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How to eat cheaply without getting chased down the street?

I'll be visiting New York for the first time at the end of the month and am very excited about the food possibilities. I'm a big Food Network fan (esp. Top Chef and Iron Chef) and would really like to have the experience of tasting the type of food I've seen prepared on TV. I almost never eat out, and never at upscale places but I do a lot of cooking at home. Homemade bread won't impress me but sous-vide would be a total novelty.

The catch is I'll be travelling with my mom* and she has said that she thinks all this fancy food is a waste of time and money (my dad also likes these shows and has a tendency to do both because of it).

How can I get a taste of this type of cuisine in a way that will be inexpensive and worth it?

I'm willing to pay up to $100 total for both of us including tax and tip. The obvious thing is to go in and order an appetizer and a glass of water, but that seems kind of rude. Is there any way I can get this experience without being disrespectful?

*so that you don't get the wrong idea, I'm 26 and we live on opposite sides of the country

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  1. To explain the title my cousin tried this a couple of years ago and was chased down by an angry waiter and extorted out of a second tip.

    3 Replies
    1. re: TravellingCanuc

      forget food network, head to chinatown

      1. re: TravellingCanuc

        Lol, I thought the title was a reference to "dining and dashing," i.e. skipping out on the bill.

        1. re: redfish62


          Good thing I explained. That interpretation hadn't even crossed my mind.

      2. I would recommend you go to Peter Luger's in Brooklyn for lunch and just get burgers. A little pricy for a burger at about $13.00, but might be the best you've ever had!


        1 Reply
        1. re: Burghfeeder

          Second the burger @ PL...and make sure to order a side or two of onion rings. They're fantastic.

        2. seek out places with a bar, lounge or happy hour menu. or try going for lunch instead of dinner, if a place offers it.

          1. We went to Babbo a few years ago and our dinner for two with a bottle of wine was $150 before tip. It can be done easily, IMO. I just checked the menu and what we had are still there. We had an antipasti, a primi and a secondi. I'm not saying go to Babbo (too late for a res anyway) but you can do places like that within your budget. I'd search the Manhattan board for some of the oft-recommended places and then check their menus. BTW, our server was in no way miffed with us. Even comped us some prosecco to celebrate my husband's birthday. You're going to have a great time.

            2 Replies
            1. re: c oliver

              I'm math-impaired, but $150 for two before tip seems very different to me from $100 for two including tax and tip.

              1. re: Sneakeater

                My point was HOW to do it, not WHERE to do it. Just saying that we ate at a highly touted NYC restaurant and spent FAR less than many/most people do.

            2. Go to lunch at Jean-Georges! You won't be disappointed.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pikawicca

                Thanks for the suggestion, the menu looks great!

              2. $100 for two including tax and tip is $38pp.

                Your best bet is to try a prix fixe lunch.

                Jean Georges is an excellent suggestion. You get three amuse, two savory courses, marshmallows, chocolates, and macarons. You can add on a dessert for an additional fee.

                4 Replies
                1. re: kathryn

                  Yes, I think that's the way I'll probably go. It's just the kind of menu I was looking for, and a great price.

                  I hope the dress code's not too stringent at lunch. I hadn't even thought of that. We're going to be dressed for wandering around museums.

                  1. re: TravellingCanuc

                    No jacket required at JG for lunch. But they also don't allow jeans and sneakers if I recall correctly.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Correct. Copying and pasting from my recent Opentable reservation:

                      Thank you for making your reservation at Jean Georges. Please make note of our policies: Gentlemen are required to wear jackets for dinner in the dining room and lunch is casual-elegant attire. No jeans or sneakers are permitted. The age requirement in the formal dining room for children is 10yrs and older. We look forward to serving you.
                      Please note: jackets are not required for lunch service, however jeans and tennis shoes are NOT permitted in the dining room. The age requirement in the formal dining room is 12yrs and older. Thank you.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        All of JG's restaurants are an amazing deal for lunch, if you are looking for that haute experience at a good price, the flagship is the place for you.

                  2. If you sit at the bar at some of the better restaurants, it is totally permissable to have a couple of drinks and one or two appetzers. That should work within your budget easily. Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, Babbo and Manzo are just 4 that immediately come to mind.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mangiare24

                      Go to Otto. You can eat at the bar, at a Batali restaurant, have a glass of wine each, a number of small plates, a pasta, a pizza and still get out for $100.

                    2. I'm with the suggestions to try the prix fixe lunches and check out the bar/lounges of places you're interested in. I don't think you would have any problems going to some of the higher end places and having a drink and an appetizer each and can easily stay in your budget.

                      I just took a look at the lounge/bar menus at Le Bernardin and Acme. Easily done.


                      It will only give you a taste. Is this something you're looking to do once, or at a couple of places? If more than once, I would suggest saving up multiple tastings and pick one place for a full dinner. If only once, choose well and good luck.

