|In this first of a series, MUG looks at neighborhood restaurants that have reliable food, where you don't have to book four-weeks-to-the-day ahead, where they're happy to see you, and where you'll get decent value for your money.
Alcalá, 342 E. 46th [1st/2nd] 212.370.1866
Average entree: $20
What was once Marichu has morphed into Alcalá, still with its Basque accent, where you'll find things like red peppers stuffed with bacalao, baby squid in black ink, paella, and tapas.
Aburiya Kinnosuke, 213 E. 45th [2nd/3rd] 212.867.5454
Average entree: Small dishes average $9, the 8-course prix fixe is $45
Meat, seafood, or veggies cooked over a charcoal grill, called a robata, is the thing here. There's also a shichirin (wire net) grilling, as well as homemade tofu. They do have sashimi but that's missing the point.
Bôi, 246 E. 44th [2nd/3rd] 212.681.6541
Average entree: $18
Out of the ordinary dishes ('BBQ tiger prawn wrapped in Hawaiian pepper leaves with turmeric rice noodles drizzled in peanut sauce, topped with fresh Kaffir lime leaves') and skillful execution distinguish this narrow restaurant. Desserts are by Bill Yosses.
Blossom, 187 9th [21st/22nd] 212.627.1144
Average entree: $20
Non-vegans should check their trepidation at the door—they'll get plenty of flavor along with their healthy food, as well as a full list of organic wines and beers.
Le Zie 2000, 172 7th Ave. [20th/21st] 212.206.8686
Average entree: $14 for pasta, $17 for secondi
A Venetian trattoria that turns out some lively dishes at prices that are modest for the quality. It is crowded, though, and can be noisy at peak times.
Royal Siam, 240 8th [22nd/23rd] 212.741.1732
Average entree: $13
Are there more adventurous Thai places in the city? Sure. We eat so often at RS though, because we know we'll get solid turns on the curries we love, as well as one of the better Pad Thais in town.
Jack the Horse Tavern, 66 Hicks [Cranberry] 718.852.5084
Average entree: $22
The kind of dedicated—yet easy-going—eatery that every neighborhood would like to have. Dishes are just adventurous enough to be interesting, not distracting. Jack also does an excellent brunch.
Iron Chef, 92 Clark [Henry/Monroe] 718.858.8517
Average entree: Sushi platter - $14
Very good sushi in a frills-free setting, some fun special rolls, and a super-value lunch make Iron Chef a true neighborhood fave.
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