Food & Drink

How to Actually Eat an Affordable Meal at NYC's Michelin-Starred Restaurants

Published On 04/23/2015 Published On 04/23/2015
Polipo at Marea | Ted Axelrod
Francesco Tonelli/Courtesy of Wicked Good Media

Eleven Madison Park

Midtown West

Approximate cost per guest: $100 for an appetizer, entree, and dessert

It is possible to dine at EMP without a reservation -- just eat in the lounge. Boasting a 12-seat bar, plus a plush leather banquette flanked by wooden tables, the drop-in-only space makes for an equally luxe experience. Chef Daniel Humm’s lounge menu is succinct -- four each of appetizers and main courses, two vegetable sides, and three desserts -- with prices ranging from $24 to $56. It’s by no means cheap, but you can easily cover a three-course meal for two (plus cocktails!) with the $295 required for the prix fixe.

Jean-Georges Restaurant


Midtown West

Approximate cost per guest: $52 for two courses at lunch

At $52 for two courses, lunch at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Central Park gem feels like a downright steal when compared to the $138 dinner (it’s a whopping $218 for the tasting of JG signatures). Diners will find many of the same premium dishes, too, like yellowfin tuna ribbons, spicy peekytoe crab salad or, for an extra $12, four small themed desserts (chocolate, tropical, etc).

Daniel Krieger/Courtesy of Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin

Midtown West

Approximate cost per guest: $49 for the lunch tasting

Eat well, do good, and save money -- that sums up the City Harvest lunch at chef Eric Ripert’s revered French restaurant. Available weekdays at Le Bernardin’s lofty front lounge, the three courses not only offer a budget-friendly taste of Ripert’s award-winning seafood preparations (ingredients change weekly), but $5 from every meal also gets donated to the menu’s namesake nonprofit.

Nathan Rawlinson/Courtesy of The Modern

The Modern

Midtown West

Approximate cost per guest: Around $58 for a shared appetizer and two entrees

After longtime executive chef Gabriel Kreuther left to open his eponymous restaurant (which received its own one-star nod), Danny Meyer tapped Abram Bissell to lead the kitchen at The Modern, a move that gave it a Michelin bump. The newly minted two-star venue recently reopened after a month-long renovation that included an upgrade of the bar area, where a by-the-dish menu is available. With 27 items to choose from and all but one costing under $40 (prices include hospitality, too), it’s an economical way to sample Bissell’s playful, ingredient-focused fare for less.

Courtesy of Jungsik



Approximate cost per guest: $82 for five of the most expensive items

Using Jungsik’s “choice” menu, guests can essentially craft their very own tasting of chef Jung Sik Yim’s modern Korean cooking. Even if you order the priciest dishes from each category (appetizer, rice, seafood, meat, and dessert), you can still come out ahead of the normal $190-per-person tasting by splitting the bill.

Noah Fecks


Midtown West

Approximate cost per guest: $52 for a two-course lunch prix fixe

The $52 two-course power lunch at Michael White’s spendy Midtown establishment is nearly half the cost of the most expensive dinner entree, a whole branzino for two at $98. It’s also quite extensive, with a crudi or antipasti as the first course and pasta or protein as the second. There’s plenty to choose from, like Marea’s signature octopus fusilli, a Creekstone Farm sirloin, or seared scallops with cauliflower.

Signe Birck


Upper East Side

Approximate cost per guest: Around $75 for a shared appetizer and individual entree

No time (or cash) for the sit-down tasting at Daniel Boulud’s double-starred flagship? Snag a seat in the bar and lounge room, where you can sample surprisingly generous dishes à la carte, ranging from $33 to $66. It’ll feel like a more leisurely affair here, but the staff doesn’t skimp on hospitality -- you’ll be getting the same winning service as prix fixe diners, plus an elegant, jazzy ambiance.


West Village

Approximate cost per guest: You'll probably want five items at least, which runs you on average up to $105

When uni is the star ingredient, it’s no surprise that a meal at this unmarked sushi den doesn’t come cheap. But unlike at fellow two-star winner Ichimura at Brushstroke (where the omakase starts at $195), Soto diners can dine à la carte. That means access to master Sotohiro Kosugi’s refined sea urchin delicacies at $16 to $26 a pop.

