo

  53. Daily Cup of Couture

    I would recommend Commerce in the West Village! It’s cool and cozy and truly one of my favorites!! AND they even have real old fashion birthday cake on their dessert menu!

    Happy Birthday Darling!!


  54. Lauren

    I have a couple of great places:

    L’Artusi for their AMAZING amazing italian…the pasta is so simple and buttery and fresh

    The Darby: it’s a dinner show! Like at The Box, but without the raunchiness. A real NY throwback.

    The Smile: My favorite low-key but awesome neighborhood place, in an old merchant’s building in Noho. Very authentic and cool.

    I know you like things classic, simple, and whimsical (like me), but if you want to blow it out big and do a fun, once-in-a-lifetime NY type place, go to Beauty & Essex or Hurricane Club. Both just pure fun. Food is good (creative tapas and sharing plates), drinks are good, atmosphere and design are amazing.

    Happy birthday!

  55. Ginny branch stelling

    For dinner in manhattan…
    Little Owl in west village

    The smile(lunch)
    cafe cluny(brunch)
    Little branch(drinks)

    In brooklyn…
    Vinegar Hill
    Roebling tearoom ( I think you and your friends would looooove this)

  56. Annie

    If you want a free round of drinks, Key Bar in, I think Soho or LES is great for that and all of your friends within a week of the birthday! Also I think you need to check out Lilly’s Victorian Establishment in Union Square for a drink of brunch! I’m not a foodie so I found the food as great as any brunch but the decor- so adorable, old fashion! It’s a fav of mine just for that!

  57. Patterson

    A place called Bread…its in nolita…SO good and reasonably priced. I want my bday dinner there!

  58. Ivet

    Bond 45 has the best cheesecake I’ve ever tried! Its a lovely place to enjoy great food and great company :) Happy birthday, dear!

  59. Lulu

    For a lovely spot I would heartily recommend Freemans. It is in the Bowery, and is at the end of an alley way. You walk down and all of a sudden, amidst the graffiti, there is a glowing restaurant imbued with a glorious antique feel. The food is of course delicious. It is more focused on hearty Americana, but made with delicious fresh ingredients. The decor has the feel of an eccentric millionaire’s library. Make sure to ask to eat upstairs because it is usually quieter.

  60. Alinne

    Hi Katie!

    Ok… All these places that everyone recommended are all great. But alot of them are super pricey and a bit “trendy”/”sceney”… if you want a great little place off the beaten path, try Evo & Lulu. It’s a great little BYOB (no corking fee) French/Carribian place. Super charming, great service and AMAZING FOOD.I PROMISE you will NOT be disappointed. Google some wine shops in the area or take a little trip to Union Square and hit up Trader Joe’s for a great selection of wines in the $5-$15+ range.
    You can have a great 3 course meal for about $50.
    From a foodie college student on a super budget, you must trust me.

    There is usually a wait, and it’s first come,first serve, but worth the wait.

    Let me know how it goes girl! Or tell me when you are going and I’ll try to make it too. I’ve been meaning to go w/ my girlfriends. Totally craving it right now.


  61. Emily Evans

    this just comment thread just became my new list of restaurants to hit up next time i’m in the city !!

    yay neo-trad readers, the most fly ladies around town.

  62. Megan Abigail Chandler

    Katie I so hope you loved Balthazar … I had my first brunch there in February and the waffles were phenomenal. Tres Magnifique!

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