New York City
Vincent Laforet  /  Courtesy Budget Travel
Looking for authentic dining and bargain shopping in New York City? We did the legwork for you.
By
updated 12/10/2010 7:30:47 PM ET 2010-12-11T00:30:47

There’s an irony to New York that few visitors realize.

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For as big a city as it is, the comment you consistently hear is that it’s really just a small town. That’s because those of us who live here have tracked down a handful of intimate restaurants and affordable shops where we feel right at home.

For travelers, however, the thousands of options can be dizzying. So we decided to translate our city of 8.5 million into a small town for all, whittling the countless restaurants and shops down to a far more manageable 17.

Then we plotted them on a map to make sure, as in any small town, that no matter where you are — uptown, downtown, or somewhere in between — you’re never more than a few blocks from a place you’ll feel comfortable.

1. Century 21
At this epic Financial District discount department store, you’re almost guaranteed to find a jump-up-and-down deal. Prices on pieces from designers like Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, and even Prada can be slashed up to 70 percent. It should come as no surprise, then, that you’re also guaranteed a lot of company. Attack plan: Go early (the store opens at 7:45 a.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. on Saturdays, and 11 a.m. on Sundays), scan the accessories on the first floor, and then hightail it to the designer collections upstairs, the well-stocked men’s department near the west entrance, or the shoe store next door.

22 Cortlandt St., c21stores.com

2. 88 Palace New York
City can transport you to a foreign country in the time it takes to cross an intersection—or, in the case of 88 Palace, ride an escalator. With an entrance on the top floor of a Chinese shopping mall, the restaurant is a sea of local families and carts teetering under the weight of classic Hong Kong–style dim sum: tender pork spare ribs, pan-fried dumplings, and steamed beef meatballs. At about $1.50 apiece, the dim sum is as good a deal as any in Chinatown.

88 E. Broadway, 212-941-8886

3. Peasant Wine Bar
You probably wouldn’t notice this place if you passed it. Underneath the high-toned Italian restaurant Peasant, this subterranean wine bar is one of downtown’s best-kept secrets. With a discounted menu cribbed from its parent, it’s the perfect spot to spend an evening over wood-fired pizzas, a heaping meat plate, and a simple green salad. Add to that a carafe of red wine, along with complimentary olives and bread, and you might wonder why anyone springs for the pricier entrées upstairs.

194 Elizabeth St., peasantnyc.com, pizzas $14

4. Ina
While it can be tough to dig up deals in the swish boutiques and well-stocked vintage shops of Nolita—SoHo’s quieter, less flashy neighbor—the side-by-side Ina outlets (one men’s, one women’s) are a pretty good bet for deep discounts. In these high-end consignment shops, it’s totally conceivable to find Manolo Blahniks worn for a night at 60 percent off or a Christian Dior dress for less than you’d spend on a pair of Nine West boots.

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19 & 21 Prince St., inanyc.com

5. Freemans
Once the exclusive domain of the über hip, this Lower East Side restaurant, set in an unassuming alley flanked by old tenement buildings, has mellowed with age. Now the 19th-century-America-themed spot (note the emphasis on taxidermy) is simply a place for great food and drink. Best of all is the brunch, where nothing—not the poached eggs with cheddar-cheese grits and buttered toast, nor the waffle with crème fraîche and bananas—tops $14.

Freeman Alley, freemansrestaurant.com, brunch from $10

6. The Mermaid Oyster Bar
If there’s one secret Greenwich Villagers guard jealously, it’s the daily blue plate special at Danny Abrams’s oyster bar. On a good night, the rotating $20 special—offered until 7 p.m.—will be the shrimp and avocado sandwich with chipotle mayo, or the whole roasted Idaho trout. Along with your dish, you get a glass of sauvignon blanc or a Blue Point beer. If the special doesn’t appeal, you can always hit the bar for a dozen fresh oysters (from $26).

