A Guide To The “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurant To Catch Up With A Few Friends”
There’s a type of place we get asked about all the time: the Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurant To Catch Up With A Few Friends. Let’s discuss.
The Infatuation is built on the idea of “Perfect For” categories, catering to assorted restaurant needs. Dinner With The Parents? Date Night? Impressing Out Of Towners? We got it.
But occasionally, we field requests that don’t quite fit into any of our pre-determined categories. And there is one such genre of restaurant that comes up over and over again. It’s what we have come to call the “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurant To Catch Up With A Few Friends," or SSCRPRTCUWFF for short.
We’ve broken down the core attributes of the SCRPRTCUWFF, and they are:
Kind of quiet.
But not super boring.
Relatively small in size, or at least not cavernous.
With plates around $20 and under.
“Any neighborhood is fine, but… maybe the West Village or Nolita or Williamsburg?”
Turns out SCRPRTCUWFFs are really popular, so here are our picks.
Certain restaurants are perfect for just about any scenario, and Shuka is one of them. Their Mediterranean food—like spiced beet dip and chicken shawarma—is solid, the prices aren’t astronomical, and the Soho space feels like the home of a person who makes a very decent living and probably does pilates. It's surprisingly spacious and charming, filled with rugs, string lights, and throw pillows.
The main reason why we come to Cafe Spaghetti is the backyard. It's filled with tables under striped umbrellas, and there's a Vespa parked in the middle of it, as if the whole place is a front for the Italian tourism board. The indoor dining room—with it's black-and-white photos and vintage posters—is also pretty pleasant. Wherever you choose to sit, you can eat some quality spaghetti pomodoro and enjoy a sub-$10 glass of house red wine.
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From 3-6pm Monday through Saturday, this Lao spot in the East Village does a Happy Hour that involves discounted beer, wine, and cocktails in addition to a few food-and-drink deals. But even when it's not Happy Hour, Dhom's skewers (the house specialty) are only $8 apiece. Nothing on the short menu costs more than $20, so stop by with a date or a friend when you don't want to have to spend a ridiculous amount. The space looks sort of like a moody cocktail bar, and there are some small tables that are perfect for catch-ups.
8282 used to be tough to get into, but now it's pretty easy to snag a reservation, even on weekends. This place is in a very busy area of the Lower East Side, and it serves inventive, satisfying modern Korean food like Ibérico pork galbi and tuna tartare topped with egg custard. It's a cool spot, and it's ideal for when you want to share a bunch of small plates, listen to K-pop, and drink some cocktails or soju.
photo credit: Kate Pauley
The fun thing about this restaurant is that you can pretend you were invited to an intimate Fort Greene dinner party, even though you’ve never been invited to an intimate Fort Greene dinner party. Guests sit at communal tables, and there are enough pillows, vintage chairs, and candles to trick a millennial into thinking they’re living in a targeted ad. Dinner costs $40-$48 depending on what night you come, and it consists of a four-course meal that might include french onion soup or coq au vin. Don't forget to BYOB.
photo credit: Jehovy Santiago
Themed menus based around specific ingredients often read like Iron Chef challenges. But at Chocobar Cortés—a Mott Haven outpost from a fourth-generation Puerto Rican chocolate company—the chocolate-centric menu feels fun. There’s a club sandwich on chocolate mallorca bread, a grilled cheese with chocolate butter, and even something called a Chocoburger. Be sure to order something from the extensive hot chocolate menu. The Puerto Rican dark hot chocolate (served with cheese) is worth a visit all on its own.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
This Palestinian spot has a large mural of a tree, lush greenery and flowers, and terra cotta dishes. You'll feel like you're in an adorable courtyard rather than a restaurant in Brooklyn Heights. We suggest getting the ouzi lamb on a potpourri-like pile of rice, almonds, and peas as well as the bamia with pleasantly bitter okra. Yes, a lot of the dishes cost over $20, but the portions are absolutely massive, and one order of most items is more than enough for two people. Also, this place is BYOB.
Tiny's and the Bar Upstairs
Tiny’s is really cute. And if you claim that isn’t the main reason why you come here, you’re lying to yourself. This Tribeca restaurant is located in its very own three-story, pastel pink townhouse, and it's filled with candles, exposed brick, and black-and-white photos. It’s never too hard to snag a table, and if you want to keep things simple, you can order the burger and call it a day. (At $29, the burger is on the pricier side, but it's also pretty hefty.)
