Dining Out Magazine


By Mahlzeit
From time to time, I get asked (mostly by people that don't know me all that well), "Don't you like any places in Manhattan?" Short answer: not really. But, astonishingly, there are people that haven't either the desire or the time to travel out to Flushing just for dinner (very occasionally, I am one of those people), and for those folks I have put together a short list of places where it is possible to actually get a decent meal without paying sixty bucks a head--or more!--for it. Yes, I understand that restaurant prices aren't just about the food but more about the overhead, and in Manhattan that means footing their exorbitant rent bill. But so often, restaurants in Manhattan deliver precious little bang at all for the copious bucks. So I'm left eating at the same handful of exceptions I've found, and I felt it was time to share some of them. At the end of the post, I am also including a list places that may be recommended to you by philistines which you should avoid at all costs.
So, keeping in mind the focus of this blog--reasonably-priced ethnic food or cooking of some identifiable tradition--here are some places I have enjoyed eating without feeling massively overcharged for the privilege, by general location:
After the Upper West Side, the worst place in Manhattan to get a decent meal. But there are a few possibilities.
Sapporo - 152 W. 49th St. (between 6th & 7th Aves.), 212-869-8972. This place has been around for decades, and with good reason. Solid, authentic ramen, and, perhaps even better, donburi and Japanese curry dishes. I can't seem to eat here without ordering curry ramen with extra sliced pork. Menu.
Mee Noodle Shop - 795 9th Ave. (at 53rd St.), 212-765-2929. Standard old-school Cantonese noodle shop with the best No. 1 broth in town. Standout offerings: curry noodle soup (especially with roast chicken), 10-ingredient fried rice, steamed egg w/Chinese sausage, egg foo young (You're going to have to trust me on this one... I had NO idea egg foo young--served smothered in a rich, brown sauce--could be so delicious. Order it made w/roast pork and no vegetables if feeling particularly indulgent.). Menu here. There are also locations at 2nd Ave. & 49th St. and 2nd Ave. & 30th St.
Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien Hotel - 110 W. 56th St., 212-708-7414. Look for a tiny sign in the lobby of the Parker Meridien directing you behind a long, dark velvet curtain. One of the better burgers in town, and certainly one of the best burger values in Manhattan, going here is a little like finding a secret restaurant... one you'll be very glad you found. Website.
Tehuitzingo Deli Grocery - 695 10th Ave., 212-397-5956. Although it looks like your basic neighborhood deli/grocery up front, walk to the back where you'll find a food counter that, apart from a food truck or two, makes the only tacos in Manhattan that taste anything like the tacos I ate in Mexico. And it's dirt cheap, too! Menu.
Szechuan Gourmet - 21 W. 39th St. (between 5th & 6th Aves.), 212-921-0233. For a while, after Grand Sichuan on 9th @ 51st closed, this was my favorite restaurant in Manhattan. But then the NY Times gave it 2 stars and it was always busy and the prices went up 20%. But it's still damn good, and still a decent value. Here, the odder-sounding the dish, the better it's likely to be. Menu (old prices).
Lan Sheng Szechuan Restaurant - 60 W. 39th St. (between 5th & 6th Aves.), 212-575-8899. If Szechuan Gourmet is too crowded, this place across the street is really almost as good. Website.
Wu Liang Ye - 36 W. 48th St. (between 5th & 6th Aves.), 212-398-2308. For my money, their "hand-shredded chicken with spicy sesame vinaigrette" cold appetizer and "stir-fried fresh bacon with spicy capsicum" (in other words, REAL twice-cooked pork) are the two best Chinese dishes in Manhattan. But they ain't cheap. Menu (old prices).
Also, the website Midtown Lunch is an invaluable resource for good, cheap food in Midtown, generally a notorious wasteland of overpriced and chain restaurants.
Times Square
If you MUST eat near Times Square, at least make it John's Pizzeria (260 W. 44th St., between 7th & 8th Aves., 212-391-7560). This outpost is certainly the most beautiful location (it used to be a church) of a pizzeria that's been making crisp-crusted, brick oven pizzas the same way for almost a century. Other locations are E. 64th St. @ 1st Ave. and the venerable original (since 1929!) at 278 Bleecker St. in the West Village. Website.