79 MacDougal St., themermaidnyc.com

7. De Robertis Caffe
In the 106 years since De Robertis opened, the East Village has evolved from a neighborhood of Polish butchers into one of New York’s nightlife capitals. Yet from the café’s black-and-white mosaic-tiled floor to the freshly baked Italian desserts, you wouldn’t think anything had changed. Order a cappuccino; a crisp, cream-filled cannoli or sfogliatella (a pastry stuffed with barely sweet ricotta); and a couple of pine-nut-crusted cookies. Presto: You have the makings of an unhurried afternoon in old New York.

176 1st Ave., derobertiscaffe.com, pine-nut-crusted cookies from $17 per pound

8. Biergarten
For all the fabulosity swirling around the Meatpacking District, the Biergarten at the Standard Hotel is a welcome reality check. At this low-key spot, visitors can take a seat at one of the communal picnic tables, order a dinner-plate-size pretzel, and relax with a stein of German pilsner.

848 Washington St., standardhotels.com, pretzel $8

9. Nordstrom Rack
This recession-friendly discount department store arrived in Manhattan last spring, and it’s been rightfully mobbed ever since. Located in Union Square, on the threshold of Greenwich Village, the store has a shoe collection that’s already a local legend; its floor of last-season goods and overstock items from labels like Marc by Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, and Dolce & Gabbana manages to be chock-full but well-organized at the same time.

60 E. 14th St., nordstrom.com, Frye boots $200, marked down from $318

10. Fishs Eddy
A utilitarian housewares store isn’t usually a must-see, but Fishs Eddy gives you hundreds of reasons to add the deal-heavy emporium to your itinerary. Every inch is piled with unique and affordable dishware: vintage-style cereal bowls edged with a flower print ($8); Blue Plate Special dishes modeled after the Manhattan diner variety (from $11); and teacups, marbles, mugs, and salt and pepper shakers in all colors and patterns. What’s more, whatever won’t fit in your suitcase, the store will ship at reduced rates.

889 Broadway, fishseddy.com, marbles from 10 cents apiece

11. Defonte’s of Brooklyn
When this classic Italian sandwich shop opened a Manhattan location in 2009, it caused quite a stir. Like the 88-year-old original in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the new East Side branch serves gargantuan heros worth questing after. Our picks: the peppers and eggs (just like it sounds; order it with red sauce), the hot roast beef (with fried eggplant and mozzarella), or the Sinatra special (fried steak smothered with tomato sauce and mozzarella).

261 3rd Ave., defontesofbrooklyn.com, sandwiches from $8.50

12. SSS Sample Sales
At any given moment in New York City, a high-fashion, low-price sample sale has designer clothes marked down as much as 80 percent. It’s finding that sale that’s the hard part. The Garment District’s SSS Sample Sales solves the problem by creating a permanent home for truckloads of clothes, shoes, and bags, all from this season and last. Labels like Kate Spade, Tory Burch, and Theory are in regular rotation.

261 W. 36th St., clothingline.com

13. J.G. Melon
The city has no shortage of hyper-creative meals, but sometimes you just want a good old-fashioned burger. This dark, pubby Upper East Side institution is filled with post-collegiates, polo-sporting locals, and downtown faithfuls on a pilgrimage, all hunkered over the main attraction: eight juicy ounces of a secret ground-sirloin blend on a soft white bun with American cheese, red onion, and pickles—all for the old-fashioned price of $9.25.

1291 3rd Ave., 212/744-0585

14. Muji Times Square
For 30 years, Muji has cultivated a devoted following in Japan, and now New Yorkers have access to the goods. All four U.S. stores are in the city, and the best of them all is just off Times Square. You’ll find high-quality nylon Dopp kits, foldable speakers designed for travel, and souvenirs that even non-tourists can appreciate, such as pint-size sculptures of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building that double as rubber stamps.

620 8th Ave., muji.us, Statue of Liberty from $5.75

15. Bouchon Bakery
Among the Time Warner Center’s glossy boutiques and jacket-required restaurants, the casual Bouchon Bakery is a nice change of pace. From a seat in the café overlooking Central Park, visitors can order star chef Thomas Keller’s ham and cheese sandwich, plus a glass of sparkling wine, for a price that rivals most neighborhood diners. If time’s tight, consider taking a couple of house-made Oreos (chocolate sablé cookies stuffed with white-chocolate ganache) to go.

