How I learned to love the lizard

Thanks to the Discovery Channel, the words crocodile and alligator used to bring to mind two things that wanted to disembowel and devour me. When I hear them now, all I can think of is pizza. Two sister bars, Williamsburg’s Alligator Lounge (600 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn–map) and the East Village’s Crocodile Lounge (325 E. 14th St., Manhattan–map), have made their mark with an unprecendented deal: free pizza with every beer.

croclounge1It sounds too good to be true, but it’s real. With every pint you order ($4-6 for a wide selection of beers on tap, or $3 for Yeungling at Happy Hour) you get a ticket for a free 12 inch personal pizza, popped directly from the oven onto a tin plate. And it’s not a frozen cardboard disc. This is homemade dough topped with fresh sauce and mozzarella and fired thin and crispy.

Not surprisingly, both joints draw a crowd. At Crocodile you’ll meet folks letting loose after a day of work by unloading a shotgun on Bambi in the arcade staple Buck Hunter. Alligator offers a more laid-back vibe, with tiki-style decor and a dose of hipsters letting loose after a day of being ironically unemployed.

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Beef-on-beef action

dscn3161Chicagoans like their hot dogs topped with tomatoes, peppers, relish, and a whole pickle. Koreans apparently like theirs topped with…more meat. At the inconspicuously-named New York Hot Dog & Coffee (245 Bleecker St., Manhattan–map) in the West Village you can experience this cholesterol heaven without crossing the Pacific.

For $5.99, try the Bulgogi hot dog. This isn’t your finger-sized frank from the corner Sabrett cart. It’s a fat, spicy beef sausage in a seven inch hoagie roll topped with copious marinated beef strips, sautéed onions, and pickles. It’s a challenge to fit that all in your mouth, but once you do the mixture of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors is divine. If you’re not a beef fan, get a chicken sausage with chicken, vegetable curry, or kimchi on top.

dscn3163I was tipped off to the Bulgogi sensation by an article in the New York Times that claimed the dog cost $4.99, so I was apoplectic when I saw they’d hiked the price…until I tried the dog. Then all was bliss—it’s worth the extra buck.

One word of warning: if you spring for the full meal (an extra two bucks for spicy fries, chips, or soft-serve and a drink), skip the fries. They’re reheated and soggy and will only detract from your meat gorging experience.

The cheap eater’s cheap pita

One block on MacDougal Street separates two of the cheapest falafel sandwiches you’ll find in New York. In the north corner: the Goliath of cheap falafel, winner of titles, awards, and accolades, with the line busting out the door, ringing up at $2.50, Mamoun’s (119 MacDougal St.*, Manhattan—map). In the south corner: an undeniable David, waiting in the shadows, with ample seating room and minimal bustle, also ringing up at $2.50, Yatagan Kebab House (104 MacDougal St., Manhattan—map).

yataganyatagankebabYatagan does have a chick pea or two to sling at its neighbor. Their sandwich is bigger than Mamoun’s—3/4 of a pita compared to 2/3. Also, while Mamoun’s stuffs their falafel into the bottom of the pita and puts lettuce, tomato, and sauce on top, Yatagan mixes it all in together, so you get a bit of everything in each bite.

mamounsBut then there’s the question of taste, and here Mamoun’s reigns. Their falafel patties are crispier and better seasoned. Their tahini sauce is stronger. Their ingredients all taste a tad fresher. And their logo is more loveable.

Both joints are incredible deals, and there are times you should opt for Yatagan: when you’re extra hungry, or looking to sit down to a peaceful meal. But the bustle at Mamoun’s is there for the flavor, and for our money it can’t be beat.

*Mamoun’s also has a location on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan, and in New Haven, CT.