Not only is NYC the location of Chopped headquarters and where the majority of the judges reside, it is considered a food mecca. So when it comes to talking about food in a place where Michelin Stars are dished out like Monopoly money, these judges and restaurateurs know what's up.
After sifting through all of the James Beard Foundation-awarded restaurants and anything with a "$$$$," I found a variety of Chopped judge-approved spots that prove you don't have to fork over a lot of cash to eat like one.
Chris Santos - Tacos Morelos
If you happen to be in the Lower East Side area, check out Chopped Judge Chris Santos' favorite spot to grab tacos. Tacos Morelos is the definition of a hole-in-the-wall establishment with just four tables. If you can't snag a seat, walk 3 minutes and enjoy your food in Tompkins Square Park.
Tacos Morelos' extensive list of street tacos are made with homemade corn tortillas and offer fillings like Cochinita Pibil, a Yucatan-style slow-roasted pork, and Mexican sausage. But what sets Tacos Morelos apart from other Mexican restaurants in NYC are their executions of traditional dishes like enchiladas Suizas, cemita, and tlaycoyos. According to Eater NY, what shines on the menu at Taco Morelos is their birria, that "for a blissful moment, turns the East Village into East L.A."
Scott Conant - Tarallucci e Vino
Grab a quick bite on the way to class or meet up with friends for coffee at one of five Scott Conant-approved Tarallucci e Vino locations. With conveniently placed spots in the East Village, Union Square, and Upper West Side, you're bound to be close to one of them.
Why buy Starbucks when you could pay the same price for a fresh and flaky almond croissant (pictured above) and a much better quality latte?
Tarallucci e Vino offers brunch, lunch and dinner as well, but those menus lean towards the pricier side. However, their pastry and coffee selection is truly a steal, especially in comparison to other local coffee shops. Make getting up early for class or work worth it by treating yourself to a buttery pain au chocolat and a shot of espresso (or three if you're like me).
Alex Guarnaschelli - Hearth Restaurant
Hearth in the East Village is an ideal dinner spot for when that direct deposit rolls in on pay-day or if you feel like spending a little extra on a date or dinner with friends. When asked to describe Hearth, Chopped judge Alex Guarnaschelli had nothing but good things to say. "I love this homey mom 'n' pop. It's Italian with great American ingredients."
The Chopped judge recommends the veal meatballs, but other popular dishes include their melt-in-your-mouth potato gnocchi and Instagram-worthy rigatoni with pork ragù. When dining at Hearth, the extra bucks you spend go towards the chef's use of exceptional quality ingredients. In a recent article by Eater NY, Hearth Chef Marco Canora boasts, "we only use meat from happy, healthy animals," and "we mill our own flour and polenta from intact, non-GMO, heirloom varieties". It's safe to say after dining at Hearth, you will leave feeling indulged and nourished.
Aarón Sanchez - The Meatball Shop
In a recent article by Eater NY, Hearth Chef Marco Canora boasts, "we only use meat from happy, healthy animals," and "we mill our own flour and polenta from intact, non-GMO, heirloom varieties." It's safe to say after dining at Hearth, you will leave feeling indulged and nourished.
The concept of the restaurant is simple: pick your meatball, pick your sauce, and decide whether you'd like them "naked", on a slider, in a hero, atop a bed of veggies or pasta, and more. With six types of meatballs including classic beef, salmon, and veggie, there are options for everyone, picky and adventurous eaters alike.
In a Serious Eats article with Aarón Sanchez, the Chopped judge dishes that The Meatball Shop is one of his favorite places to eat in NYC. The meatball-centric restaurant has six successful locations from the Upper East Side to Williamsburg.
Do yourself a favor and don't skip dessert because The Meatball Shop has an extensive list of custom ice cream sandwiches and floats. And if college students aren't sold yet, the restaurant's reasonable prices and 4 am close time on weekends will win them over.
Marcus Samuelsson - The Grange Bar and Eatery
In a Gotham article, Marcus Samuelsson revealed that The Grange Bar and Eatery in Hamilton Heights is one of his top picks for eating in Harlem. Brunch is popular at The Grange and the prices are fair, with most entrées ranging from $9-$15.
The brunch fare is diverse and rich with options like almond french toast and strawberries, skillet huevos rancheros, and the cult-favorite fried chicken biscuit (pictured above). If you're celebrating or just ballin' out, The Grange also offers an unlimited boozy brunch that includes an entree and bottomless drinks for $35.
So next time any of you NYC students find yourself in need of a quality meal that won't set you back, check out one of these restaurants. The Chopped judges and I have got you covered from early morning coffee to late-night meatballs and everywhere in between.