Every now and then, you just need a good ol' girls night out. You know what I mean: fancy cocktails, good gossip, drunken Mcdonald's and a 3 a.m. visit to the strip club. Nothing too over the top - just a classy, little get-together with the ladies.
Last week, I had the wonderful chance to reconnect with two of my girlfriends whom I met while working at IBM. We all have busy, travel-filled lives and reside in different neighborhoods, so it's always a nice treat when we're able to meet up. Plus, as an upper-west-sider, I especially welcome a good opportunity to traverse downtown to the East Village. And, what better reason than food, drinks and friends?
While we avoided the temptation that is Mcdonald's and unfortunately missed ending our night at the strip club, we did have a pretty awesome time. Here was the itinerary:
Drinks at Miss Lilly's
Miss Lilly's is a lively Jamaican joint (pun intended) situated on the corner of 7th and Avenue A in the East Village. When I arrived, my friends were already a few rounds into some delicious, craft rum cocktails. I was a little late, because I'm always a little late, and so I intended on sticking to water until dinner. Of course, this was under the assumption that we were going to be closing out and leaving shortly. However, our extremely generous and mildly intoxicated bartender then gave us a free bottle of wine, and you just don't say no to a free bottle of wine. Even if it is white. Thus, the wine drinking began.
Best For: Small groups. Anytime-drinks.
You'll spend: around $12 for a cocktail, $11 for an appetizer, $15 for a brunch plate (but, hey, you may get a free bottle of wine, too!)
Atmosphere: In a word: vibrant. Miss Lilly's is a welcoming Jamaican spot that manages to be covered in character without being kitschy.
Dinner at Panna II
After exchanging some back-and-forth banter with our lovely bartender and making friends with a birthday boy next to us, we finally closed out at Miss Lilly’s and started walking over to Panna II about an hour later than planned. Our next order of action was to make a pit-stop at the liquor store. See, Panna II is b-y-o-b, which is a rare and magical find in New York. Along the wine shelves, I also managed to locate St. Nicholas; another rare and magical find in New York. St. Nicholas is an $8-$9 bottle of Pinot Noir. Not only is it miraculously affordable, but it’s also the perfect table wine and one of my favorite reds. We grabbed two bottles and headed over to Panna II.
Upon arrival to the restaurant, we were confronted by four identical-looking Indian restaurants, two atop the others with a stairwell in the center and four men flanking each corner. Immediately, they ALL started screaming/cheering/ordering us into their restaurants. It was like being with white people in the streets of Shanghai. Or, maybe the streets of India is a better comparison? Either way, you can imagine. Once inside, we were guided to the back of the restaurant to wait for a table to open. If you aren’t prepared for a full-contact dining experience, this part may throw you off. It’s a little claustrophobic and hectic. Luckily, we women happen to be quick thinkers whose mothers always told us “you don’t get what you don’t ask for!” So, we asked the waiter for a few glasses and a bottle opener and were immediately granted them. There we stood, between the kitchen, bathroom and small register, just sipping away. It made the 5-10 minute wait much more enjoyable.
Best For: Small groups, a fun night out.
You’ll Spend: $15-20 pp including tip (no corkage fee) – includes appetizer, entrée and naan
Atmosphere: Panna II feels like a compact Indian Christmas party on drugs. And I mean that in the best way possible. The waiters are friendly, the food is good, and the massive amounts of chili-shaped, hanging lights and tacky tinfoil remain unrivaled Also, the restaurant will break into some 90s disco at least twice while you eat – think Deborah Cox “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here.” You will dance in your seat. Trust me.
Tip: Ryan Gosling is known to drop in here. Also, Anthony Bourdain visited Panna II during one his Travel Channel No Reservations episodes.