                      1. Speaking of Food Network, I'll throw in Tom Colicchio's Craftbar (menus in link):


                        Yes, even though TC's name is prominently featured on the entrance, Lauren Hirschberg is the chef. And, yes, Craftbar was not one of our favorites once they moved from East 19th, back in the days of Akhtar Nawab and Karen DeMasco. But we dropped in last Tuesday night and, tho the breadsticks are smaller, the eats are just fine (had the liver pate, country pate, hamachi, duck hearts, chitarra and choucroute). Very diverse crowd; mom and daughter, girl's night out, post-work, couples. Nice and buzzy-loud, too.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Andy T.

                          Just what you had sounded great and then I looked at the menu. Wow. We MUST get back to NYC.

                        2. New York has a lot of high end bargains, and a $100 budget is easy, unless you need a bottle of wine with your meal. It sounds like you're looking for inventive food, instead of comfort foods, or ethnic hole in the wall eats, but many of the trendy celebrity chef driven places are midrange. Also don't be afraid to share an appetizer, and an entree if you go early or late in the evening, and explain to your waiter up front.

                          Perilla comes to mind. The Jean George lunch that's been mentioned, though I think the casual room, Nougatine, can be better. Sharing bone marrow works for a nice rich dish that goes far, and Blue Ribbon, Minetta Tavern (more about the room), and Henry Public in Brooklyn are suggestions for that.

                          Also if you can look into an app called Scoutmob that offers discounts, if you have a smartphone. I'd suggest the half off deal at Toucan and the Lion for their penko version of a scotched egg, and their Crimson and Clover drink. The place is tiny, and borders on uncomfortable, but I think it will hit the balance you want of being an interesting technique, and a good value.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sugartoof

                            I made reservation at Nougatine for lunch. The menu looks like exactly what I had in mind.

                            The toucan and the Lion looks really good too. We might have to head there for drinks.

                            I wish there were more eating/drinking hours in the day.

                          2. I'll second the idea about the bar at Le Bernadin. Try Txikito in Chelsea (Basque food and locals eat there). David Bouley in Tribeca also has a great lunch menu with an amuse bouche thrown in often...

                            1. Ditto Prix-fixe lunches. Union Square at the bar is a good bet and has great people watching potential. But AubWah is right: go to Chinatown (see any number of posts here for recommendations) or to Elmhurst/Jackson Heights or Flushing in Queens----that's where the best deals, best dining, and most quintessentially New York experiences are to be had.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: swannee

                                Quintessentially NY in those parts? Just because the residents are mostly foreign-born? Or, are you even from NY (no one was going to these places 10-15 years ago)? I'd confess and say I like these parts of the city more, but your wording seems to evoke the current zeitgeist more than anything else.

                                1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                  Quintessentially NY because New York is and has always been a city of immigrants, and a city of unique ethnic diversity; and Elmhurst is the most diverse area of all.
                                  I have lived in New York for 43 years, 70% of my life. I consider myself a New Yorker, but if one feels that the only real New Yorkers are those born here-----or better yet, whose grandparents were born here---OK. In any case, this isn't about food. For someone who wants the true "taste" of New York---in all senses---I recommend Queens, and Elmhurst in particular.

                                  1. re: swannee

                                    While ethnic dining is a NY (and many other large cities) experience, I don't think that is what the OP is looking for. She is a fan of Top/Iron Chef. My guess is she is looking for a taste of the fine dining experience. Doesn't mean she shouldn't get some good chinese. But I don't think pointing her to Chinatown fits with what she is asking for. She didn't ask for a taste of NY.

                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                      Thanks Bkeats, you've got the right idea. I grew up outside of Vancouver so China Town is kind of "been there, done that". I think the rest of the time we'll be indulging in what we think of as 'classic' New York eateries: pizzerias, delis, and food-trucks.

                              2. This may not be exactly Food Network stuff, but have you considered a Nosh Tour? Kind of a progressive meal of snack-sized meals. A slice of pizza at Two Boots or Ray's Famous Original (definitely recommend the former), an arepa or two at Lena's Latin Grill, a Banh Mi at Saigon Banh Mi Bakery, a knish at Yoanh Schimmel's and so forth. That's the only way I can hit all my favorite places in a limited amount of time in NYC and I eat for about $35-40 a day that way. Of course, for my last meal in town I gorge myself at 2nd Ave. Deli or Katz' for about $35-40 for the meal.
                                Nothing fancy-schmancy, just good eats!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: wahgoosh

                                  Do NOT go to Two Boots. It's pretty heinous, and the farthest thing from NY-style pizza...

                                  1. re: LeahBaila

                                    Indeed yes. Go to John's on Bleecker Street: you'll have to order a whole pie, but you'll finish it. Or for a wonderful pizza, by the slice for lunch, try the thin-crust pies at Gruppo on Avenue B. I just discovered them and now it's the only pizza I'll eat. Fantastic.