On New Year's Eve, you're faced with a stark choice: Stay at home with Ryan Seacrest on TV and claim you're having fun, or go splurge at a great restaurant to ring in 2013 with style. As you'd imagine, New York City offers endless choices, and now there's a proliferation of options for New Year's Day, too -- more convenient for some and generally a lot less expensive.
ILILI Contemporary Lebanese is not standard Manhattan fare, but most ingenious about Ilili's NYE program is a three-tiered price scheme -- the earlier you go, the cheaper it is. So, if you're running home to tuck in the kids before the ball drops, three courses are only $65 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. For those staying through midnight, it's $130, but that includes belly dancers and a DJ. Brunch the next day is $40 and includes "unlimited bubbles."
WHERE 236 Fifth Ave.
INFO 212-683-2929, ililinyc.com
BOULUD SUD All of Daniel Boulud's superb restaurants have special events for this holiday, but the menu at his newest sit-down place, Boulud Sud (named for its French-Mediterranean roots), might be the most enticing, from the lobster carpaccio to the Pennsylvania veal trio. At $345, it's the deluxe model (drinks not included), but the quality is tops.
WHERE 20 W. 64th St.
INFO 212-595 1313, danielnyc.com/boulud_sud.html
THE THIRD MAN Austrian tapas may be just the thing for people who don't want to overeat in 2013. For $80, the team behind the Austrian restaurant empire that includes Seasonal and Edi & the Wolf offers fancy cocktails with Mittle-European ingredients (elderflower liqueur, Gruner Veltliner wine) and bites like house-smoked pork belly and Hungarian liptauer spread on pretzel crostini.
WHERE 116 Ave. C
SAUCE New Year's Day could be a lot more pleasant with unlimited Prosecco, which is what you get by ordering a brunch entree at any of Frank Prisinzano's Italian joints. Sauce, on the Lower East Side, may be known for the red tomato stuff, but the chefs are great with slightly more elevated items, such as the "perfection egg" on the brunch menu ($17), a tender egg atop a heavenly bed of mushrooms and chestnuts.
WHERE 78 Rivington St.
INFO 212-420-7700, saucerestaurant.com
JAZZ STANDARD A night of music on New Year's doesn't have to mean the pop bands in Times Square -- you could be listening to the Grammy-winning Mingus Big Band, named for jazz icon Charles Mingus. It's $125 for the 7:30 p.m. set and $195 for 10:30 p.m.; both come with three courses of barbecue from Blue Smoke, located upstairs, with a Champagne toast included in the latter price.
WHERE 116 E. 27th St.
INFO 212-576-2232, jazzstandard.net