SOME FUNKY, INEXPENSIVE TREATS
A perfect East
Rai Rai Ken
214 East 10 Street (between 1st and 2nd Aves.)
212.977.7030 This little “hole in the
wall” ramen shop serves the best Miso Ramen (a soy bean based noodle
soup full of bean sprouts, cabbage, onion, crispy garlic, chicken, and
scallions—and, if you’re like me, liberally sprinkled with Chinese red pepper)
in the City. No fancy atmosphere, and
one eats sitting on a stool at a counter; but for $7.40 plus the price of some
Japanese beer, it’s an incredible bargain!
Consider adding an order of Gyoza (dumplings) for some variety. It is very
small and hard to find—look for the red flag covering the doorway. Combined with dessert at ChikaLicious, across
the street, it makes a perfect meal!
ChikaLicious 203 E. 10th St. (bet. 1st & 2nd Aves.) 212.995.9511 Just across the street from Rai Rai Ken (but
closer to 2nd Ave.)
is perhaps the most novel new restaurant in New York.
ChikaLicious is a dessert restaurant, serving prix fixe ($12) three
course desserts (an amuse bouche of the day [one day it was a brown sugar panna
cotta with cranberry sorbet; once a mascarpone parfait with espresso sauce], a
“main course” of your choice, and petits fours) with the option of a glass of
wine chosen to go with your main dessert (for an additional $7). It has the feel of a beautiful, white sushi
bar—with sushi-sized portions, prepared by the chef while you watch. The desserts are simply heavenly, and the
wine choices are unusual, elegant, and exceptionally good. The owners/chefs are every bit as lovely and
wonderful as they are talented. This
place is an extraordinary find—but it is not a secret: it can be busy, so go at
off hours if possible.
Thailand. (aka, Pongrisi, Thai Restarant) 106
Bayard St. (just east of Baxter St.) 212.349.3132
This unassuming and inexpensive Chinatown
restaurant serves some of the best (and cheapest) Thai food in the City. Don’t miss their Yum Koon Chiang (salad with
warm Chinese sausage, cucumber, scallions, and tomatoes), Nam Sod (cold ground
pork, shallots, and peanuts in lime juice), Mee Krob (a shrimp and noodle-y
thing in a sticky sweet and sour sauce), Pad Kra Tiem (a choice of beef,
chicken or pork, prepared with fresh basil, onion, bell peppers, in a hot and
spicy chili sauce), and most anything else that strikes your fancy. Everything there is delicious. There is also a branch in the Theater
District, not as nice, but the same delicious food (but, N.B.: bring your own chop
sticks; the one downtown has them, this one does not): 244 West 48 Street (212.582.3392).
Nha Trang 87 Baxter St. (bet.
Bayard & Canal Sts.) 212.233.5948. This Chinatown
“dump” (absolutely no atmosphere, and rushed and abrupt service) serves
some of the most delicious Vietnamese food in town. Ask to waiter for suggestions...but also
experiment: it is so cheap that
you can order a bunch of things just to taste them!
Kang Suh 1250
Broadway (32nd St.) 212.564.6845
An excellent and very inexpensive Korean place in the Garment District,
open into the wee hours of the morning.
Known for its Bulgogi (stir fried beef in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic,
onion and sometimes Asian pear) and other grilled meats. Another place that is cheap enough to order
things just to see what they are and whether you like them.
Great Jones Café
54 Great Jones St.
(bet. Bowery & Lafayette St.)
212.674.9304 Another inexpensive
“dive,” with deliciously spicy Cajun food—and an unusual and wonderful
brunch. Crowded, and it is sometimes
hard to get a table there.
Village New American:
Prune 54 E. First St. (bet. 1st & 2nd Aves.) 212.677.6221
Excellent and unusual food in this East Village New American
restaurant. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton
serves up some spectacularly good dishes (combinations of game birds cooked
with pearl onions which were cooked in a sauternes sauce; and it is one of the
few places where roast suckling pig is available on the menu without
pre-ordering). This moderately priced
place (considerably more expensive than most of the places on this list, BTW)
is extremely small, and tables (reservations a must) and elbow room are
at a premium; but it is well worth the effort.
They also serve a wonderful Sunday brunch.
And, when in Brooklyn...
The Dumont 432 Union Avenue (between Devoe St. and
Metropolitan—right at the Lorimer Stop on L train...Carnarsie
line, for those of you who really
know) 718.486.7717 Alas, I am told that this informal Williamsburg
eatery is no longer the wonderful place it used to be. The burgers used to be fabulous, but, no more..
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