May 29, 2007 | Favorites

Where I Go When I'm Pinching Pennies

 Celeste pizza
   We often share one of the remarkable thin pizzas at Celeste."   Photo: Steven Richter

Celeste -- 502 Amsterdam Avenue at 84th Street -- 212 874 4559
It’s a hassle with no reservations and no credit cards and being shoe-horned into a tiny table with near nonexistent aisles. But you feel yourself lifted above the torture by excellent crisp pizzas, first-rate artisinal pastas (The Road Food Warrior favors the wide noodles called paccheri.) An astonishing platter of precious Italian cheese toted to NYC every few weeks lends a frisson of danger, as if you’re eating forbidden manna of goat and cow.

Kefi -- 222 West 79th Street near Broadway -- 212 873 0200
Suffer the annoyance of no reservations, no plastic, crowded tables, lines out the door for the rustic country classics of Greece from the town’s reigning Greek Hero, chef Michael Psilakis (bringing gourmands to their knees with his reinventions of Greek cooking at Anthos.) Here is the food that inspired his gentrified odes in midtown: cuttlefish stuffed with spinach and beans, mussel with gigante beans, raddichio and feta, a mellow moussaka. I try to get friends to share the Greek spreads, and sometimes the mussels or meatballs with yogurt or stuffed cabbage seem perfect as an entrée.


I don't mind if the bun is common at Fairway Cafe when the burger is great.
Photo: Steven Richter

Fairway Café -- 2127 Broadway between 74/75th Sts. 2nd floor -- 212 595 1888 I do my breakfast meetings and sometimes lunch at Fairway (true, it’s a block from my home and a block from my office). But often I am back at dinner time when they lower the lights and put out table cloths. Often I just have to have the expertly-made burger, with bacon and cheese and a double order of coleslaw.  But just as often, I order flank steak or skate on the $29.00 three course dinner --  a gift of thrift to the upper west side -- imagine a glass of drinkable wine for just $6 or $7, with Mitch London’s lush and slovenly primitive apple pie à la mode. When Mitch is there, he bustles like an obsessed Jewish mother and drives the staff relentlessly if they don’t treat the customers like the spoiled divas that many of us are. 

Brooklyn Diner -- 212 West 57 St. btw B'way and 7th Av. 212 977 2280. Also at 155 West 43rd Street just east of B'way.
At least once every week or two my soul mate Vicki and I follow a play or a screening with a heaping hill of Chinese chicken salad to share. When I am about to succumb to the lure of the mythic cheesecake, she saves me from myself.  Happily, when my guy and I drop in to share a Brooklyn salad and devour a very rare burger -- with bacon and a toussle of friend onions, he is as vulnerable as I…and a cheescake ritual is almost always observed, 

Metro Marché -- 625 Eighth Avenue, corner of 41st St. --  212 239 1010
It’s a challenge to get my pals to go to Metro Marché. “It’s in the bus terminal,” they protest. Well okay…it’s not exactly Waverly Place.  The lurkers-about can be pretty sleazy.  But I go myself for the lobster cobb salad, alone.  And when you’re stapped, a better than merely decent steak frites for $17.95 in a snappy French brasserie setting is not to be sneered at. And if you happen to ride the bus, the good looking carryout is essential.

JeBon Noodle House --15 St. Marks Pl. btw 2 & 3rdAvs. --  212-388 1313 It’s all about noodles, fabulous Chinese noodles, uniquely original, oddly delicious noodles, Cantonese golden noodles, noodles formed from fish purées as a nest for shrimp, clams, and more.  Don’t miss the kichinabe -- pork dumplings caramelized in an iron pan and deliciously chewy spare ribs.

Patina Restaurant Group