This is an ode to restaurants that are just what restaurants should be: tasty, affordable, inviting
My three recent highlights are Otto, Lomzyniaka, and Kafana, spanning the hoods/deux boroughs.
Kafana is a delightful Serbian restaurant in the East Village on Avenue C between 8th and 9th. It's just a happy place. I was wandering in that area one night and I saw its lights from afar and as I got closer I could see happy Serbs sharing a tasty meal and wine. Everything I've had there is delicious. They have a weekend brunch, of it I sampled the savory French toast: huge pieces of hearth-baked bread, a mound of feta, scallions, and roasted red pepper spread. Oh dear...and $8. Also quite tasty: cevapi, spinach pie, Montenegro wines. Also if your inner football fan is yearning to celebrate some game, the German beer garden Zum Schneider is right across the street. extra plus! Their website isn't up yet check out the menupages deal.
Next: Lomzynianka. The name is a mouthful and makes me a little dyslexic but this is a pearl of Greenpoint on Manhattan Ave. EVERYTHING is under $10 and most entrees are about $5...also it's BYOB. So, head into a Polish deli and grab some Zywiec Zdroj or Wodka and sit down to a hefty plate of veal meatballs in dill sauce...or gigantor schnitzel accompanied by borscht, beets, and cabbage. Peruse their menu! You'll be full and just as happy, if not happier than clams.
One place a little less quirky would be the pizzeria/inoteca Otto of the Mario Batali persuasion. But truth: it's quite a tasty place. It's secretly in the basement of Washington Mews and on 8th...so VERY close to NYU. Their specialty is pizza but I was anti- and got pasta. It's pretty big downstairs and very lively/full...there's big vats of oil, olives, pickles tasties, etc. A nice hunk of bread and nicely green oil comes when you sit down. All the pasta is $9 and the pizzas (including Lardo...which is basically a pork fat pizza..yes!) are $10-15. I got pasta with escarole, sausage, and cheese. Yes, I don't know what specifically the cheese/sausage was but it was just right! Salty, melty, cheese and the sausage was a wee bit spicy and the pasta al dente. Ye be warned: the ricotta is runny and not fluffy, but not bad by any means.
As a whole, these three winners made me full, made me want to stay, and didn't put a dent in ze wallet. WIN!