Cheap restaurants for dates

Money can't buy you love, but less than $30 can buy an affordable multicourse meal for two in a romantic setting.

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  • An Choi

  • An Choi

  • The Meatball Shop

  • The Meatball Shop

  • Spot Dessert Bar

  • Spot Dessert Bar

An Choi

An Choi (85 Orchard St between Broome and Grand Sts; 212-226-3700, anchoinyc.com)
Good for: Two foodies craving passion and pork
The vibe: This might be the most romantic banh mi shop in New York, and the ambience, combined with the quality of the food, would make you expect to pay more for a meal: Tea lights are scattered everywhere, and Edison bulbs dangle over small candlelit tables in the tiny, serpentine space.

An Choi (85 Orchard St between Broome and Grand Sts; 212-226-3700, anchoinyc.com)
Good for: Two foodies craving passion and pork
The vibe: This might be the most romantic banh mi shop in New York, and the ambience, combined with the quality of the food, would make you expect to pay more for a meal: Tea lights are scattered everywhere, and Edison bulbs dangle over small candlelit tables in the tiny, serpentine space.
Order this: 1 Crispy roasted-pork banh mi ($8): It's among the best in the city, made with pork belly that's been dry-rubbed with salt and five-spice powder, roasted and then tucked into a baguette with aioli, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, jalapeo and cilantro. 2 Beef pho ($9.50): Soft beef and rice noodles drown in a tangy broth flavored with cinnamon, cloves and coriander. 3 Coconut flan ($4.50): The flirty finale to your dinner is silky, sweet and served with fruit compote.
Total: $22

Cascabel Taqueria (1542 Second Ave between 80th and 81st Sts; 212-717-7800, nyctacos.com)
Good for: Creatives after a day on Museum Mile
The vibe: Funky lucha libre wrestling masks dominate the decor in this Upper East Side taqueria: They're painted on the walls, featured in vintage photographs and displayed in action-figure form on the tables themselves.
Order this: 1 Chorizo tacos (two for $8.50): Get the night off to a spicy start with some crumbly, piquant house-made Mexican-style chorizo sausage. Everything is tossed with smoked paprika and Vidalia onion before being stuffed inside corn tortillas. 2 Quinoa and frijoles ($6): A plate of locally grown black beans and quinoa is seasoned with queso fresco, onion and cilantro. 3 Vegetable tacos (two for $8.50): Tear into this mix of oyster mushrooms and fingerling potatoes, with poblano peppers and queso fresco. 4 Churros ($1): Cap off the meal with three-for-one spicy cinnamon churros—Cascabel's playful twist on the Mexican doughnut turns them into Munchkin-size balls.
Total: $24

Corsino (637 Hudson St at Horatio St, 212-242-3093)
Good for: Trendy couples whose idea of romance begins and ends in the West Village.
The vibe: Owned by Jason Denton (the man behind 'ino and 'inoteca), this space combines the rustic (wood-plank walls) with the modern (slick metal chairs) and draws a mixed crowd of smartly dressed young things and cardigan-bedecked older diners.
Order this: 1 Panini ($11 each): The dishes here are a bit pricier than your average cheap eat, but the panini are ideal for sharing—order two different sandwiches and swap halves with your date, like the prosciutto, sweet onion and fontina and the fennel, artichoke, goat cheese and black olive. 2 Two crostini ($2.50 each): Share an assortment of these tasty little bites, available in inventive combinations like preserved eggplant and mint, mushroom and Taleggio, and shrimp and arugula.
Total: $27

The Meatball Shop (84 Stanton St between Allen and Orchard Sts; 212-982-8895, themeatballshop.com)
Good for: Carnivores looking to flirt by candlelight on a second or third date.
The vibe: This place comes across way sexier than a typical sub shop: There's a subway-tiled bar, antique bric-a-brac on the walls and a dressed-to-the-nines crowd looking to fill up before a night of partying.
Order this: 1 Meatball hero ($9): The substantial hero is composed of golf-ball-size Creekstone Farms beef meatballs, which are smothered with a spicy sauce and either provolone or mozzarella cheese, then placed on a crunchy Il Forno baguette. 2 Simple salad ($4, free with meatball hero): The arugula and apples provide a light and refreshing break from the meatiest. 3 Spicy pork meatballs la carte ($7): These tangy ground treats are made with Heritage Breed pork and served with focaccia bread. 4 Ice cream sandwiches ($4): A freshly baked coconut macaroon cookie hugging a scoop of house-made caramel ice cream is a key precursor to any subsequent canoodling.
Total: $16

Spot Dessert Bar(13 St. Marks Pl between Second and Third Aves; 212-677-5670, spotdessertbar.com)
Good for: An adventurous duo in search of a sugar high
The vibe: The throbbing soundtrack isn't the only draw here; people crowd this upbeat East Village haunt to savor inexpensive upscale desserts by the supremely skilled pastry chef Pichet Ong (formerly of P*ong and Batch).
Order this: 1 Yuzu Eskimo ($7.50): Tart yuzu ice cream is sandwiched by Oreo cookie crust, and dressed up with strawberries and passion fruit foam—it's an indulgent entre for a meal made up entirely of dessert. 2 White miso semifreddo ($8.50): A moist olive oil cake surrounds a smooth white miso semifreddo, surrounded by raspberry sorbet, candied sesame and fresh berries. 3 Vietnamese coffee ice cream ($3): Creamy and sweet, this conjures the taste of the classic Vietnamese coffee.
Total: $19

St. Anselm (355 Metropolitan Ave between Havemeyer and Roebling Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-384-5054)
Good for: Long-term relationshippers determined to take a break from their Netflix instant queue
The vibe: The interior of the restaurant recalls an urban diner, but we recommend eating outside of popular beer bar Spuyten Duyvil, the owners' neighboring establishment, where you can enjoy a relaxed meal under a leafy canopy of shade.
Order this: 1 Sliders ($3 each): Skip the gut-busting entres and stick with mini sandwiches made with Heritage beef and accompanied by caramelized onions on soft Martin's potato rolls. 2 Disco fries ($4): They're covered in house-made ricotta cheese and brown gravy; an excellent complement to your sliders. 3 Calf brains ($7): Dusted in panko and fried, these are as crunchy as chicken nuggets and are best after liberal dipping in mignonette sauce. 4 House-made sausage ($6): Selections and flavors vary day to day—possible options include fennel, sun-dried tomato and chorizo varieties.
Total: $23

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