Hot Dog Heaven in Hell

rudysWhen you’re slogging through the mobs of tourists and eyeball-searing lights of Times Square, it can seem like glitz, kitsch, schlock, and other Yiddish pejoratives as far as the eye can see. But head to Hell’s Kitchen, just two blocks west to 9th Ave and up to 44th St. and you’ll be welcomed back to the real world by a giant ceramic pig in a dinner jacket outside Rudy’s Bar & Grill (627 9th Avenue, Manhattan—map).

Walk inside and you’ll find a lively and friendly dive bar, complete with duct-taped booths, meaningless paraphernalia on the walls, and a backyard when the weather’s nice. But most importantly you’ll find prices that make you question whether you’re still in New York at all: $3 pints and $9 pitchers for most beers, $2.50/$7 for Rudy’s own blonde, all the time.

Best of all, you can load up on unlimited (except by your sense of dignity) free hot dogs from the bar. It’s not the best place if you’re on a diet, but amazing if you’re on a budget. Just don’t tell the pig what they put in those dogs…

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 3:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Circular Jerk: An omelet by another name

img_0649This week’s batch of circulars provided scant options for cheap meat. It hurts, but I’m getting used to the fact that eating cheap means fewer meat-based meals. So I delved deeper into the circular and came across a 3 pound bag of yellow onions for $1.99.

Onions alone can’t make a meal, but mixed with a perennially cheap and delicious protein—eggs at $2.39 a dozen, they make a delicious frittata. A frittata is like an omelet, but it sounds much sexier. And the filling is cooked into the egg rather than folded in the middle. The only other ingredients I needed were salt, pepper, butter, and parmesan cheese—a 5 oz. block was on sale for $2.99 (To save money, buy cheese in blocks. Do you really need to pay extra for someone else to grate it for you?).

img_0654I got my recipe from a 27-year-old copy of Marcella Hazan’s classic Essentials of Italian Cooking (you can buy a new copy here). Since I only used a fraction of my onions, eggs and parmesan, the total cost of the frittata was about $3.50. It serves 4, so my cost per person was 88 cents. Not bad for a delicious dinner.

Marcella’s timeless, quick and easy recipe is after the break:

Recession Watch: 20 Cent Breakfast

img_0632img_0633When I read on the Village Voice food blog that Casa Havana (190 8th Ave, Manhattan—map) was giving away a full breakfast for 20 cents, I didn’t believe it. There had to be a catch. The next morning I headed straight to Chelsea to investigate.

img_06251Sure enough, the recession special gets you two eggs any way you like them, two slices of bacon, a pile of fries, a slice of toast, and a coffee, and it actually costs 20 cents. That’s not a typo (see the receipt photo for proof). To be honest, I left a whole dollar–the only time I ever plan to tip 400%. You’re not getting the world’s best French fries or toast, but the eggs and bacon are perfectly cooked, flavorful and not at all greasy. Just don’t ask for any substitutions—a glass of orange juice will run you $3 and kill the deal.

img_06291How they can afford to feed you for less than you can feed yourself is beyond me, but it’s for a limited time only. The folks at Casa Havana won’t say how long it’s going to last, so get over there soon, and if you’re thinking about it a week or two from now, call ahead ((212) 243-9421) so you don’t get the nasty surprise of real-life prices.

The Lunchtime Splurge: TriBeCa

pakistanteahouseThe lunchtime splurge is one of the easiest ways to blow money. Let’s face it: there are mornings when you just refuse to drag your butt out of bed ten minutes early to make a sandwich which will sit under your desk all morning releasing questionable aromas until you choke it down. And it feels good to get out of the office at midday and spoil yourself with fresh, hot food once in a while. The key is finding the lunch deals to keep your splurges affordable.

pakistan-foodIf you’re working downtown, I recommend Pakistan Tea House (176 Church St., Manhattan–map). Seinfeld may have given authentic Pakistani food a bad rap, but here it is thriving—the line is filled with Pakistani Americans, which is always a good sign. And you can get a vegetable combo with a choice of three dishes and rice that will fill you for two lunches for just $5.99.

It’s a quick takeout stop so you can hustle back to work with your decidedly better-smelling meal, or if it’s nice out and your boss isn’t a Nazi, stroll over a block and enjoy your meal in City Hall Park. Just watch out for the squirrels and pigeons.

All the fish, half the bill

In the newest New York Zagat surveys, one category of food garnered all the highest ratings: sushi. It’s no longer just a hot trend; now it’s just incredibly delicious. Small wonder, then, that it was also New York’s most expensive restaurant category (NYT reviewer Frank Bruni called a $65 meal a bargain).

sushiloungeWell, the rest of us need our Omega 3 oils, too. At Sushi Lounge (132 St. Mark’s Place, Manhattan–map), you can fill up on fish without sinking your bank account. They offer a half-off special all the time (does that even count as a special?) Just order at least $16 worth of their already low-priced sushi and your bill is magically cut in half. Try the deluxe special (8 different pieces of sushi plus a California roll) for $17.50, a.k.a. $8.75.

Of course this isn’t the best sushi in the city, but it’s fresh and flavorful enough to beat out some of its higher-priced competition. We doubt New York sushi will ever be an “everyday luxury” (sorry, Frank), but at this price it is certainly an affordable treat.

Published in: on November 11, 2008 at 2:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Happy Hour of the Week: Whiskey Town has your medicine this Thursday

bottleshot1As the economy keeps tanking, no commodity is in hotter demand than whiskey (closely followed by vodka, rum, and gin). Liquor companies, like lawyers, make a killing off of the misery of others. But for one night this week, Whiskey Town (29 E. 3rd St., Manhattan—map),, and a man named Evan are teaming up to help you forget your woes (and perhaps create a host of new ones) for cheap.

whiskey-town1Head to Whiskey Town this Thursday (11/13/08) between 6:30 and 9:30 and get unlimited Evan Williams bourbon, however you like it, for 88 cents a glass. Why 88 cents? It’s the “Ocho Loco” deal from To cash in, go to this website and follow the link to text the coupon to your phone. When you get to the bar, show the doorman your coupon and you’re set to throw ‘em back like a homeless former I-banker.

Vote for Free Food, President

In this election you really shouldn’t need any extra incentive to vote—the differences between the candidates are stark, and the choice will have serious consequences for all of our lives for four years and beyond. But if that’s not enough to get you out to the polls, three politically conscious corporations are giving you three more reasons to cast a ballot.

After you pull the lever tomorrow, head to Krispy Kreme, Starbucks (yes, this is the only time you can expect to see Starbucks on a cheap food site), and Ben & Jerry’s (5 pm-8 pm only) and tell them you voted. You’ll be rolling on a caffeine and sugar high from a free star-shaped patriotic donut, a free cup of coffee, and a free scoop of ice cream. That should carry you through the work day until your election night party.

To find your nearest Ben & Jerry’s and Krispy Kreme locations, use the store locator on their websites. To find your nearest Starbucks, walk three blocks in any direction and go to one of the two you pass along the way.

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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