12 sure bets for a bargain meal you’ll love.
Cheap Eats By The Dozen
12 sure bets for a bargain meal you’ll love.
By Judith Hausman
Photography by Phillip Ennis
Have a thin wallet but a hearty appetite? Or just like to still be able to make your mortgage payments after a night out dining? Check out our favorite “meal deals”—12 county restaurants offering bargain meals costing under $25. (Oh goody...now we can fill up the SUV and eat out.)
2375 Central Park Avenue • Yonkers
Sometimes the best way to try an unfamiliar cuisine—as Korean is for many of us—is just to spy on the next table and say, “I’ll have what they’re having.” If you’ve never grilled paper-thin slices of beef ($17.99 to $20.99, or $8.99 as part of a lunch box special) over a tabletop hibachi and wrapped them neatly in lettuce leaves, just trust me, you’ll catch on quick. You can dress the bundle with panchan—six or seven condiments or appetizers arranged before you in little dishes, which include long strips of radish salad with plenty of red pepper, bean sprouts lightly dressed with rice wine, crunchy black seaweed with a sweet hint of sesame, a cabbage and a cucumber kimchi, bean paste sauce, which resembles miso, and another sauce of vinegar and soy. If you’re conservative, slurp up jap chae, a Korean national dish of slippery yam starch noodles tossed with bits of vegetables and sweet soy sauce ($13.99 or $6.99 as lunch). Scallion pancakes ($14.99) are toasty with sesame oil and sharp green scallion slices. A nice—and inexpensive—dinner.
409 Mt. Pleasant Avenue • Mamaroneck
tucked behind the main drag in Mamaroneck, not far from its more elaborate cousin restaurant Turquoise, Turkish Meze specializes in those delectable “little dishes” that you nibble and linger over. Bet you can’t eat just one. Scoop up piyaz (white-bean salad) or patlican (grilled-eggplant spread) with pita ($4.95 each). Or try those addictive fat baby dumplings called manti—stuffed with lamb and topped with yogurt and tomato sauce ($5.25). Even the entrées don’t go over $16.95 for pan-seared tuna with Turkish spices, or kebabs at $12.95.
17 East Hartsdale Avenue • Hartsdale
TINY kazu offers japanese seasonal menus,
which are bargains. Treat yourself to soft-shell crab with ponzu sauce for $11.50, or try a “special set” of agedashi dofu (a Japanese dish of deep-fried tofu) for $5 and chirashi zushi (vinegared rice with chopped vegetables, cured fish, roe, etc.) for only $17, or a dish of addictive edamame paired with crunchy tempura for $9.95. The children’s menu is especially good here, too, priced from $6 to $7.50. Yakitori, skewered marinated chicken, or a California roll set with miso soup and rice, will please. Lunch set bento boxes are always a good deal at $6.50 to $9.50.
39 Spring Street • Ossining
watch the cooks working the grill
at this homey, family-owned Portuguese grill. Food is straight-forward and a bargain: half a grilled chicken garnished with spicy shrimp for $10, steak for $12.50 or short ribs for $12. The crunchy cod-fish cakes are addictive and cheap at 75 cents a piece, and the fish of the day, with one exception, is never more than $14. Everything comes with piles of rice, boiled or delicious home-fried sliced potatoes and a side of fresh vegetables. A carafe of vinho verde (semi sparkling wine from grapes picked early and drunk young) or tinto (red) wine is $10. Dessert is a hardy house-made flan, bathed in caramel. Note: If you’re noise sensitive, ask for the small back room at Churrasquieria Ribatejo—it’s quieter.
132 Bronx River Road • Yonkers
at first glance valentino’s menu seems like one of those generic, family-style Italian deals, which means extra-large shareable portions that you dish out yourself. Patience, patience—let the tuxedoed waiter reel off the specials, or tell him what you feel like eating. “We can do that fish oreganata,” he’ll tell you. If it’s fillet of sole, that’ll cost a mere $18; if it’s red snapper, $19.50. “A half portion of seafood salad? That’s fine.” Try those gigantic meatballs for the little guys ($9.50); and for you, the house specialty appetizer ($4.50), a whole fresh artichoke stuffed with herbal meat and bread crumb mix, swimming in an olive-oil laced broth. Valentino’s hops with the early dinner, family crowd. And Valentino himself circulates in his apron, checking if you liked your stuffed chicken breast and escarole.
