Cheap Eats

Happiness at exactly the expected price.

At your service: A thali at Thali.
We salute those generous kitchens that extend their $20.01 Restaurant Week lunches throughout the year, but they're not the only prix fixe game in town. Starting from the bottom (in price, not quality), you can get your fill for as little as $3.75 at Warteg Fortuna, an Indonesian hole-in-the-wall below the elevated subway in Woodside, Queens. That buys you a Styrofoam plate that is, alas, mostly rice but also includes smaller portions of tasty curried chicken on the bone (or beef, lamb, or fish) and stewed cabbageand carrots in a spicy coconut curry. There are five other dinner plates to choose from, and we recommend splurging on the $5 chicken satay -- four skewers of luscious coal-blackened meat marinated with sweet, thick soy sauce, served with rice and a petite portion of green beans, bean sprouts, and kale with peanut dressing. Es teler is a multicolored tropical drink that turns bright pink when you stir it up, a shade that complements the slivers of avocado and jackfruit floating on top ($1.50).

A thali is a full Indian meal served on a metal tray, which is how lunch ($6) and dinner ($10) arrive at Thali, a sliver of a Southern Indian vegetarian restaurant in Greenwich Village. The menu changes daily, but you can safely expect tandoori roti, rice, a couple of delectably spiced vegetable stews or curries, dal, and, for dessert, something like a delicate ras malai, or sweet cheese dumpling. For $10.95, Ayurveda Cafe provides a similarly scrumptious package deal for that rare Upper West Sider who doesn't mind letting someone else dictate what he's eating for dinner.

For a quarter of a century, La Petite Auberge has quietly endured the ascendance of nouvelle cuisine, celebrity chefs, and health-consciousness, remaining remarkably immune to every hostile threat to its classic style of French cooking. For the price of an entrée almost everywhere else, the $23.95 four-course prix fixe features such high-fat, old-school fare as steak au poivre with buttery potatoes and spinach, filet of sole meunière, and an enormous, wonderfully crispy duck a l'orange (for a $2 supplement). The vinaigrette on the leeks is more cream than vinegar, the pâté is robust, and the service is that practiced blend of proper and friendly that makes this wood-beamed chalet in the heart of Curry Hill such a sentimental fave. If our arteries could take it, we'd be regulars.

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· WARTEG FORTUNA, 51-24 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside, 718-898-2554
· THALI, 28Greenwich Ave., 212-367-7411
· AYURVEDA CAFE, 706 Amsterdam Ave., near 94th St., 212-932-2400
· LA PETITE AUBERGE, 116 Lexington Ave., near 28th St., 212-689-5003