NY Restaurants You Can't Afford... Yet

I’m pretty poor.

Saving money is something I’m actually half decent with, but living off of $10 an hour for long stretches of time means there is a consistent need to find the cheapest bar, the cheapest food, and the least expensive clothing. A countless number of my friends have a similar outlook on life, hence why I wrote previous blog posts about being 
“poor in New York.”

But not today, my friends.
No. Today we shall feast!

This post is all about when your parents come to town.

And it true 20s fashion, this means we freelancers, temps, and interns get a free meal or two. So below is a list of restaurants at a mid-range price point that I think you’ll enjoy for a night out with the family. These aren’t the most expensive spots in NY, just more expensive than your typical ramen or bagel-based meal.

Several of you graduates requested this blog post, so I hope you find it helpful. Also, please add any of your own favorite "the-family’s-in-town" restaurants to the comments section below. Now let’s dig in…

Freemans – Tucked away down a quiet cobblestone alley in the Lower East Side, this place’s location and eclectic décor only add to its delicious menu. The cuisine won’t frighten an inexperienced pallet, nor (in my humble opinion) disappoint the connoisseur. If you want to show out-of-town guests something a little more authentic than 42nd and Broadway, you’ll find that certain charm in this colonial-inspired haven.
*Dinner entrée price range: $15 - $28
*Recommended: Hot Artichoke Dip; Pork Loin; Scallops
*What to Know: Unique drink menu; also highly recommended for brunch. Not a vegetarian paradise, but has an awesome “Five Cheese Macaroni” dish even meat-lovers enjoy. Reservations can be made for parties of six or more. Walk-in wait time isn’t terrible, and the bar makes for a perfect distraction.
*Other notable restaurants in this neighborhood: Beauty and Essex, The Stanton Social, Schiller’s Liquor Bar
*Contact: 8 Rivington Street (down Freeman Alley). 212-420-0012 


You have to find Freemans, but the search is worth it.
Photo by: Eatery

Sardi’s – We bash midtown a lot, but there are still some gems hidden amongst the bright lights of Times Square. After all, where else can you buy cheesecake at 2am, or see some of the world’s finest theater? And that is precisely why Sardi’s makes my list for places worth experiencing at least once when visiting the city. There’s a rich history in these walls – and quite literally hanging on them. Featured in Mad Men and the birthplace of the Tony Award, I find myself enjoying this food but adoring the atmosphere. So go see a Broadway show and then wine n’ dine vintage style in a restaurant that highlights the 
glamour of a city’s past life.
*Dinner entrée price range: $19 - $37. Lunch price fixe: $30,
 Dinner price fixe: $49
*Recommended: Jumbo Lump Crap; Cannelloni au Gratin
*What to Know: There is both a “dinner” menu for a meal before Broadway shows and a “supper” menu for after. Children’s menus are available for those 13 and under. Reservations are advised, and for weekend dining they must be made no later than 5pm on Friday.
*Other notable restaurants in the neighborhood: Carmine’s, Five Napkin Burger, Becco, Per Se
*Contact: 234 West 44th Street. 212-221-8440

Sardi's is shown here, in the heart of New York's Theater District. 
Photo by: Foodphoria

The Spotted Pig – Our West Village neighborhood plays host to tons of small cafes and gastropub hotspots, but in recent years this restaurant seems to stand above most. A favorite of celebrities from the likes of Martha Stewart to Jay-Z, The Spotted Pig prides itself on British-based cooking and quality meat. Chef and co-owner April Bloomfield also just released her latest cookbook, “A Girl and Her Pig” last month, propelling this Brit even further in New York’s cut-throat culinary world (pardon the butcher-esque pun). Relax in this slower paced side of town with a transcontinental dinner – and try not to think about paying $20 for a burger and fries. You’re parents are buying, remember?!
*Dinner entrée price range: $20 - $32
*Recommended: Chicken Liver Toast; Chargrilled Burger (some reviewers who don’t enjoy strong cheeses prefer just the burger without the Roquefort).
*What to know: No reservations available, so it’s best to go early or late. (For New York, this means you won’t easily get a table from 8pm to 10pm.) The kitchen is also open to 2am, making this restaurant an ideal place to stop into if you’ve had an afternoon meal. Walk-in parties cannot exceed six in most situations.
*Other notable restaurants in the area: Blue Ribbon Bakery, The Meatball Shop, Alta, Mermaid Oyster Bar
*Contact: 314 West 11th Street. 212-620-0393


 The Spotted Pig is a step into Britain's gastropub scene. 
Photo by: Eat the City 

Basta Pasta – Asian-infused pasta is not a usual food genre I crave, but believe me when I say it’s worth testing out. The dishes are lighter on sauce than typical Italian cuisine, and consist of clean presentations with unique ingredients. Housed in the Flatiron District, this comfortable and minimalist atmosphere will have you eating timeless dishes with a completely new twist. The staff will never rush you out, so feel free to try the chocolate coma inducing “Vulcano” dessert.
*Dinner entrée price range: $16 - $30
*Recommended: Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare (with sea urchin); Spaghetti con Prosciutto e Parmigiano (served after first being tossed in a large half wheel of cheese that’s rolled to your table).
*What to know: Reservations are suggested during busy hours. The kitchen is open for patrons to view, and dinner can be served at the bar.
*Other notable restaurants in the area: Eately, Hill Country BBQ, ABC Kitchen, Gramercy Tavern
*Contact: 37 West 17th Street. 212-366-0888

Enjoy Basta Pasta's open kitchen while you wait for a table. 
Photo by: Fashion Victims Are People Too

Balthazar – A little piece of Paris can be found on Spring Street in New York’s Soho neighborhood. This French restaurant is popular amongst locals (as well as celebrities), and buzzing from morning brunch to late night hours. While the dinning room is often stuffed with customers, the to-go bakery usually has a quick moving line for coffee and tasty breads. If you stay for dinner, be sure to take in the European décor and observe a beautifully stocked bar of notable wines. Since opening in 1997, this restaurant has not missed a beat with its adoring fans.
*Dinner entrée prince range: $22 - $42
*Recommended: Steak Frites; Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Tart
*What to know: Reservations needed. For meals after lunch but before dinner, they have an “afternoon” menu. Remember: This is a French restaurant. Sometimes you have to ask for ice in 
your water - and that’s okay.
*Other notable restaurants in the area: Lombardi’s Pizza, Mercer Kitchen, Imperial No 9
*Contact: 80 Spring Street. 212-965-1414

There seems to never be a dull moment at Balthazar. 
Photo by: New Construction Manhattan

Enjoy your meals and time well spent with the family. Also, make sure to buy your guests a New York bagel before they return home. Despite the research that went into this post, I know my parents are simply going to crave a Brooklyn Bagel the second their feet touch the pavement. 
Alas, so will I. 
And that's only $3.95.