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.

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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.

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.