Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Good Cheap Grub

This front cover of New York Magazine from July 28-Aug.4: "Eat Cheap 2008" (deluxe hard-times edition) called out to me at the hair salon. "Read me, Mrs. Dottie", it said. This article describes how some restaurants in the city are now changing their menus to suit the new "fiscally prudent" lifestyle that so many have adopted due to rising food prices. Makes sense to me. Makes me wonder just how much of a demand there is for new upscale restaurants like the "Cosmopolitan" which plans on opening in downtown Allentown.

In NYC for a dollar you can get a slice of plain pizza, or a lamb skewer, or dumplings from a street cart. Upscale is out.

Luxury toppings on burgers are out. There's the beef!

I usually cook at home, but on weekends we like to eat out, and I need a break. So does my messy kitchen. So I try to find ways to eat out for $20 or under per meal, preferably no fast food. And avoidance of the "get outta the way of my weekend" jerky crowd. It is possible for a small family of 3 to eat good food at a cheap price. Dining at a restaurant where you must leave a tip can go more than $20, but we try to keep it under $30.

Here's my personal Cheap List (Places we've managed to keep it around $20 or less for dinner)

House of Chen , Downtown Allentown. get the platter specials. Kids love shrimp toast.
5 Guys Burgers, West Allentown, hearty burgers, no fancy ambience, get the junior burger, share a drink, share the fries
The Brass Rail , Lehigh St., call ahead take-out, eat at Lehigh Parkway, go for walk
Schnecksville Diner, route 309, we like this diner, get a cup of soup and sandwich, or breakfast for dinner, take the long way home.
Cafe Buon Gusto, Allentown, good meatball pizza (my son LOVES this) and we must stop at soda machine at 19th and Highland laundromat. We've got some rituals.
Dan's Chicken at the Farmer's Market, Allentown, a longstanding tradition, and some vegetables!

You may be thinking that this is a lot of high fat food that's really bad for you. Well, it's just on the weekend, not every night. We eat only salads and vegetables 5 days a week! ;D Actually I make sandwiches, fish, pasta, roasts, salads, all sorts of stuff. But when you dine out, the fancy salads are usually a lot more expensive than the burgers.