Living in Brooklyn has, as we all know, both good and bad parts. As does everything, I guess. But we're not talking about everything. We're talking about living in Brooklyn, and, really, we're talking about food. There is a lot of really good food in Brooklyn. And a lot of it is pretty cheap. Which is nice, it really is. But not all of it is cheap, and some of the most talked about and interesting spots to eat are the most expensive. Which, we get it. That's how the world works. Or, at least, that's how New York works. But, just because you don't make tons of money and just because you can't afford to spend the cost of an unlimited monthly Metrocard (or more) on a single dinner, doesn't mean you can't treat yourself to a meal at one of Brooklyn's finest restaurants. You just have to order intelligently, and you'll get to eat as well for twenty bucks as the people sitting next to you who splurged on the seven-course tasting menu. Will you be eating as much? Well, no. But quality is more important than quantity, right? Right.
This Nordic restaurant located in Kinfolk Studios is easily one of our favorite places to eat in all of New York. But who can regularly splurge on a 7- or 10-course tasting menu ($65 and $110, respectively)? Not us. Luckily, Aska offers a carefully curated bar menu with food that's every bit as delicious as what you'd get in the restaurant's proper dining room. We recommend the traditional, Scandinavian-style smoked trout with potato salad and dill ($14), followed by the refreshing and summery rhubarb sorbet ($6). You'll leave feeling full—stomach and wallet, both—and also good knowing that you didn't need to worry about making a reservation for dinner, you just sidled up to the bar and enjoyed food from one of Brooklyn's best chefs. Nice.
Aska; 90 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg
Lulu & Po
This Fort Greene restaurant doesn't have incredibly expensive dishes on its menu (the priciest item is only $18), but the plates are small, and so it's the kind of place where you wind up ordering 5 different dishes and spending way more than you thought you would. But it's so delicious! Seriously. That $18 item is one of the most perfect, crackly skinned, juicy chicken dishes that you'll ever have. However, you're on a budget and want to make the most out of the arbitrary $20 limit that I'm imposing on you. So don't just get the chicken. No, instead get the grilled pizza dough with decadent, house-made, whipped ricotta ($6), and, for something completely different, the General Tso's sweetbreads with chiles and scallions ($13). Disparate as these two dishes seem, they complement rather than complete with each other and will leave you feeling like your taste buds had a full experience. And all for under $20.
Lulu & Po; 154 Carlton Avenue, Fort Greene
Rated last year as one of the best restaurants in America by Bon Appétit, Battersby has built up a cult following with its farm-to-table cuisine including, most notably, its kale salad. But all this comes at a cost, and entrees at Battersby usually come in over $30, which isn't exactly cheap. But never fret, because, as great as it would be to splurge on a tasting menu there, you can also be satisfied if you go in and just order a salad. Just a salad? Yup. Just a salad. Salad is, after all, what put Battersby on the map. I mean, Andrew Knowlton called the kale salad "life altering!" But don't go for the kale salad (it isn't usually on the menu anymore anyway). Instead, I recommend the Summer Squash salad with walnuts, currants and basil ($15), or, if you want something uniquely refreshing, try the Watermelon salad with feta and shishito peppers ($14). Both are delicious and both are budget friendly and both will help you understand why Battersby is a magical place without making you go broke. Perfect.
Battersby; 255 Smith Street, Cobble Hill
This newly opened restaurant in the back of Greenpoint beer haven Tørst is tasting menu-only, but you can eat a beautifully curated cheese plate at the bar, which features some of the best olives I've ever had, pickled vegetables, and house made, insanely good dark Danish rye bread. And all for twelve bucks! Which leaves you enough money to get an Evil Twin Yang ($6). With the Yang's 10% ABV, you will not only leave full of good food, you will also leave nicely buzzed.
Luksus/Tørst; 615 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint
Lest you think that all my budget options at expensive restaurants are going to be salads, appetizers, or cheese plates, may I now present to you the patty melt from Parish Hall? While a full dinner will set you back some real money here, the patty melt comes in at $15, and is worth every last penny. Combining a juicy grass fed-beef patty with lamb bacon(!) and tangy, gooey Landaff cheddar cheese between crispy slices of grilled rye bread, this patty melt hits the spot in every possible way. It also comes with salad or fries, and I guess you could go with the salad, but who am I kidding, I always get the fries and I think you should too.
