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The High-Low $20 Showdown

We asked two very different chefs to create a three-course meal for two using the same $20 budget. Then our chief restaurant critic, Adam Platt, judged their creations.


What the low-end chef made …

Harry Hawk of Harry’s at Water Taxi Beach
O this sun-blasted summer afternoon, the deserted Long Island City beach complex that’s home to Harry’s feels like the backyard of a fraternity house after a weekend-long binge. Flies buzz under the flapping orange dining tent; the bar smells of old beer. Harry is dressed in suspenders and chef’s clogs, and he presents the components of his seven-course bonanza all at once. The first thing we sample is a pile of grilled asparagus, which aren’t high-quality (the Greenmarket’s too expensive) and seem to have gone limp in the 100-degree heat. Ditto the grilled corn, which is flavored with enough cayenne to choke a horse. Harry’s buttermilk onion rings are excellent (they’re sweet, generously cut, and not too greasy), and I spend most of my time eating them, instead of the dry, fishy salmon burger, served on a piece of desiccated toast. The main course—chunks of salty-sweet, char-grilled lamb cured for several hours in brown sugar, salt, and cumin—is excellent, and worth the entire $20 price of admission. The strawberries with sour cream are unimpressive, and Harry’s biscuits would be okay provided I hadn’t pounded down all those onion rings. The second dessert course is a single Klondike bar whipped milkshake style and spiked with amber Dogfish Head ale. It tastes like a White Russian mixed with chocolate truffles. It’s a touch of cheap-eats genius, albeit one served in plastic Champagne flutes.

Verdict: One star for the lamb and another for the Klondike shake. No stars for the vegetable sides, the dry salmon burger, and the greasy venue.

(Pretty Good)
Total cost: $13.78

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