Maybe you've resolved to save money in 2014, or maybe you're just feeling strapped for cash. Fear not: you can still dine out - keeping your tab around the reasonable $30 mark - by hitting up restaurants around town that offer deals or are simply well-priced all the time. Check out our budget-salvaging but still super-delicious options below, from a pizza happy hour to a burger-poutine-and-beer deal. All of them cost under $30 a person and include more than just one course (though we aren't figuring in tax and tip). If you're privy to any other great dining deals, do let us know in the comments.
Aldea: Lunch special
George Mendes' Portuguese-leaning Aldea ranks among our favorite fine-dining options, but it's not exactly cheap. However, at lunch, the restaurant offers a real steal: $25 for three courses, served in its elegantly austere dining room - a step-up from the usual midday meal. The deal includes a choice of two appetizers (say, mussel soup with chorizo), two entrees (e.g., farro risotto), plus dessert. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM to 2 PM.
Perfect Order: Three courses (the menu changes regularly) for $25.
Osteria Morini: $10 pasta
Michael White's restaurants tend to spring to mind when we think of special occasions, not bargain meals. Yet at Osteria Morini, some concessions to the wallet can be found. On Monday nights, any of the restaurant's excellent pastas goes for $10 after 9 PM - we're partial to the garganelli in a creamy truffle sauce with radicchio and prosciutto, or the tortellini with duck-liver mousse. Lunch (11:30 AM to 3:30 PM daily) also offers another chance to try White's Emilia-Romagna-style cooking on the cheap, thanks to the $28 two-course lunch.
Perfect Order: Late-night: Garganelli ($10), glass Albana di Romagna "Vigna Rocca", Tre Monti wine ($11); Lunch: seafood salad and branzino ($28).
Via Tribunali: Happy hour
In our opinion, LES Neapolitan-style pizzeria Via Tribunali, which turns out expert thin-crust pies made with extremely fresh ingredients, is majorly undersung. Even more under-the-radar is the joint's excellent happy hour: from 4 to 6 PM and after 10 PM, you'll find $5 pizzas (margherita, marinara or salame), $5 antipasto platters, $3 beers and $8 half-carafes of wine. Which means two people can easily feast - and have a couple of drinks apiece - for under the $30 mark. Add to this the fact that the dining room is dim and cozy, and you have a perfect cheap date night.
Perfect Order: Antipasto platter ($5), margherita pizza ($5), half-carafe house red ($8); you could even add a Nutella calzone ($5) and still have $7 left to spare.
MaisonO: Hot pot specials
Tadashi Ono's rock-and-roll izakaya MaisonO, whose widely roving menu invites you to eat a little or a lot, is a good bargain in general. And they've just rolled out an affordable new special with winter weather in mind: from 6 to 8 PM, diners can choose from three hot pot meals, which includes a carafe of sake, a side of burdock root or spinach, and a bowl of rice. Choose from pork belly ($24), duck breast ($26) or Aphrodisiac (a seafood medley; $28). Sounds like a deal worth sneaking out of work early for.
Perfect Order: Aphrodisiac hot pot special ($28) - get it on the calendar for your next date night.
Mas La Grillade: Lunch special
At both Mas (la grillade) and his first Mas, Mas (farmhouse), chef Galen Zamarra has long been recognized as one of the West Village's most talented toques. Happily, his seasonal French fare is available to those on a budget, thanks to the bargain $28 three-course lunch prix fixe (available Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM to 2 PM). Dishes vary with the seasons, but a recent lineup included a choice of chestnut soup or grilled Asian pear salad, swordfish or duck confit, and a poached apple oatmeal cookie dessert.
Perfect order: Three courses for $28.
Hill Country: Monday all-you-can-eat
Hill Country's Texas-style brisket and other barbecued meats are normally sold by weight, which can add up quickly. But on Monday nights, there's an incredible special: $27 a head (the whole table must take part) for all-you-can-eat brisket, ribs, chicken and sides like green-bean casserole, coleslaw and deviled eggs; certain sides, such as mac 'n' cheese, cost an extra $2. Hit it between 3 to 6 PM or after 10 PM, and you can sneak in a $3 can of Pabst under the $30 mark. (But before you get any big ideas, note that there are no doggie bags allowed.) At the brand-new Brooklyn location, pop in for Sunday night's whole-hog supper and Monday's Texas Trinity special (brisket, ribs, sausage), both of which includes sides, cornbread and dessert for $25.
Perfect Order: A little bit of everything: brisket, chicken, ribs, coleslaw, mashed sweet potatoes, cornbread and more ($25).
Takashi: Late-night ramen
Pretty much any ramen restaurant is a great option for a meal under $30, even with an appetizer and a beer. But one of the most exciting developments on the ever-burgeoning slurp scene was the recent announcement that Japanese beef specialist Takashi has added late-night ramen to its lineup. Unlike the pork- and seafood-based noodle soups, this ramen is beef-based - and it's only offered Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 1 AM, with reservations recommended (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org beginning Monday at 5 PM that week). Sounds complicated, but from the accounts we've heard, jumping through these hoops is worth it for a beefy bowl.
Perfect Order: Original ramen ($16), Sapporo draft ($6).
Mile End: Tuesday burger nights
Mile End's two Montreal-style Jewish delis, in Boerum Hill and Noho, are reasonably priced dining options in general. But Tuesday nights at both locations bring the best deal of the week: For $19, diners get a smoked-meat burger and a choice of small poutine or fries, plus a Labatt Blue, house wine or soda. What's more, Labatt Blue cans go for just a buck the rest of the night. You'll be hard-pressed to spend more than $30, even if you try.
Perfect Order: Burger, poutine and Labatt Blue ($19).