great cheap authentic food in the east village
we're spending christmas in nyc (first real trip), and are always on the lookout for incredible food. we will be arriving in the east village on christmas day, and would like a soul-satisfying experience. any recommendations? from san francisco, so very adventurous, food-wise.
One you shouldn't miss is Mamlouk. A six course middle-eastern meal with no menus. Adventurous, delicious, not cheap, but not too expensive. Need reservations. 4th St. between A&B
So you want cheap and "incredible." Not too demanding, eh? :-)
You can get some excellent Bolognese food at Mosto, and your meal (dinner only except on weekends, when they have a brunch menu) will cost anywhere from around $20 on up to perhaps $30 (I suppose more is possible, if you splurge on wine). However, the decibel level makes problems for conversation.
Paprika has a more limited menu, but get the bass special. It's about the same prices as Mosto, but much quieter. A drawback of both Mosto and Paprika (unless you are a smoker) is that smoking is allowed in small restaurants such as those two. That said, I've never experienced terrible problems, as few patrons seem to smoke at Mosto and it's usually no problem to sit away from the bar at Paprika.
You can have a very nice authentic Polish meal at Teresa's if you order a soup and follow up with pierogies. They also make nice pancakes and such; if you go there for lunch, consider getting the chicken stew (but leave some for me :-). Some of the vegetable side dishes will come swimming in butter unless you specify otherwise, but the kasha is just plain boiled, and the beets are nice.
You should also go to Katz's Delicatessen on Houston St. Is it cheap? Well, $10 for a sandwich may not strike you as cheap, but those sandwiches are really big, and really good, and I know it's very hard to find Jewish food in SF. Plus, it's a unique New York experience to go there, so do it. And get some slaw with your sandwich. By the way, you should ignore the signs telling you not to tip the food counter men. Give them a dollar per sandwich. They appreciate the tips, and they deserve them, IMO.
Madras Cafe is a very good Southern Indian vegetarian restaurant, and a large, full dinner there - with drinks - will cost you around $17.
If you want a great Chinese meal close to the East Village, walk down to just south of Delancey and Allen St. (southern extension of First Av. - or is it the other way around?) and go to Congee Village. Then again, perhaps you should avoid East and Southeast Asian food in New York since it's generally better in SF.
I'm glad you're coming to visit us. I love SF, my brother lives there (went to visit, decided to stay), and I look forward to my next visit there, whenever that may be.