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- $5.99 per lb.
Unfamiliar with the cooking of central Africa? Don’t worry. Just dive in at this inexpensive Chelsea steam table. If it looks like collard greens, it’s probably stewed cassava leaves. If it looks like goat, it’s probably goat. You’ll also find meaty braises of heart, liver or kidneys for the adventurous; beans with chunks of tender goat or lamb meat; plantains, corn bread, several types of rice and vegetables I still can’t identify. Spicing is very mild, the flavors unusual, and there’s usually soccer on TV.
165 W 26th St. at Seventh Ave. (map)
New York, NY 10001
Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop is an old-school diner that, as the menu proudly touts, has been “raising New York’s cholesterol since 1929.” The vintage atmosphere is a bigger draw than the food, but if you’re going to eat a sandwich in the Flatiron, better to sit on a red vinyl stool at a long counter where you can chat with a friendly sandwich maker than wait in line at a generic deli. The tuna salad sandwich is just right—no bells and whistles: a thick layer of creamy (canned) tuna salad topped with a few slices of tomato and crisp iceberg lettuce on toasted rye (the bread choice is up to you), with a sliced pickle on the side.
Kimchi Taco Truck’s bulgogi kimchi bowl, which would be recognizable as dup bap in Korea, is simply protein and vegetables over rice. You could find a similar meal in Koreatown for about the same price, but the fact that a dish this fresh, filling and tasty can be served out of a food truck is a game changer. The rice is fragrant, while the grilled beef is meaty, juicy, well caramelized and complimented by pickled radish for crunch and zest. It’s topped with kimchi that’s made in house using Chef Youngsun Lee’s grandmother’s recipe, which utilizes red pepper powder imported from Korea. A meal that channels Grandma’s home cooking from a truck? I swoon.
In Manhattan Koreatown, a good bowl of soon dooboo chigae (silken tofu stew) usually runs $10 or more, plus tip. Not so at Food Gallery 32, the neigborhood’s bustling bargain bin of a food court. Every type of soon dooboo at Hanok is tasty, but the seafood stew (haemool soon dooboo) is especially good. Whole shrimp, mussels, octopus and squid give the spicy, red-pepper broth a faint flavor of the ocean. The bubbling stew comes with a bowl of white rice, nibbles of ban chan and an egg cracked into the soup (only on request). The combination makes a good meal anytime you need a spicy pick-me-up, but it’s perfect on a cold day.
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Unfortunately Sarge’s suffered a fire in late 2012. They plan to reopen, and we promise to update you when they do!
Sarge’s Delicatessen in Murray Hill may serve the most nourishing soup in New York City, curing everything from the common cold to cancer (this statement has not been officially verified by the FDA). Sitting in the heady chicken broth, which demands no salt (but maybe a little pepper) are a hearty beef kreplach, noodles and a gigantic matzoh ball that straddles the delicate balance between floater and sinker. It’s the soup you wish a Jewish grandmother could make for you on a cold winter day.
Shake Shack has appeared on many a cheap eats list throughout the years, and with good reason. Danny Meyer’s nod to fast food serves up, pound for pound, some of the best burgers in Manhattan. At Shake Shack, order a Shackburger and you’ll receive a freshly ground Pat LaFrieda blend cooked on a sizzling flattop grill. These crusty patties are paired with screamingly fresh lettuce, tomato and a “Shacksauce” that puts McDonald’s secret sauce to shame. There’s usually a line at any one of the Manhattan locations, but it’s always worth the wait.