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I need a New York restaurant recommendation for Friday night, something casual-ish, where six to ten people could eat without a reservation (though waiting is fine). A few diners are vegetarians and some are not particularly adventurous eaters. Ideally, it would be somewhere in Midtown, Chinatown, or, actually, anywhere.
Say No to Resy
Fear not: There are plenty of places where you’ll find a table and please everyone in your party — even as landing reservations for NYC restaurants has become so cutthroat that it has spawned moneymaking side-gigs. Before rolling out suggestions, let’s acknowledge that six to ten people can have a lot of spending power; I’m guessing many restaurants are going to try and accommodate you if you’re flexible and kind.
Skip just-opened restaurants or super-trendy spots, and consider first a banquet hall restaurant that’s likely to have room whether you show up at 6 p.m. or midnight: Dim Sum Palace (27 Division Street, between Market and Catherine streets, though there are multiple locations). The 200-seat dining room has big tables near a window overlooking Division Street, and a screen with an aquatic scene on a screen as well as enormous fish tanks. The menu runs the gamut, from fried rice with crab, Beijing duck, steamed whole fish, sausage with lotus root, and so on.
Let’s talk about a couple of New York classics, starting with Gallaghers Steakhouse (228 W. 52nd Street, near Eighth Avenue). I hear you: This is a steakhouse, but it may suit the less adventurous diners, and for vegetarians, the sides rule, with sixteen options to choose from including broccoli rabe, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts. Among starters, there’s burrata and coal-fired peppers, and a green salad with goat cheese, cherries, and pears. If you’re there early enough, you might be able to get a big bar table, a reservationist says. (There’s a good chance you’ll have to wait.)
Another one among the reliable classics is Grand Central Oyster Bar (89 E. 42nd Street, near Lexington Avenue). It’s a fun dining room not far from the building’s whispering gallery, and it’s a good location for commuters. In addition to its chowders, pan roasts, and raw bar, it offers a handful of vegetarian (penne primavera, an array of vegetarian sides) and non-seafood options (crisp half-chicken). The menu offers something like 30 wines by the glass.
Not ideal, but: consider a food hall. A couple that aren’t soul-sucking include Mercado Little Spain from José Andrés (10 Hudson Yards, at West 30th Street), which includes a couple of restaurants such as Spanish Diner with fair prices and something for everyone; the grill-focused Leña; tapas seafood spot, Mar; as well as La Barra. And yes, there are bars.
Speaking of river views, closer to Fidi, there’s the Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Tin Building (96 South Street at Beekman Street) Here you’ll find, in addition to stalls for beer, wine, tacos, and oysters, a handful of sit-down restaurants, including Shikku for sushi; a new outpost for vegetarian, abcV; a Chinese spot, House of the Red Pearl; and T Brasserie, among others.
If you’re in that neighborhood and you don’t want to hit a food hall, consider Le Gratin (5 Beekman Street, near Park Row), Daniel Boulud’s excellent Lyon-inspired brasserie. Further uptown, there’s Smyth Tavern (85 W. Broadway at Chambers Street). I mention both as examples of good hotel restaurants that are better equipped to handle larger parties, and at the very least, have adjacent bars where a big party can grab a drink while waiting. Another bet? Theater District restaurants — good for groups once the shows have begun.
Hope this helps — and good luck!