Eat like you’re not going back to work

tiffinwallahGoing out for an Indian dinner in New York will rack your wallet almost anywhere you go. If you want to get quality and quantity out of your curry, the time to go is lunch. The place to go is Tiffin Wallah (127 E 28th St., Manhattan–map), a vegetarian Indian joint in the middle of Curry Hill.

For $6.95, you get to exploit the bounty of an all-you-can-eat buffet. I dropped by yesterday, tiffinwallah2and the options were impressive. After choosing between white basmati rice and yellow rice with onions and sauteed yellow peppers, I piled on a many-vegetabled curry, a hearty potato and onion dish, a rich yellow dal, and a vegetable soup topped with peppery corn-bread. I complimented the mound with crisp paratha, grean pea pancakes, several chutneys and the typical tamarind and coriander dips. And when I finished, I couldn’t resist heading back to the bar for another round.

If you need something to wash down the spice, there’s an ice bucket full of Kingfishers at the buffet line for only $2.50 apiece. If my boss is reading, rest assured I resisted the temptation of the liquid lunch. But for all my willpower, I have to admit, the sheer quantity I ingested may have made me slightly catatonic.

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Happy Hour of the Week: George Washington would have drunk here

clong_islandFort Greene, Brooklyn (called Fort Putnam at the time), played a key role in shielding George Washington’s retreat during the Battle of Brooklyn. Could there be a better place to celebrate our fearless commander and first president’s birthday? This year, a brand new pub has enlisted to help.

bphBrooklyn Public House (247 DeKalb Ave., Brooklyn–map) is the project of three Fort Greene residents who turned a deserted old candy shop into a first-rate pub serving comfort food (wings, ribs, pan pizza), 16 tap beers, and 35 bottles. It’s opening to the public for the first time tonight.

While I recommend checking it out ASAP, the real Happy Hour of the Week comes on Sunday–the mid-point of your three day weekend (if your job doesn’t suck). After a blessing by a priest, BPH will host an open bar from 6 to 8, and throw in some samples from the food menu as well. If you happen to ring in President’s Day with a hangover, just be glad you’re not eating hard-tack and using dirt for coffee grounds.

the tip, from Thrillist

Prices down on the corner

Due to mounting evidence that the staff of Corner Bistro is homophobic and violent, I’m rescinding the Penny Palate’s recommendation. The owner has suspended the staff member in question, but has offered no apology or real explanation. It looks like I’ve eaten my last bistro burger.

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Manhattan’s West Village is known for its beautiful brownstone homes, its classy restaurants and bars soaked in history. But most of all, it’s known for being expensive as hell. But one one corner, a meal and a beer, and a black eye, is still affordable.

cornerbistroCorner Bistro (331 W. 4th St., Manhattan–map) beats up gay people? Also see the victim and owner’s responses, and the video evidence. offers paper plates that are barely big enough to hold their fat Bistro Burger. It’s a bacon cheese burger that’s about an inch and a half thick, with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a toasted bun.  Corner Bistro is one of the few budget burgers joints that will actually cook your meat the way you order it. My medium-rare was a beautiful pink, and the meaty juices kept it tender and tasty. And it cost just $6.75.

Nothing complements a cheap burger like a cheap beer. With that in mind, Corner Bistro offers 12 oz. mugs of McSorley’s light and dark ale for $2.50. That’s a big gourmet bacon cheese burger and a beer for $9.25. On your next jaunt through the West Village, you may not go hungry.

An affordable Korean lesson

When I started working in Koreatown in midtown Manhattan, I was shocked to find that it was just as expensive as the rest of midtown. My hopes for cheap Korean eats were dashed, until I discovered Woorijip (12 W 32nd St., Manhattan–map).

woorijipThis a la carte, cash only joint has a huge variety of Korean favorites (most of which end in -bap) for very reasonable prices. You can load up at the hot bar for $6.50 per pound, or pick from a range of boxed options. A tupperware tub of kimchi bibimbap (a spicy vegetable fried rice) costs $3. A big order of spicy chicken and rice rings up at $4. A hefty roll of kimbap (similar to a sushi roll) goes for $3.50-$4.50–the spicy squid roll that I tried had fresh ingredients, the perfect balance of squid and vegetables, and a spicy kick.

My experience with Korean food is admittedly limited, and I salivate when I think about the education my proximity to Woorijip is going to afford me.

Mofongo, less money

Like many New York Dominican restaurants, El Rey de la Caridad in Morningside Heights (973 Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan–map) is best known for its rotisserie chicken, rice and beans. But if you’re looking to mix it up and still keep it cheap and filling, take a crack at El Rey’s mofongo.

dscn33941For $7.50 your plate will arrive with a giant dome of mashed, fried plantain flecked with salty, chewy bits of pork. Break it down into a more accessible pile and then drizzle on the glorious brown gravy. It’s so good that when you’re finally done with the mofongo, you’ll be dipping the iceberg lettuce garnish into the cup and eating that, too. What you can’t see is the minced garlic that infuses its flavor throughout the dish. But you sure will taste it.

To be honest, I’ve never been a huge plantain fan (this may date back to the time I visited the DR; my host put a mountain of whole boiled plantains in front of me and watched me eat them, one by one). But El Rey can pile their mofongo on me all they want and it’ll never get old.

