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40-60 hungry college students


Malawry
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I'm bringing a group of college students to NYC this fall. I expect there to be 40-60 of them. It would be nice to organize some sort of group meal for them while we're there, probably on a Sunday or Monday night. These kids are on a tight budget. We're staying close to Times Square, but I really don't think we need to stick to that nabe for this meal--they should all be conversant with the subway and cabs by the time we meet for dinner. I'd like to keep it to under $30/head if possible, not including drinks. And I'd like it to be a quality dining experience of some sort--something they won't get at home. If I can't find something decent, we simply aren't planning a group meal. I refuse to take them to Applebee's.

I already tried the UWS Shake Shack, but their private room only seats 40. Any other ideas? Do any of the new pizza places have the space to accommodate us?

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The new location of the Shack has a private room, yes. It would be perfect if it was large enough to hold us--exactly the sort of thing I would like to do. And I really do want wherever we go to be somewhere in Manhattan or else really, really close to Manhattan and the subway. I don't want the kids to spend a lot of time in transit.

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Do you have a specific suggestion? I have no idea who might be able to accommodate a group of our size, having only been in Chinatown a few times myself.

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Yea, as Mitch mentioned the Times Square John’s pizza could easily accommodate your budget and party size (plus they’d save the cab/subway fare). It’s far from the best but it’s solid brick oven pizza located in an old theater making for a pretty cool setting ideal for large, young parties. And I agree there are many options in Chinatown although not too many large places. Golden Unicorn could accommodate. Check out www.menupages.com for these and all other NYC listings/websites.

That wasn't chicken

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Daisy Mae's.

I was about to ask how you’d fit 40-60 people in that tiny room but I see on their site they’ve added seating. How big is it? Hill Country would be an obvious contender if bbq interested them. But assuming they’re from the poster’s listed state of WV, it might not be too exciting for them.

That wasn't chicken

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Yeah, I love BBQ, but as a native of NC it seems silly to visit NYC and eat BBQ.

What’s the food interest level of these kids? I mean would a 45min subway ride to Queens for deliciously authentic Thai food interest them?

That wasn't chicken

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Probably not. These are all music students, a few of whom are not travelers beyond the previous departmental trips to London, Pennsylvania, and last spring's trip to Germany and Austria.

I personally am an adventurous eater, and willing to commit the resources to try new things. However, I don't think these kids are going to be interested in investing a lot of time and energy around getting to and from a restaurant, or trying something exotic. They are not foodies. Some of them are likely to have completely undeveloped palates.

I am thinking of this meal as an opportunity to give these kids a few things:

1. A taste of New York inaccessible at home, a memorable experience to recount later. Some of these kids may never return to NY, and if I don't plan a meal, I think some of them may eat only at cheap chains during our visit.

2. Food that is delicious and fresh, but also recognizable and affordable.

3. An opportunity to socialize with one another against the backdrop of this meal.

I will be compiling dining suggestions near our hotel for them, including some more adventurous choices--and I sincerely hope some of them get out and try something different. This meal will be part of the package I'm assembling for them, though, so it ought to be something that nearly anybody can enjoy.

Right now I'm thinking of Otto, which can accommodate us on our preferred dates and which is only slightly above the $30 price point I suggested.

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IIRC Grimaldi's does not take any reservations.

John's in Times Square is a good choice. I've definitely large school groups in there. They can even be seated in their own alcove, upstairs.

For Chinatown, Golden Unicorn definitely does group dining and is surprisingly empty at dinner time. Another option is Congee Village as they have multiple dining areas and two locations.

Closer to Times Square/Midtown is the new Szechuan Gourmet on W 56th St, between Broadway and 8th, which apparently has two floors, and might allow you to take over an entire floor.

Otto is good if you order carefully but the pizza is not really "New York" style at all.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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Yeah, I love BBQ, but as a native of NC it seems silly to visit NYC and eat BBQ.

So the kids are all from NC? Based on your original post, for all I know they are from Long Island. In which case BBQ would be fantastic. Either way I wouldn't expect them to understand the subway and buses within a short trip. Take them to John's unless you have a bus arranged....

Edited by raji (log)
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Up by Columbia during the summer V&T's might be a good option for pizza in a college atmosphere, particularly on a Monday night. They have two dining rooms, one of which is likely to be otherwise closed, if it's not busy.

If these are music students, is there a Carnegie Hall component to this trip? I think the Carnegie Deli has some private rooms, and that's something that's distinctively New York (despite the fact that New Yorkers are constantly arguing about Katz's vs the Carnegie--I split the difference and prefer Katz's for pastrami and the Carnegie for corned beef). Even if you aren't going to Carnegie Hall, the Carnegie Deli isn't too far from the Times Square area.

