Friday, February 5, 2016

New York City is known for expensive dining—but it doesn't always have to break the bank. Here is the low-down on affordable and delicious meals for two in New York City for under $50—just in time for a Valentine's Day dinner date.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, one may find themselves overwhelmed by the dining options in New York City. Often more intimidating than that number, however, is the check that comes with the meal. But fear not—there are a handful of established city restaraunts that offer delicious food and reasonable prices, creating the perfect sollution to dinner date anxiety. Here's where we go when we want to watch our wallet—but don't want to skimp on quality.

Breakfast and Lunch

1. If you thought the original Russ and Daughters storefront was perfection (it is), their Cafe, located a few blocks south on Orchard Street, proves that even the best can get better. Latkes, knishes, sturgeon, stable, salmon nova-style or kippered, their menu is a cornucopia of delicious. Broken up into several categories (noshes, boards, platters, caviar, herring, eggs, soups, salads, sweets, and specials), there really is something for every type of eater, and prices begin as low as $6. Seltzer is available on tap.

2. Williamsburg's Egg serves breakfast and lunch—but that's it. Try, for breakfast, their "Eggs Rothko" (egg plus brioche plus cheddar, with broiled tomatoes and meat or veggies on the side, for a reasonable $13) or the duck hash ($14). For lunch, opt for the "Hot Ham and Pimento Cheese Sandwich," a reinvented classic at $12, or the "Carolina Kale," featuring a hearty wedge of cornbread alongside a kale and tomato stew—also $12.

3. Mile End Deli serves a mean dinner, but they really shine while working within the breakfast-brunch-lunch spectrum. With locations in Noho and Boerum Hill, both Manhattan and Brooklynites can enjoy killer Montreal-style bagels (try it with whitefish), matzo ball soup, chopped liver, or a chicken schnitzel BLT. The poutine—a must—is served after 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. All dishes are under $20.

4. Sylvia's is legendary for a reason. This Harlem eatery, founded in 1962 by South Carolina-native Sylvia Woods, features soul food classics that are to die for. While there are lots of delicious items on the dinner menu to keep your tab under $50, the extremely affordable lunch menu ($10.95) is a sure-fire value. Try the fried chicken with mac and cheese and collard greens.


5. Tapas restaurants like Boqueria, which has locations in Flatiron, Soho, and the Upper East Side, can be either very cheap or very pricey—it all depends on your appetite. Plan for two small dishes per person to make this budget meal work. The classic "Tortilla Española," the cheese- and almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, and the "Pimientos de Padrón" are all under $8. Alternatively, two can share a "Paella de Montaña" for $38.

6. Long Island city's Casa Enrique offers food from across Mexico by a Chiapas-born chef, Cosme Aguilar, who has spent most of his career cooking French food. He applies the precision that made French restaurants famous to this sophisticated and irresistible national cuisine. The tacos are delicious and cheap, and don't forget the rice and beans—a specialty in their own right. Dinner entrees range from an affordable $10 to $26.

7. The best ramen in Brooklyn and some of the best in the city, Chuko has a simple but deeply satisfying menu. Ramen goes for $15, not including extra meat, noodles, or an egg. Appetizers, divided into "bites" and "snacks," are $5 and $8, respectively. Their miso broth is especially good, but there are no wrong choices here.

8. The "Red, White, and Blue" special at Fish, located on Bleeker, will get you six fresh oysters or clams and a draft PBR or glass of house wine for $9. (You can upgrade your beverage choice for an additional cost.) It's perhaps the best bivalve-related deal in all of New York. Order a side of fries, and you have a drool-worthy dinner on the half-shell.

9. Ghenet, on the Park Slope/Gowanus border, lays out a spread rich with spice and flavor. Mesir wet, a slow-cooked lentil dish; doro wet, traditionally seasoned chicken in sauce; and the asa kitfo, chopped and seasoned tuna, are particularly good. No utensils here: rip off a piece of spongy and slightly sour injera bread and dig in. Traditional Ethiopian dishes are all under $20.

10. Just across the street from New York pizza institution John's, the Neapolitan-style Kesté offers an alternative take on the city's staple. Pizza is a great cheap eat, and Kesté offers one of the best values in the city: their air-filled crusts and super-fresh ingredients are close to perfection. Pizzas, which can be eaten as a single entrée or shared (depends on your appetite), range from $10-$26.

11. A Thai restaurant that focuses on central and northern regional specialties, Kiin is located just a block up from Washington Square Park. Less spicy as a rule than their sister restaurant, Somtum Der, in Alphabet City, Kiin, which means "eat" in Thai, still offers plenty of heat. Try the "Larb Kua Moo" minced pork or "Som Tum" papaya salads, and the steamed "Ho Mok" striped bass, served in little jars. All dishes are under $15.

12. Frankies 457 Spuntino has pasta made in-house—ranging from gnocchi to ravioli to pappardelle—and classic Italian American entrees like sausage, pepper, and onions; meatballs; and eggplant parmigiana. Many pasta dishes are under $20—though you'll find yourself making room for multiple courses.

13. Hell's Kitchen's Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen is best known for their delicate soup dumplings (under $15) and a variety of Chinese ramen, la mian, that went on to inspire the beloved Japanese dish. Close enough to Times Square to make it a perfect pre- or post-theater meal.

14. A Sichuan oasis in the east 50s, Land of Plenty's dan dan noodles, pork dumplings, and crispy chicken with chili will leave you fanning out your mouth (all for under $25)—or downing an extra glass of water or five—and asking for more.

15. The East Village's Soba-Ya is best known for its wide and authentic array of Japanese hot and cold noodle dishes, from the thin buckwheat soba noodle to the thick, chewy, and soft wheat udon noodle. Their bathrooms, replete with heated toilet seats, are a big part of the fun. Pro tip: Catch the early bird dinner special on Mondays through Thursdays, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., for a $20 set price meal.

Meals on the Go

16. It's hard to spend more than $15 at Village mainstay Mamoun's (which has locations on MacDougal and on St. Marks). Whether you get a sandwich or a platter of falafel, shawarma, or kebob—remember to try the hummus, the spiced ice tea, and Mamoun's signature hot sauce.

17. There isn't a better deal than dumplings in New York. At any of Vanessa's Dumplings three locations (Chinatown, Union Square, and Williamsburg), you can fill up for under $5. Treat yourself to a Chinatown staple of fried chive and pork dumplings or a veggie-friendly set of boiled dumplings with a side of sesame pancake. Don't forget the bubble tea!

New York City is known for expensive dining—but it doesn't always have to break the bank. Here is the low-down on affordable and delicious meals for two in New York City for under $50—just in time for a Valentine's Day dinner date.

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