10 Columbus Cir., bouchonbakery.com, sandwiches from $11

16. Fatty Crab
Chef Zak Pelaccio gets a fair share of attention for his inventive, pork-happy Malaysian-inspired food—so much so that waits at his Meatpacking District and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, outposts can seem endless. That’s not the case at the Upper West Side branch, where a weekday $19 prix fixe lunch rotates in some wildly creative Southeast-Asian small plates. Think pork-belly tea sandwiches, green mango salad, and scallop satays with peanut sauce and more.

2170 Broadway, fattycrab.com, prix fixe noon–4 p.m., small plates from $7

17. Salumeria Rosi
New York has some of the best Italian food in the country. Case in point: Cesare Casella’s cool, cave-like wine bar and meat shop, where hocks of cured ham hang above the butcher counter and seating is at simple marble tables. The menu is made entirely of shareable small plates—stellar cured meat, the freshest mozzarella outside Italy, and, on occasion, duck meatballs stuffed with nuggets of perfectly salty pecorino.

283 Amsterdam Ave., salumeriarosi.com, plates from $3

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

Photos: Take a Bite Out of The Big Apple

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  1. A full moon rises over the skyline of New York City, as seen across the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J., on April 25, 2013. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Commuters move through the grand hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2013. Since its grand beginnings in 1913, when it was dubbed the greatest railway terminal in the world with an $80 million price tag, Grand Central has been an integral part of New York City. (Brendan Mcdermid / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Revelers cheers under falling confetti at the stroke of midnight during the New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square on Jan. 1, 2014. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. One World Trade Center overlooks the wedge-shaped pavilion entrance of the National September 11 Museum, lower right, and the square outlines of the memorial waterfalls in New York. (Mark Lennihan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after flying out in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2011, at Yankee Stadium. Located in the South Bronx, the new stadium opened in 2009. (Jim Mcisaac / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Central Park was the first public park built in America. Its 843 acres include woodlands, lawns and water. Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and a New York City Landmark in 1974. More than 25 million visitors enjoy Central Park each year. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Saint Patrick's Cathedral is the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic cathedral in the U.S. The cathedral's construction began in 1858, and it opened its doors in 1879. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Skaters glide around the rink at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. The ice rink, open between October and April, has attracted more than 250,000 people a year since it first opened on Dec. 25, 1936. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrons line up outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Amateur Night. Since 1934, Amateur Night at the Apollo has launched the careers of famous entertainers such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, The Isley Brothers, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, and many others. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The South Pool at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City commemorates those who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. (Justin Lane / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Pedestrians pass along a walkway under falling snow on the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 3, 2014, in New York. One of the oldest suspension bridges in the U.S., the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Statue of Liberty looms over a visitor as he uses binoculars to look out onto New York Harbor on Oct. 13, 2013, in New York. About 4 million people visit the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island each year. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Coney Island features entertainment parks, rides, an aquarium, a public beach, a boardwalk, fishing and Nathan's restaurant. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. New York City Subway dancer Marcus Walden aka "Mr Wiggles" performs acrobatic tricks on the subway while passengers watch Nov. 23, 2010. More than 4.3 million people ride the New York subway system every day. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of two-mile-long Roosevelt Island - between Manhattan and Queens - was dedicated in 2012. (Paul Warchol / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York has been around since 1924 and includes large balloons, floats and performances. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Visitors view the Manhattan skyline from Rockefeller Center's "Top of the Rock" observation deck. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Pedestrians walk along a path on the High Line park on June 7, 2011, in New York City. The High Line was formerly an elevated railway 30 feet above the city's West Side that was built in 1934 for freight trains. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The moon rises at sunset behind New York's Empire State building, which opened in 1931. At 102 stories high, the Empire State Building is the fourth tallest skyscraper in America. (Gary Hershorn / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
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