Don't have the cash flow right now to try any of the cool new restaurants you read about? Or simply can't get into any of them on a busy night? Here are a few recommendations for inexpensive, accessible alternatives to five of the hottest new places in town.
1) Torrisi Italian Specialties/The Meatball Shop: Everyone is dying to get a table at Torrisi these days. But if the $50 prix fixe is still a bit out of your price range, or if the notoriously long wait is putting a damper on your night out, consider a trip to the Meatball Shop, just a few blocks away. Here you will also find soulful red-sauce fare from an experienced two-man team of New York restaurant vets. For $25 dollars, you can load up on enough meatballs, pastas, salads, and Italian-style sides and vegetables to approximate the Torrisi experience, at less than half the price. It’s true, the wait at the Meatball Shop can also be a bit long at times, but at least they have a fun beer and wine bar where you can drink while you wait for a table, and even order food too. [Read more: Torrisi, The Meatball Shop]
2) The Lion/Fedora: The Lion is certainly one of the hardest tables to get in Manhattan (at the moment). But, for those that want the charm of a classic West Village tavern/eatery without the steep prices, head over to nearby old-timer Fedora restaurant. Fedora has a similar retro vibe as the Lion, except the dining room here has actually survived, untouched, for over 60 years. The drinks at the bar are strong, and the menu features a standard selection of chops, steak-house style sides, and old school Italian entrées, all lovingly made by the restaurant’s aged chef-owner. Some may quibble about the unevenness of the menu, but come on – you weren’t going to go to the Lion for the food, were you? [Read More: The Lion, Fedora]
3) Pulino's/ Lil' Frankie's: There’s really no substitute for the masterfully-lit, convivial dining room at Pulino’s, but if it's solid wood-fired pizzas, pastas, and antipasti you crave, head to Lil' Frankie's, just three blocks away on 1st and 1st. Like Pulino’s the menu works best when you order lots of different things, and if you go in a large enough group everyone can have a great time and taste a lot of food for under $20 a head. If Pulino’s captures the Bowery, 2010, Lil' Frankie’s is pure East Village, 2001, when things were just a little bit looser. [Read more: Pulino's, Lil' Frankie's]
4) Colicchio & Sons/The Green Table: Fans of Colicchio’s American food with the crazy market-driven ingredient-combos will find a lot to like at The Green Table, the postage stamp-sized restaurant in the Chelsea Market right across the street. There’s a lot less in the way of entrées with premium proteins here, but there are tons of inspired seasonal vegetable dishes, pizzas, pastas, sandwiches and mains, all priced in the teens. Like Tom’s restaurant, the desserts and beer selection at Green Table are also two of the menu’s shining stars. And, for the cost of one single $125 tasting menu at Colicchio & Sons, you and few friends could have an epic two or three course dinner with booze. [Read More: Colicchio & Sons]
5) Kenmare/Mangiami: If you can't get into Kenmare, consider Mangiami on the LES, which boasts a similarly cavernous feel and relaxed but chic dining room. The menu here features inexpensive and generally stellar pastas, sandwiches, and salads, and for those seeking Kenmare's solid roast chicken, steak and fish entrees, Mangiani serves up all of those too — most are priced under $20. Like Kenmare, the owner of Mangiami also has a nightlife background, so expect a great, lively soundtrack, and equally beautiful clientele. [Read more: Kenmare]