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During lunch hours Biryani Cart always has a line, but it moves quickly as the cooks quickly fill kati rolls. The flaky and ultra buttery wrap used in this roll is somewhat like a scallion pancake without the scallions. Fillings include chicken, lamb or vegetarian with different sauces, but communication is rocky, so what you get may be a surprise. As long as you can take some spice, it’s all good.
They call this dish “mouth watering” for a reason at this chic Murray Hill Chinese restaurant, which is done up with a 1930′s Shanghai aesthetic. The bone-in chicken is poached to tender submission, arriving in a bowl slicked with neon-colored chili-and-sesame oil. Garnished with sesame seeds and finely sliced slivers of scallion, the cold chicken somehow manages to be refreshing and incendiary all at once.
At City Sandwich, a Hell’s Kitchen newcomer featuring Portuguese and Italian inspired sandwiches, the ‘Nuno’ sandwich is the one to try. It’s an inspired concoction of morcella (blood sausage), broccoli rabe, mozzarella and fixins, scrunched between City Sandwich’s superbly crusty and fresh sandwich rolls. Texturally, it’s near perfect, brimming with flavor from an appealingly pungent morcella, earthy greens and creamy cheese.
At Don Antonio Neapolitan Pizza, owned by Kesté’s Roberto Caporuscio and his mentor Antonio Starita, there’s generations of pizza-making wisdom behind every pizza and panini—not to mention a very expensive (and very hot) Acunto oven imported from Italy. Despite all of this, they serve reasonably priced paninis, such as the Pagnotello, a hefty panini stuffed with sausage, bitter Italian rapini, creamy smoked, buffalo mozzarella and a touch of extra virgin olive oil. The paninis are baked in the Acunto, giving the dough a Neapolitan puffiness with an extra bit of char and chew. Lunchtime only.
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.
When Glaze Teriyaki Grill opened in 2010, it aimed to channel the best of Seattle-style teriyaki in its all-natural, homemade sauce. Glaze brushes this seriously tasty sauce over a variety of proteins, but the best value on the menu—or in all of Midtown for that matter—is the beautifully plump, juicy, organic teriyaki chicken thigh, served over white or brown rice with crisp and fresh side salad.
Sushi and ramen get all the love, but ask a Japanese expat what she misses most, and she might say curry. Neither Indian nor Thai, this curry is a Japanese riff on a British interpretation of an Indian classic. Flavored with pureed apples, ketchup, curry powder and garam masala, the brown gravy is sweet and mild (even if you order a spicy version) and is popularly topped with tonkatsu, a breaded, fried pork cutlet. A drizzle of thickened Worcestershire sauce adds a savory finishing touch.
Go! Go! Curry
273 W. 38th St. at Eighth Ave. (Map)
New York, NY 10018
This Turkish bakery and café excels at baklava, and a visit wouldn’t be complete without picking up a few pistachio and phyllo treats. Don’t ignore the savory offerings, though. Gül böreği, an eggy pastry that is more quiche-like than flaky, comes stuffed with spinach and feta, potato or spinach and ground beef. Paired with an intense shot of Turkish coffee, this is a perfect breakfast.
982 Second Ave. at E. 52nd St. (Map)
New York, NY 10022
30-92 31st St. at 31st Ave. (Map)
Astoria, NY 11102
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The steam table specials at Kalustyan’s second-floor deli change daily, but you can always stuff yourself with a gigantic Middle Eastern veggie combo plate. On any given day you might receive a monstrous container overflowing with sautéed spinach, mujadarra (lentils with fried onions), a green salad, warm pita, pickled vegetables (celery, carrots, cucumbers) and dolma (stuffed grape leaves). It’s more than enough fiber to make you squirm, but the food is well worth it.
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.
Minar does a brisk business in the lunchtime steam table trade, but their chana bhatura daily special is worth the extra wait. The chana (chickpea) curry is moderately spiced and served with a side of cool raita, or yogurt sauce, and small cups of tamarind sauce and cilantro chutney. It’s available with bread or rice. Choose Minar’s made-to-order poori, and you’ll find yourself staring down two hot and poofy deep fried breads that make the meal.
138 W. 46th St. at Seventh Ave. (Map)
New York, NY 10036
Mooncake Foods doesn’t serve authentic Asian food, nor does it try. Instead, this Asian riff on a diner focuses on serving filling, fresh and affordable food in all three of its Manhattan locations. And they do sandwiches very well. Take, for example, the grilled porkchop sandwich: tender, thin slices of pork, brushed with a bit of sweet hoisin and quickly grilled, paired with a mango chutney and irresistibly crunchy, fresh bread. Add a drizzle of spicy chili oil and munch on the complimentary side salad with carrot ginger dressing, and you’ve got a very tasty and filling meal for well under $10.
28 Watts St. at Thompson St. (Map)
New York, NY 10013
263 W. 30th St. at 8th Ave. (Map)
New York, NY 10001
- Photography by Robyn Lee
Num pang—Cambodian sandwiches similar to Vietnamese bánh mì—are the star at this tiny West Village sandwich shop, which is packed during weekday lunch hours with both students and suits. The hulking coconut tiger shrimp sandwich features a half-dozen head-off shrimp on a toasted baguette with pickled vegetables, a spicy-sweet Sriracha mayo and toasted coconut flakes. The shrimp are juicy and jumbo, griddled to be crisp on the outside but tender within. The result is a rare combination of high-quality seafood with a bargain-bin price tag.
140 E. 41st St. nr Lexington Ave. (map)
New York, NY 10017
Cer Te is leading the New York pizza scene in sustainability, local ingredients, and environmentally minded construction (look for the basil growing on the wall). Aligning with their many mantras, the farmer’s slice is funky, marrying slick onions with the sweetness of real, irregular corn kernels. This slice may change you.
- $9.00 for lunch, $11.00 for dinner
Editor’s Note: Since this dish was added to Real Cheap Eats, its price has risen past $10.00. It’s still a part of the guide as a part of our “grandfather” policy.
When it comes to Thai, diners on Ninth Avenue are faced with a lot of choices. Pure Thai Cookhouse (formerly Pure Thai Shophouse), however, may be the only place worth visiting. Try the assertively flavored pork broth in a bowl of Sukhothai pork noodle soup. Sweet slices of roasted pork are nestled amongst crunchy long beans and crumbles of ground pork, and as if it couldn’t get any better (or porkier), the dish is lavishly topped with crisp pork cracklings. Despite the dizzying amount of flavors and texture, the dish is remarkably clean on the palate. It’s a nearly flawless noodle soup.
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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.
- Photograph by James Boo
The term “face melting” is tossed around a lot, but few dishes embody the description quite like Szechuan Gourmet’s hot and sour cellophane noodles. While sour flavors dominate at first, it’s the background buzzing of Sichuan peppercorns, sending a numbing hum through your face and mouth, that leaves a lasting impression. The thin, slippery noodles are a blank slate, and here they drink up the sauce. Slurp at your own discretion.
The cheap eat that gets me hustling over to Tehuitzingo Deli and Grocery on 10th Ave. is the torta. It’s a hefty sandwich, its crusty and fresh roll wrapped around your choice of protein—ham, chicken, salted beef, chorizo, and the like. My go-to is the torta de pollo, which delivers a fistful of tender chicken, melty fresh quesillo, an appealing smear of avocado, and fiery pickled peppers. For $6, this sandwich reliably leaves me thoroughly full and rapturously happy, with a few beads of sweat on my brow from the spice.