Want to take a bite of the Big Apple without it taking a bite out of your bank account? This handy new guidebook by Monica DiNatale will fit the bill—and make sure you get your fill with some of the best deals around. In fact, the 365 Guide New York City serves up more than a year’s worth of great deals at restaurants and bars in Manhattan so you can eat, drink and save every time you go out to eat.
DiNatale, a foodie whose blogs and videos at ifood.tv average more than 2 million hits annually, started this project about three years ago because she was determined to prove that you didn’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have a great dining experience in Manhattan.
“I do eat out eight days a week—it is what I do!” she says with a laugh.
She got the idea for this guidebook when she decided to jot down how many deals she knew about, and in half an hour, she adds, “I had 50 places written down!”
Her criteria are that the places had to have been in business for at least five years and were established with their deals. She explains, “I feel like a lot of times a bar or a restaurant that’s only open a year or two is still trying to figure it out: ‘Do we want to be the dollar-oyster guy? Do we want to be just a happy hour bar? Do we want to have dinner specials every night?’”
What constitutes a deal in her guidebook ranges from free salsa with your chips to free food with the purchase of a drink, or buy one get one free. And the venues vary from dive bars to high-end restaurants. For example, she loves Barbounia on Park Avenue South at 20th Street.
“It’s an extremely high-end Mediterranean restaurant,” she says. “I’m talking $30 entrees, beautiful super-modern décor, that kind of thing. But every day you can go there from three to seven p.m. and you can find $6 appetizers. I mean this is delicious, high-end food, and there’s also $6 cocktails that might run you $13 or $14 after 7 o’clock. That’s another kind of deal I look for.”
The 365 Guide New York City comes with an ingenious index arranged by neighborhood, type of establishment (for example, casual, pubs, sports bars, restaurants), weekend deals, plus seasonal finds perfect for Oktoberfest, Passover, Christmas and Restaurant Week. There are also maps of the neighborhoods with numbers corresponding to her recommended restaurants so you can quickly pinpoint where you are and what you want to eat, and last but not least, she even throws in a subway map in the back of the book. And if you have a hankering for the basics, like pizza, hot dogs and desserts, she’s got that covered, too.
The main guidebook arranges the restaurants alphabetically, with descriptions of the deal, location, hours, contacts and what she calls the “365 extras.” For a place in the East Village called Keybar, DiNatale touts it this way: “Get a FREE round of shots for you and your friends on your birthday (within three days). It feels like a basement with mismatched furniture and an eclectic vibe. Love it.”
For The Tangled Vine, a wine bar and restaurant on the Upper West Side on Amsterdam Avenue at West 81st Street, she touts the best offers between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.: $1 oysters, $4-$5 appetizers, $4 beer and $6 wine by the glass with 30 percent off wine bottles on Mondays.
“I like the meatballs and grilled bread with ricotta,” she writes. “It’s an inviting bright wine bar with a wine list that spans the globe. You may have to wait for a spot at the bar, but it’s worth it.”
DiNatale claims she’s found free food specials throughout the city and $2-$3 drinks any day of the week, as well as the best happy hours in Manhattan when time is on your side.
My only quibble with this guidebook is that it’s not organized by cuisine but it doesn’t take a lot of thumbing through the pages to find a delicious deal.
For Indian food, she favors Darbar, near the Grand Central Terminal on 46th Street. between 3rd and Lexington avenues. “They do free appetizers at the bar every day between 5 and 8 p.m.,” she says, “and the food is excellent.”
For pizza slices, she recommends Justino’s—one in Hell’s Kitchen on 10th Avenue between 57th and 58th streets and the other on 3rd Avenue in Murray Hill between 31st and 32nd streets. “They do a thin crust and fun flavors,” she says.
Hankering for a hamburger? She loves Corner Bistro at Jane Street and West 4th Street in the Village.
“It’s an old-school bar, with brown, dark wood, $3 drafts…and the burgers are just outstanding!” she gushes. “If there is a line, wait! They cook them perfectly, and they’re old school: lettuce, onion and pickle. That would be my all-time favorite.”
DiNatale admits she’s not a vegetarian. “I eat everything,” she says, adding that she can cook, “but I go out more than I cook, to be honest with you.”
In the guidebook, she mentions if the bar or restaurant has a great brunch offer. “Some of them might include two-hour unlimited mimosas,” she says. “You don’t get too much done on those days if you’re at brunch having two hours of them!”
For people coming into Manhattan for the day, she advises they do some research first but be forewarned.
“If you just Google it, you’re generally going to get the higher-end places or Zagat, which is fine, but they’re going to cost you more,” she advises. “So get advice from a friend, or ask a cab driver, they know the best local places in every neighborhood, so you really can learn a lot from them. And if you move a little bit outside of the ‘touristy area,’ you’ll find a little more chill places. If you’re coming in to see a show, definitely check out Restaurant Row. There are great deals on Restaurant Row.” That’s the array of restaurants on West 46th between 8th and 9th Avenues.
And she’s got a great tip for families coming into the city and looking for a bargain. It’s the Bierhaus at 712 3rd Avenue between 44th and 45th streets. “On Sundays kids under 10 eat free from noon until 9 p.m.,” she says. “Who knew!”
DiNatale, who lives in the Upper West Side, has found places in every corner of Manhattan to satisfy her curious taste buds—and she’s always on the hunt for a new deal.
“I usually wake up thinking, ‘What am I going to do for dinner?’ Or, ‘where am I going this weekend?’ Those are the two questions that pop into my mind.”
The answers she’s already found promise to be very fulfilling.