49 Main Street • Tarrytown
west indian cuisine isn’t all goat,
all spice and ultra-hot Scotch bonnet peppers, although the curried goat at Chows Caribbean is pretty darn good, and a deal at $9.45. The comforting chicken soup is a meal-in-a-bowl, filled with chunks of pumpkin, chicken, turnips and flour dumplings ($6.75). Eschovitch fish, doused with vinegar and smothered in onions, comes with yellow rice or rice and “peas,” as Jamaicans call beans, for $7. Save room and $4 for a warm gizarda, a coconut-and-ginger pastry that’s wonderful with mango-pineapple ice cream on top. The mood is sedate and the background music is reggae, of course.
Latin American Café
134 East Post Road • White Plains
you gotta love a cuisine that affectionately calls its signature dish “ropa vieja.” The dish of shredded beef and sop-it-up sauce ($12.95, and about half that at lunch) is richly flavored but not too spicy. The hand-lettered and illustrated signs at Latin American Café advertise all the Cuban specialties, from cod to pig’s feet. Sip refreshing fruit shakes, or batidos, with or without milk ($2 to $3). You’ll have a choice of three types of rice and beans, plantains and a salad topped with pink pickled onions for $9.95. Try a Cuban sandwich for about $6.50.
102 Fox Island Road • Port Chester
if you can find f.i.s.h. (the name is an acronym for Fox Island Seafood House), you’ll be rewarded with a marina view and an exotic martini on the deck. Careful though—specials can be pricey. Here’s the satisfying strategy: the appetizers, such as the lobster fra diavolo for $15 and the cioppino (steamed shrimp and calamari in a spicy tomato lobster sauce) for $10, are large enough to make a meal. Add a few featured oysters from the raw bar, a half order of lobster carbonara at $11, or a fabulously chunky clam chowder for $6, and you’re good to go.
115 Midland Avenue • Port Chester
273 North Avenue • New Rochelle
mexican and southwest-mexican hybrids have spread steadily in our area, but no coyote could stay flaco (skinny) eating here. Resembling neither the subtle cuisine of Like Water for Chocolate nor a taco stand, both the New Rochelle and the Port Chester branches of Coyote Flaco serve all the favorites: enchiladas rojas with rice and refried beans ($7.95 lunch, $11.95 dinner); a sizzling fajitas festival of steak, shrimp and chicken ($9.75 to $18.95); big gooey quesadillas, packed with mushrooms and Nopalitos, diced cactus leaves, ($5.95 lunch, $7.95 dinner); and appetizers complete enough to serve as small dinners. Try the crumbly chicken tamal, topped with green tomatillo sauce and cheese, which is just spicy enough ($6.95).
1 North Main Street • Tarrytown • (914) 524-9687
take one bite of a stuffed grape leaf, close your eyes, and
in a moment you’ll be in a taverna on the sidewalk in Athens. If the sun isn’t shining, you can imagine you’re in Greece by observing the wonderful murals of sporting dolphins and a Greek seaport. Lefteris in Tarrytown is one of the few Greek restaurants in the county that is not a diner. The huge Aegean platter combining garlicky moussaka, creamy-topped pastitsio, flaky spinach pie and salty gyro is also accompanied by feta-dotted Greek salad, pita bread, rice or fries, all for $14.95. The souvlaki platter is $10.95, and a sandwich is just $5.25.
The Piper’s Kilt
433 White Plains Road • Eastchester • (914) 961-9815
do we ever really outgrow our need for a cheeseburger?
The Piper’s Kilt will take you back in time and keep your burger blood level up where it should be. It’s a real-deal tavern all right, even with the cigarettes now outlawed. The “Eastchester” deserves its renown—half a pound of beef piled with cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato with sides of chili and mixed onion rings and fries for $7.50. Knockwurst, a daily special, with mashed potatos and soup or salad, is $5.95 to $8.95, and homemade bread pudding for dessert runs $3.25. On top of that, there are pitchers of draft beer—10 different ones, including Harp and Guinness. It’s always old-home week here, and the kids will eat it up.
325 South Riverside Avenue • Croton-on-Hudson • (914) 271-5555
can you go just a little more chic and still not break the bank? Even the most modern palate will find Ümami fun. Five dollars buys the mac’ and cheese of your dreams, made from scratch with black and white truffle oil, and $8 will get you Peking duck quesadillas, a cross-cultural tour de force. Whether seated in the bright blue dining room or on the covered patio, try the insidious $12 Evil Jungle Prince, a spicy Thai-style curry, or garlic ahi (tuna loin steak rolled in sesame seeds over rice with wasabi crème fraîche and kalbi sauce) for $16. The homemade potato chips are worth the trip alone.
With all the money she's saved eating cheap, Judith Hausman, a food critic for the Journal News (Gannett Newspapers), plans to splurge on haute cuisine in the near future.