1. The Pod in Midtown East.
The name will become clear to you when you see the rooms: Smallish, like pods. But also bright and zippy: Blonde wood, mesh-back metal chairs, flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, crisp white bed covers, and backboards decorated in oddly elegant molecular squiggles.
Cheap night out: Grab a bottle of wine and head to the Pod rooftop, where you can sip under the stars.
The price: Starts at $99, with shared bath.
2. Hotel 17 on East 17th Street.
Madonna stayed here before she was famous. Woody Allen used the hotel as a backdrop in Manhattan Murder Mystery. Those are the fun facts. Less fun is that some of the rooms can tend towards dated: Motel-floral bedspreads; lots of orange and brown ŕ la 1970s; grandmotherly armoires; free-standing sinks. But, they’re also clean, and perhaps most importantly, Hotel 17 is central.
Cheap night out: Go to Mario Batali’s nearby Bar Jamon, where you can get pulpo (octopus) with patatas and a glass of fizzy cava for about $20.
The price: Starts at $109, with shared bath.
3. Jazz on the Park on West 106th Street.
First: This is a hostel, with the sometimes unfortunate requisites (blasé front-deskers; sweaty and… fragrant… backpackers). But, bypass the dorms, and opt for a private room. Though a bit musty, they’re decently furnished (full-length mirror, and so on), plus you’re a couple of blocks away from Central Park.
Cheap night out: Foosball in the basement, and then a beer BBQ with new Euro friends on the roof. After a few drinks: “Voulez vous coucher…?”
The price: Starts at $125, some with shared bath.