Fridays Under $40: Big Night Out (or How it Once Was)

Posted on: October 2nd, 2020 at 5:02 am by

Photo: Sara Graham

In our Friday column, “Fridays Under $40,” Boogie writer Sara Graham again hits the streets to find cheap eats and affordable things to do during these weird times.

Enjoying dinner out alone has been one of the simple joys I’ve found in this moment. Whether it’s sitting on a park bench with takeout, or eating solo on a patio, these have become the few moments when I’m taking the city in, getting a barometer for what’s going on outside. With fewer rides on the subway (and people to ride with), no lines waiting for movies, zero dancing in crowds…tapping into the energy of the city is apparent these days while dining out.

Eating affordable meals out has had a three-fold effect for me: it’s given me a reason to leave my apartment after a day spent on Zoom with colleagues; I can rest my screen-seared eyes and have the opportunity to get back into my body, where I realize my posture is totally becoming terrible; and I’m able to support neighborhood spots with my dollar. I don’t have to cook, which I do 80% of the time.

Photo: Sara Graham

Now that it’s getting dark earlier, I find myself having one of these nights and it almost feels like New York had found its groove in this new normal. I’m pulled into the warmly lit ambience of the sidewalk cafe at Petisco Vegano (née Cafe Petisco), a vegan Meditteranean-inspired spot on East Broadway with a nice view of Seward Park.

I order a happy hour glass of Gruner ($9) and the outlier on the mostly Meditteranean-inspired menu. I get the vegan tacos ($15). The tacos arrive and I sit staring at them and the pretty plating—I’m trying to be more present these days. I try my best to enjoy every element: the smooth avocado, the roasted mushrooms, pepper and onion in a rich chipotle sauce, the bright herbaceous cilantro. I listen to (read: eavesdrop on) the loud Austrailians 12 feet away enjoying a going-away dinner—they’re leaving New York for L.A., naturally. They talk about wildfires and coronavirus stats, and I remember that things aren’t really normal at all. And in some ways, they are. Or maybe, pandemics and wildfires are just becoming normal.

Petisco Vegano, 189 East Broadway
Total Cost: $26.13

Photo: Sara Graham

Because I can’t eat too many tortilla products in one day, I find myself eating chips after dinner while grabbing a drink at Belle Reve. I head down East Broadway and meander through Tribeca to meet Chris, my partner, there. These days, I don’t go to bars much, even ones that are open—hanging out with maskless strangers getting more imbibed hits different in COVID times, but Belle Reve doesn’t disappoint. Stools are spaced generously, it isn’t crowded and they have a full menu, including small low-cost items, like watermelon slices and chips and salsa ($3). We get the chips and salsa and talk about how much better Manhattan is than Brooklyn. He buys my glass of rosé and I chip in for the chips. After a second drink, we take the long way home, passing through Little Italy. It’s so loud and bright, I’m not in Brooklyn or California or in a state of panic about the election. I’m just here.

Belle Reve, 305 Church Street
Total Cost: $3.00
4PM-10PM; Sunday, 12PM-6 PM

Total cost of walkabout: $29.13
Costs recorded do not include tip, so tip generously. Wear a mask.

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