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Generous portions, cheap prices, good food--is it possible in NYC anymore?

I pretty much stopped eating out in NYC because of the number of times I left good, well-reviewed restaurants hungry. I'm not a large person; rather I'm a skinny marathoner but I have the metabolism of the hummingbird. Last time I checked, one pursues a sit-down meal in a restaurant to be fed. Call me crazy but this is still my goal. I've decided to try again. I feel like such a failure when friends come to town ready to eat, and I can't suggest anything.

My requirements:

Budget $10-$15

Type of cuisine: Any except vegetarian.

Portions: I want to eat a lot over a long period of time. Dinner should last 45 min at least. No one should be hurrying me out. This is offensive. I should have the option of taking home a doggy bag.

Neighborhoods: Lower Manhattan, brownstone Brooklyn, Queens close to transit

I know I can find various buffets in this price range (Jackson Heights comes to mind) but I'm kind of over them. I want made-to-order meals from actual restaurants. Nothing has to be fancy, just solid good eating.

Any ideas or should I give up on eating out in this city?

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  1. Have you tried the food courts in Flushing? You can chow mighty fine within your tight budget.
    http://www.newworldmallny.com/food-court
    Regards, JK

    1. At that price range, I wouldn't expect much other than buffet/fast food/cheap ethnic stuff. Sitting down and getting made to ordered food while taking a table for an hour+ for $10? Not likely. I'd say almost impossible. Its a business. They have to make money. With the neighborhoods you have described, I think it would be a challenge for any restaurant to stay in business doing what you want. Your choice is to either pay more or cook in.

      1. Maybe Karczma or other Polish places in Greenpoint. But for pie plate eaters at that price point, prolly moving to the Midwest is best.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Silverjay

          i'd second the greenpoint notion. most of the polish places there offer large platters with a main, two sides and usually a big bread basket, for under $12. enough left over for a glass of zywiec :)

          there are still one or two similar places in the east village, which used to have at least a dozen. sigh.

          1. re: Silverjay

            Karczma has large portions, that are well-prepared and the pricing meets the budget requirements.

          2. In lower Manhattan most of the Indian restaurants on Sixth St and many of the Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai restaurants in Chinatown could meet these criteria. And Veselka and Odessa for Polish, I guess. But lower Manhattan hasn't been a low-income neighborhood for quite a while, so most newer restaurants there won't meet your needs. There are quite a lot of good cheaper places in Brooklyn and Queens - I'm not sure what you're looking for in the way of type of food. The Flushing food courts recommended by johnk above would be good, unless you're looking for actual table service. Silverjay's recommendation of the Polish places in Greenpoint would be better is you're looking for table service.

            ETA: You surely realize that if you're talking about "good, well-reviewed restaurants" in lower Manhattan and "brownstone" Brooklkyn you are going to have a hard time getting a meal for ten to fifteen dollars even during Restaurant Week.

            1. I haven't had a meal out anywhere in New York City in over 10 years. I grew up in The Bronx, lived and worked in Manhattan until 1989, and continued working there until mid-2003.

              Even that far back, finding all three of your requirements would have been difficult in lower Manhattan. I cannot speak to the outer boroughs at all. However, you might want to try the following links because even two out of three in this market is going to be difficult. Consider the increasing number of restaurants either closing due to lease denials or exorbitant lease increases or, in the best case scenario, closing temporarily to move elsewhere within the city where they can afford to continue doing business.

              http://www.realcheapeats.com

              http://gothamist.com/2014/05/21/best_...

              http://www.grubstreet.com/2014/07/101...

              http://nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeat...

              1. You could do this at Noodletown in Chinatown.
                Split a soup with your friend. Many rice plates are under $10 (delicious shrimp with lobster sauce), and also barbecued meats on rice. One of you get something like that, other one get a noodle dish with lots of vegetables. Portions are generous. It's a bit hectic, but you definitely will be able to eat for 45 minutes to an hour.