The skinny on A Chau

For my second crack at banh mi, I tried a highly-touted takeout joint in Manhattan Chinatown known as A Chau Deli (82A Mulberry St., Manhattan–map). I popped into the narrow, counter-only establishment and was surprised that I was the only customer, save for a friend of the proprietor chatting in a foreign language. I didn’t want to interrupt, but I was hungry.

dscn33872I ordered the #6, Banh Mi Dac Biet, because in addition to daikon, carrots, pickles, jalapenos, and cilantro, it has four different types of pig. These ingredients are wrapped up in a long, fresh baguette for a total cost of $3.75. For that price, A Chau is a great deal. But I have to say, given all those ingredients, they certainly found a way to make their sandwich thin.

The ratio and blend of the meats and pickled veggies was perfect and the sweet hot sauce gave it just the right kick. But the banh mi I fell in love with, at Brooklyn’s Ba Xuyen, is a real mouthful that makes A Chau’s entry look a bit anorexic. And because A Chau’s sandwich is so thin, the admittedly delicious bread covers up the taste of the goods inside.

If you can’t make it to Brooklyn, A Chau’s certainly worth stopping by. But if you’re a native or have some time, Brooklyn Chinatown is where you want to be.

Published in: on January 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A burrito for two

dscn3398I’ve seen a lot of burritos in my day, but when the waiter at Taqueria y Fonda la Mexicana (968 Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan–map) in Morningside Heights placed a giant carnitas burrito in front of me, I was momentarily speechless. It may not have been big enough to be mistaken for a terrorist’s weapon, but it could easily have passed for a body builder’s forearm.

Once you tackle the challenge of how to get it in your mouth, the results are heavenly. The pulled spicy pork is tender and meaty, offset perfectly by rice and black beans. With the addition of three different salsas–red, green, and spicy avacado–that come with your gratis tortilla chips, the burrito has just the right kick and plenty of flavor.

The burrito will run you about $9, but have no fear. With the tortilla chips to back it up, the package is easily enough to fill two people. And the hole-in-the-wall decor of the restaurant belies excellent service, generosity, a wide range of authentic fare, and even a classy glass of wine for $4.

A big dog for small change

dscn3383If I’m in Chinatown, chances are I’m there for the cheap Chinese food. Makes sense, right? But on my last trip, I found that at least in one instance, Chinatown can do an American classic bigger, better, and cheaper than most spots in the city.

The 1/4 Pound Jumbo Hot Dogs window (149 Canal St., Manhattan–map) might not look like much. It’s just one small room with a rack of hot dogs, a few condiment jars, a cash register, and a single smiling woman. But when she puts that dog in your hand, you’ll realize that this under-sized establishment boasts an over-sized product. It’s well over an inch in diameter and at least six inches long. And it’s tucked dscn3385inside a fresh potato bun far better than what you’d get at a cart.

All that with ketchup and mustard sets you back $1 (92 cents plus tax). In my opinion it’s worth shelling out the big bucks (an extra quarter) for delicious sauteed onions on top.

Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 6:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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God Bless the Cart

halal-foodChances are if you ask anyone in the city where to find the best Halal cart, they’ll point you to 6th Avenue and 53rd St. (though Sammy’s Halal in Jackson Heights, Queens, did pick up a Vendy award in 2006). But there are a lot of amazing unheralded carts out there that deserve credit as well. Here’s my first installment: 2 carts that, coincidentally, run their shop spitting distance from places I’ve worked.

5th Avenue and 32nd St. (map): The E&G Pyramid cart gives you small ($4) and large ($5) platter options, which idscn3389s convenient unless, like me, the word small is not part of your food vocabulary. The large platter is way too much for one lunch, which means delicious leftovers. And your arteries will thank you for the generous addition of peppers, onions, and sauteed cabbage that nicely complement your meat.

6th Avenue and 55th St. (map): Just two street blocks away from its famous neighbor, this cart serves up a spread that just about matches the competition both in quality and quantity. It costs 50 cents to a dollar less, has a much shorter line, and friendlier service. It quickly became my regular spot in the neighborhood.

There are hundreds of carts in this city, and I’ve only experienced a few. Leave a comment and let me know your favorite–more installments are sure to follow.

Pollo por poco

by Pennywatcher Jamie Conniff

I live in Washington Heights.  The rent is cheap, the trees are plentiful, and the food — Dominican, mostly — is cheap and tasty.  As long as you can dodge the dog crap on the sidewalk, life is good.  But try to convince a friend to come all the way up from Brooklyn for dinner and all you get is complaints. But I’ve found a trick to make sure visitors quit whining and keep coming back, and it’s called El Malecon (4141 Broadway, Manhattan–map).

malecon1The legendary Dominican restaurant, on the corner of 175th and Broadway (and now with satellites on the UWS and in the Bronx and Yonkers), serves up a mean rotisserie chicken — big enough to feed a small family, or two hungry guys — for $12, and half a chicken for $8.  The rotisserie spits are lined up vertically in the front window, so you can watch the birds drip their lovely juices all over each other while you wait for your table.  After you sit down but before the chicken arrives the waitresses — friendly, though prone to errors in translation — serve up warm, buttery tostadas: soft, pan-fried slices of baguette.  With the chicken comes your choice of rice (white or yellow) and beans (black or red), or plantains fried dry and crispy (tostones) or sticky and sweet (maduros).  But the chicken itself is the best part.  A magical rub makes the crispy outside good and salty, while the meat is moist and plentiful.  Once upon a time these birds were fat.

If you’re not in the mood for chicken — or, God forbid, you’re a vegetarian — you can always order any of the many other options on the menu.  The rice dishes are tasty, and huge.  The mofongo — mashed plantains sculpted into a squat cylinder, with cheese or fried bits of meat interspersed — is a personal favorite of mine.  But the first time you go, stick with the chicken.  It’s legendary for a reason.