We are headed to NYC for a graduation-from-college celebration. Recommendations for a restaurant that is not too fancy, suitable for a party of 8? $$-$$$, open to fare.
First of all, congrats to the grad! Now...
I'm not sure what area of the city you'd like to aim for, but here are a few ideas:
Le Relais De Venise L'Entrecote - this is a bit of a New York classic so make sure you make reservations and make sure everyone in your party eats meat because they have one thing on the menu and that's steak. For about $30 you get a steak and fries and that's that. Nothing else is offered here but it's a reliable, somewhat subdued place where your party can really talk to each other.
'21' Club - this is where New Yorkers go to celebrate just about everything so I think I can guarantee you they'll be able to accommodate your party. Just make sure you reserve a table in the Bar Room, not the "Upstairs" because that's much, much more expensive. The Bar Room should run you about $40 or so a plate and, I think, is more festive than the Upstairs.
Balthazar - admittedly it's a little contrived and a little too popular, but the food is always good and the atmosphere is fun. So fun that you may even find it a bit crowded and loud but then again, so is the whole city. Prices are pretty reasonable but make a reservation as it's very, very popular.
Morandi - this place is crowded, noisy, and hard to get into, but I couldn't love it more. It has such a fun, upbeat (celebratory!) vibe that I can't resist mentioning it. The food is fabulous and the staff is great. If I wanted to celebrate something I'd go here for sure!
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COOKSHOP in West Chelsea has delicious, elegant local American food. Not too expensive and good ambiance.