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2 Bros Pizza Plus: Best Manhattan $4 Lunch in Decades

Jim Leff Feb 25, 2010 09:45 AM

Apparently they've been doing it for a while, so many of you may know about this, but 2 Bros Pizza Plus (601 6th Ave between 17th and 18th; 206-8656) is a dismal pizza mill which, for some reason, has grafted on a concession run by a latino woman who cooks wonderful, soulful chicken (baked or fried), yams, garlicky string beans or broccoli, and other stuff, all for insanely low prices (it's hard to spend more than $5). There's minimal service and ambiance, but the prideful cooking makes up for it with food that's much, much better than it needs to be.

Photos at:
http://jimleff.blogspot.com/2010/02/g...

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  1. s
    sugartoof Feb 25, 2010 11:08 AM

    Thanks for the tip. Any idea how long she's there? Just lunchtimes? Was the chicken just roasted, or am I also seeing fried, in those pictures. Thanks again.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sugartoof
      Jim Leff Feb 25, 2010 01:06 PM

      No roasted. There's fried and baked. Fried isn't particularly fractal.

      She's there more or less till 7, but of course food's always more healthful and fresh if you catch it during the rush.

      Please report back!

      1. re: Jim Leff
        s
        sugartoof Feb 25, 2010 03:06 PM

        By fractal you mean it's lightly dipped?

        1. re: sugartoof
          Jim Leff Feb 25, 2010 03:36 PM

          Lightly dipped, plus not aimed at being very crisp, at least from visual inspection (see photo at the link I provided...it's the topmost one). Not sure how she does it, though. Looks good.

    2. Jim Leff Feb 25, 2010 01:10 PM

      Also, just to anticipate a couple of responses: no, I don't think this stuff is offered at the other branch of 2 Bros Pizza (in East Village). And if it was, I wouldn't be much interested. I'm totally focused on the chef here, who, again, is applying vastly more care and talent than the gig calls for. I don't know how long this particular woman has been in residence here, but 1. it probably won't be good when she leaves, and 2. if she's new (I have no idea), it's a lot better now than it once was (so try again if you haven't been here in a while).

      1. bigjeff Feb 26, 2010 11:16 AM

        I found that fried chicken to be pretty dry but indeed, all of those sides, or any piece of chicken, is a buck. I have made fried chicken pizza at that place, I am not ashamed to admit.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bigjeff
          Jim Leff Feb 28, 2010 08:05 AM

          bigjeff, I had the baked (which was sublimely moist), not fried, but the fried did not seem to project any Vibe of Dryness the day I was there. Did you by any chance go late in the day? The action here is at lunch, so while they seem to serve till 7, I think you've got to hit it early for best result.

        2. Jim Leff Mar 5, 2010 08:05 PM

          Update: I went by today, and there was a different cook, and the food looked desultory, cheap, vulgar, and mean. I'll just keep going back over and over again till I find the miracle chef again. I'm not one to give up. I never gave up, for example, on Quisp ( http://jimleff.info/quisp )

          22 Replies
          1. re: Jim Leff
            Jim Leff Mar 7, 2010 04:17 PM

            Still another chef today, food looked better. jerk chicken, nice. Good garlicky broccoli, though overcooked. Not as good as the first visit, but a heck of a lot better than the other day.
            The chefs seem to revolve, but this is guileless food; if it's bad, it looks bad. If it looks good, it IS good. Nobody's gussying anything up....

            1. re: Jim Leff
              bigjeff Mar 8, 2010 07:01 AM

              jerk chicken??? that's pretty funny.

              that reminds me of the place right nearby which I still haven't been to, the deli with the trini steam counter in the back (15th and 6th); not sure if it still around or if they are still doing that:

              http://cheapassfood.com/eats/show/450...

              1. re: bigjeff
                w
                waterstreet Mar 8, 2010 08:03 AM

                checked in the fall and they were still doing it. love that fiery hot sauce there too (the trini counter at terry's gourmet, not 2 bros...)

                1. re: waterstreet
                  Jim Leff Mar 8, 2010 11:02 AM

                  Nice tip, you guys.

                  I've been hanging out at the Rubin Museum a lot (really great programming), so I'm frequently scouring that block....

