Maybe the line at Trader Joe’s was too long or maybe you just read Eat Pray Love, and now you want more from life. It doesn’t matter. You should be able to go out on a weeknight and not have to blow half your paycheck.
New York is a tough town, but it isn’t so tough that you can’t afford to eat at a somewhat nice place on the occasional Tuesday. So here are the places where you can go out on a weeknight without spending a fortune. Unless you’re a raccoon, in which case your fortune is some tin foil and rhinestones in a tree trunk.
At Allswell, you can sit in a dark room and eat a hunk of ground beef between two pieces of bun. To us, that sounds like a weeknight. Of course, there’s other stuff too, like chicken or trout - but these guys are mostly known for their burgers and fried chicken sandwiches. The food here is better than the stuff at your average pub, and it’s one of the less crazy places on Bedford Ave.
Lovely Day is for when you don’t necessarily need the best food ever. It’s for when you just need somewhere fun to have an affordable, satisfying meal with friends. The Thai-leaning menu is big and all over the place, and you can have anything from a salad to a solid pad Thai. Lovely Day is a little small (although you can sit downstairs on some nights), but it’s a cool-looking space, and you’ll probably get seated next to someone you could see yourself dating for three to six months.
Lighthouse is good for a lot. You can eat healthy here, or you can have a burger. You can bring a date, or go with your parents. You can also grab a table and spend $100 on dinner, or you can just have a chicken sandwich and get out for less than 20 bucks. The vibe here is fun and casual, and the food is consistently excellent. All that, and beers start at $4.
You expect Hugo & Sons to be more expensive than it is. Maybe it’s the shiny red banquettes or the fact that it’s in a part of Brooklyn where real estate agents have to make up new numbers when they’re pricing brownstones . But if you stop by on a weeknight, you can get a good meal without spending too much. Have a pizza, a burger, or their tagliatelle with brisket and ricotta. The pizza might not be the best in Brooklyn, but the service is friendly and the space is vibey enough for a low-key date night.
You can just call this place Diet Aria. Not because it’s healthy, but because they serve the exact same food as Aria Wine Bar in a smaller space that doesn’t get as nuts. Sure, weekends get crowded, but if you stop by on a weeknight, you should be able to grab a table (or a bar seat) and a $12 bowl of pasta no problem.
When you sit down for dinner at Han Dynasty, your server will assume you want the dan dan noodles. And you will want them. Because, for eight dollars, you get a bowl of warm, chewy, spicy noodles that you’ll immediately form a codependent relationship with. But that’s only one thing on the menu at this Sichuan mini-chain from Philly. Be sure to get some dry-pepper chicken or the string beans with pork. There are two locations in NYC, one on the Upper West Side and another in the East Village.
Sally Roots is the restaurant you wish you had in the bottom of apartment building. It’s cheap enough for a weeknight and fun enough for a weekend dinner. They do Carribbean/Jamaican food here, and it’s all pretty straightforward and garlicky. Have some fried plantains and some kind of grilled protein covered in covered in garlic sauce. And, sure, maybe it’s a weeknight - but you should be drinking rum regardless.
The Milton is a British-style pub on the UES with a solid burger and a surprisingly excellent kale salad. They also have lots of beer on tap, and you’ll become friends with the waitstaff despite the fact that making friends is for fourth graders.
If you live in Morningside Heights, Pisticci should be your go-to neighborhood Italian place. Here, you can have some good pasta and pretend you had the will to make it downtown. These guys also apparently have their own farm upstate, which probably makes their food more ethical. We’re not sure how, because we never studied ethics - but maybe just trust us and head over for some eggplant and broccoli rabe.
Edward’s is nicer than a diner - but, at the same time, they do tacos, rigatoni, and French onion soup. So maybe we’ll just call this place a nice Tribeca diner. They do a great burger, their fish options are reliable, and the Mexican food on their menu is unexpectedly good. Will it be the best food you’ve ever had? No, dummy - check out our Greatest Hits for that. This is just an easy, no-stress dinner option downtown.
As long as you reign in your completely understandable urge to ball out and eat lobster, your dinner at Glady’s isn’t going to cost you much. Half a jerk chicken is $10 (the jerk lobster is $28), and most of the sides go for $4. They also do a slushy Dark & Stormy, and there are an adequate number of plants hanging from the ceiling. For a casual weeknight dinner near the top of Prospect Park, hit Glady’s.
There’s nothing fancy or charming about this space in the East Village, but you don’t need ambiance when you have good fried poultry. Bobwhite is a super-casual spot where you order at the bar and someone brings you fried chicken with some coleslaw and a biscuit. They also have sandwiches and sides (and even a salad). Come to Bobwhite when you’ve had a rough weekday, and eat a cheap meal that’ll put you to sleep.
Pies ‘n’ Thighs is right off the Williamsburg Bridge, but the inside of this little Southern spot feels small-town. The order here is a chicken box (that comes with three pieces, a biscuit, and a side) or a chicken biscuit. The chicken biscuit is a piece of fried chicken in the middle of a biscuit, and it comes dripping with butter. You will both hate and love yourself at the exact same time.
We aren’t going pretend this is the best Italian in the city, but you don’t always need the best. Sometimes (on weeknights, say), you just need something solid and easy. That’s what Fiat Cafe is for. Think of it as a little Italian diner where you can have some meatballs, a panini, or some salmon.
Dokebi is a Korean restaurant in Williamsburg where you can grill your own meat or mess around with some shabu shabu. But if it’s a weeknight, you probably aren’t going to do either of those things. You’ll probably just get some bibimbap, fried chicken, or a few of their Korean BBQ tacos. You can’t go wrong with any of these choices, none of them will cost you too much, and there’s even a good beer selection.
This place looks like a little takeout joint from the outside, but there’s actually a little dining room in the back. The food here is Thai for the most part, but there are also baos, dim sum, devils on horseback, and a bunch of different noodles. The food here is fun and a little bit unexpected, and you could probably eat here in your second-best sweatpants.
If you’re looking for a Thai place where you can order something other than pad Thai and have no regrets, Up Thai is a good option. Stop by on a weeknight and have some larb, peanut-chicken dumplings, or maybe even pad Thai if you’ve come to terms with being boring. This place is also better-looking than your average Thai spot, and they have at least 10 different types of bright, shiny lanterns to stare at.
These guys are known for their authentic Northern Thai food, and that means you should be eating things like Thai sausage or prawn ceviche. You can also play it safe and get your favorite Thai noodles - but this restaurant is best enjoyed when you eat fermented fish sauce. When you’re looking for a fun and different meal on a Tuesday night in the East Village, get Somtum Der in your rotation.
In terms of looks, these guys are hipper than your average pho spot. That means you can have dinner here with a friend who wants to take pictures of their food. And you can watch them do this while you eat a banh mi or a bowl of pho - or both if you get the “French Dip” banh mi, which comes with a side of broth for dipping. An Choi is on a lively (but not crazy) block on the LES, it’s very laid-back, and you won’t spend too much here.