The Most Overlooked Mediterranean Paradise in Europe
What you're getting: Torta Chivas, $8
Once prowling Roosevelt Ave in his truck, "Tortas" (as the owner is known) is now doing the best tortas in town at a little walk-up window at a bar in Corona, Queens. The chorizo and egg Torta Chivas is pretty much the best breakfast ever, and the carnitas are excellent, too, but if you're looking for a max stomach-filler, get the Pumas -- it's got essentially every meat from Tortas’ small kitchen piled high on a single sandwich, and won't do much extra damage to your wallet.
What you're getting: Young ginger salad, $8.95
You know how you're always looking for a restaurant offering a mashup of Cajun, Yunan Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, and Burmese cuisines? Well, here it is. And while the Cajun-style seafood boils are good, they aren’t the only reason you should check this place out -- instead, it’s the Burmese fare, like young ginger salad, yellow tofu, and tea leaf salad that shine.
What you're getting: Paneer tikka sandwich $6.53
This spot, far from the bustle of Jackson Heights in Floral Park, Queens, near the Long Island border, offers a stunning array of Indian snacks (called chaat) and sweets. Don’t miss the deceptively simple, yet insane vegetarian paneer tikka sandwich, which is essentially an Indian grilled cheese (!!!) with a diversity of flavors and textures. Also check out the fermented chana dal (a type of ground lentil) or more esoteric Gujarati and Punjabi specialties.
What you're getting: Sandheko Wai Wai, $3.50
Dhaulagiri Kitchen is hardly even a kitchen. Sitting inside the already diminutive Tawa Food's roti bakery, this stall serves up a surprisingly expansive offering of Nepalese dishes (your favorite!). Go for the thali plates -- set meals with a variety of dishes that are easily the best deal. Also recommended is the sandheko Wai Wai -- crunched up instant noodles tossed with a ton of good stuff, including vegetables and chilis. Finish with a relaxing cup of chai and a take-home bag (two take-home bags?) of paranthas.
What you're getting: Hand-pulled lamb noodle soup, $5.75
One of the best things on one of the best eating blocks in Queens, Uncle Zhou distinguishes itself among the top tier of Northern Chinese restaurants in the city. Hand-pulled lamb noodle soup from Henan is unbelievably good, as is the “big tray chicken”, diced rabbit, and the lambiest dumplings you’ll probably ever have.
What you're getting: Lamb chalokhoch, $8.50
Lamb Chalokhoch with its own bony handle at this Bukharan bakery is the major draw, but don’t miss excellent samsa and manti -- different versions of similar dumplings mixing meat and onions.
What you're getting: Bhel puri, $5.50
This crowded Greenwich Village chaat joint serves an incredible mix of vegetarian and oh-thank-God-not-vegetarian stuff. Bhel puri is a classic Indian snack, but try the okra roll, too, which's still crunchy, just spicy enough, and wrapped in a fresh paratha.
What you're getting: Pan con lechon, $9.95
This could be our favorite 24-hour restaurant in town. Coppelia manages to remain reasonably-priced despite its location. Cuban and pan-Latin specialties abound, and don’t sleep on the surprisingly cheap steak and eggs, one of the best under-the-radar burgers in the city, or the fantastic sandwiches -- like their pan con lechon. And you should 100,000,000,000% ask for their house-made habanero hot sauce.
What you're getting: 1/2 dozen rugelach, $8
This Israeli-meets-European bakery has an amazing depth of offerings, including Israeli boureks, the croissant-meets-pretzel cretzel, and cheese sticks. The go-to move, though, is the rugelach or one of the killer babkas.
What you're getting: Tacos adobada, $3
Seek out this excellent taco stand in crowded Chelsea Market for its stunning version of tacos adobada -- spit-roasted pork sliced and piled into your choice of flour or corn tortillas. Add allllllllll the salsas and then find somewhere to sit do--oh, they're already gone. So maybe... skip that last part?
What you're getting: The chicken biscuit, $6.50
This recently renovated Lower East Side gem serves some of the best New Orleans-inspired sandwiches in town. The chicken biscuit, topped with gravy, is unmatched, the oyster (or shrimp) po’ boy is an excellent and classic option, and don’t skip the horseradish-spiked beef sandwich, either. Basically, we’re saying get three sandwiches.
What you're getting: White borscht, $3.75
Bedford Ave dead-ends almost directly in front of this classic Greenpoint Polish restaurant. They’ve got fabulous white borscht, red borscht, and pierogies. The Hungarian Pie, though, is also an amazing move -- it’s a crisp potato pancake folded over a pile of beef goulash and topped with sour cream. Best of all, "Lomy", as most people call it, is BYOB.
Prospect Lefferts Gardens
What you're getting: Jerk chicken, $6
Practically a Flatbush institution, Peppa’s is mostly a takeout operation with one of the best jerk chickens in Brooklyn. Make sure to get your order piled high (no dude, higher than that) with rice and beans. Ask for them to be topped with whatever gravy is on hand that day and you won’t be disappointed.
What you're getting: Pastrami sandwich, $8
If you’re looking for one of the best reasonably priced pastrami, corned beef, or brisket sandwiches in Brooklyn, David’s should be your first choice. Passed down from the original David to its current Yemeni Muslim owners, they’re keeping the institution alive and as strong as ever.
What you're getting: Cheese khachapuri, $6
Georgian bakeries are rare, even amongst the plethora of Eastern European eateries in Brighton Beach. Here, the most decadent order is the cheese khachapuri, essentially a stuffed cheese pizza (where the cheese tastes like a combination of mozzarella and feta) pulled right from the oven. It also wouldn’t hurt to take home a shotis puri -- the Georgian version of a baguette.
What you're getting: Samsas, $2.75
This Uzbek neighborhood favorite has long served excellent samsas -- cousins of boureks and some other, excellent flaky, stuffed pastries. But make sure you also take down some plov, an Uzbeki classic similar to pilaf or biryani. Oh, and also some skewered kebabs.
What you're getting: Tacos, $2.50, or one of the daily specials
No doubt in the conversation for the best Mexican restaurants in city, you can order exemplary forms of the standard tacos, tortas, and cemitas, but it’s the daily specials that are absolutely incredible. Watch for mole poblano, braised ribs, quail egg-stuffed meatballs, or beguilingly orange pipian sauce with pork.
What you're getting: Bharta sampler, $3.99
At the center of the fledgling Bronx Bangladeshi community sits Neerob. Recently expanded to accommodate more people who want the bharta sampler, Neerob is ready for you to go for the... bharta sampler! It's a mixed mash of vegetables ranging from potatoes, to eggplant and okra -- all laced with fiery mustard oil and bits of chilis.
What you're getting: Lamprais, $10.50 (we'll loan you the 50 cents [but not really])
This fantastic Staten Island restaurant services the growing Sri Lankan community (or something) looking for familiar foods from the homeland. Try the Dutch-inspired lamprais ($10.50), a combination of basmati rice, cashews, onions, eggplant, tuna, potato, and beef, all steamed together in a banana leaf. Hoppers(basket-shaped rice flour crepes) are another solid choice -- or, better yet, eat everything at the weekend buffet.
What you're getting: Vodka slice, $3
Incredible Staten Island-style pizza can be had only a short walk from the ferry. Go for the vodka slice, or go nontraditional with the actually excellent Buffalo chicken pizza.
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Real Cheap Eats is an insider’s guide to dining out on a budget in New York. Reported, written, and photographed entirely by food writers and food explorers whose culinary expertise know only the bounds of a good deal.