Looking for a casual restaurant (bistro, brasserie, trattoria) in Manhattan - preferably below 14th Street, but anything below 96th St is fine - with great food and no more than $30-$35 per person including tax and tip.
I'd prefer an American or European eatery (French, Italian, whatever), and am ok with either traditional comfort food or nouveau/creative preparations. The important thing is that the food is hearty and served in reasonable portions for a grown man. Not concerned about the beer/wine list; just want a place that has terrific food quality at a moderate price point.
Because I'll be dining with an old friend whom I haven't seen in a while, I want to avoid any loud, trendy, or scenester restaurants. The place doesn't have to be super quiet or anything, but it shouldn't resemble a frathouse or Sex & the City casting call, either. Doesn't have to be romantic, but would prefer a place with a little bit of character (divey with character is ok; divey like a check cashing store is not).
The dinner isn't until next week, so I have time to make a decision (and a reservation, if necessary). Thanks in advance.