Trying to plan a bachelorette weekend in NYC and absolutely overwhelmed by your restaurant choices? Trust me, as a New Yorker I feel your pain. Just deciding where to go to dinner often requires a flow chart. I need to consider location, price, ambiance, and even the size of the restaurant, read reviews on Yelp, check New York magazine for the latest openings…it’s too much! I keep lists of places I’ve enjoyed just to have a few options on the tip of tongue in a pinch. I can’t imagine how you, a NYC visitor, must feel. So here you go: my recommendations for affordable NYC dining, all chosen with your bachelorette party in mind.
I have to preface this by saying that this list is by no means complete. NYC is just too big and there are too many amazing restaurants, with new ones opening every day. So this list is very personal to me. It’s based on my experiences and the places I like. Please leave me suggestions in the comments for the inevitable part 2!
P.S. Part 2 has arrived! Click here for more dinner recommendations, a few unique drinking spots and more yummy treats.
First, let’s talk about cost. I consider an affordable entree in NYC to be $15 and the average beer will set you back $6-$8. I know, I know. As a girl who has ordered a Long Island Iced Tea at a bowling alley in North Carolina for $4, I feel your pain. Here, that same drink will set you back $12 at some bars. So set your budget or your expectations accordingly. But don’t despair. There are deals to be found if you know where to look and you can absolutely have amazing food and an amazing time without shelling out $100 a person on dinner. All the restaurants I’ve chosen here are affordable and delicious.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that many mind-blowing NYC restaurants are incredibly tiny. I’m talking 10 seats or just counter service! So if you have a big group to accomodate, you need to keep the size of the restaurant in mind.
Lastly: reservations, reservations, reservations. Live and die by Open Table, a great website for booking reservations online or on your phone in a snap.
Otto: Mario Batali’s West Village spot is called a pizzeria, but take a look at the menu and you’ll see it goes far beyond pizza. The price tag also doesn’t match how divine the food really is (personal pizzas run $7-$14). Start with the braised pork shoulder with pappardelle and finish with the olive oil gelato—trust me! This gelato is one of my favorite things to share with visitors. They always seem nervous before their first bite, but then can’t stop eating this fruity, tangy concoction. The cavernous Tuscan-style dining room makes this a great choice for big groups.
Nai Tapas: This East Village joint is small, but could accommodate a big party with advanced notice and a reservation. The tapas plates are delicious, authentically Spanish and perfect for sharing along with pitchers of sangria. If you’re daring, try the pulpo a la gallega (octopus) or for something a bit tamer but still delightful go with the pan tumaca (toasts with serrano ham, manchego cheese and tomato). Either way, make sure to order their champagne sangria—it’s a celebration in your mouth. Thursday and Saturday nights have live flamenco shows. Tapas portions run about $7 each and full plates are $9–$14. A pitcher of sangria will set you back $27, but you’ll get at least 6 drinks out of it.
The Park: Want to feel like you’re dining in Central Park? Request seats in the garden room of this casually chic Chelsea spot. With cobbled floors and patio tables, the atmosphere is casual, but candlelight and the rustic wood bar add an element of sophistication. (If you really want to get swanky, ask for seats in The Red Room. Or, there’s even a huge penthouse room that can be rented out for large events.) The food matches the breezy outdoor vibe, with wood oven pizzas, designer burgers and small plates to share. The large entrees like the grilled salmon start to get pricey at around $18, but the seasonal white mushroom pizza or turkey burger with pepperoni relish on an English muffin will only set you back $13. This place is really about the atmosphere though. If you want really posh eats, graze at a few locations in Chelsea Market next door, then stop into The Park for drinks.
Murray’s Cheese Bar: What could be better than wine and cheese? Murray’s Cheese Bar is an extension of their amazing cheese shop. As the restaurant itself is small, your best bet may be to book a private event at the cheese shop, which has a great room overlooking the whole cheese paradise. A certified cheese expert can serve you delicious morsels and tell you a bit about each scrumptious bite while you wash it down with plenty of bubbly. Or make a reservation in the restaurant, where you can indulge in decadent mac and cheese ($12) or nibble on a grilled artichoke heart salad ($10) in between bites of cheesy goodness.
Westville: Oh man, Westville. Sometimes I have dreams about you. You are just so good. This gem is all about fresh and local. Believe it or not, my absolute favorite dish is the market side plate: four of their to-die-for vegetable sides, like zucchini with tomatoes and mozzarella, mashed sweet potatoes, or brussels sprouts with honey dijon. The market veggie plate will run you $12, while a grilled pork chop smothered in red-wine mushrooms will be about $15. There are four locations, but only the Hudson St. location takes reservations (for parties of 6 or more only). Opt for this location so you don’t end up waiting.
