Spend big bucks and you can enjoy fabulous gourmet meals in New York. How about eating well for just a few dollars? I asked chefs and restaurateurs from the U.S. and around the world where they go for simple, inexpensive food. Here’s what they had to say.
April Bloomfield (Spotted Pig, New York): “Thai Son in Chinatown has great, inexpensive Vietnamese food. I especially like the Pho Bo Kho, which is a beef stew with noodles, radishes, carrots, bean sprouts, and cilantro.
“Bill’s Bar & Burger in the Meatpacking district has a variety of burgers. It’s such a casual place. I like how you can pop in to grab a burger and a pint.
“Jing Fong in Chinatown is my go-to dim sum spot. I suggest arriving early to beat the crowds and fill up on delicious shrimp dumplings and steamed BBQ pork buns pushed around on trolleys by sweet Chinese ladies.”
Heston Blumenthal (Fat Duck): “I love New York and I wish I had more time there. I like trying new places but I always make time to visit Momofuku Ssam Bar.”
Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy): “When I want a good plate of pasta, I go to Eataly. I really like it. For sushi, it’s Sushi of Gari on the Upper East Side. I also like Torrisi in Little Italy. It’s authentic third-generation Italian cooking.”
David Bouley (Bouley, New York): “Right now my favorite spot for inexpensive eating, or eating in general, is Buvette, in the West Village. Jody Williams is doing pure honest cooking, super clean, fresh flavors and it is one of the few restaurants I have found that makes me feel warm all over and is reminiscent of my French mother and grandmother’s cooking.”
Daniel Boulud (Daniel, New York): “It’s a chain but there is one in my neighborhood and I love Hale & Hearty’s lentil soup. Thelewala on MacDougal Street for cheap Indian wraps. For banh mi, hot dog, sausage on the bun I love the one we do at Epicerie Boulud. They really are the best. Di Fara pizza in Brooklyn is not the cheapest in town but it’s very good. Daisy May’s for barbecue. It’s the best in town.”
Ignatius Chan (Iggy’s, Singapore): “Shake Shack. It’s fantastic: the soft bun, the juicy patty. Eat it and you feel good.”
David Chang (Momofuku Ko): “I mainly go to Sichuan restaurants like Hot Kitchen in the East Village.”
Mathias Dahlgren (Mathias Dahlgren, Stockholm): “Roberta’s pizza. It’s a bunch of young people. They grow their own vegetables and there’s just such energy. Also, Fatty ‘Cue. There’s a new generation of chefs with informal restaurants that are affordable. Fine dining is becoming fun dining.”
Ken Friedman (Spotted Pig, New York): “When I go out, I don’t want to go to a trendy restaurant where somebody’s going to know me and the chef sends out a bunch of stuff I don’t want to eat. I live in the East Village and I like BaoHaus. It’s a phenomenal place that has great Asian buns: pork, tofu. You queue up and they’re playing hip-hop.
“I’m from California and I miss Mexican food. I go to Dos Toros for phenomenal burritos and California-style tacos. I also go to a couple of Mexican grocery stores, Tehuitzingo Deli & Grocery and Zaragoza. I go to Dinosaur in Harlem for really great, Southern-style barbecue. And Mad for Chicken for Korean fried chicken. It’s on the second floor and kind of hidden.”
Trevor Gulliver (St John, London): “Late-night burger in Corner Bistro; John’s pizza downtown. Also, Oriental Garden, Elizabeth Street. That’s where (chef) Fergus (Henderson) and I go with David Chang when we are in town. It’s good on a Sunday morning: Get your number and queue outside, even when it’s raining!
“One of the three-times-fried chicken places in Korea Town in Queens, perfectly proper little plastic fast food outlets, and they do pitchers of light U.S. beer to wash things down too, worth a visit.”
Angela Hartnett (Murano, London): “Eataly, because you can just sit and have a great pizza. Parm for the meatballs. Clinton Street Baking for breakfast. If I want to go somewhere nice, I have lunch at Jean-George’s Nougatine. People think it’s fancy pants but he has the most amazing bargains.”
Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, New York): “I love Mandoo Bar in Koreatown for Korean dumplings, ramen, and seafood pancakes. I’ve been going there for years and find it to be great comfort food. I also love Parm and their take on Italian American classics. They make an amazing chicken parm sandwich.”
Thomas Keller (Per Se, New York): “Yakitori Totto. It’s just very clean, good food and they treat me like anyone else.”
Nuno Mendes (Viajante, London): “Congee Village. It’s open until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and you can go and just have a great bowl of congee. Also, Minca. It was set up by a Japanese guy who was obsessed with ramen and did stages all over Japan.”
