Cheap Chow Now


Now that the stock market is “correcting” itself, and bringing the entire economy down with it, you don’t have to be a welfare mom or a laid-off dotcommer to appreciate cheap chow. And you don’t have to believe a certain weekly magazine that deems a restaurant “gently priced” when a single appetizer costs $10, or a daily-newspaper critic who recently praised a Village bistro for “maintaining respect for a student’s purse” when the entrées averaged $20.

What twaddle! If they think a $50 dinner is budget-priced, they’ve got another thought coming. In reality, most of us reserve such dinners for special occasions.

The good news is that there are still plenty of places where the food remains cheap and really, really good. Where $10 still goes a long way. This is an idiosyncratic list of my top 100 favorites, ranked in order. My criteria were simple enough: The food had to be absolutely great, the price right, and the premises, if not luxurious, at least intriguing.

When I set out to do this assignment, little did I realize that I would be on the road every day like a traveling salesman for two solid months—by subway, bus, rental car, and bicycle, and on foot. One day I logged a record 11 hits on my E-ZPass. I was checking out long-buried tips, and revisiting favorite places that I’d reviewed but never returned to (the curse of the critic). Happy was the day when my earlier opinions were confirmed, but there were plenty of sad days too. Thinking there must be great pizza in the vicinity of the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue, I ate seven awful slices. On the other hand, I found gems that lay previously undetected by all but the locals in Canarsie and Williamsbridge, where, as far as I can tell, no Manhattan critic has ever ventured.

Go ahead. Pig out!