If you haven’t seen it, New York magazine has released their annual “Cheap” list – a hundred and one entries ranging from Hong Kong Station to various Batali Imperial Outposts™. Generally, when one of these lists comes out, I get forwarded it by some well-meaning types and queried about it by others, and I thought I’d share my likely answer with all of you.
As usual, I have some qualms with their selection criteria: I contest that “where entrée prices seldom exceed $20” should be considered “cheap,” even by their honestly disclosed neighborhood-relative criteria. Spending $50 on dinner for two might really be slumming it if you’re a Alec Baldwin and your watch costs more than my grandmother’s car, but not if you’re in college or working a crap job to make ends meet. It most CERTAINLY isn’t cheaper than cooking (again, unless beef Wellington and the ilk are your standard recipes).
Now, before I start getting irritated letters from the editorial staff of said magazine, who I’m sure are proud of their creation, I understand (have had this beaten into my head ad nauseam by those who are picky with how they spend their time) that not everyone gives a poop about getting on the train and going out somewhere, and that NY Magazine is in the business of making money (and stands a better chance of doing so if they include love letters to Bouchon Bakery), blah, blah, blah.
Personally, I’d rather spend the column inches on promoting places that aren’t in the Country’s Highest Per-Capita Shopper Income Mega-Mall and don’t have publicists or celeb chefs. Less “French Laundry,” more “next to the local lavanderia.” Different strokes for different folks. If anything, the list serves to remind me how unique the Sietsema column is in a for-profit publication.
Still, I give NYM credit for explaining their criteria, flawed or not, for not totally ignoring the outer boroughs (I counted 28 outer borough restaurants among the list, and a few of those are even outside Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Williamsburg and Carroll Gardens!), and it’s an encouraging trend that the first item on the list is way the hell out in Bay Ridge (and I’ll be going there soon enough, I’m sure).