Finding a great restaurant in Midtown is tricky to begin with. When you find out your dining partner is vegetarian, or needs to catch a train back to the suburbs, or keeps kosher, or really wants to watch sports, or is currently on Midtown's most wanted list for hopping over the barricade of the Today Show plaza, it gets even harder. We can't help you with that last one, but if you're dealing with eaters who have any of the other specific needs, you're in good hands.
Here's where to eat with someone who...
(And to check out the rest of the Midtown Survival Guide, click here).
...Is a vegetarian
If you're headed out to dinner with a non-meat-eating person, an underground Japanese restaurant that serves things like beef tongue yakitori probably isn't going to be where your mind goes first. But Hagi can actually be a fun move for vegetarians - there are a whole bunch of different preparations of tofu, there are veggie spring rolls, and there's delicious fried eggplant.
When in doubt, feed a vegetarian carbs. PizzArte is a sleek, modern Italian place that specializes in thin-crust pizza. They have a whole "vegetarian" section of the menu (which is basically variations of margherita pizzas, but just go with it). Bonus: they make gluten-free pizzas as well. Bring all your difficult eaters here. Just not the paleo/lactose-intolerant ones.
If you're planning a Midtown meal with someone who keeps kosher, don't panic. Someone who keeps kosher might be OK with ordering fish or something vegetarian in any old restaurant, while others will only eat in fully kosher establishments. If it's the latter, and you need a kind of high end option - try Mike's Bistro. It's basically a normal New American spot with white tablecloths. Prices are going to be high, but not as high as some of the kosher steakhouses in the area.
A kosher take on the French bistro, this is one of our other approved spots - again, preferable to one of the big, extremely expensive steakhouses. Once again, this isn't a place to go out of the way for, but it will do when you're in a pinch.
...has to go back to new jersey or long island
If the phrase, "Can you find something nice near Penn Station?" makes you shudder and you immediately start racking your brain for options that aren't the Sbarro on 7th Avenue, you're not alone. Fortunately, L'Amico is now a thing that exists. This is an almost-trendy, very tasty Italian place serving salads, pizzas, and other things people generally like to eat. Come here.
The Nomad Restaurant is a fancy place, for a fancy-ish occasion. The Nomad Bar is also sort of a fancy place, but for not-fancy occasions. The ground-floor area is great for grabbing drinks, but if you're a relatively small party you should head upstairs (there are no reservations, but you'll probably get in) for the incredibly good burgers. This is pushing the Midtown limits a bit, but it's absolutely worth coming downtown a few blocks for.
Do you have to eat dinner with someone who's about to go back to their four kids in Jersey? Sure, that person has a backyard, but you have places like Her Name Is Han. While all of Koreatown is a good time, Her Name Is Han has the best food and vibe across the board. Get a spicy seafood stew to share, and Jeff will go home and tell all four kids about how great this place was.
...has to go back to westchester or connecticut
Butter used to be a pretty fun restaurant/nightclub downtown. It's since moved north, and is actually making some pretty good food now. Which is probably a pretty good metaphor for the person you're about to eat with who needs to catch the 9:42 to Larchmont. The food is classic New American done pretty well, and will satisfy your "kind of fun business dinner" needs. If your dining companion makes it through dinner without talking about their property taxes, take a shot.
Your parents really don't want want to miss the Metro North to Greenwich, and they'd like to have a nice piece of grilled fish before. Kellari is a lively, reliable Greek spot that specializes in, you guessed it - nice grilled fish.
...HAS TO WATCH SPORTS
The truth is, if you want to go to a sports bar in Midtown East, you're not going to have a problem. The problem, however, is that they're kind of like all the movie channels you get with your subscription Starz - there are way too many, and they're mostly bad. Hudson Malone is the rare Midtown East sports bar we actually like a lot. The food's good, and it's not a complete bro-fest.
If you're going to watch sports, you may as well do it with a very good burger, and Bill's has made one of our favorite Midtown burgers for a while. This may not be NYC's best restaurant, or even a total Midtown game-changer (we don't want to oversell you here), but we can certainly endorse it as a place to sit with someone as their team loses. Also, they serve corn dogs.