How to eat a Michelin-starred meal for under $30

Kevin Farrell

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The chef’s tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park – one of New York’s five Michelin three-star restaurants – will cost you a cool $315. The Reserve Wine Pairing is going to set you back an additional $315. Oh, that’s per person, by the way. If you’re bringing a date, the meal is going to set you back a whopping $1,260.


And just to be clear, the first available reservation is at 10:15pm on February 1. Or it was when I typed this. By the time you’ve read this, that reservation will be long gone. A seat at the table just across town at another three-star spot, Masa, starts at $595 – pre-tax, and before drinks.

Not a member of the 1%? Drowning in credit card debt? Fear not. Even if your life isn’t all diamonds and rosé, a Michelin-star meal in 2018 is a surprisingly achievable bucket list item. All you need is a few bucks (and maybe a few airline miles).

In 2016, the iconic restaurant-grading organization broke with more than 100 years of tradition and handed out its first stars to two street food hawker stalls in Singapore.

Food court-style hawker stalls, and the dishes for which they are each famous, are passed down through families from generation to generation, preserving recipes, skills and culture. In this respect, the decades of preparation that go into a hawker meal certainly rival that of even the most thoughtful dishes at the world’s best restaurants. So while it came as something of a surprise to see a pair of hawkers each earn a star two years ago, the feat was certainly well-earned.

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle serves Bak Chor Mee; minced meat, pork slices, pork liver, stewed mushrooms, meatballs and lard served over noodles tossed in black vinegar and chili paste. Chowing down on this Michelin-starred meal will only set you back about $3.75 USD – and an hour and a half in line.

If even $3.75 is too rich for your blood, Singapore’s second 2016 star-winner, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, might be a little easier to swallow. Chef Chan Hon Meng shot to fame serving his signature $1.52 chicken dish to 200 hungry customers a day. The lines at the OG location can now regularly take more than two and a half hours.

If you don’t want to cross an ocean just for a cheap Michelin-starred meal, you may not have to wait too long for one of those meals to come to you instead. Chan used his newfound international fame to transform his business from a single stall into seven separate outlets, and after testing the waters with an Australian outpost, Chan plans to turn his Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle into the next KFC.

Back stateside, you won’t be able to make it to a Michelin-starred spot for anything close to those Singapore prices (though a meal at the New York outpost of Hong King’s Michelin-starred dim sum joint Tim Ho Wan comes close). But as chefs strive to make quality food more affordable, we’ve seen a surge in the number of Michelin-starred options offering up dishes that will hardly put a dent in your bank account.  Here are seven stateside restaurants you can survive for as little as $30:

State Bird Provisions | San Francisco

Daikon fries with kimchi emulsion, pork ribs with black bean sauce & black garlic, and smoked trout toast with beet kraut & horseradish will only set you back $26. State Bird took its name from chef Stuart Brioza’s recipe for serving quail, and has been earning Michelin stars since 2014.

La Sirena | New York

Tapas are a blessing for Michelin-star seekers on a budget, and chef Anthony Sasso does not disappoint. Patata bravas, cauliflower carbonara, and pan con tomate can be all yours for under $30 if you skip the dining room and instead sit at the bar.

La Vara | Brooklyn

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La Vara is an intimate and cozy #tapas #restaurant in #Brooklyn, New York. Owners and chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero are known for their unsurpassed #Basque #cooking, but at @LaVaraNY they also present flavoursome #Spanish #cuisine influenced by fascinating Jewish and Moorish #culinary traditions. Don’t miss the Alcachofas - fried #artichokes with #anchovy aioli; the Remojón - house-cured salt cod accompanied by citrus, pistachio and pomegranate or the Albóndigas - lamb meatballs and mint yoghurt. On the #drinks #menu, you’ll find a great #winelist along with some excellent #cocktails and #beers. Let us help plan your #trip to #NewYork - click on the link in our bio and visit the website. #FixtureTravel #FixtureNYC #EnjoyNYC #Foodie #FoodBlogger #EatAndDrink #TravelTheWorld #NYC

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Real life husband and wife chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s menu explores Southern Spain’s Jewish and Moorish influences, small plate by small plate. Dine on garbanzo fritos, fried artichokes with anchovy aioli, crispy eggplant with honey and and cheese, and deviled eggs with green tahini – all for just $27.

Delaware & Hudson | Brooklyn

Chef Patti Jackson’s prix fixe menu sets diners back just $65 – a steal by any other measure excluding this list – but it’s possible to put together a few options off of the pub menu to hit our thrifty price point. Ricotta fritters, a fried calamari hoagie, and Saratoga-style potato chips will only cost you $29, pre-tip.

Parachute | Chicago

Either dive deep into small plates like oysters with soju granita, smoked walleye toast with horseradish and fennel and vegetable tempura, or just go all in on an entree like grilled swordfish with cranberry and macadamia nuts. You’ve got plenty of under-$30 options at this Michelin-starred Korean-American hotspot. Plus, Parachute goes kid-free after 6pm.

Entente | Chicago

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Kevin Farrell

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