                I'm sure there are other Chinatown options, but I'm coming in from out of town at this point, and this is my (and my NYC family's) default option.

                1 Reply
                1. re: femmevox

                  If they don't know you at Noodletown they will shoo you out of your seat so fast you won't know what happened

                2. Mooncake Foods and La Carbonara comes to mind

                  1. Mooncake is an absolute gem. Splurge a little bit and go above $15...start with peashoot leaf dumplings, move on to a main/salad with grilled chicken, buckwheat/soba noodles and two delicious sauces. Wash it all down with a $2.50 pint of icecold Sapporo on draft. That's living. Split the app and salad, add another beer and you're at or below your price point.

                    I know you're soured on buffets, but heck they are a bargain. There are more than a handful of Chinese/Malaysian steam table joints featuring 5 items on top of rice for $5 (or in Brooklyn Chinatown, the Red Apple on 8th Avenue and 48th Street - 4 for $4.50, including a pint of tofu soup). You will be full. You will have change left. You can linger as long as you like. You may even come back. Turn the corner on 48th and have a $1 worth of pork/leek dumplings for dessert.

                    Gia Lam Vietnamese (across 8th Avenue from Red Apple) has full table service, excellent spring rolls and grilled pork chops, filling rice plates (squid w. lemongrass is the fave) and you'll certainly get bang for the buck.

                    I'm with you...looking for value and NOT "small plates"!

                    1. Thanks all! Yes, death to small plates.

                      1. This won't help the OP who seems to want a big portion sit down meal for $10. Good luck with that one.

                        For everybody else this site is a nice resource - http://www.realcheapeats.com/

                        It's a collection of short articles written by a bunch of bloggers that cover cheap eats spots around the city. Recently they created a handy custom Google map which makes searching by neighborhood easy.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                          Check my post upthread; I have that plus a couple more.

                          1. re: mcsheridan

                            Yep. You had it first. I read your post yesterday but I forgot you included it.

                        2. Try Ben's Best in Rego Park, right near the 63rd Drive subway stop. The huge pastrami sandwich is $12.75, comes with cole slaw and the BEST pickles. You won't leave here hungry.
                          http://bensbest.com/pages/d_deli_fmen...

                          1. BBQ places should "meat" your needs.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: villainx

                              not most of them. mighty quinns is, in my mind, the best and best value of NYCs big name bbq options - compared to, say, hill country its not only a great bargain but the food is considerably better. i guess you could camp out on a table for 45 minutes without getting bothered, it is sit down, as requested (though not table service), and offers doggy bags.

                              1. re: tex.s.toast

                                The food is good, but you won't get much for ten to fifteen dollars a person, which was the OP's price point. The all you can eat at Hill Country is 27 dollars a person.

                            2. I have 2 suggestions for you:

                              1. Consider upping your limit to $20. Years (okay decades) ago, the litmus test for me for a good cheap meal in NYC was $5-$10, but now it's really $10-20. There are lots of great meals to be had for under $20 in the areas you describe, though perhaps not that many dinners in a nice, unhurried environment. Which brings me to my second suggestion, one that I follow quite often:
                              2. Consider eating out for lunch instead of dinner. Many restaurants offer very cheap, large, and filling lunch specials, and, since it's not the coveted dinner hour, you can sit, enjoy, and linger as long as you like. If your schedule allows for it, poke around for some good lunch specials in the neighborhoods you want and try those. I find a leisurely lunch to be a very pleasurable meal to eat out.

                              1. Have you considered Park Slope Ale House or Bonnie's? I think they both fit in your price range. If you get a sandwich/burger at the Ale House you'll have room left over in your budget for a beer.

                                Waterfront Ale House might also work. As will Henry Street Ale House. (Are you sensing a theme with my suggestions?)

                                Bar Toto and Bar Tano may also work, though they're both a little closer to the top of your budget.