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IIRC Grimaldi's does not take any reservations.

John's in Times Square is a good choice. I've definitely large school groups in there. They can even be seated in their own alcove, upstairs.

For Chinatown, Golden Unicorn definitely does group dining and is surprisingly empty at dinner time. Another option is Congee Village as they have multiple dining areas and two locations.

Closer to Times Square/Midtown is the new Szechuan Gourmet on W 56th St, between Broadway and 8th, which apparently has two floors, and might allow you to take over an entire floor.

Otto is good if you order carefully but the pizza is not really "New York" style at all.

A caution about the new location of Szechuan Gourmet:

I went there for lunch with my girlfriend a few weeks ago. I explained that we were regulars at the 39th St. location (perhaps not true, but accurate enough, as we, and especially I, have been there several times) and like real spicy Sichuan food. Our lunch decent but unmemorable. My girlfriend has been back since then and found it disappointing again. It seems to be a far cry from the 39th St. location.

I'd also like to go on record against John's at 44th St. It is edible but not good and the room is of some interest. That's it.

So here are some thoughts:

For Chinese food, my first thought would be for you to check on whether Cantoon Garden can reserve for that many people on the 2nd floor. I've had banquets with up to 19 people accommodated on the ground floor (two large round tables put together). I don't know how big the capacity of the 2nd floor is, but that's my favorite Cantonese restaurant in New York, and it's cheap, to boot. If you do go there, consider ordering some of the Chinese-language banquet sets; discuss with the waiter what the dishes in the sets are, and substitute, subtract, and add at will. The waitstaff tend not to speak lots of English, but they are helpful.

Other Chinese places that have sufficient capacity would include Congee Village (some dishes remain excellent, but they are now inconsistent, whereas a few years ago, they were my favorite Cantonese restaurant), Congee on Bowery between Hester and Grand (they have space in the basement, and I've had good experiences with their food), and the big dim sum eating halls, which are very commonly rented out for huge (non-dim sum) banquets at night: Harmony Palace, the aforementioned Golden Unicorn, Jing Fong (caveat: I haven't been to any of them in some time and therefore can't critique their food for you, but I believe it's likely to be quite adequate for standard Cantonese items). I'm not sure whether Wing Shoon is big enough, but that's a good banquet place, which I also go to by myself or with a friend sometimes, particularly for their Soy Sauce Chicken, which is probably the best I've had in Manhattan (so if you end up there, see if they would make sure they make enough Soy Sauce Chicken so that they haven't run out by the time you arrive).

There are also Korean banquet places in Koreatown, but they'll cost you more than $30/person and may be too adventurous for some of the students.

I was surprised to read Arturo's as a suggestion. I wonder if they'd reserve for as many as 60. Very good pizza, though; classic New York ambiance; and good jazz up front by the bar (but not so easy to hear in the other rooms, and there are only a few tables in the same room as the bar and musicians). Definitely worth checking into.

I'll tell you what will work, though: If Arturo's just isn't large enough, Patsy's in East Harlem will have plenty of room. They have a big main dining room and an equally big if not bigger additional room. You'd have to take two subways and walk from 116th and Lexington to 1st Av. between 117th and 118th to get there, but again, the place has great old New York ambiance (though no live music, as far as I know). Toppings really aren't the thing there, though: It's all about the margherita, fresh mozzarella, and perhaps marinara pizzas. (The salad is OK but don't expect any luxury ingredients or super-fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, and I think I remember the garlic bread being very good.)

If you are interested in red-sauce Italian-American food, I had one good experience at John's of 12th St., and I feel sure they could accommodate that large a group, but others haven't had such good experiences, and they could strain your budget a bit (I think we paid $42/person, but we were drinking).

Make sure to ask every place whether they have a minimum per person for that large a group. Also, expect some places (including Congee Village) to require a deposit in advance. Good luck, and please let us know where you ended up and how it turned out.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Yeah, I love BBQ, but as a native of NC it seems silly to visit NYC and eat BBQ.

So the kids are all from NC? Based on your original post, for all I know they are from Long Island. In which case BBQ would be fantastic. Either way I wouldn't expect them to understand the subway and buses within a short trip. Take them to John's unless you have a bus arranged....

I'm shocked that Raji hasn't suggested one of our fine ramen establishments :) Would that work?

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Yeah, I love BBQ, but as a native of NC it seems silly to visit NYC and eat BBQ.

So the kids are all from NC? Based on your original post, for all I know they are from Long Island. In which case BBQ would be fantastic. Either way I wouldn't expect them to understand the subway and buses within a short trip. Take them to John's unless you have a bus arranged....

I'm shocked that Raji hasn't suggested one of our fine ramen establishments :) Would that work?

:raz: Which part of 40-60 didn't you get??? :shock:

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