Where's a Trendy Place I Can Take My Boss?
Floren asks: My awful boss is visiting New York (he works at the West Coast headquarters and supervises me from afar). The guy wants to be taken to a trendy place for lunch, and is likely to judge my trendiness by where I take him. What can I do?
Dear Floren: Well, since it's obvious you're not too fond of your boss and want to spend as little time in person with him as possible, one of the criterion we should consider is fastness of dining. Republic on Union Square, a noodlery, springs to mind, since the supergraphic décor was once considered trendy and thematic, but I sense that place is far too cheap for the kind of meal you contemplate.
Indeed, I'd say you should be prepared to blow $50 or $60 apiece, since that's the usual range these business lunches fall in. I'm also assuming you want something vaguely downtowny and that the business you're talking about is something like entertainment, publishing, cyber-start-up, or Internet marketing. Don't ask me why I assume this, but it will help me narrow down the possibilities.
What about Morandi? As one of Keith McNally's places, it was trendy to start out, but has only become more so, and hasn't gone stale the way Pastis has. Despite being on Seventh Avenue South, it has an out-of-the-way feel to it, and the setting in the West Village suggests the seemingly contradictory pairing of designer labels and bohemianism. The price range is just right, and the ambiance retro-quaint. The drawback here is that they won't serve you fast enough to get away from your boss in, say, less than 90 minutes.
Vandaag, a quasi-Dutch spot in the East Village, has some nice Scandinavian bistro fare, and if you were to order a Genever cocktail, maybe your boss wouldn't even know it was booze. Lunch service is fast enough so you could get out of there in about 75 minutes, by my estimate. There's nothing quite like it on the West Coast, either. And you could definitely say it was trendy -- in a self-conscious sort of way.
Finally, if you want to blow the big bucks (and he's paying), do a mid-afternoon walk-in at Manzo, the beef-is-the-end-of-the-world upscale northern Italian restaurant in Eataly. The service is slow, but if you sit at the marble counter, it speeds up, and not having to face your boss, but sitting side by side, could be an asset. This is one place where you definitely have to drink wine; that could help the time pass more quickly. Afterward, you can give him a little tour, and hopefully by then it will almost be time for him to fly back home.
Good luck! And thanks for your thought-provoking question.