Thanks for your romance suggestions earlier. My husband and I are both in the food world, and we appreciate good meals. We also do not have a ton to spend. We're looking for someplace to eat before the theater, but Midtown has disappointed us with touristy places or places we just cannot afford. We're looking for something cozy, locals-only-ish, and ethnic -- we love red-sauce Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Asian. We're happy with anything that isn't an over-the-top steakhouse or precious 30-course tastings. We want a true NY experience without enormous sticker-shock or clubby vibe. We're not seeking the Ateras or the Mareas of the world -- just a moody night out in Manhattan, preferably someplace that takes reservations.
A wonderful neighborhood Italian place, somewhere with lovingly prepared organ meats, or a hidden delight Spanish spot, would fit the bill.
Under consideration now:
Takashi (though they don't take res.)
Esca (a bit pricy for us, but we'd try it)
Locanda Verde (too sceney?)
Perla (looks very pricy, but the ambience is what we want)
Marea (again, a bit out of our budget range)
We could dine anywhere so long as we could make a res. and cab quickly toward midtown.