Is NYC Restaurant Week Worth it? Top 10 Picks for 20-somethings

As a 20-something living in Manhattan, I must admit: Restaurant Week is a little confusing. On the one hand, NYC is a foodie’s paradise and Restaurant Week – or, month, rather – is wonderful in that it takes some of the city’s finest culinary jewels and places them within reach of our own, otherwise-poor palates. On the other hand, though, it’s still an expense. For instance, I’ve only been out to lunch a handful of times during my 3 years in the city and not once have I spent $25 on it (Note: Restaurant Week’s 3-course Lunch is set at $25 while the 3-course dinner seating is $38).

Of course, my own experience isn’t reason to invalidate another’s. However, I think it’s safe to say that most New Yorkers between the ages of 20 and 30 would prefer to shell out $38 for a nice dinner with friends, rather than pay $25 for a lunch they never would have gone out for to begin with. Going out for dinner is simply more of a full  experience and – let’s also not forget – most of us have jobs Monday through Friday that act as a sort of obstacle in the way of enjoying that fine-dining luncheon, anyway.

So, while both Zagat and CBS have crafted their own recommendations, I wanted to create a separate list with recommendations catered specifically to the 20-something looking for that little bit extra bang-for-your-buck during restaurant week.

The Top-10 Restaurant Week Picks for 20-somethings is based off of the following criteria:

1)     The Restaurant Must Serve Dinner (3 courses - $38)

This knocked out a slew of favorites from other lists. It’s wonderful that Nobu is participating in restaurant week, but with only the lunch option available, it gets a swift kick off the list by little bro Nobu Next Door that does serve dinner.

2)     The Cuisine Must Be “Worth it”*

 French, Steak/Seafood, Upscale American New/Classic, Japanese

*Allow me to explain the exclusivity. I grew up in a part-Chinese household and spent a summer in China eating the most delectable, hand-crafted dim sum and $1 noodles you’ve ever tasted. So, while I am sure Midtown’s Hakkasan is delicious, it’s difficult for me to justify spending too much money on basic, over-priced ingredients for a cuisine that is meant to be enjoyed family-style on the cheap. Same goes for Mexican fare and soul food. Don’t get me wrong, here. I understand that fusion restaurants are all the rage and that the quality and innovative nature of these cuisines is absolutely growing. However, to me, the beauty of these foods lies in their historic comfort, simplicity and casual enjoyment while the beauty of restaurant week is to enjoy something a little more special.

For this reason, other restaurants, we had to chop you.

3)     The Ratings & Atmosphere Must Be Just Right

All 10 restaurants on the list have something unique about them. Whether the perfect setting for a corporate celebration or a romantic speakeasy from the 1920s, each restaurant encapsulates a uniquely New York atmosphere and has been tried and tested by the pros. While anything over a 20 on Zagat is a solid score, I aimed strictly for 23+ food ratings and then personally took pulse on the ambiance.

 Top 10 Restaurant Week Recommendations for 20-somethings

Bar Boulud – French – 24 Zagat – Upper West Side – Sophisticated Casual

Lure Fishbar – Seafood – 23 Zagat – SoHo – Classic/Nautical

Le Cirque – French – 25 Zagat – Midtown - Posh

21 Club – Classic American – 23 Zagat – Midtown – Historic Speakeasy

Nobu Next Door – Japanese Peruvian – 27 Zagat – Tribeca - Iconic

Perry Street,– New American – 26 Zagat – West Village – Chic/Modern

Po –New American 25 Zagat – West Village – Charming/Cozy Romantic

The Sea Grill – Seafood -23 Zagat– Rock Center – Special Occasion

Perilla – New American – 26 Zagat – West Village – Polished/Intimate

The Capital Grille – Steakhouse – 24 Zagat – Multiple Locations – Corporate/Celebratory

Bonus Recs:

Butter – Seafood/Steak American – Not Yet Rated – Midtown – Stylish/Romantic

Fig & Olive – Mediterranean – 21 Zagat – Multiple Locations – Chic/Trendy