Fifty New York Restaurants and Bars Offering Good Food for LessRichard Vines
New York has fine and inexpensive restaurants. It also has plenty that serve large portions of carbohydrate-laden stodge. Here are 50 good places that I tried during an extended visit from London. Most offer value as well as decent food.
ABC Cocina: Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s latest venue is boisterously loud. It’s good for the food and the buzz, not for the noise. His Latin-inspired menu features dishes such as pork tacos, cashews, apples and jalapeno hot sauce ($15). Information: http://www.abccocinanyc.com/ or +1-212-677-2233.
Bar Boulud: This is a safe bet near the Lincoln Center. You can sit outside and watch the tourist crowds without being part of them. The service is friendly and efficient and you need not break the bank. The pre-theater menu is $45 for three courses. Information: http://www.barboulud.com/nyc/ or +1-212-595-0303.
Bello Giardino: This family restaurant off Columbus Avenue is like stepping into “Cheers.” Sit at the bar and you may swap names faster than you can drink cocktails. The food is old-style Italian-American. Credit cards aren’t accepted. Lunch is $9.95. Information: http://www.bellogiardino.com/ or +1-212-875-1512.
Berlyn: I visited this casual venue for drinks during a long night. I can’t tell you about the regional German/new Brooklyn cuisine, which is its specialty, but the cocktails are fine. My bill tells me I paid $11 for an Anna Nicole. Information: http://berlynrestaurant.com/ or +1-718-222-5800.
Bun-Ker: Assuming you don’t get lost on the way from the subway you may find this grungy Vietnamese restaurant opposite a junkyard in Ridgewood, Queens. Bring your own beer. Lunch was among the best of the meals I had in New York and it cost $41. Information: http://bunkervietnamese.com/ or +1-718-386-4282.
Cata: There are dozens of reasons to visit Cata, a tapas restaurant on the Bowery. One is for the excellent food, particularly the freshest of fish. Another 26 or so are for the gin and tonics, of which there is an extraordinary range. Information: http://catarestaurant.com/ or +1-212-505-2282.
Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken: Charles Gabriel seasons his chicken in three stages, according to the New York Times: a dry rub, then an egg wash and finally with flour, before frying in soybean oil. Gabriel is a one-man Harlem legend. Information: http://bit.ly/18XCPfl or +1-212-281-1800.
Chez Lucienne: How much would you pay for a lunch of French snails in a garlic butter parsley sauce, followed by a Kobe beef burger? It’s $14 at this French restaurant, next to Red Rooster in Harlem. The service was among the friendliest in New York. Information: http://chezlucienne.com/ or +1-212-289-5555.
Ciccio: This tiny Tuscan venue on Sixth Avenue (near Spring Street) is easy to miss. No money has been wasted on decor or signs. That’s good: It keeps down the cost of salads, pastas and dishes such as brodetto di pesce (fish soup.) Weekend brunch is $20. Information: http://www.ciccionyc.com/ or +1-646-476-9498.
Clover Club: This Brooklyn establishment is famous for its cocktails, which I enjoyed along with the ambience. Sitting on a couch in a wood-paneled room with a fireplace and a tempting drinks menu isn’t a bad way to end an evening. Information: http://www.cloverclubny.com/ or +1-718-855-7939.
Dear Bushwick: This fashionably dark venue in Brooklyn bills itself as an English kitchen. I tried wine-barrel-smoked eggs, horseradish butter, green peppercorn salt ($6) and toasted almond & cauliflower soup, fried mushrooms and rosemary ($7). Information: http://dearbushwick.com/ or +1-929-234-2344.
DB Bistro Moderne: Daniel Boulud’s Original DB Burger tastes better than ever. It’s sirloin with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle in a parmesan bun, served with pommes frites ($32). The restaurant looks good after a makeover. Information: http://www.dbbistro.com/nyc/ or +1-212-391-2400.
Eleven Madison Park: Prepare to spend a lot. The menu is $225 and this establishment is at a very different level from the rest of the list. I’d still say it offers value -- at a high price. The food and service are exceptional. It’s my favorite. Information: http://elevenmadisonpark.com/ or +1-212-889-0905.
The Elm: This is the new Brooklyn home of the British chef Paul Liebrandt, formerly of Corton. Watch out for Liebrandt as he has big plans. Here, the food is original and accessible, with dishes such as “Fish and Chips,” which features hake,
Indian picked lime and vegetable chips ($25). Information: http://theelmnyc.com/ or +1-718-218-1088.
Estela: This Nolita restaurant serves excellent small plates of American food with European influences. It’s a destination for chefs. I enjoyed the food, wine, service and buzz but would not return because of the noise, at 90 decibels. Information: http://estelanyc.com/ or +1-212-219-7693.
