How to Put Some Bite in a Manhattan Buck

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

Most women don’t like being referred to as cheap. I consider it a compliment.

Actually, it is good value that I admire. Whether it’s an expensive meal or an inexpensive bus ride, all I ask is that the return reflect the investment.

This holds true, too, when dining in New York City, where a corned-beef sandwich in a theater-district deli can cost more than $10, and receiving the dinner check can ruin even my appetite.

So for fun, exercise and good value, here’s a progressive dinner that combines eating in a variety of locations with a stroll and $1 bus ride through the city.

Start on the Upper East Side at what was originally an automat but has been transformed, by time and economics, into the Horn & Hardart Dine-O-Mat, 942 3rd Ave. between 56th and 57th streets.


Bit of Nostalgia

See the automat you remember from childhood turned into a bit of nostalgia. It’s a frightening thought. Don’t linger on it. Sip a soft drink or a pink caddy, made with pineapple, grapefruit and lime juices with vodka and creme de noy, and ponder your first date in a car, if you can remember that far back.

Next, saunter a few blocks south for high-quality sushi at Nippon, 155 East 52nd St. Or you can phone in an order--(213) 355-9020--to take back to your hotel room.

Two can eat an assortment of 14 pieces of sushi for $17. With a cup of tea or a bottle of beer, it makes an excellent light meal. You can also order sushi by the piece at Nippon and sit in. Prices are about $2.10 to $3.50 per piece.

For the next course, ramble a few blocks east and south to Market Street, 900 2nd Ave., just south of 48th Street, for great antipasto or a curried chicken salad sandwich on rye. Sandwiches are about $5 to $6.50.

This is not an eat-in kind of place, so grab your snack and eat it while you walk west to Fifth Avenue and north two blocks to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Drop in for some visual candy. Even though there is nothing to eat there, it’s worth the time. Turn south for your next course.

By the time you reach Lord & Taylor at 424 Fifth Ave., you should be ready for a little shopping and a generous bowl of Scotch broth. To find the broth, go to the 10th-floor restaurant, the Soup Bar. Fragrant with lamb, the delicious soup is filled with vegetables and barley and served with as many crackers as you can eat. For $3.75, it’s good food and great value.


Warm Spinach Knish

Following soup, wander west to pick up a 2nd Avenue bus south to Houston Street, where you will find Yonah Schimmel, 137 E. Houston St., between 1st and 2nd avenues. There you’ll devour one last snack: a potato and spinach knish. Ask for it to be warmed. Although the cost of about $1.15 may seem sturdy, it’s an excellent price per pound . . . for both you and the knish.

From Yonah Schimmel, trek a few blocks east and south to Dean and DeLuca, 560 Broadway, for a finale of excellent cappuccino ($1.50), the best bargain in the place.

Dean and DeLuca is sort of a Sak’s Fifth Avenue for food. Currently fashionable are dried beans from all nations and dried chiles at prices so high that Californians accustomed to seeing them for pennies will laugh out loud. Suppress that desire. You wouldn’t want the New Yorkers to think you feel superior.

From there you can wander the streets of SoHo and see all the locals looking fashionable but hungry. You won’t be.

Another trick for newly arrived Californians, who, with the three-hour time difference, probably aren’t enthusiastic about food until noon anyway, is to eat a late breakfast and schedule a lighter meal at dinner time.

Popover Cafe, 551 Amsterdam (between 86th and 87th streets), has omelets, sandwiches and salads. Try the smoked chicken with Gruyere and sauteed onions. It’s worth the calories.

Giant Popovers

But the giant popovers with strawberry butter are the real reason to go. Good value, at less than $10 a person, with coffee. Dinner also is served, but prices are slightly higher. Entrees run from about $12 to $17.


SarahBeth’s Kitchen, at two locations--1295 Madison Ave. and 423 Amsterdam Ave.--are good places for breakfast, lunch or brunch. For breakfast, order Goldie Lox, which is scrambled eggs with bits of lox and chunks of cream cheese, or Pa Pa Bear Porridge, served with strawberries, raisins and honey. Also order a pumpkin muffin.

For lunch, try a smoked mozzarella sandwich with avocado served on homemade seven-grain bread. Or order a pecan-breaded chicken-breast sandwich. Breads, muffins and jams are made at the restaurants. Breakfast or lunch can be under $10 per person, including coffee.

If you are short of cash or for some odd reason not hungry, make your breakfast a fresh bran and blueberry muffin and herb tea at Between the Bread, 141 East 56th St. at $1.75 per muffin. They are big, filling and not very sweet, a characteristic some misguided souls would consider an attribute. Despite that defect, they are enjoyable.

Or grab a wonderful carrot, coconut, raisin and walnut Glorious Morning muffin ($1.25) at Cafe Buongiorno at the Market at Citicorp Center, 53rd and 54th streets, between Lexington and 3rd Avenues, and eat it in the enclosed Atrium.

Also, cookies and brownies and other foods of questionable nutritional value are available. The health-minded will skip those, of course. But if you know someone who eats cookies, tell him that the rainbow colored squares covered in chocolate are delightful . . . or so I’m told.

And while you are sampling some of the modest-cost foods of New York City, hope for sunshine. Eating in the rain isn’t fun. But if it is raining, grab a taxi or, better yet, hire a limo.