I just had a very nice meal at Interstate Food & Liquor, Julieta Ballesteros' new place in the Lower East Side.
It's a casual Southern place, pretty much everything on the menu is under $15. I have a general rule that there's just no reason, in NYC, to spend $20-30 for entrees that are just good. You can get really good food at places like Interstate for so much less.
For drinks, they're doing free-poured highballs. The "Tequila Collins" with lemonade was refreshing, nothing terribly special. They have a good short beer list, too.
We started with fried pickles, which are one of the perfect foods in the world. They were properly executed, fried and vinegary and delicious. For entrees, we got the hot dog sampler and the "pork wings". The pork wings were the standout of the meal - small cuts of braised pork shanks with a cute little frenched presentation on the bone. They were cooked perfectly, fork-tender and with a little bit of a spicy barbecue sauce that added to the pork flavor rather than overpowering it. The hot dog sampler included parts of a hot dog dressed three ways - one with jalapeno slaw, one with mac'n'cheese, one with a chorizo sloppy joes. The jalapeno slaw complemented the local dog very well, definitely the best of the three. The mac'n'cheese dog was exactly equal to the sum of its parts - none of the elements complemented each other, exactly, but who hasn't wanted to eat a hot dog and mac and cheese at the same time? The sloppy joes overpowered the hot dog and seeped into the bun a bit, probably the least successful of the three. We shared a delicious maple pecan pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
It was just over $80 including tip for three drinks, an app, two entrees, and dessert. Great value for the food we had.
Oh, and very good service - the bartender was helpful, funny, and unobtrusive.
Interstate Food & Liquor
74 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002