$6.99 sirloin at Tad’s Steaks
761 7th Ave. (at 50th St.)
If it’s true that the lowest markup on menus is on steak, then what does that say about the 7-ounce sirloin lunch special at Tad’s Steaks, available for $6.99 with a baked potato, garlic bread and salad? Our advice: Don’t think about it. Or look at it. Just order it, eat it and forget it ever happened. Look on the bright side: It beats eating your shoe.
$16.99 “15-bite hot dog” at Brooklyn Diner
57th St. (betw. Broadway & 7th Ave.)
The 15-Bite “All Beef” Hot Dog at touristy Brooklyn Diner looked suspiciously overpriced when judged by its description and photo online. Almost $17 for a hot dog is almost $16 more than most self-respecting nitrite lovers can afford. The photo of the dog did look formidable but no more than the foot-longs you might find at respectable pubs and street carts. While Robert Rilley, executive chef of the Fireman Hospitality Group, which owns Brooklyn Diner, Redeye Grill and other restaurants, explained that one 15-Bite Hot Dog serves one person, a recent eyewitness thought four was a fairer estimate. Rilley said the dish earned its name after a contest was held to determine how many bites it took to finish one of the beef franks, which are handmade by “all our butchers in Brooklyn” and packed into a “homemade Brioche Roll.” It has been on the menu since Brooklyn Diner opened its doors in 1995. “Brooklyn was the birthplace of hot dogs, and our oversized version is a salute to that,” Rilley wrote. And it’s a salute to overpricing at its most outrageous.
Four dumplings for $1 at Dumpling House
118 Eldridge St. (betw. Broome & Grand Sts.)
This used to be the five-dumplings-for-$1 deal at the Dumpling House, but you missed it. Now that the restaurant has been renovated to three times its size, each dumpling costs five cents more. Eight of them makes a meal, says chef and manager, Vanessea Weng, conveniently, adding that chive and pork is the most popular filling. Better get there fast, because Weng explains that the price of flour and real estate will soon mean yet another dumplings-per-dollar increase,to $2.50 for eight. The dumplings go best with hot and sour soup; that’s another dollar and another deal.
$4,900 for a 1991 bottle of French burgundy at BLT Market
1430 6th Ave. (at W. 58th St.),
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
One bottle of 1991 French burgundy at BLT Market for $4,900? Not a bad deal for something that began as a grape. The flagship burgundy produced in the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, a famous French estate, is “the most expensive bottle of wine in the world,” says Rick Sullivan, the rare and fine specialist at cellarbrokers.com, where a bottle is on sale for $8,418. “1991 was a fantastic year.”
The BLT Market, which is the offspring of BLT Steakhouse, known more for its Cabernet and Bordeaux, sells about five bottles of burgundy a night, says Jeremy Christie, the sommelier at BLT Market. In one month, BLT sold out of the half-dozen bottles of Echezeaux from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, but those were priced in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars. As for what Christie calls the “king of burgundies”? No buyers yet in the restaurant’s first six months. “We’re waiting,” says Christie. “We’re waiting for whoever’s got the checkbook!”
Monday Night Menu at
422 7th Ave. (at 14th St.),
Park Slope, B’klyn
Some restaurants shut down Monday nights. This one just drops the prices down. “We can either be closed, or do goulash. Let’s make some money,” is how waitress Skyler Schrempp explains their thinking. On any other night, the Austrian comfort food menu offers six soups, six salads, 19 sandwiches and small meals, 20 main courses and 10 desserts.
But on the most stressful day of the week, you can avoid “going to Steinhof” (a Viennese expression that means “losing your mind”) by going to Steinhof, where no decisions need be made. Choose one of two $6 entrees: a bowl of goulash (made of beef, onions, red peppers and paprika powder), or a fried trout with potato. Rolls are on the table. Dessert? With luck, you’ll like apple bread pudding with homemade applesauce and sour cream ($3).
Get there before 7 p.m. and all beers and simple well drinks are $3. That’s dinner, dessert and a Schneider Weisse Hefeweizen for $12. Don’t ask, just drink it.