Ganesh Temple Canteen: This dining hall in the basement of a Hindu temple in Flushing serves Indian vegetarian food at low prices. The paper dosa (a large crepe with coconut chutney) is $5. Anthony Bourdain is among the fans. Information: https://nyganeshtemple.org/ or +1-718-460-8493
James Beard House: The West Village HQ of the James Beard Foundation hosts dinners from chefs around the U.S. (On the night I visited, it was Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski of State Bird Provisions.) It’s a chance to meet other food lovers. Information: http://www.jamesbeard.org/ or +1-212-627-2308.
Joe & Misses Doe: This husband & wife joint is near Prune and there’s no queue. It’s quirky, with rock music playing and a 1950s diner look. I ordered some snacks (whipped ricotta, beer cheese, deviled eggs) and a cocktail for two for $27. Information: http://joeandmissesdoe.com/ or +1-212-780-0262.
The Library: An advantage of this lounge for visitors to New York is that other tourists are unlikely to find it. It’s in the Public Theater, on Lafayette Street. The extreme noise of joints such as Employees Only are also absent. Information: http://www.thelibraryatthepublic.com/ or +1-212-539-8777.
Lincoln Ristorante: The last time I visited this Lincoln Center restaurant, it was for a quiet lunch. The place was hopping for dinner. I sat at the bar for great pasta dishes. Chef Jonathan Benno was where he should be: in the kitchen. Information: http://www.lincolnristorante.com/ or +1-212-359-6500.
Little Collins: This Lexington Ave. snack bar belongs to friends from Melbourne who understand the importance of good coffee. The menu features sandwiches such as charcoal chicken with mashed peas, bacon, caramelized onions and chipotle mayo. Information: http://littlecollinsnyc.com/ or +1-212-308-1969.
Maialino: Danny Meyer’s trattoria in the Gramercy Park Hotel is open all day, serving traditional Roman dishes. The set lunch is $35 for three courses, or you can get soup and a sandwich for $15. The service is flawless. Information: http://www.maialinonyc.com/ or +1-212-777-2410.
Maison Harlem: This neighborhood bistro is popular. It was created by two French friends. The warm welcome and service help. The menu is filled with old favorites such as onion soup and coq au vin. The food isn’t fancy but it’s fun. Information: http://maisonharlem.com/ or +1-212-222-9224.
Marea: This Central Park South restaurant is as fine as its two Michelin stars suggest. The fixed-price lunch menu is $45 and the crudo and pasta were epic. It can be a pleasure to dine at the bar, though you may feel you’re treated as a tourist. Information: http://www.marea-nyc.com/ or +1-212-582-5100.
McSorley’s Old Ale House: This bar traces its history to 1854 and counts Abraham Lincoln and John Lennon among its guests. Woody Guthrie inspired the union movement from here, the website says. The place is popular with tourists. Information: http://www.mcsorleysnewyork.com/ or +1-212-474-9148.
Mexicana Mama: This low-key West Village restaurant serves simple and authentic Mexican cuisine, with dishes such as pollo con mole. You can also buy food to go. Daily dishes are listed on a board. The cooking is better than you might expect: Information: http://bit.ly/1atzMrj or +1-212-924-4119.
Mexicosina: This tiny restaurant in the Bronx specializes in home-style Mexican cuisine prepared in front of you. It’s a small room with a tiled floor and blood-red walls, with a TV set in the corner, Latin music playing and fans revolving overhead. Information: http://mexicosina.com/ or +1-347-498-1055.
Murray’s Cheese Bar: This is fun, especially if you sit at the bar and chat with the staffers. The food is enjoyable, from the mac & cheese (with crispy onion and chorizo) to the cheese ice cream. The cheese plate is the show stopper. Information: http://www.murrayscheesebar.com/ or +1-646-476-8882.
The NoMad: The Library is a wonderful spot for daytime drinks in this Broadway Hotel, where the bar can get wildly busy at nights. If you are not beautiful, you may need to be a good talker to get past the clipboard crew on the door. Information: http://www.thenomadhotel.com or +1-212-796-1500.
Nougatine: This casual venue, hidden in the fancy Jean-Georges, is one of my favorite places to eat in New York. You may have to wait in line. I paid $32 for the set lunch, a bargain for such fine cooking and ingredients in a beautiful room. Information: http://bit.ly/198o5ej or +1-212-299-3900.
Northern Spy Food Co.: This East Village venue serves American dishes created around seasonal ingredients sourced from farms. (It’s named after an apple rather than a secret agent from Canada.) The menu is short, with dishes such as eggs & toast. Information: http://www.northernspyfoodco.com/ or +1-212-228-5100.
Nobu Next Door: Nobu’s baby brother has a clever brunch menu where dishes such as bagel and lox are given an Asian spin. (In this case, crispy rice is served with tofu crema, salmon “pastrami,” onion, caper and ponzu.) The food can be very sweet. Information: http://www.noburestaurants.com/ or +1-212-334-4445.
Otto: This is the Greenwich Village joint of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. It’s designed to look like an Italian railway station and it’s just as accessible. I like it a lot. Prosciutto and arugula pizza is $14. Information: http://www.ottopizzeria.com/ or +1-212-995-9559.
