$5 Trifecta: Barbecue, Beer, Band

fotpbbqFree concerts abound throughout the city during the summer. But how many offer you a plate of delicious barbecue and a beer to devour while you enjoy the music, all to the tune of $5?

This Wednesday, Finger on the Pulse NYC brings you the whole package at Hope Lounge (10 Hope Street, Brooklyn–map) in Williamsburg. From 7-11 PM you can see about-to-explode Brooklyn indie band The Harlem Shakes (yes, the name is confusing) in a free outdoor concert. For $5, you can pick up a plate of barbecue and sides from seasoned kitchen and pit pro Sam Mason (of the restaurant Tailor and the hit food/rock mashup show “Dinner With the Band”), with a complementary beer to wash it down.

For the technologically inclined/gainfully employed among us, FotP NYC is even giving away free iPhone cases. For the rest of us, I’m pretty sure those cases can be used to hold food stamp EBT cards.

via Tasting Table New York

Kashgar at the beach

kashkarThe Uighur people have been in the news a lot lately, and it hasn’t been good–their home region of Xinjiang, China is mired in a vicious state of ethnic violence. While the thoughts of Uighur immigrants in New York are likely in Xinjiang, their hands are imbued with culinary prowess. Thanks to Cafe Kashkar (1141 Brighton Beach Ave., Brooklyn–map), a trip to Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach means not only a lesson in Cyrillic (Russian immigrants dominate the neighborhood), but also a taste of the lesser-known Uighur culture.

mantyThe fare at Cafe Kashkar is a unique mixture of east Asian and Middle Eastern, natural for an ethnic group of Sunni Muslims living in northwestern China. Bring friends and share, because there’s a lot to choose from. Start with an order of Manty, boiled dumplings filled with ground lamb and a rich, salty broth ($7 for 4 large dumplings), or Samsa, a layered lamb pastry ($2.50 apiece). Don’t be confused by a misnomer on the menu: what they call “hot appetizers” are lagmanactually sizeable entrees. Go for the fried lagman, a traditional spicy noodle and vegetable dish ($7.50). Or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, go for the gigar–rice with an earthy, sweet mixture of fried liver, bell peppers, eggplant, and more–for $8.50. Round out your meal with juicy kebabs, around $4 each.

A friendly and helpful staff will aid you with pronunciation, while an Uzbek version of MTV serenades diners from the corner. Only in New York can a day at the beach be this deliciously eye-opening.

Straight from the middle man

Ever wish you could economize on beer by getting it straight from the brewery? You can’t. Due to antiquated liquor laws and an oversized Annheuser-Busch lobby in Washington, breweries can’t even sell their beer directly to retail stores. They have to sell to distributors, who then sell to your corner deli or supermarket. Of course, there’s a price markup every time the beer changes hands.

nbdBut there is a way to cut in early: most distributors have warehouses in the city where they sell beer directly to the thirsty consumer. Unlike NYC retailers, they sell in bulk–kegs, 30-packs, and cases, meaning you can stock up for a fraction of what you’d pay at a deli.

For the bottle sipper, pick up a case of Brooklyn Pennant Ale for $33.59 at American Beer Distributors (256 Court St., Brooklyn–map), or a case of Dos Equis Amber for $25.99 at Carousel Beverages (436 3rd Ave., Brooklyn–map). If you’re really looking to save dough, grab a 30-pack of Genessee Cream Ale (it’s better and cheaper than Bud Light) for $15.99 at New Beer Distributors (167 Chrystie St., Manhattan–map).

Warehouses can be a Mecca even for the consummate beer snob, sporting celebrated but hard-to-find American micros like Left Hand, Allagash, and North Coast, and imports like Orval and Sinebrychoff. At around $10 per six pack they’re not cheap, but they’re cheaper than you’ll find them anywhere else in the city.

New members welcome

GYCIf you’re a Penny Palate regular, your yacht club membership probably lapsed a long time ago. Like, in a previous lifetime. But with weather like this, it seems criminal not to do your eating and drinking out of doors. Luckily, Smith Street has just the club for you–no membership dues, collared shirts not required.

To be fair, Gowanus Yacht Club (323 Smith St., Brooklyn–map is not an actual yacht club, nor is it actually on the Gowanus Canal. But yacht clubs are stodgy and the Gowanus Canal is a putrid cesspool, so I’d say GYC comes out a winner in the end. Pass through the unimposing fence and head to the bar, where you can order hot dogs ($2), burgers ($4 for a single, $6 for a double), and beers at Canal prices. A PBR is $3, but kick in an extra dollar for a can of Porkslap Pale Ale or Moo Thunder Stout from Butternuts Beer–high class taste in a low-class can.

You’ll get to enjoy a diverse crowd–I’ve sat at the bar with hipsters, grizzled Brooklyn vets and, once, a beagle who had a hard time staying upright on his swivel bar stool. By the end of the night, you might have the same problem.

Happy Hour of the Week: One year for EVT

evtIn this climate, it’s worth celebrating if a new restaurant can stay open for a month. East Village Tavern (158 Avenue C, Manhattan–map) has made it an entire year, and they’re spreading the wealth this Friday with a free open bar from 6-8 pm.

EVT gets the job done by having something for everyone: the beer enthusiast–16 rotating taps with a wide and seasonal selection of American craft brews; the food lover–a high end, seasonal bar food menu; even the dive hound–Big Buck Hunter and pinball. It’s no wonder that you find yourself among a diverse crowd.

EVT’s got a great happy hour to begin with: Monday through Friday from 4-7 drafts are $3, well drinks are $4, and sliders are $2. But nothing beats an open bar. Knock off work and get there early (these things do tend to fill up), and it will be a happy birthday for them and you.


