Chefs' New Frontier: The $10 Meal
Empellón Al Pastor: Alex Stupak, New York City
Chef Alex Stupak helped pioneer the high-end, super-innovative taco at Empellón Cocina and Taqueria in New York City. Now, at Empellón Al Pastor, he’s making $4 classics with house-ground masa, then selling them from a counter at the back of a loud, crowded bar. “I want to see great Mexican cooking manifesting at every level,” he says. “I want to do mid-range, I want fine dining and I want hyper-inexpensive, too.” 132 St. Marks Place; empellon.com; 646-833-7039.
Get the Recipe: Chipotle Chicken Tacos
Spork: Tim Byres, Dallas
Day after day, chef Tim Byres of Smoke drove past an empty Sonic restaurant two blocks from his house on the outskirts of Dallas. Although defunct, the place was an annoying reminder of all the mediocre chain restaurants that dominated his town. Then he had a brainstorm. Now he’s transformed Sonic into Spork, serving excellent $9 burgers and fruity aguas frescas. “If it takes off,” Byres says, “I know I can do this with other run-down fast-food spots.” 6110 Frankford Rd.; sporkdallas.com; 972-930-0648.
Get the Recipe: Black Bean-and-Shiitake Burger
Fat Noodle: Joshua Skenes, San Francisco
At San Francisco’s Saison, dinner for two can cost $1,000: Joshua Skenes makes everything by hand. “Fat Noodle will have the same ethos,” he insists about his forthcoming restaurant. Those noodles will be hand-cut and hand-pulled behind the counter by a crew of three cooks from China. The result is a $6 bowl assembled to order in three minutes flat. 92 Second St.; fatnoodle.com.
Get the Recipe: Udon with Preserved Mustard Greens and Chile Sauce
Beefsteak: José Andrés, Washington, Dc
“A tomato, an asparagus or a broccoli is just as powerful as a cow or a chicken,” says chef José Andrés. At Beefsteak, customers pick a vegetable, then a grain (bulgur, quinoa, rice), sauce (garlic yogurt, cilantro) and topping (toasted seaweed salad). Says Andrés, “We want to show a new way to eat.” 800 22nd St. NW; beefsteakveggies.com; 202-296-1421.
Get the Recipe: Vegetable Quinoa Bowls with Garlic Yogurt
Roy Choi of L.A.’s Kogi BBQ truck and Daniel Patterson of San Francisco’s Coi are taking on the fast-food chains that rule the inner city. At the forthcoming LocoL in L.A.’s Watts area and San Francisco’s Tenderloin, they’ll serve dishes like $4 burgers—prices in line with McDonald’s, not Shake Shack. “The difference between $5 and $10 doesn’t seem like much, but a lot of people in our country can’t afford $10,” Patterson says. 1950-1951 103rd St., Los Angeles; welocol.com.
Get the Recipe: LocoL Dipping Sauce
Porano Pasta + Gelato: Gerard Craft, St. Louis
The Chipotle model of point-and-pick food helped chef Gerard Craft of St. Louis’s Niche envision this Italian spot, centered on house-made pasta, farro and focaccia. While point-and-pick restaurants can feel “cold, manufactured and corporate,” Craft says, Porano aims for an intimate vibe. 634 Washington Ave.; poranopasta.com.
Get the Recipe: Pasta with Spicy Tofu and Pistachios
Packed: Mike Sheerin, Chicago
“There is a craft to making dumplings, down to the crimping,” says chef Mike Sheerin of Embeya. At Packed, he’ll be using that artisanship to create cross-cultural, $2 versions. “Not everyone will want a king crab dumpling with a brown butter wrapper,” he says, “but they might enjoy a dumpling filled with a meatball in marinara sauce.” 1321 E. 57th St.; packeddumplings.com.
Get the Recipe: Lamb Gyro Dumplings with Tzatziki