Danny Meyer (Gramercy Tavern, New York): “Old Town Bar -- classic old New York Tavern -- beloved by authors and politicians. Don’t go to feel loved. Do go for cold pints of beer, really good cheeseburgers, Buffalo wings, and creamy slaw.
“Motorino -- that oven pounds out compelling pizza after compelling pizza. Not big on hospitality, but exceptional batting average for pizza you want to devour. John’s of Bleecker Street -- still New York’s original and best coal oven pie. Never in vogue, useless wine list, and plastic tomatoes in salad -- but pizza never fails. Can’t beat John’s sausage and mushroom pie.
“Paulie Gee’s (Brooklyn) -- Paulie Gee is a late-in-life career changer who has turned his avocation for pizza into a bona fide destination for pie lovers. Visiting his homey-industrial-almost-chic joint feels like taking a trip to another place in another time.
“Just had some yummy pork and chive dumplings at Tasty Dumpling in Chinatown: Dumpling is for dump with respect to decor, but I dare you to find more flavor and quantity for $1.50 in NYC.”
Russell Norman (Polpo, London): “Shopsins is an eccentric diner in the rather scruffy Essex Street Market. The menu is huge, the rules are arbitrary to say the least -- no parties fascinating to listen to and watch as they scream and shout at each other. The sliders are worth the visit alone, as are Kenny’s famous Slutty Cakes, pancakes with peanut butter.
“Rye is a very hip and beautifully designed neighborhood restaurant in Brooklyn, with meticulous attention to detail.”
Jamie Oliver (Union Jacks, London): “It’s usually a whirlwind PR trip and what little time I get, I visit my chef friends’ restaurants -- where April Bloomfield, Mario Batali and Jonathan Waxman are cooking.
“But when we did the Jamie’s America series, I saw a side to New York that I didn’t even know existed. I went to Astoria, Queens for Egyptian food at Kabab Cafe. I checked out the famous Jewish knishes on the Lower East Side at Yonah Schimmel’s, and tried Daisy May’s for some real authentic barbecue. I could not believe what tasty and caring food I was served for so little money.”
Adam Perry Lang (Barbecoa, London): “There is a great Dominican breakfast and lunch spot called Lali’s on 10th Avenue between 44th and 45th. It’s super-no-frills but it is home-cooked Dominican food and hits the spot. Chicken and rice, oxtail etc. Ask for the salsa verde on the side and crunchy rice which they keep under the counter sometimes. Lali herself is a mom and runs the place and is a warm wonderful person when she warms up and sees your smile. The best “Spanish coffee.” Order it light and sweet.
“Also check out Papaya King on East 86th street: two dogs ‘with’ and a large papaya juice. It is an institution.”
Wolfgang Puck (Spago, Los Angeles): “I go to New York so rarely, the cheapest I go is the bar at Daniel for snacks. I do like Marea, Central Park South. Michael White is a very good chef.”
Gordon Ramsay (Gordon Ramsay, New York): “Stanton Social: great buzz, great onion-soup dumplings. Minetta Tavern is great for local atmosphere & properly charred steaks. DBGB is good for a variety of burgers & quality easy food. ABC is great food in an old-warehouse-feel environment, very stripped back.”
Rene Redzepi (Noma, Copenhagen): “Momofuku Noodle Bar is a must. I also like Boka (Korean) on St Marks, Franny’s (pizza) in Brooklyn and Roberta’s (pizza). I’ve heard promising things about Isa too.”
Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin, New York): “There’s a place in my neighborhood on the Upper East Side, called the Jones Wood Foundry. I really like the ambiance, the music. They have great beers, good scotch and I like the food a lot -- they have a great black pudding and kidney pie. It’s a warm and convivial spot, a perfect neighborhood restaurant.
“And I was just going through La Guardia airport and there is a great pizza place in the Delta Terminal called Crust.”
Albert Roux (Le Gavroche, London): “My favorite restaurant in New York, without a doubt, is Le Bernardin. I also like that famous delicatessen near the Carnegie Hall (Carnegie Deli) where you can get huge salted-beef sandwiches. They are huge. I love them.”
Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Jean Georges, New York): “New York Noodle Town. I go there often for a bowl of Chinese noodle soup. At Pop Burger, I jump out of my car and grab some burgers to take home. Shake Shack burgers are delicious but then I have to run into the middle of Madison Square Park. I also like Mezzaluna and (pizza) Co.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
Today’s Muse highlights include: Lewis Lapham on history, New York weekend.