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Top 10 'Cheap Eats' restaurants of 2010

Domo Sushi is decorated in yellows, blues and

Domo Sushi is decorated in yellows, blues and greens. (June 03, 2010) Credit: Bruce Gilbert

In today's tight economy, cheap thrills (of the gustatory kind) are more sought after than ever.

At each of this year's top 10 Cheap Eats restaurants, flavors, not tabs, are big. A few spots may have raised prices a bit post-review, but all qualify as excellent values.

1. Sapsuckers Hops & Grub

FOOD 3 stars

287 Main St., Huntington, 631-683-4945

COST $$

AMBIENCE Good

SERVICE Good

At this casual Huntington gastro pub, executive chef- co-owner Nino Antuzzi sources ingredients with care; his menu of amped-up comfort classics truly flies. From the wood smoker come tender baby back ribs, satisfying pulled-pork sliders and delectable smoked-and-braised pork shank. Other winners: four-cheese mac and cheese, a gooey-good Cubano sandwich, an inspired Sardinian-style hot dog done with a house-made wild-boar sausage and a fine burger. Desserts, brought in from Fiorello Dolce bakery, include a first-rate chocolate- truffle cake and vanilla gelato.

2. Chat Noir

FOOD 2 1/2 stars

230 Merrick Rd., Rockville Centre, 516-208-8521, chatnoirtea.com

COST $$

AMBIENCE Excellent

SERVICE Very good

Not to be missed at this elegant tea room is pastry chef-owner Emma Tso's peerless orange French toast - crisp, custardy and fragrant, done with house-made brioche. Her quiches and crepes excel. Superior tea sandwiches are included on the tiered tea service that also holds scones and miniature cream-filled pastries. At dinner, airy ricotta gnocchi with truffle-sage butter stand out. Finish with the ethereal chocolate marquise and a pot of loose-leaf tea.

3. Tate's

FOOD 2 1/2 stars

292 Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset, 631-676-3283

COST $$

AMBIENCE Good

SERVICE Very good

Tucked away in a little strip mall, Tate's is where chef co-owner Jack Mutell channels his creativity into a daily changing list of New American and Italian dishes. His three-course prix-fixe, at $26, is a real bargain. Past standouts include porchetta (slow-roasted pork) in a piquant apple-cranberry-mustard sauce, ravioli with crab and lemon-garlic sauce and tender pork tenderloin with Colby-Jack risotto. End with moist carrot cake, chocolate cake or cheesecake.

4. Domo Sushi

FOOD 2 1/2 stars

180 Rte. 25A, East Setauket, 631-751-2299, domosushiny.com

COST $$

AMBIENCE Very good

SERVICE Very good

At this sophisticated spot, chef-owner Ken Ming turns out some amazing Japanese-South American creations (tiradito with escolar, yellowtail seviche), the result of a past stint at SushiSamba in Manhattan. Ming's aptly named dynamite roll (escolar, tempura flakes, jalapeño, tuna, yellowtail, salmon and lemon and yuzu miso sauce) packs a citrusy wallop. Other successes: rock shrimp tempura with chile, panko-pistachio- crusted lamb chops and, for dessert, mango with purple sticky rice.

5. Bonbori

FOOD 2 1/2 stars

14 Elm St., Huntington, 631-673-0400

COST $$

AMBIENCE Very good

SERVICE Fair

Bonbori has had several changes of ownership and focus since it opened more than 20 years ago. Its latest menu, launched earlier this year, honors both Japanese and Thai cuisines. From the Japanese side: a primo chirashi plate comprising a rainbow of finfish as well as uni (sea urchin), ikura (globes of red-orange salmon roe) and squid-wrapped asparagus. Terrific Thai options: hot-as-you-like curries such as mango with chicken or Penang-style with beef as well as "drunken" noodles with spicy basil sauce mellowed by egg. Conclude with a crème brûlée trio (green tea, Thai tea and vanilla) in small tea cups.

6. Spice Village Grill

FOOD 2 1/2 stars

281 Main St., Huntington, 631-271-4800

COST $-$$

AMBIENCE Good

SERVICE Excellent

Pakistani-born Tavassum Ali puts his culinary skills to excellent use at this corner spot that was once his photography store. Good thing it went under. Start with a fortifying bowl of kaukswe (pronounced cow-sway), a subtly piquant Burmese chicken- coconut-lentil soup. It goes well with the flaky naan or potato-stuffed aloo naan. A mixed grill appetizer introduces you to a range of well-spiced kebabs - beef, lamb and chicken. As entrees, Cornish hen, lamb chops and salmon kebabs are flavor-intense and juicy. Find comfort in saag paneer, a dish of spinach with cheese, and finish with a superior version of rasmalai (cheese balls) in heavy cream.

7. Sabor a Colombia

FOOD 2 1/2 stars

26 Division Ave., Levittown, 516-513-1520

COST $$

AMBIENCE Very good

SERVICE Excellent

In proud national tradition, this colorful Colombian restaurant turns out a boast-worthy rotisserie chicken that's bronze, spicy, juicy. The savory paella is a heaping platter loaded with seafood, beef, chicken and yellow rice. Pork chops rate highly, as does the succulent tongue in Creole sauce. For breakfast, you'll find a delectable scramble of eggs, tomatoes and onions; for weekday lunch, there are crepes. Happy endings: flan or creamy raisin-y rice pudding.

8. El Pio Peruvian Restaurant

FOOD 2 1/2 stars

63 Glen St., Glen Cove, 516-801-4806

COST $$

AMBIENCE Good

SERVICE Good

Bold Peruvian flavors rule at this hopping, hospitable spot. It doesn't get more authentic than anticuchos, grilled marinated beef hearts - smoky, a bit chewy, genuinely appealing. A Chinese influence shows in the chaufa (fried rice) and tallarin (South American lo mein). Other hits: well-spiced rotisserie-roasted chicken, filet of tilapia with tomatoes and onion, and beef stew.

9. La Cocina de Marcia

FOOD 2 1/2 stars

77B W. Merrick Rd., Freeport, 516-442-2463

COST $$

AMBIENCE Very good

SERVICE Good

Personable restaurateur Marcia Beltre and her husband, Irving Ramirez, welcome you to their casual, tasteful spot. Marcia's mom, Angela Beltre, cooks. Her skill is evident in the hearty chicken soup and deeply flavorful sopa de mariscos (seafood soup). Other hits: barbecued pork ribs, rotisserie-roasted chicken and whole baked red snapper. Finish with tres leches cake or trembly flan.

10. Press 195

FOOD 2 1/2 stars

22 N. Park Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-536-1950, Press195.com

COST $-$$

AMBIENCE Very good

SERVICE Good

It's sheer inspiration: a potato knish that's split, stuffed with pastrami, sauerkraut and Swiss and then grill-pressed. Lots more hand-held wonders await at this sleek new sandwich spot, the offshoot of a Brooklyn hit. Besides a mind-blowing array of panini, you'll find soups, salads and addictive, hand-cut Belgian fries. Great brews, too.

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