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.

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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