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75 Under $20

Tavern Room
Grilled fresh bacon with figs and fingerlings runs $17 on the Tavern Room menu. Sample three-ounce tastes of wine, and split chef Claudia Fleming's incomparable fruit-crisp-of-the-moment.
• 42 East 20th Street; 212-477-0777

Terramare Café
A good spot for delicious panini.
• 22 East 65th Street; 212-570-9222

United Noodles
The menu at this New Age noodle parlor should employ quotation marks to let you know when the kitchen's being cute. The slick "chicken linguine" seems more Tokyo than Tuscany ($9), and the "tower of wontons" reveals itself to be a stack of fried wonton skins, a single tender shrimp tucked between each pair of layers ($7). Everything's light, impeccably fresh, and full of flavor, especially the citrusy green-papaya salad ($7) and the fluffy, delicious peanut sauce that makes the mushroom rolls a compulsory order ($6).
• 349 East 12th Street, 212-614-0155

• 1483 Second Avenue, near 77th Street; 212-452-3354

Via Emilia
According to the menu at Via Emilia, tortellini came about centuries ago when an innkeeper caught a keyhole glimpse of a beautiful woman undressing, inspiring him to fashion her navel in dough. We're not sure what that pervy pasta-maker would think of modern-day belly-button-baring Manhattan, but in any case, he'd heartily approve of this spare but homey trattoria's soulful tortellini in brodo ($7.50) and its perfectly sauced homemade tortelloni -- tortellini's supersize siblings -- variously stuffed with spinach and ricotta, pumpkin, or chicken and wild mushrooms ($11–$12.50). The inspiration for some of the other Emilia-Romagnan delicacies here -- gnoccho fritti, the puffy fritters served with cured meats, and calzagatti, a sort of stuffed polenta, both $6.50 -- is left to the imagination.
• 240 Park Avenue South, near 19th Street, 212-505-3072

Via Quadronno
Milan-style sandwich shop and restaurant on the Upper East Side.
• 25 East 73rd Street; 212-650-9880

Yeah Shanghai Deluxe
Like motorists looking for a highway diner with a bottleneck of big-bellied truckers, most Chinatown wanderers seeking a good Shanghai supper follow the long lines to New Green Bo or Shanghai Cuisine. Directly across the street from the former, though, and a soup dumpling's toss from the latter, year-old Yeah Shanghai Deluxe outdoes both with terrific service, a talented kitchen, beautifully presented dishes, and, of the three, the coolest name. Plus -- for now, at least -- no lines. You'll be guided by your waiter to the soup dumplings (No. 21, $5.95), the de rigueur Shanghai-joint appetizer, but they're just one example of the kitchen's dexterity with dumplings (check out the meticulous stuffing and crimping going on at the front window). Fried or steamed, stuffed with pork or, as a special, springy snow-pea tips, the dumplings alone are worth the detour. But once you're there, it would be a pity to miss the crispy turnip pastries flecked with bits of salty ham ($3.25), the multilayered tofu-skin mock duck ($4.50), or the luscious, tender, eminently fatty pork shoulder glazed with a red honey-soy sauce and surrounded by a ring of baby bok choy ($10.95). Yeah, baby!
• 65 Bayard Street, 212-566-4884

In the unfathomable fashion of his native countrymen, an expat Cypriot friend of ours demands practically all his food cooked just shy of incineration, and then, as if to enact a resurrection, squeezes an entire lemon over the ashy remains. But the man has a few discriminating tastes: To wit, he has his mother mail him a superior haloumi, the Cypriot sheep's-milk cheese, the way other mothers send cookies. When he runs out, he heads to Zenon, a boisterous, kid-friendly taverna where they grill thick slabs of the stuff and serve it with lemon and parsley. It's only one of several tasty meze dishes here ($2.95– $7.95), including scrumptious deep-fried zucchini and eggplant with garlicky skordalia, and spicy sheftalia (char-grilled pork meatballs) -- and the next-best thing to having a doting Cypriot mom with a FedEx account.
• 34-10 31st Avenue, Astoria, Queens, 718-956-0133

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