For most New Yorkers, the places we truly love to eat are our best-kept secrets -- that food cart in Washington Heights doling out $2 arepas, that Crown Heights taco shop with no phone number, that Peking duck place with a B rating from the Health Department. And while oysters and pearls at Per Se are surely a worthwhile pursuit, there is a certain currency that comes along with knowing about the cash-only joint on 181st with the matzo ball soup. Maybe it’s about clout, and maybe it’s about frugality, or maybe it’s just about damn good food.
It takes years of local intel, crosstown moves, and overdrawn bank accounts to gather an archive of these very spots -- these hidden, unassuming meccas of cheap, tasty, global eats. To spare you from a plate of E. coli-seasoned street meat in your quest for an affordable meal, we’ve compiled a few of our favorites to get you started.