JonSanders, a loyal MR reader, asks:
I read "Discover Your Inner Economist" (as well as "Create Your Own
Economy") and I want a little more help with the Manhattan dining tips
you covered. Care to help someone on a serious budget, like say, an
undergrad at NYU? Staying off the main avenues is useful, but it is
still hard to find dirt cheap authentic food from most cultures. More
I'm was in New York yesterday and I despaired. Short of dropping $50-$70 or more for lunch, it's hard to get a good meal in most of Manhattan. Greenwich Village went mainstream long ago and the overall problems in Manhattan are high rents, rising tourism, and the importation of growing numbers of people from U.S. regions with lesser food taste (can you guess where?). That's a triple whammy. I recommend the following:
1. Eat on the far west or far east side, like 9th Ave. or The Bowery. The East Village hasn't been ruined. The West Village still has some quirky places near The Village Vanguard, usually further west off the main paths. There are good places near Hudson St., the neighborhood Jane Jacobs wrote about.
2. Eat on the way to or from LaGuardia in Flushing, Queens, in superb Chinatown. If you try the Chinatown in Manhattan, go for breakfast — not dinner — for the best chance at quality.
3. Look for obscure ethnic places in the mid 30s, on the streets, not the avenues.
4. The best food reviews are in New York magazine, by far.
5. Two of my reliable stand-bys are Ess-a-Bagel and Shun Lee Palace, both in East/Midtown. They're both pretty tired in terms of concept but the quality still is excellent. I enjoy them every time I go. Shun Lee Palace would not count as dirt cheap, however.
6. Get to Brooklyn or Queens. Or (gasp) New Jersey.
What advice can you give this poor fellow?