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Walk past the trays of Italian butter cookies dipped in chocolate and bright sprinkles, past the Linzer tarts and the oozing cannolis. It’s the Mexican baked goods that set Golden Pastry Shop apart. The pan de muertos—buttery, mildly sweet Mexican pastries, typically served on Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” holiday—are available year-round here. Light, fluffy and dusted with sugar, they are the perfect breakfast indulgence. There’s no seating inside this tiny Tompkinsville bakery, so plan to hover as you eat, or grab a pastry and a cup of coffee to go. -Clare Trapasso
As if a kosher schnitzel purveyor in the corner of an unassuming Staten Island strip mall isn’t cross-cultural enough, Holy Schnitzel’s “Franky” sandwich makes the most of this mash-up. A chicken cutlet coated with Italian-seasoned breading and crushed garlic is stuffed into a baguette and topped with optional lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions and your choice of sauce. Why settle for garlic mayo or mustard—two valid choices—when you can have hummus or schug, a chunky Yemeni chile relish that’s popular in Israel?
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.
The beef lamprais at Lakruwana, a Sri Lankan eatery in Stapleton, combines small mounds of fragrant basmati rice and cashews, onion sambol (a tangy-sweet condiment), eggplant, deep-fried tuna fish-and-potato cutlets and seasoned beef all steamed together in a banana leaf. The dish, invented by Dutch colonists of the island, has evolved over several centuries. It arrives at the table in a neatly folded packet, with the ingredients grouped side-by-side. Mix everything together, and the result is a surprisingly mild dish that effortlessly balances its spicy and savory flavors. -Anne Noyes Saini
Nonna’s has the perfect example of an old-fashioned crust: smoky, buttery and with an extreme amount of integrity. It feels like my grandfather made it. Every slice under the sneeze glass is consistently amazing, including the Nonna, a thin square with mozzarella, basil and marinara. Check out their Staten Island-style rotating oven, too.
- Under $10
Popeyes founder Al Copeland, a man whose taste for life was so unhinged that he literally met his end by cancer of the salivary gland, wasn’t messing around when he flipped us this particular bird. It may be made from factory-grade chicken parts uncomfortably close to the margin of cost, but Popeyes’ spicy fried chicken is consistently moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside, fluffy in the folds and loaded with artificial and natural flavors. Even as new, gourmet fried chicken options abound, New York is hard-pressed to find a cost-to-pleasure ratio as golden as this.
Taqueria Puebla’s cow’s-eye, tongue and head-meat tacos might be a draw for offal appreciators, but if you find yourself nearby on a weekend, the pancita (served only Saturday and Sunday) demands a stop. The steaming bowl of spicy orange broth is filled with large chunks of honeycomb tripe that’s tender enough to cut with a spoon. Add a squirt of lime and a handful of chopped onion and cilantro for contrast. Whatever you do, don’t neglect the tortillas—these thick corn-based rounds are handmade and arrive at the table hot off the griddle. Weekends only.
1285 Castleton Ave. at Clove Rd. (Map)
Staten Island, NY 10310
Tucked into the back of a prim, well-stocked Polish grocery in Tompkinsville is a nondescript takeout window serving traditional Polish dishes. Everything on the menu—from the pierogi to the cucumber soup—is pretty delicious, but the made-from-scratch potato pancakes are particularly satisfying. Spiked with onion and garlic, these golden, freshly pan-fried cakes are crisp outside and moist and soft inside. Skip the sour cream—these potato pancakes already have all the flavor (and calories) you need. -Anne Noyes Saini