Nathan Rawlinson


Upper West Side

Approximate cost per guest: $58 if it's before 6:30pm, on a Sunday, or you're eating veggies

There are a number of ways to sample John Fraser’s vegetable-forward cooking at a fraction of the cost. Eat early (a pre-theater option is available daily through 6:30pm), eat on Sundays (when there’s a three-course “Sundae Suppa”), or eat vegetarian (Dovetail hosts an all-veg four-course tasting on Mondays) -- all three are priced at $58 per person, well below the usual $145 price tag.

Kelly Campbell/Courtesy of BataliI & Bastianich Hospitality Group


West Village

Approximate cost per guest: $49 for a four-course tasting (if the whole table participates)

The Batali-Bastianich powerhouse pares down its individual prices in the afternoon, but wallet-watching diners should opt for the $49 tasting, a four-course meal that closes with the enoteca’s beloved olive oil cake. The only caveat? The entire table must participate in order to get the deal.



Midtown West

Approximate cost per guest: $42 for two courses at lunch

Bryce Shuman has received a lot of recognition for his creative New American cooking, but dining at his stylish bi-level restaurant isn’t limited to big spenders. A two-course lunch is offered on weekdays for $42, though if you’re set on dinner, arriving early saves money as well -- there’s a pre-theater menu for $65 (with two courses compared to the $110 four-course dinner). You’ll want to dole out extra cash for a cocktail -- general manager Eamon Rockey’s carefully crafted drinks (in particular, the Milk Punch) are not to be missed.

Courtesy of 15 East

15 East

Union Square

Approximate cost per guest: $35 for omakase at lunch

Not only is the afternoon a good time to eat on the cheap at this pristine fish den, it’s also when you get the best deal overall -- and the proof is in the math. The nighttime sushi omakase costs $65 for 10 pieces; the lunch option is $35 for seven pieces, plus half a roll. Average that out and the nigiri rings up to $6.50 each at dinner, but only $5 each at lunch -- and that’s not even counting the extra half-roll.



Approximate cost per guest: Under $50, if you order strategically

At $65, Carbone’s veal Parm may be out of budget, but order smartly with a friend at Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi’s retro red-sauce palace and your table of two can actually get away with dining for less than $100. A combination of appetizer (chopped salad, $18), pasta (spicy rigatoni vodka, $29) and meat (cherry pepper ribs, $38) comes out to $42 person -- plus, the portions are as extravagant as the prices, so you’ll likely be walking out with leftovers.

Courtesy of Gotham Bar and Grill

Gotham Bar and Grill

Union Square

Approximate cost per guest: Up to $38 for three courses at lunch

Lunch is the best time to eat affordably at this New American mainstay helmed by Alfred Portale. Entrees max out at $27 for dishes that will actually fill you up: local albacore tuna nicoise, sweet corn tortellini, and the Gotham burger (fries included), for example. There’s also Gotham’s famed greenmarket lunch, a $38 three-course meal highlighting ingredients sourced from the nearby Union Square farmers market.

La Vara

La Vara

Cobble Hill

Approximate cost per guest: Roughly $35 -- the average cost is $14 per dish, and you could easily get by on five dishes split between two people

The plates at Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s beloved Brooklyn tapas joint are meant to be shared, so pool your dinner budget with some friends and you can can cobble together an excellent Spanish spread -- ranging from $4 spiced chickpeas to $30 roasted suckling pig -- at a pretty reasonable rate.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Eleven Madison Park 11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010 (Flatiron)

There is no shortage of fine dining in New York City, but you'll be hard pressed to find any place better than Eleven Madison Park to splurge on a fancy meal. The sophisticated 7-9 course seasonal tasting menu features all local ingredients, with creative plays on modern American cuisine. As if the meal wasn't impressive enough on it's own, EMP also offers an unbeatable view of Madison Square Park.

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2. Jean-Georges 1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023 (Midtown)

There are plenty of fine dining opportunities in New York City, but none of them can compare to Jean-Georges. Since its opening to critical acclaim in 1997, Jean-Georges has been known for its beautifully crafted dishes that blend French, American, and Asian cultural influences. The menu here changes seasonally and is created with locally sourced ingredients to ensure that every visitor can enjoy a truly exceptional meal.

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3. Le Bernardin 155 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown West)

Le Bernardin is the Meryl Streep of the New York restaurant scene. It has all the necessary accolades for being the best (three Michelin stars, seven James Beard awards), and other restaurants don’t even try to compete with it. Chef Eric Ripert has mastered the art of seafood in the form of a caviar-heavy prix fixe menu that tastes best with the optional wine pairing. Add white tablecloths and five-star service, and you’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime dinner.

