On our first trip to the city, fresh out of college, our dining strategy was this: We ate at anyplace we recognized from Woody Allen movies and old episodes of “That Girl.” That meant we frequented places decorated with caricatures of Milton Berle and Mort Sahl (whoever they were) and dined on pastrami sandwiches the size of our heads. We even found the automat — sort of a glorified giant vending machine — where “That Girl,” Ann Marie, made tomato soup out of ketchup and hot water. Cute TV, but terrible food. We finally wised up after we went to one of those “famous” places for breakfast, and paid $16 for a bagel with cream cheese.
Seriously? We were in a city with nearly 25,000 restaurants, and we were paying nearly $20 for a lousy bagel (no lox). We felt like total chumps. Thus began our search for New York’s finest, cheapest dining. It’s a search that has led us deep into the city’s dining scene — so deep, we found places that don’t have signs on the doors, and eateries that are tucked back behind bodegas and laundromats — lured by the promise of five dumplings for a dollar, or New York’s best taco. We even wrote an iPhone app, NYC Cheap Eats, to share our finds.