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The Plate Race

How do lowbrow contenders measure up to their high-end counterparts?

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Cheese Platter
Alain Ducasse ($18) vs. Au Bon Pain ($6.99)
This cheese choice is situational. If it’s to-go, even Alain Ducasse’s “perfectly matured” cheese course will get old fast next to Artisanal’s nifty shrink-wrapped plate at Au Bon Pain.
Alain Ducasse at Essex, 155 W. 58th St.; 212-265-7300
Au Bon Pain, 444 Madison Ave.; 212-759-1726












Edamame
Megu ($25) vs. Kenka ($1)
Spring for the travel expenses: Megu’s Sayamusume edamame, air-shipped fresh on the branch from Shizuoka, Japan, exist planes above the cold, lifeless specimens at Kenka.
Megu, 62 Thomas St., 212-964-7777
Kenka, 25 St. Mark's Pl.; 212-254-6363












“Raw” Lasagne
Pure Food and Wine ($20) vs. Lifethyme Natural Market ($7.99)
Juicy heirloom tomatoes give Pure Food and Wine’s zucchini-layered pie an undeniable edge, but Lifethyme’s no Johnny-come-lately to the uncooked scene: It’s a better raw deal.
Pure Food and Wine, 54 Irving Pl.; 212-477-1010
Lifethyme Natural Market, 410 Sixth Ave.; 212-420-9099












Exotic Dessert
Spice Market ($8) vs. Borobudur Cafe ($2.50)
Borobudur Cafe’s es teler, more drink than dessert, has the same brightly hued shock value and Southeast Asian tropical-fruit palate as Spice Market’s elaborate plate—and it comes with a straw.
Spice Market, 403 W. 13th St.; 212-675-2322
Borobudur Cafe, 128 E. 4th St.; 212-614-9079












Onion Rings
BLT Steak ($8) vs. Schnäck($2.50)
For a Frenchman treading uncharted culinary turf, Laurent Tourondel acquits himself well. But Schnäck’s outrageously greasy, wantonly salty, spectacularly crunchy onion rings run circles around the star chef’s.
BLT Steak, 106 E. 57th St.; 212-752-7470
Schnäck 122 Union St., Brooklyn; 718-855-2879












Spaghetti and Meatballs
Coco Pazzo ($18) vs. Lil Frankie’s ($10.95)
Coco Pazzo’s Mark Strausman cooks Italian like nobody’s business. Still, it’s hard to swallow an $18 spaghetti-and-meatballs plate, even on the Upper East Side. The verdict: Lil Frankie’s by a meatball.
Coco Pazzo, 23 E. 74th St.; 212-794-0205
Lil Frankie’s, 19 First Ave.; 212-430-4900.


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