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Tasty, maybe spicy, inexpensive dinner in Midtown

p
Pan Aug 24, 2009 02:02 PM

Hi, everyone. I'm having dinner as part of a party of 3 tomorrow. Preference is for roughly the 30s to 50s on the West Side, though we're somewhat flexible there, and no more than about $25/person. I considered Wondee, but my girlfriend (one of tomorrow's diners) and I have been there recently. Another possibility is Szechuan Gourmet. Pam's Real Thai was considered and rejected, because we think it's good but not as good as Wondee. We all like Korean food, too, so Arirang is possible. All of us like spicy food, but as long as it's really tasty, it's likely to please all of us. Bonus points for someplace we haven't been to yet (e.g., that I haven't already mentioned).

  1. p
    Pan Aug 24, 2009 10:04 PM

    We've decided to go to Queen of Sheba. Thank you for all your suggestions. I'm particularly intrigued with Akdeniz and will report back whenever I go there.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Pan
      c
      cimui Aug 25, 2009 07:48 AM

      Sounds great, Pan! LNG never steers me wrong. Would you please report back on Q of S if you have time? I've been to just about every other Ethiopian restaurant in Manhattan except that one for some reason.

      1. re: cimui
        p
        Pan Aug 25, 2009 10:31 PM

        We ended up at Meskerem, because Queen of Sheba wouldn't give us a four-top. It was great! The best Ethiopian food I've ever had! We got the Meskerem Combo, the Vegetarian Combo, and Doro Wat (a chicken leg dish). The injera was really nicely sour, and everything was really tasty; my only slight criticism is that the chicken leg was kind of dry. We also shared a bottle of Tej, which we really liked and found deliciously fruity, with a pleasant honey aftertaste. The place is a real winner, and I will definitely be back. The cost including tip was a bit over $90 all told.

        1. re: Pan
          LNG212 Aug 26, 2009 05:12 AM

          I am so glad you liked Meskerem. That's my favorite Ethiopian place and the veg combo is my favorite thing to get too. Did you find the spiciness to your liking?

          1. re: LNG212
            p
            Pan Aug 26, 2009 02:12 PM

            Yep, we all did. Delicious food (and drink)!

          2. re: Pan
            LeahBaila Aug 26, 2009 05:23 AM

            Wonderful! Been meaning to try this place! Thanks Pan.

            www.thelunchbelle.com

        2. re: Pan
          c
          City Kid Aug 25, 2009 07:54 AM

          I love Akdeniz and think their prix fixe is one of the City's great bargains. And I do love the bread! Comfortable setting and very attentive service considering the prices. Queen of Sheba is a great choice, too.

          1. re: Pan
            c
            cimui Aug 26, 2009 02:17 PM

            thanks for the report back. i told you LNG was good at this!

          2. c
            cimui Aug 24, 2009 05:22 PM

            How about Tulcingo del Valle, Empanada Mama or Akdeniz (Turkish)? Not sure if you've tried them; they've all been around for a while.

            6 Replies
            1. re: cimui
              p
              Pan Aug 24, 2009 05:30 PM

              No, I haven't. I've read more about Tulcingo than Empanada Mama here. How would you describe and rate them?

              1. re: Pan
                c
                cimui Aug 24, 2009 05:46 PM

                Tulcingo serves pretty well made, standard street-food style Mexican. I think it's on par with other well liked places like Noche Mexicana, but probably not the best of the genre in NYC. (8 on a scale of 1 to 10 for Manhattan street food style Mexican)

                Empanada Mama serves good-for-Manhattan empanadas, so-so tamales and good stews. I often take vegetarian friends there for a quick, casual dinner because they offer so many vegetarian empanada fillings. Service can be slow as mud. (7 on a scale of 1 to 10 for Manhattan empanadas)

                Akdeniz is worth a look, I think. The char-grilled Turkish meatballs are very good and the hunkar begendi is pretty good. The bread used to be *great* (I haven't had it for a while, sadly). It's inexpensive, the decor is sort of non-existent and they have a terrible wine list. I find it very charming probably because it reminds me of divey little places I used to frequent as a grad student. :)

                1. re: cimui
                  p
                  Pan Aug 24, 2009 05:58 PM

                  Have you tried Istanbul Cafe? If so, how would say Akdeniz compares to them?

                  1. re: Pan
                    c
                    cimui Aug 24, 2009 06:03 PM

                    I haven't tried Istanbul Cafe, sorry. I'm pretty sure other posters have discussed Akdeniz, as well, though. It might be worth your while to do a search for additional perspectives.

                    1. re: cimui
                      u
                      uwsgrazer Aug 24, 2009 07:24 PM

                      I've gone to Akdeniz for lunch several times and liked it a lot. Reasonably priced and tasty. I think the gyro might be my favorite dish. I don't recall the bread being particularly special; maybe the recipe has changed, or cimui and I just have different taste. I've never been to Istanbul Cafe to compare. There are a bunch of Indian restaurants in the lower 40s between 5th and 6th. I recall they were good and inexpensive, but I don't know if any were particularly *special*.

                      1. re: uwsgrazer
                        p
                        Pan Aug 24, 2009 07:30 PM

                        I've never gone to any Indian restaurants in Hell's Kitchen, because I am much closer to Curry Hill and also have a decent South Indian restaurant near me in the East Village.

            2. LNG212 Aug 24, 2009 05:08 PM

              Did you consider Ethiopian? Some of the dishes can be very spicy. My personal favorite is Meskerem on 47th just east of 10th Ave. But other 'hounds like Queen of Sheba better (it's on 10th at about 46th or so). It falls well within your price range. (The only thing I'd say is don't get the "honey wine" which I found sickeningly sweet.)

              1. r
                RGR Aug 24, 2009 03:34 PM

                Since it sounds as though you are aiming for something Asian, how about Wu Liang Ye, on 48th, b/t 5th & 6th? I've been there once, but that was ages ago, so I don't remember what we ordered or how spicy it was. It does get positive comments from Hounds who go there with some regularity. To be honest, I'm hardly a maven about Chinese food because it's not a cuisine I favor. However, I do love soup dumplings!

                Note: There's a Wu Liang Ye branch on Lex, b/t 39th & 40th, but the comments I've read seem to be less enthusiastic than about the Midtown location.

                1 Reply
                1. re: RGR
                  p
                  Pan Aug 24, 2009 05:22 PM

                  Doesn't have to be Asian. I know many hounds like Wu Liang Ye, but I wasn't impressed when I went there for lunch, and it's kind of pricey. LNG212, I haven't been to an Ethiopian place in a long time. I have yet to go to one I loved, but it's not a bad idea, and I'll consider it.

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