Lower East Side
Katz's Delicatessen - 205 E. Houston St. (at Ludlow St.), 212-254-2246. A living relic of a vanishing New York. Theirs has to be the most mind-blowingly great pastrami sandwich on earth... hand-slicing makes all the difference. Go here to re-live some of the Jewish childhood you, if you're like me, never had. Website.
Upper West Side
Carmine's - 2450 Broadway (@ 91st St.), 212-362-2200. Probably the greatest Italian-red-sauce-joint-on-steroids on earth. Grab as many people as you can when you go because the portions are ENORMOUS. Almost all your favorites are here, in quantities that could choke a horse. The scarpariello chicken wings and fried calamari appetizers are killer, the rigatoni country style is my favorite pasta dish on the planet (with Italian sausage, cannellini beans, broccoli, and roasted garlic), and if you go on a Tuesday, get the double rack of lamb special - you won't be sorry. It's not on the regular menu, but if they happen to have carbonara as a daily special, grab it. And as far as I'm concerned, their chocolate chip bread pudding is the best dessert in NYC. If you have assembled enough people, by the time you divide up the tab, it's quite reasonably priced, too. There is another location I've never been to (because it's by fucking Times Square) on W. 44th St. @ 7th Ave. Website.
Flor de Mayo - 2651 Broadway (at 100th St.), 212-663-5520. 10 blocks farther up Broadway from Carmine's is one of the dying breed of Cuban-Chinese restaurants. The Chinese side of the menu consists of classic strip mall American Chinese fare (shrimp with lobster sauce, anyone?), beautifully executed, and ropa vieja is a beloved standby. But my favorite thing here is their Peruvian roast chicken. Go figure. But do try to avoid the dinner rush... the rudeness of the unwashed natives will kill you, if you don't kill one of them first. Better yet, order for delivery. There's another location on Amsterdam at W. 83rd St. Menu (old prices).
Upper East Side
Oy, gevalt.
East Village
I try to avoid these neighborhoods like the plague, but occasionally it's fun to hit E. 6th St., the block that is all Indian restaurants. It can be a bit daunting to choose just one, but I have found Mitali East to be consistently good, a cut or two above the others nearby. 334 E. 6th St., between 1st & 2nd Aves., 212-533-2508. Menu (old prices).
You are also invited to consult my regular posts about restaurants in Manhattan - these are mostly in the Chinatown and Koreatown neighborhoods. They can be found here.
City Diner (Broadway @ 90th St.)
Metro Diner (Broadway @ 100th St.)
Deluxe Diner (Broadway @ 113th St.) Particularly awful.
Sad - New York, not so very long ago, was the land of great little neighborhood diners. There are still a handful left, but most of what you're likely to find are lousy places like these. If you MUST have diner food, Viand is reliably good, and they have several locations around town (Broadway @ 75th St., E. 86th St. & 2nd Ave., Madison Ave. @ 78th St., Madison Ave. @ 61st St.)
Kitchenette (Amsterdam @ 123rd St.) I can't tell you how many people have told me they love this place. And I can't tell you how awful every meal I've ever had here has been.
Toast (Broadway @ Tiemann, Broadway @ 105th St.) When people hear where I live, they often say "Don't you love Toast?" No... no, I don't. It's gussied-up bar food, and not even good bar food at that.
Shake Shack (any location) Unless you like waiting in endless lines for dry-ish, gray hamburgers, steer clear.
Keens Steakhouse (W. 36th St. near 7th Ave.) If you've just GOT to drop a C-note or two on steak, do yourself a favor and go to Del Frisco's, or, better yet, head to Peter Luger in Brooklyn. I have seldom been so disappointed in a restaurant with a great reputation... meat of indifferent flavor, and their creamed spinach is inedible.
Just about every Vietnamese restaurant outside of the Bronx.
I will update this post as more places occur to me.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog