I just want to share with folks the really fun night of food and drink I had in the East Village for around $40. Sometimes the Manhattan Chow board has too many posts about good food in expensive places, so I figured any adventurous meal under $50 might be appreciated.
We started off at Caracas Arepa Bar (the wait was only a few minutes at 6:45), where I had excellent, excellent ceviche with a side of crispy yucca draped with some sort of pesto-butter combination. Yummy, tender and fresh tilapia was served with mango, scallions, and green pepper in a lemony juice for "cooking." The yucca was dry and a little hard but the butter sauce was amazing. I had La Surena arepa, which was delicious (I guess you really can't go wrong with a combination of grilled chicken, chorizo, avocado, and spicy chimichurri sauce). Two appetizers and two arepas + tip: $36
We decided to forgo drinks at Caracas Arepa and instead walked a block north and half a block east to Death & Co., where we were able to get in right away (it was around 7:30 on a Friday). We sat at the bar with the friendly, expert bartender (mixologist?) and I chose the French Bitters, a champagne based drink with gin, bitters, and I think some sort of citrus juice, grapefruit maybe. It was delicious. My friend had something gin-based served in a lowball glass which she thought was okay but a little too strong. She was really amused by the gigantic ice cube the friendly bartender put in her glass (that somehow made the drink a whole lot classier). The drinks were good but the atmosphere and the dark, romantically Victorian decor was even better. I think I will go back to Death & Co., but a few years later, when I'm actually in my late-20s and have a boyfriend and look like I belong. Two drinks: $26 + tip = $32
After Death & Co, we wandered past the crowds and kitschy food stores at St. Marks to the Dessert Truck, haute dessert on wheels, run by former Le Cirque sous chef Jerome Chang. The highlight of the night was my friend's pavlova cup, with the perfect fluffy, crunchy meringue under a blanket of fruit and softly whipped cream. I had the very in-season Fruit Soup, which had a base of rhubarb and lemongrass soup, a jelly of strawberry and lemon-lime, and which was topped with a dollop of mellow, creamy creme fraiche that perfectly offset the tangy, sweet tartness of everything else. The soup base was too sweet, but otherwise, the dessert was perfect. Two desserts: $10.
Total for two: $78, just under $40 per person. I also want to point out that because we went on our little dinner excursion on the early side, we barely waited for 5 minutes before getting into eat at Caracas (which I don't think takes reservations), and we didn't have to wait at all to get into Death & Co.