Because the choice shouldn’t be between restaurants where Chipotle and Per Se, here are a few spots that have embraced the middle ground.
10. Moules-frites @ Schiller’s Liquor Bar (Lower East Side), $18 – Same Parisian-bistro vibe as at Keith McNally’s Balthazar and Pastis, but you’ll save yourself some cash, a two-hour wait, and any shame involved in being stingy with your wine selection (the list is divided into “cheap,” “decent,” and “good”). 9. Hamburger @ J.G. Melon (Upper East Side), $8.50 – Nothing can pack in hoards of NYC prepsters like this UES landmark’s juicy burger. 8. Romanian skirt steak @ Delicatessen (Soho), $17 – Forget that foodies critically panned it and that a neighbor urinated on the glass roof; with nothing on the menu over $20, a lively atmosphere, and plenty of swank space, it’s little surprise that Delicatessen is almost always packed.
7. Open filet mignon grilled taco with roasted poblanos, onion confit, rice and beans @ Manana (Upper East Side), $23 – Good eats and eurotrash eye candy come together at this Mexican spot from the folks behind Serafina and Geisha. 6. Steak frites @ L’Express (Flatiron), $19.50 – Nothing like hearty protein and carbs at 4 a.m. 5. Dutch-style pancake with pears and Canadian bacon @ Prune (East Village), $14 – A must for brunch, the baked pancake is so good it’s not only worth the wait, but worth dealing with the diminutive spot’s stern no-substitution policy. 4. Chicken dolsot bibimbop @ Bonjoo (East Village), $12.95 – Cheap enough to order as take-out, the traditional Korean chicken bibimbop is served sizzling hot in a heavy stone bowl. 3. Zucchini and heirloom tomato lasagna @ Pure Food and Wine (Flatiron), $24 – Not for nothing does outspoken meat lover Giselle Bundchen have a house account at this surprisingly satisfying raw and vegan spot. 2. Grilled mushrooms, mozzarella, pesto & spinach panino @ ‘inoteca (Lower East Side), $11 – Carbs, vino, a bustling corner LES location, and communal seating make this a perfect before-the-bars meal. 1. Sweet & crispy jumbo shrimp at Buddakan (Chelsea), $24 – A sceney spot with eats, cocktails, and décor likely to impress even the most jaded New Yorker.