Oyster Bar: This Grand Central restaurant is one place not to miss in New York. (Unless you are allergic to shellfish.) The station is a beautiful place to enjoy a wide choice of oysters (avoid the fried ones) and a good wine list. Information: http://www.oysterbarny.com/ or +1-212-490-6650.
Phayul: This charming Tibetan restaurant is housed above a barber shop in Jackson Heights. Tsel Momo vegetable dumplings are $4.99, or how about Tsak Sha Chu Rul beef & Tibet cheese? The drink of choice is butter tea. Information: +1-718-424-1869.
Porsena: This is a neighborhood trattoria in the East Village where (according to the website) Chef Sara Jenkins has drawn on memories of her Tuscan and Roman childhood. The menu is short and dominated by pasta, which is beautifully made. Information: http://porsena.com/ or +1-212-228-4923.
Prospect: I was a fan of this Fort Greene, Brooklyn, restaurant and bar even before hearing that every Monday it jettisons the menu in favor of Korean bar food. On other days, expect seasonal American fare, but there are too few American wines. Information: http://prospectbk.com/ or +1-718-596-6826.
Prune: There was a 20-minute wait for tables when I arrived for brunch at chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s East Village restaurant. As a lone diner, I got straight in. Sometimes it pays to have no friends. The bloody-Mary menu helped overcome my loneliness. Information: http://www.prunerestaurant.com/ or +1-212-677-6221.
Red Farm: I went to the brand new Broadway outpost of this Asian restaurant. It’s Chinese-American cuisine, with Pac Man Shrimp Dumplings that represent a witty approach to food. It’s irreverence born out of creativity and Red Farm is in my top five. Information: http://redfarmnyc.com or +1-212-724-9700.
Le Restaurant: This Michelin-starred establishment in Tribeca resembles some of Europe’s new Nordic restaurants in terms of the food and style. The $100 tasting menu starts with crudites served in a pail of edible earth, a la Noma. Information: http://allgoodthingsny.com/ or +1-212-966-3663.
Ricardo: This is an extraordinary restaurant in Harlem. A DJ plays and the screams start when the sparklers come out for birthdays. “Da Meats” (as steaks are billed) are good quality and reasonably priced. The cost for four was $280. Information: http://www.ricardosteakhouse.com/ or +1-212-289-5895.
Salumeria Rosi: Cesare Casella’s trattoria is simple and unfussy and the food is stronger for that. Guests are invited to share plates of beautiful meat and cheese. I just sat at the counter and enjoyed an amatriciana pasta dish with nine meats. Information: http://www.salumeriarosi.com/ or +1-212-877-4800.
Seersucker: This doesn’t look much from the outside. A shop window opens into the 40-seat Brooklyn restaurant. Yet it is a great spot for a drink and for the Southern food of chef Robert Newton. The American wine list is a treat. Information: http://www.seersuckerbrooklyn.com/ or +1-718-422-0444.
Spotted Pig: The queues for British chef April Bloomfield’s West Village pub show its popularity. The food isn’t a letdown. Simple dishes such as chicken liver toast and sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with brown butter & crispy sage are delicious. Information: http://thespottedpig.com/ or +1-212-620-0393.
Tang: This is the Flushing outpost of a Korean restaurant (Gammeeok) in New Jersey. It’s popular with Korean families. While the decor is modern and the service friendly, the food is authentic and traditional, yet not old-fashioned. Information: http://www.gammeeok.com/tang/ or +1-718-279-7080.
Tertulia: Seamus Mullen’s Spanish restaurant in the West Village uses high-quality produce to turn out excellent and unfussy dishes designed to enhance the ingredients, rather than the chef’s ego. Be aware: Tertulia is very popular and can get loud. Information: http://tertulianyc.com/ or +1-646-559-9909.
Think Coffee: The coffee at my closest cafe on Broadway was so shockingly bad, I’d go to Starbucks for a certain minimal quality. Think Coffee (on Bleecker Street) is in another league, along with Stumptown. But why do New Yorkers accept terrible coffee? Information: http://thinkcoffeenyc.com/.
Tom’s: OK, this Morningside Heights diner isn’t listed here for the food. It’s the place used in the exterior shots for Seinfeld and is celebrated in Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” It’s family-owned and has been around since the 1940s. Information: http://tomsrestaurant.net/ or +1-212-864-6137.
Umami Burger: I am a big fan of this California chain, which has opened in Greenwich Village. The patty comes with shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, umami ketchup and a Parmesan crisp. It is wonderful. Information: http://www.umami.com/umami-burger/ or +1-212-677-8626.
Union Square Cafe: Danny Meyer founded this restaurant in 1985, and it’s still a favorite. The menu is full of dishes you want to eat, from butternut squash fettuccine to a burger. The service is exemplary. Lunch for two was $96. Information: http://unionsquarecafe.com/ or +1-212-243-4020.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)