Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater New York where the site’s editors, reporters, and critics answer specific or baffling restaurant requests from readers and friends. A new question and answer will run every Thursday. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form.
I’m looking for somewhere nice but not over-the-top to take my girlfriend for her 30th birthday. Would love Italian or Greek, but we also love Middle Eastern or Mediterranean. Nothing stuffy, but would like it to be somewhere cozy where I can make her feel like we’re the only two people in the place — I want it to be somewhere really special and memorable. I can do $, $$, or $$$, but no $$$$, and want to be in either Manhattan (but nothing north of Central Park) or Brooklyn (but nothing east of Prospect Park). Any thoughts?
Partner on a Birthday Mission
What about Celestine in Dumbo? Make a reservation, and note that you want a table by the window or outside if possible — that’s where you’ll get the killer view of the Manhattan skyline, visible from the floor-to-ceiling windows or out on the patio. We see New York everyday, but there’s still something about the twinkly skyline from afar that will make the evening feel special, don’t you think?
Food-wise, Celestine’s chef Garret McMahan serves Mediterranean-ish fare, lots of it cooked with a wood-fired grill. It’s got a lot of little dishes so that your special birthday girl can sample a variety of things. I think it’s a fun lineup: If y’all dine at Middle Eastern restaurants with frequency like I do, many of the dishes will sound familiar, but it’s gussied up in a way that will make the meal feel exciting. The short rib Turkish manti, a form of dumpling, is particularly worth trying.
Go for a bottle of wine, too; even if you don’t really know wine, the team there is well-equipped to help you find an interesting, well-priced bottle. Joe Campanale helped with the list, and his past selections have converted me into a wine lover.
As for feeling like you’re the only two in the place — that one’s on you, Romeo. The tables are spaced apart well-enough, but in my extremely cheesy opinion, the only way to really feel like you’re alone with someone in New York is to stare deeply into their eyes.