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Looking for casual restaurant with hearty fare (under $30 pp)

Looking for a casual restaurant (bistro, brasserie, trattoria) in Manhattan - preferably below 14th Street, but anything below 96th St is fine - with great food and no more than $30-$35 per person including tax and tip.

I'd prefer an American or European eatery (French, Italian, whatever), and am ok with either traditional comfort food or nouveau/creative preparations. The important thing is that the food is hearty and served in reasonable portions for a grown man. Not concerned about the beer/wine list; just want a place that has terrific food quality at a moderate price point.

Because I'll be dining with an old friend whom I haven't seen in a while, I want to avoid any loud, trendy, or scenester restaurants. The place doesn't have to be super quiet or anything, but it shouldn't resemble a frathouse or Sex & the City casting call, either. Doesn't have to be romantic, but would prefer a place with a little bit of character (divey with character is ok; divey like a check cashing store is not).

The dinner isn't until next week, so I have time to make a decision (and a reservation, if necessary). Thanks in advance.

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  1. For the sake of reference, one place which caught my eye is Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn - but we don't want to travel to Brooklyn on this particular occasion, otherwise I'd probably check it out.

    Other places I thought of but decided against are Blue Ribbon Bakery (kind of expensive and loud), Morandi (vibe is ok, but I don't really love their food), Tartine (used to love this place, but now I think the food is so-so), and Piccolo Angolo (pretty good food, but such a hassle; also, it's kind of at the upper limit of my price range).

    Piccolo Angolo
    621 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

    211 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

    Blue Ribbon Bakery
    33 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014

    253 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

    1. Focacceria on bleecker and macdougal is a great low key Italian restaurant. Has a create your own pasta section and you can sit there and have a conversation for a while without getting kicked out. Great wine list, small quaint place. Perfect to talk an old friend to.

      87 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

      1. Paris Commune - has some great prix fixe daily specials
        Good - on Greenwich Ave
        Corsino - Hudson and Horatio

        Paris Commune
        99 Bank St, New York, NY 10014

        637 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

        1. You could try places like Heartland Brewery or Mickey Mantle's with no-nonsense American food in about your price range.

          Mickey Mantle's
          42 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019

          2 Replies
          1. re: AubWah

            Mickey Mantle's on Central Park South IS still open. The food is decent (!?!) with copious portions. One could do better.

            Mickey Mantle's
            42 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019

            1. re: boredough

              I hate to pile on but the food at Heartland Brewery is like bad mall food with decor to match.

          2. I appreciate everyone's input so far. Just to clarify, I am definitely not interested in any chain or theme restaurants even if the food is better than expected.

            What I'm searching for is a local neighborhood eatery, preferably with a little bit of character. I am definitely not a "quantity over quality" type of guy, yet at the same time I don't want to go to a place with miniscule portions, either.

            The absolute top priority for me is to find standout dining options at a moderate price point ($30-$35 or less per person including tax and tip). There are tons of casual mom-and-pop eateries of varying quality all over the city, but I'm hoping that you guys can clue me in to the places that are truly head-and-shoulders above the rest (foodwise) rather than "good but not great".

            Thanks again.

            1. Jimmy's No. 43? Great food, definitely hearty, meets your price point—and good beer, as a bonus.

              Jimmy's No. 43
              43 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

              3 Replies
              1. re: loratliff

                I like Jimmy's beer more than their food, but that's just me. I appreciate the tip, though!

                1. re: freshfigs

                  Perhaps I'm a cynic but I think it's going to be hard to find "great, not good" food at your price point. I think Jimmy's is quite a good value.

                  If you're willing to forgo the American/European requirement, you could do something like the cafe at La Esquina, Hecho En Dumbo, or Cafe Habana.

                  Back to American recs: you could do Westville easily (although I don't know if you consider that great food, since Jimmy's isn't up to snuff) or maybe Northern Spy if you order carefully. Emporio in Nolita is pretty good Italian, as is Supper.

                  Cafe Habana
                  229 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012

                  La Esquina
                  106 Kenmare St, New York, NY 10012

                  210 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014

                  231 Mott Street, New York, NY 10012

              2. My favorites at that price point (and in my neighborhood, the East Village) are Cafe Orlin and Paprika. I haven't been but in terms of French food Arcane and Casimir seem to have some tasty and pretty affordable options.

                Cafe Orlin
                41 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

                1. How about Cafe Katja in the LES? It's hearty Austrian fare. Also La Sirene is byob...I think if you order carefully it's doable.

                  Cafe Katja
                  79 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                  La Sirene
                  558 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: poutinelover

                    Frank on 2nd ave in the East Village, hearty Italian food, split an appetizer, 2 mains and a glass of wine/beer each and you can get out around $30pp.

                    1. re: poutinelover

                      La Sirene, under $30-35 including tax and tip? How? You can pay over $30 for a single entree there.

                      1. re: poutinelover

                        Cafe Katja is a good call for hearty, delicious food at reasonable prices.

                        Cafe Katja
                        79 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Cafe Katja is a great suggestion. I really like that place.

                          Cafe Katja
                          79 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                        2. re: poutinelover

                          Cafe Katja is a nice suggestion, thanks.

                          1. re: freshfigs

                            Not sure what night and time you plan on having dinner, but La Sirene offers a 3-course pre-fixe for $28 on Sun-Thur b/t 5-7pm.

                            La Sirene
                            558 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013

                            1. re: poutinelover

                              Unfortunately I won't be able to make that time. Thanks for the recommendation, though.

                        3. BTW, has anyone here been to Edi & the Wolf (Austrian cuisine) on Avenue C in the East Village? The place has only been open two weeks, but it has gotten great reviews so far. Also, it's related to Seasonal Restaurant in Midtown, which is generally very well-regarded.

                          Edi & the Wolf seems like it might meet my criteria, so I'd like to hear from anyone who's been there.

                          Thanks again for everyone's contributions thus far.

                          Edi & the Wolf
                          102 Avenue C, New York, NY 10009

                          1. First choice would be Frankie's 17. They fit the "great food" mold. You probably won't be able to do apps / entrees AND drinks for 35, but you could split an app or something and be fine.

                            Second choice I'd go with Schiller's - as long as it's a weeknight. Weekends it gets scenester / trendy. It's good, not great, but for the price they're pretty solid.

                            Frankies 17 Spuntino
                            17 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

                            Schiller's Liquor Bar
                            131 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: sgordon

                              Forgot about Frankie's 17 Clinton, that's a good suggestion.

                              Yeah I try to avoid Schiller's on weekends like the plague.

                              1. re: sgordon

                                Remind me again: What do you find great there? And great compared to which other Italian restaurants? For my part, there's only one thing I find more or less great there, and that's the prune dessert.

                                1. re: Pan

                                  Great compared to any Italian restaurant at the same price point. Obviously, it's not like dining at Babbo or Scarpetta or Falai - or even "casual" places like Osteria Morini. It's a much lower price point than any of them. The food is rustic, hearty, flavorful - it's a classic neighborhood joint. The seasonal salads and antipasti are all good, the pastas are solid (the cavatelli exceptional), the specials - like pork braciola - are just good Italian(-American) comfort food. And pretty much everything on the menu is under $20 - cheap these days. It's all relative to the price point, and dollar for dollar Frankie's 17 is one of the best, IMHO.

                                  110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                                  68 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

                                  355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                                  Osteria Morini
                                  218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                                  1. re: sgordon

                                    Have you been to Supper? Cacio e Vino is another neighborhood Italian restaurant, though not so close for someone who, for example, lives on Clinton St.