I'd like to take a couple of friends out to dinner and spend about $300-500 all told (including beverages, tax, tip). This price range can prove particularly treacherous for me because of my fondness for wine...
I've wanted to try The Modern for some time now, but it would probably breach this budget, as the food alone would cost almost $400 after adding tax and tip, and I don't see how I could spend much less than $200 on drinks. The Bar Room might be doable, as the the menu looks like it would cost half as much, but the dishes frankly don't seem as interesting (even if Frank Bruni preferred them to the Dining Room's).
Maialino could probably fall in between the two in price. I've only been for brunch and hear inconsistent reports of dinner. How good are the pastas and secondi? Ai Fiori would probably be a safe bet, but I've been twice already this month. My wild card is Torrisi, but I'm not terribly keen on queueing for tables.
I suspect there are rather better options in this price range and thought I'd consult the Chowhound hive mind. Besides price, my preferences include Eurocentric cuisine, relaxed pacing, and a location below 60th St. I might add that I am in my 30s but have never been terribly hip or extroverted.
9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019
2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010
400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018