It’s after midnight. You’ve been partying the night away. You are hungry. Here is where your dreams will come true.
Artichoke Basille Pizza: Sinfully delicious pizza. The East Village location is open until 5am—yep, you read that right—or you can stop in the West Village or Chelsea locales until midnight. Best known for their white pie with artichoke and spinach.
This Little Piggy: As the rhyme goes, “…had roast beef,” and you shall too. Order it “This Way” (with aus juz and cheese whiz) or “That Way” (with gravy and fresh mozzarella). Either way, it will be the most perfect drunk food you have ever consumed. Also located in the East Village and open until 5am.
Crif Dogs: You’ve never had a hot dog like this. My personal favorite is the tsunami dog, which is wrapped in bacon and topped with pineapple, green onions and teriyaki sauce. Bonus: The phone booth is actually the entrance to a speakeasy, PTD. Pick up the phone to dial for entry, but be warned that they keep the numbers low so the bar isn’t overcrowded. You can make a reservation to be sure you’re admitted. East Village, open until 4am.
Brunch is an event in NYC. If reservations are accepted, I highly recommend you make one. But some of these places are good ol’ fashioned first come first serve. Just be prepared to wait (it’ll be worth it).
Friend of a Farmer: Fresh food that will make you feel good about yourself and say yum! The vibe is a rustic country house and the dishes match. The pumpkin pancakes with toasted walnuts ($13) are just tooo much goodness or opt for smoked salmon scrambled eggs for a taste of New York ($14). Located in Gramercy.
Calle Ocho: The trek to the Upper West Side will be worth it when you encounter this Spanish brunch spot’s number one draw: an unlimited sangria bar is included with your meal and presents you with eight different flavors to sample, from the Spanish Harlem spiked with dark rum and a pinch of cinnamon to the Havana Banana with tropical creme de banana and coconut. Try the wild mushroom paella ($15) or a chorizo and scrambled egg burrito ($14) to soak up the liquid deliciousness.
Sarabeth’s: Sarabeth’s is a New York institution, well known for serving a classy and scrumptious brunch. Order their porridge Mama Bear (cream, raisins and honey) or Big Bad Wolf style (wheatberries and brown sugar). Be sure to include some kind of baked good in your meal—they’re known for their breads and jams. Multiple locations all over town.
88 Palace: Take brunch in a new direction by having dim sum, the Chinese equivalent. The foods are more like what you’d typically want for lunch, so don’t go in expecting eggs and pancakes. It’s more like morning tapas. Small carts wheel around this cavernous space at the top of a strange strip mall. Don’t be alarmed as you enter and wind past cellphone vendors and free clinics. 88 Palace occupies the entire top floor and is a revelation. Be sure to grab a plate of roast pork puns, but be adventurous! Each plate is only around $5.
No girls trip is complete without treats, am I right? Whether you want to order a special cake for the bride or just want a sweet stop off, here are my favorite treat destinations.
For cookies, try City Bakery. Though the best chocolate chip cookie in the city is a hotly debated topic, many give City Bakery the title for their chewy yet soft cookies with a hint of salt. If you’re visiting during February, you’re in luck! For their Hot Chocolate Festival, the bakery creates a new hot chocolate flavor every day.
For ice cream, I gotta go with Sundaes and Cones. Why? It’s right by my office! No, seriously, this is good ice cream. Super-creamy and rich, with your favorite standbys, but a few Asian-inspired offerings as well, like red bean or green tea.
For cookies and ice cream, track down the Cool Haus truck for an ice cream sandwich like you’ve never seen before. Make your own cool combination, like a red velvet cookie with yogurt and berries ice cream or a potato chip and butterscotch cookie with salted caramel ice cream. You can even eat the wrapper! (Not as weird as it sounds.)
For cupcakes, hit up Two Little Red Hens. (Also, scones. Man I miss those scones!) NYC has this trend for supersweet sugary icing on cupcakes and I just do not like that. So Two Little Red Hens is my perfect cupcake. The icing is not overwhelmingly sweet and the cakes are moist. Brooklyn Blackout will send you into a double chocolate coma, but I personally have to go with the carrot cupcake as their cream cheese frosting is divine!
For pie, you’re going to have to trek to Brooklyn for Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Could you find good pie in NYC? Oh sure. But this pie is hands down my favorite in the city. Like, have-daydreams-about-salted-caramel-apple-goodness amazing.