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 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)1/5
Photograph: Jolie RubenThe Brooklyn Star
 (Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson)2/5
Photograph: Caroline Voagen NelsonBlack Market
 (Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson)3/5
Photograph: Caroline Voagen NelsonBuvette
 (Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson)4/5
Photograph: Caroline Voagen NelsonBocca East
 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)5/5
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczMable's Smokehouse and Banquet Hall

Fill up for $15 or less

Try one of these nine spots for a hearty, affordable meal.

By Claire Zahm

The Brooklyn Star
Gather a crew to take advantage of Brooklyn Star's family-style menu, where the "small" plates are big, the "big" plates are huge, and all the dishes are designed to be shared. Traditional options include a popular bacon-flecked mac and cheese ($9), served in a hot skillet and encrusted with buttery, browned bread crumbs; more-adventurous diners might want to take the opportunity to taste selections like fried pig tails ($11) and tripe chili with Fritos ($9). 593 Lorimer St at Conselyea St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-9899,

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Black Market
The star of the no-frills menu here is the sizable cheeseburger ($12): Made with well-seasoned, griddled Pat LaFrieda chopped beef patties, the hefty sandwich oozes melted American cheese from beneath a lightly toasted potato bun. A complimentary side of house-cut, salt-and-pepper--speckled fries completes the meal. 110 Ave A at 7th St (212-614-9798)

Vintage curios—picnic baskets, rolling pins—fill every inch of Jody Williams's charming new venture. The homey vibe extends to the menu of French-leaning small plates, which can be cobbled together to compose an excellent and affordable meal. A classic croque madame ($10) features thick-sliced ham and a piping hot, slightly runny sunny-side-up egg, while the brandade ($9) is a featherlight pot of whipped salt cod, ideal for heaping onto crusty grilled bread. 42 Grove St between Bedford and Bleecker Sts (212-255-3590,

Bocca East
Restaurateur Thomas Bifulco's spacious new venture transports the romantic atmosphere and rich Italian specialties from his Hell's Kitchen wine bar, Bocca di Bacco, to the UES. To taste the excellent fare without spending too much green, stick with pasta dishes such as the ravioli-like cappellacci ai profumi di primavera ($14), stuffed with a blend of sauted asparagus and artichoke mixed with a nutty Castelmagno cheese. The dining room is sun-drenched in the afternoon (there's also alfresco seating), and postdusk, the low-lit slate interior provides a relaxed setting for a date or evening with close friends. 1496 Second Ave at 78th St (212-249-1010,

Mable's Smokehouse and Banquet Hall
This rowdy restaurant is a passion project for artist-turned-restaurateur Jeff Lutonsky. Raiding his family's recipe box, the Oklahoma native churns out top-notch versions of backyard staples like lush beef brisket, which spends up to 14 hours in the smoker before it hits the table; leaner cuts are sliced for platters ($15), while the fattier meat gets chopped up for sandwiches ($10). Mable's also features one of the cheapest happy hours around: $4 for well drinks, $1 off any beer or a can of beer and a shot (Tue--Fri 4--7pm). 44 Berry St, entrance on North 11th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-6655,

The Queens Kickshaw
Simplicity reigns at this minimalist eatery, where grilled cheese receives the star treatment. The classic combo of Kraft singles and Wonder bread gets an update with artisanal cheeses and luxe toppings. Rich melted Gouda, for example, is offset with pickled jalapeos, a sweet guava jam and creamy black-bean hummus on a Balthazar brioche ($10). With every sandwich ringing in at $11 or less, you can even spring for a cappuccino without breaking the bank. 40-17 Broadway between Steinway St and 41st St, Astoria, Queens (718-777-0913,

The Rabbithole
Exposed-brick walls, mismatched tables and wrought-iron fixtures lend rustic charm to this approachable South Williamsburg joint. Walk through the long, tin-ceilinged interior to find the candlelit patio, a perfect spot to relax with a date. Nibble white-wine--steamed mussels with spicy chorizo ($13) or massive sandwiches like the mint-laced lamb burger ($13), topped with a tangy yogurt-feta sauce and served on a freshly baked brioche bun. 352 Bedford Ave between South 3rd and 4th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-782-0910,

Red Rooster Harlem
Credit Marcus Samuelsson's menu of Southern-inspired classics with a global edge for helping Red Rooster become a community hub in just seven short months. Harlemites gather nightly to graze on dishes like creamy mac 'n' greens ($14)—a blend of collards, Gouda, New York cheddar and Comt—or rib-sticking dirty rice and shrimp ($11). The shareable spiced chocolate cake ($10) is a worthy closer. 310 Malcolm X Blvd (Lenox Ave) between 125th and 126th Sts St (212-792-9001,

Most of the snacks on chef Jason Marcus's often-changing menu clock in at $10 or less. On a recent visit, we gorged on a pair of succulent barbecue braised short-rib sliders ($9). Thai chili--glazed calamari ($8) and a vibrant market salad of crispy pork belly tossed with cantaloupe, feta cheese, Marcona almonds and blood orange ($9) were also excellent. Hunker down in the dining room or snag a table on the lush back patio, and feast with the knowledge you're filling your belly without emptying your wallet. 229 South 4th St between Havemeyer and Roebling Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-844-9578,

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