Break the bank — just a smidge — at some of these great joints where good food is definitely within reach...even if you only have a little extra money to spare.
Alambres de Filet Mignon at Crema ($26)
Combining traditionally prepared Mexican cuisine with the finesse of French presentation, Chef Julieta Ballesteros is “a chef to watch,” says the New York Times.
Crema, 111 West 17th Street (Between 6th and 7th avenues); 212-691-4477.
Lobster Paella at Socarrat ($28 per head)
Any fan of a true paella will agree that the key to the perfect power bite lies in the soccarat, the partly crispy, partly chewy crust that forms at the bottom of the pan. It’s so important that this spot used the name for the restaurant. Bring your appetite and be ready to pounce on any bits of soccarat your fellow diners may leave behind.
Socarrat Nolita, 284 Mulberry Street (Between Prince and Houston); 212-219-0101.
Pulque Braised Lamb Shoulder at Pulqueria ($26)
The heart of Chinatown is surely the last place you’d expect to find good Mexican. If you do manage to find the front door, don’t let the Vietnamese signage that plasters the walls fool you — it's worth the hunt. Pull up a stool underneath the thatch-roofed bar and sample one of the place's unique pulque (fermented-aloe sap) cocktails while you wait for dinner.
Pulqueria, 11 Doyers Street; 212-227-3099.
Pork Chop with Roasted Apple-Thyme Butter & Hard Cider Sauce at Whitehall ($26)
This Britain-inspired restaurant is anything but “dreadful.” And the food, anything but bland. Quench your thirst for gin with a great gin list before dinner at the more-than-generously sized bar, then satisfy your craving for porky goodness with this scrumptious bite.
Whitehall Bar & Kitchen, 19 Greenwich Avenue (Between West 10th and Christopher streets); 212-675-7261.
Coq au Vin at Bar Boulud ($26)
Legendary chef Daniel Boulud needs no introduction. And while his namesake bar specializes in charcuterie, no one’s saying you can’t enjoy one of many traditional French dishes, such as the Coq au Vin, a quintessential, not to mention delectable, choice.
Bar Boulud, 1900 Broadway (Between 63rd and 64th streets); 212-595-0303.
Marinated Rib Steak from RedFarm ($39)
What happens when dim sum goes farm to table? RedFarm, that’s what. And you can't go without trying the venue's Marinated Rib Steak.
RedFarm, 529 Hudson Street (Between Charles and West 10th streets); 212-792-9700.
Photos: RedFarm courtesy of Evan Sung, Pulqueria, Bar Boulud, Crema
Spring Lamb Roulade from The Four Seasons Restaurant ($59 pre fixe)
With accolades such as Town & Country’s “favorite restaurant in the world,” the food here is destined to be good. But the historic Four Seasons isn’t just about food, it’s about atmosphere and the experience. Dining here is like stepping in a whole new world, filled with some of the best food you’ll ever sink your fork into.
The Four Seasons Restaurant, 99 East 52nd Street (Between Lexington and Park avenues); 212-754-9494.
Roasted Squab Breast from Marea ($41)
At Marea, “coastal” New York meets coastal Italy, an introduction which involves one memorable experience and a whole lot of seafood, presented to you with the utmost elegance. Chef Michael White excels both in food and wine, so by all means, take advantage of the spot's suggested wine pairings.
Marea, 240 Central Park South (Between 7th and 8th avenues); 212-582-5100.
Grilled Atlantic Sea Bream from Lincoln ($60)
Ranked as one of the best new restaurants in America for 2011, Lincoln Ristorante offers Jonathan Benno’s inspired take on modern Italian cuisine using local ingredients as much as possible. Much of the cuisine comes in different styles, so to does the dining space with seating on the grass roof or surrounding the heart of the restaurant — the open kitchen.
Lincoln Ristorante, 142 W 65th Street (Between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues); 212-359-6500.
7-Course Pre Fixe from Torrisi Italian Specialties ($65)
If you attempt a trip to visit chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, it’s best to keep your group as small as possible if you're a walk-in (though they do take reservations starting 30 days out). A bummer for some, yes, but the fact that these guys change the menu on a weekly — that’s right, weekly — basis is worth any wait.
Torrisi Italian Specialties, 250 Mulberry Street (Between Prince and Spring streets); 212-965-0955.
Sea Bass with Marinated Cucumbers & Yogurt Sauce from the Seasonal Tasting Menu at Gramercy Tavern ($116)
Sure you could eat in the tavern, but why not raise the bar and go straight for the dining room? When making a reservation for the tasting menu, block at least four hours for the occasion. Though it may sound like a long time for dinner, but it’s worth every well-planned minute.
Gramercy Tavern, 42 East 20th Street (Between Broadway and Park Ave South); 212-477-0777.
La Sole Grillée with Sauce Moutarde ($100 pre fixe + $16 supp.)
With fifty years of spotless service under its belt, La Grenouille remains one of the “most elegant, most traditional, most...French restaurants” in New York, says Bon Appetit.
La Grenouille, 3 East 52nd Street (Between Madison and 5th avenues); 212-752-1495.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare Market ($225)
Situated behind a full-service grocery store just North of Boreum Hill is the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. During this unique dining experience, you may enjoy between 25 and 30 small plates, all hand crafted in front of you as you sit bar side in the kitchen. Reservations may take weeks to confirm, so plan ahead.
Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, 200 Schermerhorn Street (Between Hoyt and Bond streets); 718-243-0050.
Oysters & Pearls at Per Se ($295 pre fixe)
For chef and owner Thomas Keller, Per Se brings the best aspects of The French Laundry — his first restaurant in California's wine country — to the urban center that is New York City. Impeccable service is but one of the keystones that make the experience at Per Se one of the most memorable in the city. And it's also one of the reasons it’s reached Michelin-star acclaim (three Michelin stars, to be exact) for six-consecutive years since 2006.
Per Se, 4th Floor, 10 Columbus Circle (10th Floor); 212-823-9335.
Four Story Hill Farm Spring Rabbit from Corton ($115 pre fixe)
The name Corton comes from the largest region of "grand cru" wines in the renowned winemaking region of Burgundy, France. It comes as no surprise that a restaurant by the same name, opened by restauranteur Drew Nieporent and chef Paul Liebrandt, offers up grub filled with the classical flavors of French cuisine. What you wouldn't expect is modern technique, execution, and contemporary presentation.
Corton, 239 West Broadway (Between White and Beach streets); 212-219-2777.
Photos: Gramercy Tavern, Per Se, Brooklyn Fare, Corton