Cheap eats afternoon in Sunset Park C-town
I spent a couple hours yesterday strolling down 8th ave looking for food under $5. I didn't bring any notes with me, but wasn't surprised to find a few of the places I went to are hound favorites.
Ba Xuyen- 8th nr. 43rd.
This is the only place I knew about starting out, and it didn't disappoint. One of the tastier Bahn Mi you'll find in the city, and at $3.75, a bargain. Filled with hipsters and locals alike, I can't wait to come back and work my way through the menu. Only eating half the sandwich I felt pretty full.
Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House- 48th, just east of 8th.
There's only 4 tables in this place, so expect to share a table if it's busy, which it was yesterday. $1 fort 4 fat pork and chive dumplings, or the same for yummy scallion pancakes. I met a nice woman who regularly brings her children there after school for a snack. "Good food and good price," she said.
Metro Cafe- 8th and 50th
When I asked the woman at Kain Feng Fu for another recommendation, she suggested this place just a couple blocks down for BBQ meats and really spicy Szechuan. I was already getting full so I stuck to a $1 chicken skewer, but while it was cooking I asked about the sizable non-english menu and got some ideas for next time. The szechuan dishes looked crimson red and spicy as hell, and most rang in at around $5. Can't vouch for it yet, but I'll be hitting it up first next time.
Street Cart- 55th and 8th
I couldn't pass up trying some street meat, so I stopped at the first one I found and ordered a beef skewer and an ear of corn ($1, $2). The beef was juicy short-rib meat and was seasoned with what tasted like five spice with extra star anise. The corn was sweet and smoky.
Quickly- 60th just west of 8th
No trip is complete without a cup of tea to wash it all down. $2.50 for a small passion fruit green tea. Hit the spot on a nice sunny day.
Two places I didn't get to try but am curious about are Wong Wong Noodle on 8th and 54th and a place offering home-style Fuzhou cooking on 53rd just east of 8th. Wong Wong has big bowls of Lan Zhou hand-pulled noodles for $4 a pop, and it was packed. I was sorry to have to save it for another day.
As reported in a different thread, there are 3-5 places on 8th which will serve
your choice of 3-4 cooked dishes (from a selection of maybe ten different dishes)
with rice and li-tong (free soup) for under $4. One I remember is on N side of 8th
between 58 & 59 (or 57 & 58) another is also on N side of 8 bet. 59 & 59 or 59 &60.
If you look in the window of the stores and see 8-10 different cooked dishes in
stainless pans - you've found the right place. Gwi Lo (white men) usually have to ask for the free soup. The best of them was on the S side of 8th maybe bet 57 & 58?
re: Barry Strugatz
We've already been to Metro Cafe three times. The couple that own it are young, earnest and charming. It's a relatively large space for such an informal setting. The wife runs the register and takes orders. The husband runs the kitchen and serves the food! They have a fun selection of street food on skewers, including "Japanese Style Eel" that my daughter appreciated. They have a bunch of stuff on rice in the $5 range, but the more obviously Sichuan stuff numbers around eight larger plates. We've had the requisite Ma Pa Dofu and pork belly with leeks. Great so far. Certainly not the most spectacular in my meager experience but very good for an opportunity to sample real Sichuan cooking when you have less friends available for a larger table. And for us Brooklyn people it's much less a commitment than getting out to Queens. Now I can't wait to try the 18th ave place, which is even closer for us!
We tried the chicken teriyaki and "triple spice" chicken. The chicken in both dishes was somewhat on the funky side, I'm afraid, and I wouldn't order either of them again. The triple spice chicken, with chilis and peppercorns, was like a beginner's rendition. All the ingredients were there, but the flavors didn't come together into anything greater than the sum of their parts. The squid ball skewer was OK, though.
But if you thought the ma pa dofu was great, I'll have to go back.
I would recommend TenRen's bubble teas just a few blocks away, right on Eighth Avenue and 58th over Quickly.