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) Crown/Jones Wood Foundry: So far, the critics really like the food at John DeLucie's swanky, totally expensive new restaurant in the old Bruno Jamais space. But, if you're in the neighborhood and want market-driven comfort food with a bit of refinement, consider Jones Wood Foundry, an affordable new gastropub that's just a five-minute cab ride away. You won't find California golden osetra caviar here, but at you can still order a wild mushroom salad or squash soup to start, and a crispy duck or grilled strip loin to finish. At Jones Wood Foundry, all the appetizers are $14 and under, most of the entrees are in the high teens or low 20s, and they serve a killer $17 burger made with dry-aged beef from Debragga. It's not an elegant restaurant like Crown, but the dining room at Jones Wood Foundry is stylish in its own way and very comfortable. [Photo, Photo]
2) Jung Sik/Danji: Tribeca's Jung Sik serves classic Korean dishes like galbi, miyeok, and bibimbap, updated for a white tablecloth setting. Not everyone's on board yet, but fans of the restaurant say that it's one of the city's most exciting new dining destinations. But, if you don't have the $115 to spend on the full tasting menu at Jung Sik, consider Danji in Midtown. Some of the standout dishes at this contemporary Korean restaurant include the mushroom jook (essentially a Korean risotto), the steak tartare (with quail egg yolk and Asian pear), and the spicy whelk (sea snails) salad with buckwheat noodles — Sam Sifton called this dish "totally addictive." The small plates are $6 - $18 each, but you should be able to get a lot of food for about $35 per person. Danji also has a terrific $14 lunch deal. [Photo, Photo]
3) Kutsher's/Mile End: It sounds like Jeffery Chodorow and Zach Kutsher have a hit on their hands with Kutsher's, their new modern Jewish bistro in Tribeca. The room is bright, clean, and comfortable, and the menu riffs on classic dishes like borscht, latkes, and kreplach while staying faithful to the flavors of the original recipes. But if you want inventive Jewish fare for half the price of a meal at Kutsher's, check out dinner at Mile End in Boerum Hill. This tiny, well-reviewed Montreal-style delicatessen serves Jewish celebration foods made with house-cured meats and the best local ingredients. In addition to things like chopped liver and matzo ball soup, Mile End offers kasha varnishkes made with duck confit and veal & chicken meatballs ($14), and smoked chicken with gnocchi, tomatoes, mushrooms, and schmaltz ($19). At dinner, you can also order their famous smoked meat sandwich, served with pickles, slaw, and fries for $18. [Photo, Photo]
4) Brushstroke/Kibo: You can order excellent sushi at David Bouley's ambitious new Japanese restaurant, but most people go for the $85 and $135 kaiseki tastings. Bouley and the Tsuji Culinary Institute famously developed over 10,000 dishes leading up to the opening of the restaurant, and the ones that made it onto the menu are full of exotic ingredients and unique flavor combinations. Although it doesn't aspire to the same culinary heights as Brushstroke, Steve Hanson's Kibo is a solid budget-friendly alternative. The sushi is good to very good, but the real show-stoppers are the robata dishes, the udon, and the rice bowls. International superstar Joel Robuchon consulted on the menu here, and he installed one of his proteges, Yosuke Suga, in the kitchen. Right now, he's serving up well-composed plates of Japanese food where you really taste the quality of the ingredients. The rice dishes are $11-$14, the ramens and most of the grilled dishes are in the mid-teens, and the excellent wagyu ribeye is $29. Go big for $45 a person, or order some sushi and a rice bowl for around $30. [Photo, Photo]
5) Caffe Storico/Salumeria Rosi: At Stephen Star's shiny new restaurant in the New York Historical Society you can order mains like a sirloin steak, crispy chicken, or poached salmon, but the menu also features a number of Italian finger foods, pastas, and panini, ideal for a casual dinner or lunch before or after a stroll through the museum. And if that's what you want, you'll be very happy with the menu at Cesare Casella's much more casual Salumeria Rosi, which is about six blocks away. Most of the small plates are $12 or less (the most expensive item on the menu is a $17 lamb chop), and the menu has a good balance of rustic red-sauce food and lighter vegetable dishes. Small plates are always a slippery slope, but if you're careful, you can have a fine meal for under $35 per person. Order the tripe or the pasta Amatriciana, both $12. [Photo, Photo]
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