Do you have a hot date coming up, but very little money to spend on that special someone? Don't worry — you can still have a lot of food-related fun in this city, even if you are flat broke. Here's a guide to five dates that feature drinks, dinner, and dessert at different bars and restaurants throughout the city. You won't find any steaks or lobsters here, but you should be able to try some new and good things for around $20 per person.
5) Nautical West Village:
Set sail on a romantic, cash-strapped adventure in one of Manhattan's most charming neighborhoods!
The Rusty Knot Ken Friedman's bar on the West Side Highway is a great place to start a date: it's cool, but not too cool, the drinks are cheap, and the decor is slightly cheesy. So, if you run out of things to say, you can always make a joke about the fisherman junk on the walls. Order a few beers (priced $4-$7), settle into a booth, select some yacht rock from the juke box, and let the tiki work its magic.
Note 1: Always best to show up before the party bus gets there.
Note 2: The Knot has a two-for-one beer and mixed drinks special Monday - Friday from 5:30 - 7:30 PM .
A Salt & Battery: Man, this place serves some great fish and chips. The portions are big, and this is some heavy food, so just share one order of the sole or the cod bites (both $10). The window is a great place for people watching, and the stereo is usually bumping choice British pop music.
Sockerbit: If you've made it this far, you really should keep the nautical theme going. So, head to this nearby Scandinavian sweets shop and get a bag of artisanal Swedish fish for dessert. (Or some candy crocodiles.) Most candies are $3.25 per quarter pound bag.
4) Downtown, Uptown:
Enjoy the best cheap food and drink of downtown Manhattan, in the tony surroundings of the Upper West Side!
Fatty Crab: Zak Pelaccio's Malaysian restaurant has a fine Monday-Friday happy hour special: $6 mixed well drinks (including Malaysian margaritas), $5 bottles of Tsing Tao, and $3 PBR tallboys. This place is a favorite of UWS families, but you probably won't see any kids here during happy hour — they'll all be at home watching Sesame Street.
Epicerie Boulud: Boulud Sud is where all the Upper West Side gourmands are eating these days. But, if you want to check out the latest from Daniel Boulud at a much more reasonable price, head to its sister establishment Epicerie Boulud right next door. This market offers a number of great prepared foods to stay or to take away, including the DBGB Dog ($5.90) — it's the same well-dressed sausage that's served at Boulud's popular Bowery restaurant.
Momofuku Milk Bar: Milk Bar is a really popular date night spot, because the desserts are much more interesting than what's being served in a lot of the city's restaurants. All your favorites from the East Village and Midtown stores are here, and most treats are under $6.
3) Broke in the 'Burg:
In Brooklyn, $20 feels like $40 of fun!
Hotel Delmano: This is a sexy, sexy bar with incredible cocktails that you probably can't order if you're broke. The good thing, though, is that they also have a number of solid, reasonably priced beers (you can order a Tecate, if you like). Sip these while you enjoy the hip scene, the cool old-timey space, and the Fleetwood Mac on the stereo.
Mable's Smokehouse: Mable's serves very good Texas-style barbecue, in a large warehouse space that looks like a hipster version of the Hee Haw set, but in a good way. Get the pulled pork or brisket sandwiches (both $10), which each include a side, slaw, and pickles.
Mast Brothers Chocolate: And finish it all off with a trip to this charming confectioner just a few blocks away. You can share a bar of their fancy pants chocolate for $5 each. Hold on to the paper wrapper for a memento of your broke date.
Note: Girls generally love this place.
2) Salty 14th Street:
A wonderland of broke person food and drink awaits you on this busy stretch of the East Village!
The Blarney Cove This is a real, honest-to-god dive bar, with '70s wood paneling, gruff bartenders, friendly drunks, and a bangin' juke box. If you and your date like bars with a sense of history and a lot of character, you're going to love this place. The drinks are very cheap.
Note: Late at night, this place can be filled with NYU students making jackasses out of themselves.
Baohaus 2: Eddie Huang's bun shop is tiny and no-frills, but it has a fun energy, especially if the chef is in the house. And, most importantly, the food is good. Get a few of the Birdhaus or Chairman baos ($3 each), and a side of the taro fries ($3.50).
Led Zeppole: Top off your evening of cheap thrills on 14th Street with a trip to Sal Basille and Francis Garcia's carnival food shop Led Zeppole. The cannoli ($1.50/$3) and funnel cakes ($4) are good choices, but make sure to order the deep fried Oreos (3 for $3) if you like that sort of thing.
1) The Soho Shuffle:
Soho on no dough!
Alidoro: People go absolutely cray for this Italian deli on Sullivan Street. Every sandwich is prepared to order by the owner, who uses only the best imported goods. The sandwiches are really big, so they're good for sharing. Try the Lucia (prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, sweet roasted peppers), on fresh focaccia for $10.50. Eat it at the cafe table if there's space, or take it to the park next door.
Grandaisy: What better way to complement a perfect Italian sandwich, than with a delicious Italian-style pastry for dessert? Grandaisy is still one of NYC's best bakeries. Their banchierno al cioccolato (hazelnut cake with chocolate chips) is superb and only $4.
The Ear Inn: Broke people have been drinking beer here for over a hundred years. The Ear Inn serves a great pint of Guinness, and the space is filled with a lot of cool historical knick knacks. It also has a somewhat romantic location, just a block away from the Hudson River on an unusual stretch of Spring Street.