[Flickr / roboppy]
Having grown accustomed to elaborate foodie feasts during the boom years, recession-era New Yorkers are always looking for a high-end restaurant discount. Some of the best deals can be found at restaurants attached to culinary academies, where you'll get meals prepared by soon-to-be top chefs --- complete with A-list ingredients, white tablecloths, and all the fancy trappings of a five-star restaurant --- but at a fraction of the price because everyone from the kitchen crew to the waitstaff are still in school. These aren't exactly bargain basement meals, but considering the quality of what you're getting, they're some of the best deals around.
L'Ecole: The swanky restaurant at Soho's French Culinary Institute offers three distinct deals: a three-course prix fixe lunch for $28, four courses at dinner for $42, or a two-plate brunch deal for $19.50. That may not sound super-cheap, but keep in mind you'll be dining on sauteed sweetbreads, roasted duck confit, and Le Cirque-style creme brulee. 462 Broadway. Stay nearby at the Soho Grand Hotel.
National Gourmet Institute for Health & Culinary Arts: If you just gagged at that mention of sweetbreads, you might be more enticed by the Friday night dinners at this all-vegetarian cooking school. The student-chefs use seasonal, market-fresh ingredients in these three-course, $40 meals. The desserts, like poached pear and cranberry tart with almond pastry cream and truffle balls, are particularly enticing. 48 W. 21 St. Stay nearby at the Gershwin Hotel.
Culinary Institute of America: For a food-centric road trip, head to the country's most prestigious culinary school, located in Hyde Park, New York, two hours north of Manhattan. There are six on-site restaurants, ranging from a bakery-cafe to high-end Italian, and seasonal prix fixe menus are priced as low as $22 for three-course lunches. 433 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, NY
- Brendan Spiegel of Endless Simmer