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How to Dine Cheaply and Well in New York: Four Neighborhoods in Manhattan

New York restaurant prices are um, a little higher than the national average. As you cruise the streets of midtown Manhattan, sticker shock may set in as you read menu after menu with entrees above $20, and sometimes even into the three figures.

But...New York has hundreds of decent restaurants where a good meal costs anywhere from $5 to $15. I am talking about sit-down, eat-on-china places that provide fine dining experiences in both atmosphere and food.

It would be impossible to list all the choices here--that would take a book--so I'll just tell you the neighborhoods and turn you loose. And we won't even get into the thousands of additional choices in the Outer Boroughs, which include many of my favorite places to eat. And just to prove it can be done, I'll start with a neighborhood in pricy Midtown.

1. Ninth Avenue in the 40s: One of New York's many foods-of-all-nations areas, Ninth Avenue is unusual in that the communities whose restaurants are here mostly live elsewhere. Choices include exotics like Indonesian and Turkish, as well as the more common Thai, Italian, Vietnamese, Mexican, and even Japanese (not always the most frugal of cuisines).

2. Chinatown: Once contained west of the Bowery and south of Canal, this ever-growing neighborhood now reaches nearly to Houston going north, and east at least as far as Essex. Many of he best choices are hole-in-the-wall places along winding alleys. While Chinese choices far outnumber anything else, you will find other Asian cuisines represented.

My son's favorite restaurant in the entire US is the tiny Grand Sichuan, on the northeast corner of Bowery and Canal, opposite the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge: spicy and authentic food, friendly and fast service, bare-bones atmosphere, and extremely low prices.

This neighborhood is also a good choice if you're seeking a vegetarian restaurant; there are at least half a dozen Chinese restaurants where your food will never be prepared alongside pork or beef (lots of fake meat on the menu, though).

3. East Village. Second Avenue from about 3rd to 10th street offers the remnant of the once-vast Eastern European neighborhood. Large, wholesome platters of stuffed cabbage and pierogi can be found at places like the Veselka or the Kiev. And there's the usual assortment of Thai, Italian, and other choices. Around the corner, 6th Street between First and Second Avenue has been an Indian food lover's delight for over twenty years. Along Saint Mark's Place/Eight Street, you can usually find good Middle or Far Eastern among the constantly changing choices.

4. Upper West side: Mixed in among the chi-chi eateries along Broadway, Amsterdam, and Columbus, starting in the 70s and going all the way up into Harlem, are many inexpensive and quite decent Chinese, African, Cuban, and other restaurants. Prices tend to drop as you go north, but good choices can be found even in the 80s.

This article isn't intended to be comprehensive; other neighborhoods also offer many choices; even in the priciest neighborhoods, you can get good food at reasonable prices, if you look carefully. Happy eating!

Shel Horowitz, Editor of Global Travel Review and owner of, is the author of the e-book, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook, and the creator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign.

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