Another falafel enabler

mohamed

photo from Yelp.com

There’s a cheap falafel restaurant in the East Village. Groundbreaking news, no? Well, if you’re like me and eat cheap East Village falafel weekly, branching out to a new location is, in fact, a significant deal. So it was an exciting Tuesday evening when I trekked an extra couple blocks in the rain to Mohamed Falafel Star (178 E 7th St., Manhattan–map), at the bottom of Tompkins Square Park.

I was originally attracted to the spot by a memory I had of a sign in the window: Falafel Sandwich $2. So I was a bit disappointed when I arrived and that $2 had been changed to a $3. But I was willing to shell out the extra buck to see what Mohamed had to offer. And the first thing he has to offer is a friendly face. It seems a one-man shop, and the man behind the counter is talkative and cheerful as he stuffs your pita.

My first observation, before sinking my teeth in, was that this is the biggest falafel sandwich I’ve examined yet (bigger than Yatagan kebab, and much bigger than Mamoun’s). Upon devouring the sandwich, I discovered that Mohamed also adds chopped cucumber to his sandwich, another new revelation I greatly appreciated. When it came to the patty, however, Mohamed’s was just as bland as all other comers when compared with Mamoun’s. Nevertheless, his counter is worth checking out, if only for the over-the-counter banter. I’ve also heard high praise for Mohamed’s shawarma–I’ll report back after my next trip.

Willy(burg) cheesesteak

The appellation “deli” means something very different in New York than in smaller towns. Whereas most delis in the world are establishments that specialize in selling sandwiches and cold cuts, the typical New York deli is a place on the corner where you can pick up toilet paper, a bag of chips, and a 6-pack. If it sells sandwiches, they’re usually not something you want to sink your teeth into.

Williamsburg’s Big Apple Deli (671 Grand St., Brooklyn–map) is an exception to the rule. While it superficially resembles your typical corner store, a trip to the deli counter is a pleasant surprise, especially when you’re craving a cheesesteak. Once you choose between six different cheeses, the man behind the counter pulls out not a tub of precooked steak, but a whole slab of fresh meat and raw sliced onion and peppers. He cooks up your steak fresh, slicing it as he goes, then melts the cheese in with the meat and sauteed veggies so it pervades your whole sandwich and your every bite.

After about 5 minutes, you get your meat piled on a soft, fresh roll for just $4 for a round roll, $5 for a hero. There’s no seating, so take your spoils to one of many nearby bars and enjoy it with a cold one. Big Apple is open at least as late as any bar you know, so if you’re having late night hunger pangs, consider it your promised land.

Budget aphrodisiacs: my kind of cheap date

fish1It’s finally April. If you subscribe to the only “r” months rule, that means you only have a few weeks left to slurp down those briny pieces of heaven called oysters. And if you’re like me, you wasted all of the previous “r” monts (Sept-Apr) thinking that oysters were out of your price range. Not so. In the West Village, of all places, the restaurant known simply as Fish (280 Bleecker St., Manhattan–map) will shuck you 6 oysters (or clams, if you prefer) along with a glass of red or white wine, or a PBR, for a total of $8.

Fish’s bluepoints (not just a name, they’re from Long Island) are generously sized, perfectly opaque, and sit in just the right amount of salty liquor. They’re served with cocktail sauce and a tasty, strong mixture of red wine vinegar and diced red onion. You can probably imagine what a PBR tastes like, so I tried the Chardonnay instead, which was a perfect accompaniment, and certainly not the wine equivalent of a PBR.

It may be a myth that oysters are an aphrodisiac. But I’d think the combination of delicious bivalves, a decent wine, and your deal-finding savvy should be enough to drive anyone wild.

Not your dad’s milkshake…but maybe your great great granddad’s

shakeRemember when a frosty milkshake cost just a nickel? Neither do I. But this Thursday, Brooklyn hot spot The Bell House (149 7th St., Brooklyn–map) is putting those bygone deals to shame, offering their take on the shake free of charge, starting at 9 PM.

A shot of history: back when milkshakes were invented in the late 19th century, they were often used as health tonics, fighting consumption with one key ingredient: whiskey. Pesky prohibition did away with the whiskey-laced shake, but it couldn’t wipe it from our memory entirely (in fact, Prohibition probably made everyone’s memory a bit clearer).

makersThe Bell House’s vanilla whiskey shake is a throwback to the good old days. And they ain’t using rotgut, either. They’re mixing their shakes with Maker’s Mark, aged at least five and a half years in weathered oak barrels to create a bourbon of consistently outstanding quality, one of the best to come out of Kentucky. The stuff’s not cheap, so tip your tender well. After all, she may be helping you fight off the TB, or at least a nasty case of sobriety.

The tip, from MyOpenBar.com

The happy hour that comes once a year

cheapshotzOnce you pass 21, each successive birthday gets a bit more depressing: you’re another year past your prime, and it’s even less socially acceptable to hang out in trashy dive bars looking for cheap drinks. But as my birthday approaches this week, social mores don’t stand a chance in the face of a unique East Village offer: free drinks, all night.

As my friend and fellow pennywatcher Frank pointed out just two months ago on the anniversary of his birth, Cheap Shots (140 1st Ave., Manhattan–map) will pour you anything on tap, in a can, or on the shelf (except Patron) for the night’s duration. All you need is an ID showing that it is, in fact, your birthday.

Of course, the place is a rather dank hole, so you’ll want the company of a lot of friends. Luckily, Cheap Shots has enticements for paying customers as well, like $3 16 ounce cans of PBR, pitchers of Yeungling for $7, and shots as cheap as $2. That’s enough reason for everyone to get a little happy; at least in the morning, you’ll have an excuse.

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