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Memo to New York summer associates: You haven’t come all the way to Manhattan just to wine and dine in swanky, Zagat-ordained hot spots. Leave the stodgy midtown establishments for partner outings; Gotham nightlife begins below 14th Street. And the best places are off the beaten track, so use this list as your recreational compass. Le Zinc 139 Duane St. (212) 513-0001 Entrees: $11-$19 French bistros and cafes cram the streets of downtown Manhattan, but taxi past the gauche tourist traps and head straight to TriBeCa’s Le Zinc. Recently opened by David and Karen Waltuck (owners of the perennially applauded Chanterelle), Le Zinc has ethereal gourmet concoctions at earthly prices. At this brasserie’s every turn, haute meets casual. The crowd: rich bankers and urban artiste types. The decor: sleek bar and futuristic lighting fixtures, with a jumble of art posters wallpapering the dining room. The food: finger-lickin’ stuff like curried onion fritters and bacon cheeseburgers, as well as fancy-schmancy venison terrine with dry cherries and calf’s liver. And with its munificent wine list, steady din, and chic crowd, Le Zinc gives even the most jaded New Yorkers an evening by the Seine. The Grange Hall 50 Commerce St. (212) 924-5246 Entrees: $13-$20 A home away from home for any heartlanders longing for the fresh farm food of their youth. But you’re not in Kansas anymore — Topeka has nothing like The Grange Hall. Its urbane patrons sip aperitifs at the dark wooden bar while waiting for seats in the dimly lit restaurant. Veggies load up the appetizer options (“small dish” in Grange-speak) in such flavorful turns as cornmeal-crusted artichoke hearts, while square-meal options like center-cut pork chops and grilled lamb steak flesh out the entree selections. The desserts have titles straight from childhood birthday parties. (Iced devil’s-food layer cake, anyone?) At The Grange, erstwhile midwesterners can go home again — if only for dinner. Lupa 170 Thompson St. (212) 982-5089 Entrees: $10-$17 Romulus and Remus never had it this good. While the classical digs at star chef Mario Batali’s most recent creation, Lupa, may not be circa-founding-of-Rome, they’re as close as one can get in 21st-century Gotham. The broken-lettered signboard and sienna-toned interior lend Lupa the ambience of an excavated Roman ruin. Straight wooden chairs and an Italian-language menu complete the illusion. Restaurant-goers stumped by the selections can consult the glossario to learn that a polpette is a meatball and that alla vaccinara means slaughterhouse style. Many of Lupa’s eccentric pairings may daunt the faint of taste bud — seafood stew with chickpeas? — so check gastronomic apprehensions at the door. Frank 88 Second Ave. (212) 420-0202 Entrees: $9-$14 With Frank in the city, everyone can have dinner with their favorite Italian uncle. The narrow slice of restaurant and its equally tiny appendage of a bar (called Vera) offer every familial touch imaginable. Old wedding photographs and antique gravy boats crowd the shelves in the corner, and frilly wall lamps drop mood lighting onto those happily dining elbow-to-elbow and knee-to-knee. Being cramped is part of Frank’s charm, as is the pasta that pops with fresh-from-the-windowsill spices and newly unearthed legumes. Caveat: No banner or neon sign marks Frank’s facade. The bevy of pretties milling about outside, with cell phones and cigarettes in hand, will let you know you’ve found the spot. There are no reservations or credit cards, and there’s no sense rushing Uncle Frank — he’s got quite an extended family to feed these days. Church Lounge 2 Ave. of the Americas (in TriBeCa Grand Hotel) (212) 519-6600 Drinks: $8-$12 Everyone looks good at the TriBeCa Grand’s Church Lounge — thanks in no small measure to the amber-hued lighting soaking this high-ceilinged space. Even the drinks along the boomerang-shaped bar light up all soft and pretty. Some folks come here straight from Wall Street, and some trek down from the Upper East or West for the luxurious TriBeCa Grand digs. Large parties can head to the settee area, where a long wall of votive candles creates a waterfall of liquid light, while couples can get cozy at a table for two in the dining area. Be sure to order one of their signature creations — maybe a Ten Commandments, where Tanqueray Ten mixes with blue cheese-stuffed olives, or the creamy, espresso-and-Bailey’s-blended Coco Canal. But sip slowly — the prices are exorbitant, and the drinks pack a heavenly punch. APT (The Apartment) 419 W. 13th St. (212) 414-4245 Drinks: $6-$10 Hidden in the deserted cobbled streets of Manhattan’s meatpacking district lies The Apartment. Bring the address with you, as there’s no sign out front, but the blank iron door opens into the surprising warmth of a townhouse. The upper level is set up and furnished as your rich friend’s pad would be — a long foyer leading into a subtly sophisticated studio space furnished with a smallish bar, posh sofas, a formal dining table — even a velvet quilted bed. As in any good friend’s pied-�-terre, feel free to plop down on the edge of the bed and sip a glass of wine or a Lillet cocktail. The drinks, with monikers like the Limey and the Parisienne, are about $9, while beers ring in at around $6. After drinks, head downstairs to the beautifully sparse groove pit, where a young and ethnically diverse crowd dances to the funky music — or just stands around looking stunning. Hell 59 Gansevoort St. (212) 727-1666 Drinks: $7-$10 Dante didn’t paint this scene in any of his nine infernal circles. Luxurious red velvet hangs on hell’s walls, and orange-tinted bulbs burn in its ornate chandelier, creating a devilish aura. But denizens of this hell would be quite thrilled to down martinis here for all eternity. The crowd is decidedly mixed, more so than at most Manhattan bo�tes — mainly gay men, with a healthy dose of gay and straight women. Patrons sink into one of the soft leather banquettes or lounge by the bar. Be prepared to revisit your youth as Madonna and Boy George hits do heavy rotation on the pop-laden jukebox. If looking for a big crowd, hit hell on Thursday through Saturday, but a posse can claim the place for itself any given Monday or Tuesday. Only savvy New Yorkers make their way to this venue. Join them and get a glimpse of an inferno Dante failed to fathom.

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