Dinner dates for less than $50

Impress someone special with great tastes, and have enough left over for a second date.

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  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Wilfie & Nell

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Wilfie & Nell

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Wilfie & Nell

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Wilfie & Nell

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Wilfie & Nell

Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

Wilfie & Nell

Fonda
The happy-hour specials served at this year-old spot from former Rosa Mexicano chef Roberto Santibaez supply some of the city's finest Mexican eats at taco-truck prices. Perch yourself at the tall bar Tuesday to Friday from 4 to 7pm (weekends 4 to 6pm) and order any of four serious snacks for just $5 each: a molcajete filled with freshly made guacamole for two, accompanied by house-made soft corn tortillas; crispy fried corn tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken, salsa and cheese; fried corn tortillas with black beans and slow-roasted pork shoulder; or two-cheese quesadillas melted with mushrooms or chorizo. Try them all for $20, and add $3 Mexican brews or a couple of lime-kissed $5 house margaritas. 434 Seventh Ave between 14th and 15th Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-369-3144, fondarestaurant.com)

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Restaurant Riki
This authentic izakaya is a subterranean midtown hang for Japanese businessmen draining pitchers of Kirin ($18; mug $5). Its sunken backroom booths also make for a stellar dinner date. Share a few of the more than 150 small plates on the menu, including crunchy rounds of battered and fried lotus root ($6); a thin omelette served with spicy cod roe ($7); skewers of grilled short ribs (two for $7); the tender chicken meatballs, called tsukune (two for $5); or a simple dish of grilled mackerel with lemon ($7). Finish as per tradition with either the nori-seasoned rice ball, called onigiri ($2.50), or a brothy bowl of miso ramen ($9). 141 E 45th St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-986-1109)

Giuseppina's
The second spot from the folks behind Jay-Z's favorite pizza place (the always-crowded, BYOB Lucali in Carroll Gardens) follows its predecessor's beloved formula: a succinct, inexpensive menu serving puffy crusted pies or calzones ($20, plus $3 toppings such as beef pepperoni, olives and hot peppers). The quirky simplicity, $6 glasses of beer or wine and dim lighting—the flickering pizza oven is practically the only thing illuminating those rustic brick walls—make it a killer space for courting hipsters and middle-aged Italian-American couples, both of whom pack the place on weekends. 691 Sixth Ave at 20th St, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (718-499-5052)

Wilfie & Nell
Fewer spots are better suited for a budget-friendly beer-fueled tryst: Wilfie's top-notch pub grub is served in a cozy-cool West Village space with exposed brick and wood-plank tables. Flaky-crusted meat pies and deep-fried Scotch eggs are each $5; an arugula salad topped with bacon, egg and balsamic is $8, as are the chicken-liver toasts with onion jam. Vegetarians can have the $8 grilled cheese with pickles and whole-grain mustard on white, with a $5 side of fries served with malt vinegar. The most expensive menu item? An artisanal cheese plate topping out at just $12. 228 W 4th St between Seventh Ave South and W 10th St (212-242-2990)

Cocoron
One of the city's few noodle parlors focusing on soba—a Japanese variety made from buckwheat flour—this sparse modern shop is a destination for intrepid urban foodies. The toothsome, earthy strands are served in all manner of methods and with a wide variety of toppings. Order the zaru soba (small $8), and a thick pile of cold noodles are delivered on a bamboo tray with bowls of chopped scallions and flavored soy sauce. 61 Delancey St between Allen and Eldridge Sts (212-925-5220)

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