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4. The Modern 9 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown East)

While the art decor is definitely one of highlights of The Modern’s glass-lined dining room, the best part has to be its by-the-dish menu. With 21 items to choose from (and all but one under $30), Modern’s menu offers an affordable meal in the midst of decor even Mark Cuban couldn’t afford.

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5. Jungsik 2 Harrison St, New York, NY 10013 (Tribeca)

Chef and owner Jungsik Kim has invented his own brand of Korean cuisine at this high-end Tribeca restaurant. The multi-course tasting menu features dishes like foie gras black truffle bibimbap and poached egg with parmesan foam, and there’s an à la carte menu if you don’t want to commit to multiple courses. A 40-plus page wine list and white tablecloths round out the refined dining experience.

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6. Marea 240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10023 (Midtown West)

Michael White’s seafood-centric destination off Central Park aims to impress with its elegant interior and high-end Italian ingredients. The house-made pastas will have you coming back for more, like the fusilli with red wine-braised octopus and bone marrow, an elevated homage to surf-n-turf with baby octopus braised in red wine and buttery Pat LaFrieda marrow.

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7. Daniel 60 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065 (Upper East Side)

Daniel is lauded Chef Daniel Boulud's renowned restaurant on the Upper East Side, serving seasonal French cuisine with a side of elegant ambiance. Expect to pair world-class wines with a number of unique dishes, or grab a cocktail and late-night dessert at the swank bar/lounge. A popular location for weddings and rehearsal dinners, Daniel is a great place to bring a date when you have a little extra cash to spend.

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8. Soto 357 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

Clean presentations of fresh fish and a focus on uni as a star ingredient help Soto stand apart from other sushi contenders (its two Michelin stars don't hurt either). Settle in for an omakase experience or go rogue on the a la carte selections -- you won't regret either.

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9. Dovetail 103 W 77th St, new york, NY 10024 (Upper West Side)

Chef-owned by a 31-year-old French Laundry vet, DT merges elegant trappings (vestigial stone archway, satin curtains, etc), with modern'd-up, steel-and-wood furniture and jeans-friendly service -- as if the kid's table collided with Masterpiece Theater.

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10. Babbo 110 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10011 (West Village)

Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant is a charming former carriage house in the West Village serving high-end Italian fare with an elevated, chef-inspired twist on classic dishes. The pasta here is certainly worth the hype, like the pillowy potato gnocchi, cuddled in shreds of tender oxtail that’s been sautéed in a robust red wine and tomato-based ragu.

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11. Betony 41 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown West)

Betony is a new-American, chic grubspot that's doling out fresh and innovative eats in a 35-seat bar and lounge, and 85-seat dining room.

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12. 15 East 15 E 15th St, New York, NY 10003 (Union Square)

Choose your own adventure: the dinner sushi omakase at this pristine fish den costs $65 for 10 pieces; the lunch option is $35 for seven pieces, plus half a roll. Excellent service and a clean, modern interior mean that all you'll be focused on is the fish.

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13. Carbone 181 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012 (Greenwich Village)

With all due respect to Italian grandmothers everywhere, Carbone -- under the leadership of Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick -- may just have the best red sauce, ever. It's not a surprise that this Greenwich Village restaurant requires a reservation a month in advance. If you can get in, be sure to order the outstanding spicy rigatoni vodka. You can believe the Instagram hype.

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14. Gotham Bar and Grill 12 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003 (Greenwich Village)

Since 1985, French-trained chef Alfred Portale has helmed the kitchen at this iconic Greenwich Village eatery. Gotham serves Michelin-rated American eats in a trendy and palatial space, defined by its relaxed sense of elegance -- black-framed windows, a granite bar, soft lighting. The 12th st. staple serves expertly prepared dishes like steak frites, tartare, and foie gras, each presented with a careful attention to detail, while the sommeliers' personalized recommendations off the house-curated wine list ensure the perfect pairing. For those mainly looking to drink, there is a full menu of house-cocktails available, while the most indulgent of the liquor options comes in the form of Gotham's famous dark chocolate bonbons, hand-made by the kitchen's very own chocolatiers, and filled with rosé champagne.

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15. La Vara 268 Clinton St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

An intimate Brooklyn tapas spot that’s Michelin starred, but still affordable, La Vara's a quaint, Spanish-infused restaurant doling out a multitude of Moorish and Jewish dishes. The plates at Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s beloved joint are meant to be shared, making it a perfect venue for both small and large groups. Be sure to try the migas -- chorizo and bread crumbs sauteed with grapes, onions, and capers.



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