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

    White Slab Palace

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    White Slab Palace

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    White Slab Palace

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    White Slab Palace

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    White Slab Palace

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    White Slab Palace

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    White Slab Palace

Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

White Slab Palace


La Bonne Soupe
Channel 1980s Manhattan with a rendezvous at this classic bistro, with wooden caf chairs, wine by the glass for $8.50 (at most), an upstairs balcony and a surprisingly large number of meal deals for less than $20. For example, those soups—a nutty, cheese-capped French onion, or a hearty mushroom, barley and lamb—come with bread, salad, dessert and a glass of beer or house wine for just $19.50. Crpes (stuffed with leeks and goat cheese, perhaps) are $13.95 with a salad, as are burgers paired with pommes frites and topped with French sauces like Mornay, au poivre or red wine. A traditional quiche lorraine or a ratatouille-topped omelette is just $12.95. 48 W 55th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-586-7650, labonnesoupe.com)

Mile End
By day, this shoebox serves the succulent slow-cooked brisket the Quebecois call "smoked meat" (seven ounces with rye and mustard $10), but by night, the diner vibe gets a serious upgrade with the addition of some impressively refined fare. There are the Jewish dumplings known as kreplach, stuffed with sweet peas and served with onions, chili and mint ($7); lamb's tongue on homemade pumpernickel with onion-raisin marmalade and fresh horseradish ($8); or trout teamed with horseradish cream and pickled beets ($16). Perhaps even more surprising are those reasonable prices, especially if you stick with $3 bottles of Labatt Bleue. 97A Hoyt St between Atlantic Ave and Pacific St, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (718-852-7510, mileendbrooklyn.com)

Bar Veloce
Both the East Village and Chelsea locations of this wine bar are reminiscent of modern Milan, though you won't end up spending hundreds of euros. Beyond the long list of Italian wines stored in super-cool backlit shelving behind the bar (glasses start at $9), there are nicely bitter amari and liquori that Italians drink as aperitivi. Those are perfect to prime your palate—try an orange-kicked Aperol with a splash of soda, $9—for dozens of Italianate small plates, most under $10. Go for a tramezzino—a sandwich on white, crustless bread—stuffed with roasted eggplant, olive paste and tomatoes for $5; bruschetta with tuna, white beans and rosemary for $6; or a warm panino with prosciutto, mushroom, creamy Taleggio cheese and truffle oil for $11. 175 Second Ave between 11th and 12th Sts (212-260-3200) * 176 Seventh Ave at 20th St (212-629-5300) * barveloce.com

Dim Sum Go Go
This swinging dumpling joint represents a partnership between a Hong Kong--trained chef and the daughter of Chinese restaurateurs, who teamed up a decade ago. Their traditional family recipes are still worth sampling. Highlights include shareable dishes like steamed dumplings filled with duck or delicate sweet snow-pea leaves ($4.50), a Wise Man's Broth with fresh lily bulbs and bean curd in chicken consomm ($5.95), fluffy white buns stuffed with roast pork or steamed chicken ($4.50) or spring rolls with shrimp and mango ($4.50). 5 East Broadway at Chatham Sq (212-732-0796)

White Slab Palace
When the weather's warm enough for this modern Swedish bar to open its wide metal windows onto the Lower East Side, there are fewer places we'd rather spend an evening. It's better still over a glass of the herbal Scandinavian liquor called aquavit (glass $7--$8) and some small, shareable plates of Scandinavian specialties. Opt for a mixed platter of pickled and marinated herring ($15), lamb-stuffed Moroccan cigars ($5), smoked Norwegian shrimp ($10) and a fried potato pancake with black lumpfish caviar ($9). The less adventurous can always split the satisfyingly rich burger ($15), topped with bacon, cheese and a fried egg. 77 Delancey St at Allen St (212-334-0913)

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