30-Cent Wings at Reservoir
70 University Pl. (betw. 10th & 11th Sts.)
For tiny, bony pieces of chicken, slathered in sauce and dropped in a basket, Buffalo wings can be surprisingly expensive. At Dallas BBQ, for example, a half order (six wings) costs roughly $1.33-1.49 per wing. Sure, you can save by ordering a full 11-piece order for $1.09-1.18 per wing, but it still adds up. So wing nuts should consider Reservoir, a favorite gathering spot for “college students, sports fans, businessmen” and a regular lunch crowd, according to manage Phil Guerrieri, offers wings for just 30 cents on Sunday and Monday nights from 6 p.m. until closing. The deal does not apply to takeout orders. They come in orders of 10 and 20, and on regular nights they cost just $5.50 (55 cents per wing) and $7.50 (about 38 cents per wing), respectively. Wings night has been going strong for a decade at the small bar and grill . The kitchen uses Frank’s RedHot hot sauces (mild, medium and hot) and also makes wings with teriyaki and barbecue sauce and honey mustard. No extra charge.
$5 Breakfast Plate at Tehuitzingo Deli & Grocery
695 10th Ave. (betw. 47th & 48th Sts.)
The cost of doing business at this Mexican restaurant is steeper than it was when Miguel Fuentes opened it in the back of a cramped food market in Hell’s Kitchen seven years ago, but the prices haven’t changed. Fuentes will have to charge more for the Puebla regional items he serves at some point. “I have to figure out how much and when I’m gonna raise the prices up, but I don’t know right now,” he says. And if everything really is relative, then at $2.50 to $3, the quesadillas and the $5 breakfast plate (an egg dish with rice, beans and a tortilla) will still be a steal: At San Loco, quesadillas start at $4.95 (cheese) and end at $6.65 (catfish).
$14 Margaritas at
Los Dos Molinos
119 E. 18th St. (betw. Park Ave. & Irving)
The margaritas at Los Dos Molinos have been called the best in New York, and not just by the restaurant. Why? “We have a lot of alcohol,” says manager Miguel Camacho. “It gets you really drunk.” Served in a heavy glass goblet, the regular size is an irregularly large 14 ounces (a bottle of beer is 12 ounces). At $14, they’re no steal, until you try getting happy for that price anywhere else in Manhattan—without pounding shots. But if it were just about that, New Yorkers could just stay home and drink grain alcohol. “I guess it’s an old recipe, all the way from Phoenix, when they opened [the first restaurant] there eight or nine years ago,” says Camacho. It includes fresh lime juice, triple sec, premium tequila and any of 12 different purees. The most popular are strawberry, raspberry and mango; the most exotic, prickly pear and tamarind. Occasionally, on a Friday or Saturday night, a single person will consume an entire $55 pitcher. “But our food’s spicy,” he says, “so it kind of cleans up the hangover.”
Free drinks at
The Mitzvah Tank
“Can I get the orange juice?” a customer asks a little tentatively. The dark-bearded, bespectacled Orthodox Jewish 22-year old has paused in his chanting of the Megillah, so that the red-bearded, bespectacled guy smiling in the corner can translate what’s just been read from the yellowing scroll into English: “So the king is looking for a new wife, and everyone is trying to do things to make themselves the most beautiful, but Esther, she is already beautiful. She doesn’t need to do anything. She is naturally beautiful.” At this, the drunk Vince Vaughn look-alike who has wandered into The Mitzvah Tank off St. Marks Place starts saying “organic beauty,” and fist pumping everyone. He passes the carton of orange juice, and some is poured into the customer’s plastic cup (which already has a shot of vodka in it) as he waits for the dark-bearded man to finish reading the Purim story so all can drink. After finishing a hamantash, the triangular pastry with jelly in the middle eaten on Purim—and after stepping down from the RV back onto St. Marks Place—the customer is handed a goody bag with a little Mott’s apple juice box, a bag of pretzels and wrapped candies. The food, drink, company and wisdom (they don’t clink cups before they drink, because that tradition is a holdover from when it was common practice to off people by poisoning them) is absolutely free. This piece of advice is free as well: Next time you see an RV full of young Hasidic Jewish men and they ask you if you are Jewish, say yes.
