The 10 Best $10-and-Under Dishes of 2011


The end of the year usually sees a lot of money being spent, whether on holiday gifts or new outfits or doling out bonuses to dutiful employees. So with 2012 just beginning, it’s probably time to save some dough. While New York City might be expensive, you can still eat quite well for cheap. Below are my favorite dishes from 2011 that were all $10 and under. As you’ll see, many of the dishes pictured are appetizers and snacks, since it’s still tricky to find a complete meal for under 10 bucks in this city. But, hey, isn’t eating light another resolution you’re trying to keep in 2012?

10. Chilled Corn Soup at Ellabess: Although I didn’t love everything at Ellabess, I was a big fan of the corn soup garnished with house-made queso fresco and a snowdrift of shaved truffles. This $10 sweet ode to golden kernels isn’t on the menu now as corn’s out of season, but keep this filed away till summer. 153 Elizabeth Street, 212-925-5559

9. Egg Salad Sandwich at the Cannibal: Confession — I once hated egg salad with a passion. For years, I shunned the gloopy, mayo-laden, beige-colored concoction. But then I went to the Cannibal and changed my tune. Here, the eggs are minced really fine and walloped with green curry paste, answering the salad’s prayers it didn’t know it was praying for. A sprinkling of cilantro adds depth, making this one tasty, life-changing $9 egg salad sandwich. 113 East 29th Street, 212-686-5480

8. Montanara Pizza at Forcella: Some of the pies at Brooklyn’s (and now Manhattan’s) Forcella can be hit-or-miss, but you can’t go wrong with the montanara, the deep-fried pie that’s a steal at 10 bucks. The dough is submerged in oil, then sauced and topped with mozzarella, and then baked. Crispy, chewy, gooey: delicious. 485 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn, 718-388-8820

7. Croissants at Mille-Feuille: French bakery Mille-Feille opened this past spring and their ultra-buttery, flaky croissants quickly won a place in my heart. This has become my go-to spot for a decadent breakfast splurge — calories, not money, that is. A croissant here will only set you back $2.35. 552 LaGuardia Place, 212-533-4698

6. Thyme-Stuffed Squid at Mas (la grillade): The fare at Galen Zamarra’s new grill-centric restaurant is subtle and refined, with the $10 grilled squid appetizer a perfect example. Bay leaves are stuffed into whole squid, imparting a gentle musky flavor with just a hint of smoke. 28 Seventh Avenue South, 212-255-1795

5. Chang-An Spicy Tofu at Xi’an Famous Foods: This is one of the best deals for a light lunch in the city, yet we only discovered this $2 gem this year. A plastic container is filled high with silken, jiggly tofu, topped with a sour chile broth and a slick of chile oil, and garnished with cilantro stems and leaves. It’s hot but not searingly spicy, and will definitely make an excellent nasal-clearer this cold season. 81 St. Marks Place, 212-786-2068

4. Devil’s Food Cake at the Dutch: This was a tough one, because the Dutch’s $5 little oyster sandwiches were pretty damn delicious, but in terms of bang for your buck, I’ve got to go with pastry chef Kierin Baldwin’s $10 hunkering slice of devil’s food cake with black pepper boiled icing (with a side of White Russian ice cream). Perfectly chocolaty and with a great crumb, it’s the ideal chocolate cake. 131 Sullivan Street, 212-677-6200

3. Chicharrónes at Calyer: Calyer specializes in Latin American small plates, and one of my favorite eats here was the chicharrónes, priced at only $7. The puffed-up pig skin comes in a bowl smeared with white-bean puree, while an anchovy vinaigrette helps cut the richness. Brussels sprout leaves are scattered on top for a really unique and delicious dish. 92 Calyer Street, Brooklyn, 347-899-6323

2. Pla Goong at Zabb Elee: This steamed-shrimp salad is coated with a gentle lime dressing and lashed with lemongrass and sliced red chilies. It’s spicy, tangy, and sweet, and it has a refreshing herbal kick, illustrating the way in which Thai food captures so many flavors at once. And it makes for a full meal for only $9! 75 Second Avenue, 212-505-9533

1. Chawan-Mushi at Brushstroke. This broth-topped egg custard with crab at David Bouley’s kaiseki-style restaurant was so good I wrote a poem about it (in case you forgot, it went Bouley, marry me / So you can cook this nightly / Bowl of ecstasy) and was one of my favorite dishes of the year. Subtle and elegant, but wholly comforting. It’s not a large portion, but at $9, why not order two? 30 Hudson Street, 212-791-3771