Editor's note: In "Apps Only," Ben Fishner will be eating his way through New York's appetizer, bar, and lounge menus as your guide to fine dining on a budget.
Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's Prune is an American bistro in the East Village known for top-notch homestyle cooking. Learning that they had a menu of bar snacks in addition to their regular dinner menu, I stopped by with a friend and sat at the bar to see how Prune would hold up to Apps Only. Though it may be a pricey restaurant, it's possible to dine well for far less than we'd expected.
We started with Prune's special appetizer that night—Fried Oysters ($10). Plump and juicy, the oysters were breaded and fried to perfection and served with a homemade tartar sauce that was easily the best I'd ever had. For ten bucks this was a great deal.
Next up was another selection from the appetizer menu, the Marinated White Anchovies, Celery Hearts, Toasted Marcona Almonds ($10). This dish is composed of three heaping piles: one of delicate white anchovy fillets, one of celery hearts in a light dressing, and one of crunchy Marcona almonds, toasted to bring out their flavor. The anchovies were wonderful—bright and acidic without tasting overly fishy. The celery and almonds added alternating bits of crunch. Taken together, this dish was a simple seafood salad, a refreshing reminder that spring's on its way.
We also ordered a few dishes off of the bar menu, which has a number of enticing options. Radishes with Butter ($5) is a perfect little healthy bar snack, until you realize how delicious the fresh butter is and start slathering it on the halved radishes in decidedly unhealthy amounts.
Finally, we tried the Grilled Handmade Lamb Sausages ($8), merguez sausage patties grilled to a perfect outside crust, while keeping the interior juicy. They were a bit on the salty side, but with Dijon mustard, a pile of cornichons, and pieces of grilled crusty bread, this snack was the killer value of our meal.
Prune has a reputation for being a bit of a schmancy joint, but if you can grab a seat at the bar—take note, there are only four stools—then you can put together one hell of a meal of appetizers and bar snacks. The service was friendly, and our order came with a plate of homemade pappadam for the table. Another freebie came when our bill arrived with two delicious hunks of luscious dark chocolate.
We ended up spending a total of $33 before tax and tip, coming in just over our budget of $15/person. But you could spend less and still have a decent meal—an order of the sausage and the plate of radishes would make a delicious, and well balanced, dinner.