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Best Tasting Menus for $50 or Less (PHOTOS)

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by Kate Krader

“Tasting menu” tends to be synonymous with “sticker shock”—the one at Masa in New York City starts at $450. But the concept has now become so democratic that even star chefs are serving bargain-priced meals. Here, America’s best.

  • Gramercy Tavern, New York City
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    At this renowned restaurant, Michael Anthony (an F&W Best New Chef 2002) offers a great deal, especially for the tony Gramercy Park neighborhood. Anthony calls the $48, four-course prix fixe in the restaurant’s tavern area The Today Menu. “It gives us a chance to cook informally,” he says about dishes like spinach tart with goat cheese and curried-goat open ravioli. “It’s how we like to cook on our day off.

    Photo © Ellen Silverman
  • Northern Spy Food Co., New York City
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    To get details on chef Hadley Schmitt’s $24, three-course Sunday supper at this market-driven East Village spot, fans check the @northernspyfood Twitter feed after 4 p.m. The Sunday meals tend toward homey dishes like roast chicken and tomato salad. Every six weeks or so, Schmitt prepares a more ambitious, $50 themed menu; a vegetarian meal might feature a pear salad with both shaved and pureed celery root and roasted cauliflower with cider-braised cabbage. Recently, Northern Spy has launched nightly $50, five-course tastings with dishes like roasted lamb with Indian-spiced granola, and pear bombe stuffed with goat-cheese sorbet. northernspyfoodco.com

    Photo © Hulya Kolabas
  • Little Serow, Washington, DC
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    Johnny Monis is Greek, and so is his flagship restaurant, Komi, where he was named an F&W Best New Chef 2007. His 10-month-old, 28-seat Little Serow is decidedly un-Greek: It’s Thai, serving the spicy food of the Isan region (where he and his wife got married). For $45, Monis sends out seven or so family-style dishes, ranging from just-fried pork rinds with the green chile sauce nam prik num to larb, the sour, chile-spiked chopped-meat salad with vegetables and sticky rice. littleserow.com

    Photo © Dakota Fine
  • Craigie On Main, Cambridge, MA
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    On Sunday nights after 9 p.m., Tony Maws, an F&W Best New Chef 2005, prepares four-course Chef’s Whim menus for $45 at his brilliant New American restaurant. (Ordinarily, the eight-course Ultimate Craigie Experience is $115.) Maws calls the meals “the surprise,” because, he says, “You don’t know what you’ll get, because we haven’t created it before.” Past surprises have included dishes like ricotta cavatelli with rabbit ragout and spiced lamb tenderloin with fresh garbanzo beans. craigieonmain.com

    Photo © Michael Piazza
  • Radio Africa & Kitchen, San Francisco
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    Before Eskender Aseged turned to Kickstarter to open this brick-and-mortar spot in March, the Ethiopian native served his modern African food at pop-ups around the Bay Area. At the communal tables at Radio Africa, he prepares fantastic $48 family-style dinners that start with soup and shared platters of appetizers (such as edamame hummus), followed by a trio of entrées—one meat, one fish and one vegetable. “Sharing dishes like Senegalese chicken with saffron onions and purple potatoes gives people something to talk about,” says Aseged. But he serves just one dessert: rooftop-honey-roasted pears with spiced chocolate. radioafricakitchen.com

    Photo courtesy of Radio Africa & Kitchen
  • The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland
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    “We like our customers to choose their own adventure,” says Jonathon Sawyer. The F&W Best New Chef 2010 lets diners design their $44, four-course tasting menus, which can include foie gras–steamed clams, chicken wing confit and grilled Ohio strip steak with frites. It’s also easy to create a vegetarian tasting. “At least 30 percent of our dishes are based on vegetables and ancient grains—Ohio grows the vast majority of America’s spelt,” notes Sawyer, who also sources local millet, barley and farro. thegreenhousetavern.com

    Photo courtesy of The Greenhouse Tavern

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