Parish Hall; 109A North 3rd Street, Williamsburg
Located on a quiet, mostly residential stretch of Carlton Avenue, James is one of those restaurants that you ask your parents to meet you at, and hope they'll pick up the tab. But for those times when there's no one else around to pay for you (which, basically, is most of the time), you can still enjoy the amazing food that this restaurant prepares. Sit at the bar and order the kale salad ($12), which is a savory and filling mix of black kale, red quinoa, smoked almonds and ricotta salata, all with a perfectly poached egg on top that is just begging to be split open so that you can swirl the runny yolk around with all the rest of the ingredients. And lest you feel all virtuous for only ordering a salad, I must insist that you also get a dessert, namely the grilled lemon poundcake with blueberries and spearmint ($6). It's summer in a bowl, it really is.
James; 605 Carlton Avenue, Prospect Heights
Newely opened and already well-known for bringing renowned chef Paul Liebrandt away from Manhattan, the Elm is also quickly gaining a reputation for being one of the most innovative and exciting new restaurants in Brooklyn. And one of the more expensive ones. I'm just going to be straight here. You can't really do dinner on a budget. But! You can eat breakfast here, which is also supervised (if not usually cooked) by Liebrandt. And the breakfast is amazing. There's lobster Benedict on a homemade crumpet ($19) or house made granola with sheep's milk yogurt and huckleberry compote ($12), but I'd go with the Belgian waffles which feature local maple syrup and blackberry butter. ($14) Because, really, is anything better than waffles? No. Nothing.
The Elm; 160 North 12th Street, Williamsburg
This Prospect Heights restaurant is the perfect place to go when you want to enjoy some of the best food Brooklyn has to offer without breaking your bank. It's also pretty easy to accomplish this task because the Vanderbilt features lots of small plates for not a lot of money. You have to be careful what you order because everything is just so damn good, but it's totally possible to get a bargain meal without feeling like you're missing out on anything. Plus, if you time it right by eating at the bar between 5-7 pm Monday through Friday or 11 to close Thursday through Saturday, you can get really amazing deals. How amazing? Well, you can sample the Vanderbilt's homemade jerky, fried green tomatoes, fried cauliflower with mustard seeds and aged cheddar, and cottage fries with spicy mayo—each for only four dollars. Do it. You'll feel like you're eating like a, well, like a Vanderbilt.
The Vanderbilt; 570 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights
So, this is not an inexpensive restaurant. No, this is, in fact, the kind of restaurant that charges you for bread and butter. But, wow. The bread and butter here? Is AMAZING. It's not just regular bread. It's whiskey bread with cultured butter ($5) and you really, really have to get it. And, really, that's all you need to get here to feel satisfied. Oh, the rest of the food is incredible. So save your money and come back when you can afford the tasting menu. This is definitely a special occasion, treat yourself kind of a place. But until that day comes? Go sit at the bar, order your bread and butter and a drink. Maybe the Second Year ($12), which has rye and honey and an orange twist and would go just perfectly with your bread and butter. You might just be getting the basics, but you'll still leave happy.
Gwynnett St.; 312 Graham Avenue, Williambsburg
This Fort Greene restaurant (one of our Five Iconic Brooklyn Restaurants) does everything well, and is the kind of place where you can not only get an impressive and inventive tasting menu, but also one where you can sit at the bar and get a meatloaf sandwich ($12) and a beer. Which, by all means, do that and maybe also eat the truffled deviled eggs ($5) because we will never not recommend deviled eggs, and these are particularly delicious. But if you want a truly amazing deal at an exceptional restaurant, come to Prospect on a Monday for the $19.95 special they've got going for Lobster Monday. You'll get a 1 1/4 pound lobster, Littleneck clams, a baked potato, corn on the cob, drawn butter and sour cream—all for under twenty bucks, and at one of Brooklyn's best restaurants. What a deal.
Prospect; 773 Fulton Street, Fort Greene
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