The plant-filled back patio at this Middle Eastern spot in Fort Greene is surrounded by brick walls and murals of people drinking wine, and it’s a charming place to break down the latest episode of whatever Bravo reality show you and your friends are watching. If there are no reservations available in the back, the sweet whipped ricotta and lamb shawarma taste just as good on the shaded patio out front.
photo credit: Carlo Mantuano
This spot on Cornelia Street has a long booth with throw pillows that makes you feel like you're trying out a roomy dining setup at West Elm. Small plates like deviled tea eggs and sausage/garlic fried rice are great, but don't forget to order the mini flaky scallion puffs with scallion butter. In the back, there's a charming patio where you and your friends can order a bottle of sparkling gamay and talk about how you'll never have your own outdoor space like this in NYC.
A few minutes after finishing your afternoon coffee, you get a jolt of energy and text a few friends asking if they want to get dinner tonight. Finally, at 4:30pm, one of them says yes and asks where you’re meeting. Tell them Pheasant. This small spot in Williamsburg is ideal for casual weeknight dinners when you want some good food in the kind of atmosphere that makes you feel like you're part of the neighborhood. Start with the baby gem caesar salad, then share the chicken over spiced yellow rice and the burger topped with an onion ring.
Aita is in Clinton Hill, and it looks like the country home that you don’t own—complete with old art on the walls, a bunch of wooden furniture, and a little chandelier. This place provides a nice break from the trash-and-pigeon-filled streets of NYC, and it also happens to serve some pretty good Italian food. Bring friends, and have some oxtail ravioli and whatever fried vegetable is currently available.
Fumo is on a corner just across the street from City College, and it’s an attractive, white-walled space with marble countertops, lots of plants, and big bright photographs covering the walls. More importantly, they make solid versions of pretty much all your Italian classics. There’s also a pretty reasonable wine list, so it’s a great spot if you want to drink a little and vent about your job or some of the so-called friends who couldn’t make it.
Dante is one of those places that’s easy to recommend for lots of different situations. Their Italian small plates and flatbreads are interesting and ideal for sharing, the service is extremely friendly, and you can usually walk in and get a table (although you may have to wait). The cocktails are also some of the best in the city, so come to this Greenwich Village spot when you want to do equal amounts of drinking and snacking.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Between the red booths and antique-y wallpaper, Lovely Day definitely has the cute thing down. But this Thai spot in Nolita has the reasonably-priced requirement covered as well. With plenty of small plates under $10, this is one of the few restaurants downtown where you can really feel like you’ve had a night out, while spending under 25 bucks a head.
This small French restaurant in the West Village is the kind of place where you’ll probably end up talking to the people at the table next to you once you get tired of “catching up” with your friends. It’s a warm and friendly environment, sort life like a diner mixed with a nondescript bistro. The food isn't anything fancy, but you can grab a decent burger, a kale salad, or some chicken paillard. Whatever you wind up eating, order a side of fries.
You could spend a whole day at Sisters in Clinton Hill. This restaurant starts serving lunch at 11am, and they're open until at least midnight every night. It's a great place to grab drinks, but we also recommend stopping by for a nice dinner in the beautiful space. With its plants, high ceilings, and hanging globe lights, Sisters looks like an upstate cabin you'd see in Architectural Digest. Nearly everything on the menu (burgers, burrata, etc.) is under $20, and all of it is good.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Epistrophy is a small cafe that works for big groups, drinks, a quick bite, or even a long dinner with a friend from high school who’s going through a weird time and wants to talk in your general direction for an hour or so. You know, that kind of thing. The menu is Italian (with pastas around $20), and the space looks a charmingly distressed apartment. Think of this place as a neighborhood clubhouse where you'll probably run into some people you've seen on Hinge.
Tia Pol is a little tapas bar in Chelsea that’s perfect for early-in-the-game dates. Sit at the bar and share a few small plates like ham and chorizo or octopus salad with romesco. (Nothing on the menu is more than $16.) Come during Happy Hour if you want discounted glasses of wine.