FREE: Buddakan Dining Room in Chelsea, Manhattan
Looking like the mansion scene in "Eyes Wide Shut" with an orgy of socializing rather than shtupping, this cavernous restaurant/bar is total trip for the senses.
It features a massive, chandelier-feastooned central dining room harking from some Edwardian era (or a Hollywood set thereof), flanked by little dark nooks and crannies and passageways crammed with people drinking and schmoozing and shouting about the meaninglessness of life and 30 Rock. It's like being in one of the big ballrooms of the Titanic before it sprung a leak.
Best of all, unlike most nightspots in Chelsea, there's no velvet rope and unhappy attitude that goes with it - probably because it is a restaurant, not a nightclub, and restaurants always need all the chompers they can get.
A server said "We're in the business of hospitality." And he said it with a genuine smile. Whoa! They clearly have a great boss or they're on drugs. You can always spot a bad boss - it comes out in the faces, actions and if really bad, words of their employees. There seems to be a ton of employees too - there's even one who greets you on arrival and farewells you when you leave. I get the impression the owners are either Japanese or are clearly catering to the Asian market where politeness is appreciated and noted - and the opposite is remembered forever and passed on to whoever we can tell (speaking as a discerning Asian).
My favorite spot is downstairs in one of the bar areas, where I like to plonk myself a super wide day bed in front of a tiny, round, dimly candlelit table. There I choose either a sub-$10 Asian infused bar snack or cocktail and make it last, while soaking up the atmos. You get attentive service from groovy, attitude-free staff. Cool!
Apparently it's a chain - but that's OK. We don't mind if you do it this well.
I like to remind people that when you go to a place like this and pay $10 for a bar snack or $12+ for a cocktail, you're not paying for the ingredients in said snack or cocktail. You're enjoying the millions of dollars worth of equity and venture capital that someone else has put into it for your enjoyment - for a modest fee. This is truly what I mean, when I say "cheap'n'choosy".
75 9th Ave
(between 15th St & 16th St)
New York, NY 10011