Cheap restaurants for friends

Your friends will love you when they see these affordable menus, especially the unemployed ones.

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  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    The Commodore

  • The Commodore

  • The Rusty Knot

  • The Rusty Knot

Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

The Commodore

Bill's Bar and Burger (22 Ninth Ave at 13th St; 212-414-3003, billsbarandburger.com)
Good for: Friends looking to preparty on the cheap before a night of expensive boozing in the Meatpacking District.
The vibe: With checked tablecloths and ESPN on the flat-screens, this burger joint is an unpretentious oasis in a sea of sceney restaurants.
Order this: 1 The Classic ($6.50): An all-American version of what you already love: The patty contains a blend of meat from purveyor Pat LaFreida's beef, and it's flattened with a spatula until it's crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It's served on a toasted sesame-seed bun with lettuce, tomato and pickles. 2 Chili cheese dog ($5): This split-and-griddled Hatfield's hot dog is covered with meaty chili, melted cheese and red onion, and covers a well-buttered bun. 3 Crispy veggie fries ($5): A quirky take on veggie tempura, these chunks of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and string beans are chopped up, breaded, fried and served with ranch dressing. 4 Ice cream sundae ($5.50): This decadent frozen treat is a junk food explosion that's still tasty, not to mention more than enough for two: It's loaded with ice cream, a healthy dose of fresh whip cream, Clown marshmallow fluff and a drizzling of chocolate sauce.
Total: $22

La Carbonara (202 W 14th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves; 212-255-2060, lacarbonaranyc.com)
Good for: Catching up in a place where you can actually hear each other talk.
The vibe: The atmosphere here feels elegant but playful, with white molding details, crisp white tablecloths and wine lists scrawled across blackboards.
Order this: 1 Spaghetti alla carbonara ($9.95): Chef Giuliano Matarese does right by this creamy, decadent classic, featuring fatty pancetta, eggs and pecorino romano cheese. 2 Rigatoni ($10.95): Al dente noodles are given substance with earthy eggplant, basil and freshly prepared ricotta cheese. 3 Crme brle al cappuccino ($6): A classic custard, here enhanced with a hint of velvety espresso.
Total: $26.90

The Commodore (366 Metropolitan Ave at Havermeyer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-218-7632)
Good for: A group that prefers Led Zeppelin to the Dirty Projectors
The vibe: '70s kitsch reigns at the Commodore—you'll spot
mustachioed clientele munching on burgers and sipping cans of Schlitz in a space adorned with wood paneling, paper place mats listing tiki cocktails and mirrors behind the bar.
Order this: 1 Fried chicken ($9) : The menu (courtesy of Pies 'n' Thighs alum Stephen Tanner) is full of affordable comfort food, including three crispy thighs teamed with three buttery biscuits. 2 Hot fish sandwich ($8): catfish coated with a slightly spicy batter and topped with coleslaw and pickles. 3 Fries ($4): For less than a fiver, you'll get a giant heap of thin-cut, salty fries, enough for you and several of your favorite people.
Total: $21

Mile End (97A Hoyt St between Atlantic Ave and Pacific St, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn; 718-852-7510, mileendbrooklyn.com)
Good for: The crew that takes their brisket as seriously as their postdinner plans
The vibe: The restaurant is named after Montreal's hipster 'hood, which should give you an idea of the atmosphere here: Impossibly cool-looking kids can be seen carving up meat in a clean, modern take on the classic deli.
Order this: 1 Smoked meat sandwich ($9): Beef brisket bought from Creekstone Farms is cured and smoked in-house, slathered with mustard and set atop rye bread. 2 Poutine ($8): Gorge on the Quebecois late-night classic, consisting of french fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. 3 Sour pickles ($1.50 each): Alternate bites of this crisp, garlicky side—currently sourced from local small-batch purveyors Brooklyn Brine—with the poutine.
Total: $20

The Rusty Knot (425 West St at 11th St, 212-645-5668)
Good for: Kicking back in a grown-up rec room
The vibe: Relaxed in the early evening, raging late at night, this nautical-themed bar attracts the skinny-pants set and a suit-and-tie crowd in equal measure.
Order this: 1 Al pastor tacos (three for $9): Created by Sue Torres of the acclaimed Sueos in Chelsea, the addictive pork tacos share a plate with some sweet pineapple salsa. 2 Guacamole ($6): Made in-house, the guacamole comes paired with also-house-made tortilla chips, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't dip your tacos in it, assuming your crew doesn't judge. 3 Pretzel dog ($4): This Rusty Knot favorite features a warm, doughy pretzel wrapped around a Sabrett hot dog—it's greasy, salty genius.
Total: $19

Sake Bar Hagi (152 W 49th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, 212-764-8549)
Good for: Visiting friends who want to see Times Square without eating at Applebee's
The vibe: This subterranean izakaya is usually packed with Japanese businessmen merrily drinking pitchers of Sapporo and watching sports on the overhead TV.
Order this: 1 Okonomiyaki ($9): The staple of Japanese pub fare consists of a thick pancake filled with cabbage and bits of crab and squid, topped by bonito flakes and okonomiyaki sauce (like a thicker, sweeter version of Worcestershire). 2 Fried chicken gizzards ($5.50): These giblets are crunchy on the outside, chewy within, liberally salted and eminently filling. 3 Chicken skin skewers ($2): Sample Japanese BBQ with an order of crispy, fatty chicken skin. 4 Wasabi dumplings ($4.50): Full, meaty and green steamed dumplings explode with juices and pork flavor before hitting you with a burst of hot wasabi.
Total: $21

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