$7 Kobe Beef Sliders at
The Stanton Social
99 Stanton St. (at Ludlow St.)
Those wondering whether to believe the hype of Kobe beef—but not yet willing to fork over a week’s income for the opportunity—can get much cheaper Kobe at The Stanton Social on the Lower East Side, where Kobe beef sliders are $7. For those uncomfortable with the notion of eating anything referred to as a “slider,” Kobe cheese steaks made with black truffles and goat cheese fondue go for just $2 more.
$24 Turkey Club Plate at E.A.T. Cafe
1064 Madison Ave. (betw. 80th & 81st Sts.)
Unlike the turkey clubs at its Upper East Side neighbor Rathbone’s Pub & Grill ($8.95), the Turkey Club plate at Eli Zabar’s E.A.T. Café will cost you $24. However, that doesinclude cole slaw and a garnish of salad. “It’s a very big turkey club,” insists Maureen Smith, a manager at the café. Customers are often skeptical of the price, she says, but only at first. “Once they’ve tasted it, she says, “they think it’s worthwhile.” One major difference between most turkey clubs and E.A.T.’s version is that E.A.T.’s is made with prosciutto, not bacon. If you’re desperate for this “lunchtime signature sandwich,” but you just won’t spend more than $20 for a club sandwich, you get it to take out from the shop’s retail side for only $18.
$30 Grilled Cheese Sandwich
The New York Palace Hotel, 455 Madison Ave. (betw. E. 50th & 51st Sts.)
GILT appears frequently in Gossip Girl, and the result is frequent late-night requests for the sandwich Chuck Bass bribed the chef into making for Serena van der Woodsen in that first episode. That has prompted chef Christopher Lee to re-create it as a regular item on the bar menu. Dubbed The Gossip Grill “You Know You Love It,” the grilled cheese is made with Fontina cheese on freshly baked white bread and truffles, which is what makes it affordable only to fictional characters and those with what is quite properly described as “disposable” income. Since Black Winter Truffles are currently in season, the two-hander costs $30. When pricier white truffles are in season, the sandwich goes for $50. “People are obsessed with it. It’s definitely one of the best-selling [dishes] in the bar,” says Josephine Zohny, GILT’s publicist. Of course it is, the publicist says so!
If you’re an actual human being with a craving for grilled cheese, you may consider heading to The Malibu Diner in Chelsea, where grilled cheese sandwiches with your choice of cheese—American, Swiss, mozzarella, cheddar or Monterey Jack—sell for just $4.65. Those who were lucky enough to get a hefty raise in December can splurge on the grilled cheese “with tomato & bacon or ham” ($6.55).
Chocolate Peanut Butter Palette at Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave. (at E. 24th St.)
A bite of the $12 chocolate peanut butter palette with popcorn ice cream at Danny Meyers’ Eleven Madison Park has the power, like Proust’s Madeleines, to send a shudder through your spine and dredge up childhood memories that had been palpitating in the depths of your being. You’re back in sixth grade, standing in front of the vending machine with a scotch-taped dollar bill in your pocket. You’re pretending to be making up your mind so that the hovering eighth-grade boys will wander off instead of snatching your candy and making you buy it off them. But you know what you want because you get the same thing every day. What’s better than a Butterfinger? However, the palette at Eleven Madison Park is not just a Butterfinger, or so they insist. It is served with a gold leaf, caramel popcorn and popcorn-flavored ice cream. And frankly, manager Will Guidara does not appreciate the comparison to a candy bar that can be obtained for pocket change. “I think we would probably, maybe, if you had to compare it to a candy bar like that, we’d compare it to a Snickers,” he sniffs.
