3 Great Inexpensive Restaurants in New York City

My last three restaurant outings in New York have been absolutely astounding, and I never spend more than $40, including tax and tip, for a full meal with drinks.

I've been remiss with my camera lately, but I'll do my best to add photos to this post in the coming days.

From Insider Images, photo by Diane Bondareff.
East 17th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Manhattan
Laut has the best Malaysian food I've eaten outside Malaysia. Granted, I haven't had much Malaysian food outside Malaysia, but that's part of the problem. You can find a few very good restaurants in some neighborhoods in Queens, but it's a long  trek to get to them... even for me, and I live in the same borough (Queens is an enormous county, folks)! Malaysia is a cross-cultural mecca, and its food reflects the absolutely best flavors and freshest ingredients from around southeast Asia. Indian spices, Thai chilies, southern Chinese cooking styles--it's all there. At Laut, order curry laksa if you like coconut soup. It's a large bowl with an incredible array of everything inside. If you're a first-time Malaysian diner, try the beef rendang, a Malaysian classic.

Earl's Beer and Cheese
Park Avenue between 97th and 98th Streets, Manhattan
At Earl's Beer and Cheese, you're going to drink good beer and eat good cheese. It's not the finest selection of either that I've found in New York, but the place is fun, casual, and inexpensive. For a couple of bucks ($6-$8), grab a beer at the counter while ordering a grilled cheese sandwich. A few other specialty items dot the menu, including a gargantuan pork taco, but stick to grilled cheese for ultimate belly-filling satisfaction. I was a big fan of the double-cream brie with blackberry mostarda (similar to a jam or preserves) on brioche.

Parm (sandwiches ordered to go come in paper;
in the restaurant, they're plated),
image from Eat It, Atlanta.
Mulberry Street between Prince and Spring Streets, Manhattan
Here's a place I recommend to both locals and tourists--er, "visitors"--alike: Parm. Parm embraces the unique foods found in Italian-American cuisine. Bright red tomato sauces, fried calamari, ooey-gooey cheese things, and sandwiches make up Parm's identity. The diner-like restaurant is owned by the same group that started the impeccable Torrisi Italian Specialty, which sits directly next door. Don't let Parm's down home comfort and value trick you into believing that it'll be a cinch to get a seat. In fact, that's true for all these restaurants. Show up early, like 6 or 6:30, and snag a table before any of these places get too jamming.