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8 Decadent NYC Dishes (and Their Healthier Alternatives)

From burgers to pizza, what to eat when you want to indulge or trim back
January 13, 2015
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by Patty Lee

We've arrived at that time in January when new year's resolutions can go one of two ways — either people are still sticking to it (good for you!), or they've already caved in. But that shouldn't stop either party from enjoying their favorite comfort foods, whether it's a juicy cheeseburger or stick-to-your-ribs pasta. Check out eight of NYC's heartiest dishes, plus their low-cal dining dopplegängers.

Pizza

Splurge: Montanara at SRO

The offerings at dough-puncher Giulio Adriani's new pizza "speakeasy" will rotate daily with the exception of the signature fried-then-baked pie, which is topped with housemade mozzarella and Grana Padano cheeses.

Save: Flatbread at Lyfe Kitchen

Everything on the menu at this health-conscious chain — which opened its first NYC location in November — is under 600 calories, including the whole wheat flatbreads. Choose from combos like a classic margherita (pictured) or roasted mushrooms with goat cheese.

Burger

Splurge: Prime-rib burger at Cherche Midi

With the opening of this Bowery bistro last summer, Keith McNally has not one, but two stellar burgers under his belt (the other being Minetta Tavern's black label). The patty here is a Pat LaFrieda blend of aged prime rib and fresh short rib, giving it a stronger, funkier flavor. It's finished off with a bacon marmalade, mushrooms and aged Gruyère.

Save: Ahi tuna at Umami Burger

This cult-favorite burger chain may be known for high-calorie accoutrements like bacon lardons and truffle aïoli, but its fish burger (pictured) packs in just as much flavor as the more decadent items on the menu. The seared ahi patty is garnished with daikon sprouts, crushed avocado, gingered carrots and a wasabi tartar.

Pasta

Splurge: Linguini at Bar Primi

With plate after plate of stellar noodles — like the garlicky, bread-crumb-topped linguini — it's all too easy to over carbo-load at Andrew Carmellini's NoHo pasta bar.

Save: Angel hair carbonara at The Butcher's Daughter

This good-for-you canteen does away with carbs entirely for its all-veg "pasta," which is made with thinly shredded spaghetti squash, arugula and a cashew ricotta (pictured).

Short Rib

Splurge: Roasted short rib at Upland

There's a reason why chef Justin Smilie's name has become synonymous with this mammoth rib (pictured). Crusted in pepper, the incredibly tender showstopper is served on the bone with olives, walnuts and ribbons of shaved celery. It's listed as a dish for two, but can easily feed three.

Save: Glazed short rib of beef at White Street

Floyd Cardoz's take on this beefy entree is as close as you'll get to a save. Since opening his elegant Downtown restaurant, the chef has made a point of using little butter and cream, opting for spices and acids to amp up flavors. In keeping with his healthy MO, the ribs here are served with an oat risotto. 

Risotto

Splurge: Risotto tartufo at All'onda

One of chef Chris Jaeckle's signature dishes is a soupy Venetian-style risotto that fuses both Italian and Japanese elements: the main ingredients are sake lees (a by-product of making the alcoholic drink), Parmesan and white truffle.

Save: Quinoa Risotto at Little Beet Table

At his entirely gluten-free restaurant, health fanatic Franklin Becker subs in quinoa for arborio rice to make this veggie and mushroom risotto. 

Ice Cream

Splurge: Ooey Gooey Buttercake at Ample Hills Creamery

As if the cream cheese base wasn't rich enough on its own, the Brooklyn parlor adds in chunks of butter-soaked yellow cake to form a gloriously indulgent scoop.

Save: Ice cream at DF Mavens

Ice cream whiz Malcolm Stogo — credited with creating cookies 'n' cream — has gone dairy-free at his new East Village scoops shop, where all 11 rotating flavors are concocted from a mix of soy, almond and coconut milks (pictured).

Salad

Splurge: Bitter Caesar at Bowery Meat Company

Somewhere underneath the mound of shaved Parmesan and toasted bread crumbs, you'll find some actual vegetables in this salad.

Save: Little Gem Salad at Ivan Ramen

Noodle guru Ivan Orkin's take on a Caesar salad (pictured) uses a tofu garlic dressing and swaps out bread croutons for bits of crunchy Parmesan frico.

Dumplings

Gyoza at Ramen Lab

The sole appetizer at this just-opened ramen-ya from the Sun Noodle team are pork and cabbage potstickers, fried till crispy on a steaming griddle.

The Mighty Veggie at Mimi Cheng's

Vegetables usually play second fiddle in dumpling fillings — not at this casual East Village storefront, where fitness-loving sisters pack organic kale, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms and free-range eggs into the tasty pockets (pictured). To go the extra-healthy step, get them boiled instead of pan-fried.

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