Ok, I never thought I would be asking for advice - I am usually suggesting restaurants, but I want to come up with some authentic and interesting "NY places" on the cheap for some friends that are visiting for the first time. We tend to eat at places that would be deemed "moderate" but moderate to New Yorker's is expensive to people from alot of other places in the middle of the country. I have been saving up some experiences for myself like Momofuku, so that one may be on the agenda. We may also take them to Itzocan Cafe int he East village or Itzocan Bistro on the way UES (I actually prefer the strange tiny one in the east village). I was also considering Otto - but it may fall more into the moderate category if you do a selection of meats and some salads and pastas to share.