$13.95 Shun Lee Salad
at Shun Lee West
43 W. 65th St. (nr. Central Park West)
Like the human body, this restaurant’s eponymous Shun Lee salad is composed primarily of water. For $13.95, you get lotus root (lightly cooked, then chilled), water chestnut, sugar peas and bean sprouts, in a “kind of vinaigrette, with different assorted Asian seasonings,” says general manager Steven Ng. “The chef is very secretive.” Here’s a calorie-per-dollar guesstimate: Half a cup of cooked lotus root is 40 calories, according to www.calorie-count.com; one ounce of raw water chestnuts is 10 calories; 10 sugar pea pods are 14 calories; a cup of bean sprouts is 31 calories; and an Asian vinaigrette is typically 28 calories. That’s one dollar for every nine calories. Make sure you chew slowly.
$41 Kobe Beef Burger at
Old Homestead Steakhouse
56 9th Ave. (betw. 14th & 15th Sts.)
During the U.S. Civil War, the target meat ration for Union troops was 20 ounces per person, per day, although as U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps doctor and historian Steven E. Anders writes, “reality proved otherwise.” During World War I, then-United States Food Administrator Herbert Hoover set the ration for hotels and restaurants at 20 ounces per person per week to conserve food supplies for the Allies. Fortunately for the Old Homestead, no such limits exist today.
Owner Marc Sherry explains that despite its exorbitant price, the Kobe Beef Burger is usually ordered for one person to be eaten in one sitting. The burger is made of American Kobe beef, which is prepared using the same hand-massaging and beer-feeding technique native to the Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture (Kobe is Hyogo’s capital city). It’s served on a brioche bun, alongside Chipotle ketchup, “an assortment of 13 different baby greens” and stone-ground mustard sauce, made using a “kind of a secret recipe Executive Chef Oscar Martinez made up, that includes domestic champagne,” among its ingredients. Sherry calls the burger a “loss leader,” because although the restaurant sells “anywhere from 400-500” Kobe burgers per week and it i brings in lots of customers (most of them eat-in), the burger is not very profitable. “It’s extremely expensive to make,” explains Sherry, with beef ranging from $40-$50 per pound. If these prices sound high, consider the Kobe steak at Old Homestead. Made with 10 ounces of Grade 5 Kobe Wagyu beef, it’s pegged at $195. “It’s a perfect center cut,” he says. A Kobe pork chop is on the menu for $34, and soon an $81 chop will be added. Something to live (and eventually die) for.
$7.25 Beer at
Madison Square Garden
4 Pennsylvania Plaza
It figures that beer at Madison Square Garden costs more than it’s worth – so do the guys playing for the Knicks. It ranges from $7.25 for domestic (Bud, Bud Light, Coors) to $8.55 for imported (Heineken, Amstel, Pilsner). The non-specialty drafts are all $8.25. But the worst deal in town now comes with a pretzel rod, which fits in the hollow handle of the plastic beer mug! This has been hailed by Scoreboard Gourmet blogger Sara Pepitone as “the best food-related concession item at Madison Square Garden”—which is saying very little. “You can keep your mug, which is about as useful as keeping any plastic cup from a game except that this one has no logo,” says Pepitone, whose apartment is full of plastic game cups. A Wisconsin visitor who took in a Knicks game wrote: “I was completely smitten with the beer/pretzel cups when I was at the Garden this last weekend.” But remember, she’s from Wisconsin.
$8 Cup of Green Tea at Morimoto
88 10th Ave. (betw. W. 15th & 16th Sts.)
Sixteenth-century Chinese tea master Senno Rikyu wrote: “Tea is nought but this; First you heat the water, then you make the tea. Then you drink it properly. That is all you need to know. Why then, tea master, is a cup of green tea eight bucks at Morimoto? Is there something special about it? “I think so,” says Nikkie Reiss, who works for Morimoto’s PR company, Baltz & Company. “There’s so much dedication to the tea program.” But nobody will ever know for sure, because Reiss could get no more information from the restaurant’s beverage department. The secret of Morimoto’s green tea lives on.