                  1. re: Jim Leff
                    bigjeff Mar 8, 2010 11:30 AM

                    it's a funny area (8th to 6th, in the upper teens) that I always felt used to be really rich in good interesting tidbits, but no longer. Sucelt Coffee Shop is gone, Tebaya is ok, the combo pizzeria/taqueria is no longer exotic to me and the same goes for the gyro plate you can get at the Ray's on 6th and 17th. Indeed, it must be why sometimes, out of desperation after traversing the area for CH-worthy food, I just get bored and desperate and end up making fried chicken pizza at 2 Bros. I do default occasionally to Village Yogurt.

                    I can say the same thing about the West Village (think, around IFC and the West 4 basketball courts); spent about an hour this past week on a random tuesday and couldn't think of any sexy bites! closest was Sangam but I wasn't in the mood for that, or for Joe's for a slice; in the past I would have hit BB sandwich bar or the short-lived bing place next to blue note but all that's closed and all the NYU-style places on sullivan and thompson I wasn't into either, e.g. Kati Roll, Mahmoun's/Ali Babas/Yatagan/Sam's. Ended up not picking up anything at all; how sad is that?? Under $4 is a great characteristic and I know there are a few "Sub-$5 treat" threads floating around; will check em out and try to cross-reference with the NYU-and-north area.

                    It's also a function of maturity as well; my definition of 'chow' has definitely sharpened over time and I've eliminated what I used to think was a sexy/interesting bite.

                    1. re: bigjeff
                      ChiefHDB Mar 8, 2010 04:54 PM

                      Thanks for the info guys. I work on 15th and 5th, so I'll be checking out the trini place and the jerk chicken as well.

                      I thought I had found a potential in Korean food at a deli on fifth avenue, but no good...

                      1. re: ChiefHDB
                        bigjeff Mar 8, 2010 05:00 PM

                        well! you can go to Ennju (takeout pre-made maki, but there is also seating) after 9pm on weekdays where everything in their fridge cases are half off. the rolls are typical and whatever, but, they do sell teriyaki salmon collar that is also half-off; you get insane amounts of somewhat overly sweet fish for $2.50, something like that. I like their greentea ice cream, big old servings sold in chinese restaurant-style pint containers.

                        old thread, but still relevant:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/210152

                        If the korean deli you are thinking of is on east side of fifth, around 15th or 16th, ya, that's one of those typical by-the-pound places which never fail to disappoint.

                      2. re: bigjeff
                        MVNYC Mar 8, 2010 05:12 PM

                        West Village weekday for lunch is a good time to go to Blind Tiger. They actually have a good kitchen that puts out some not so typical bar food. The bloody beef is good, roast beef with a spicy horseradish tomatoes sauce for dipping. They also have one of the best beer selections in Manhattan

                        1. re: MVNYC
                          ChiefHDB Mar 8, 2010 05:46 PM

                          Jeff, yeah I saw your earlier recommendation for Ennju on my blog, I keep planning on checking it out, especially for more salmon collar. Nice! (I may have to check out the trini place first though).

                          It may be a different korean deli you're thinking of (there's no lack of them down there). West side of the street at like 13-14th on fifth. Big by the pound deli, but it's clearly Korean owned with a counter serving up Korean food. Very blah, not worth it at all.

                          1. re: ChiefHDB
                            ChiefHDB Mar 17, 2010 04:22 PM

                            We ate at the trini steam table on 6th ave and 15th for lunch today. It was funny, the guy was describing each item: "kingfish, curried vegetables, oxtail stew... and corned beef and cabbage." Happy St. Patty's Day I guess. We had the first three. They also had jerked pork and chicken, I'll check them out next time.

                            The fish and it's curry were awesome, definitely my favorite. The oxtail was tender and flavorful, but I thought the stew could have been a little more aggressively spiced. The curried veggies were also pretty good. I'll post pics when I have them.

                            Next I have to check out the 2 Bros lunch.

                            Here are the pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawandfo...

                            1. re: ChiefHDB
                              bigjeff Mar 17, 2010 09:35 PM

                              funny! I just went there too but it was late in the day so I just picked up one of the boxed up meals they had left over; fried rice plus mac-n-cheese, and jerk pork. the mac-n-cheese was actually sloppy but good, the rice was whatever, but the pork was great! big pieces of pork, very moist, tasted/textured like shoulder/butt and tasty. the pepper sauce is key and the guy behind the counter is quite nice! did they have the roti at lunch?

                              1. re: bigjeff
                                ChiefHDB Mar 18, 2010 06:09 AM

                                Was looking for roti, didn't see any. Do they typically have it?

                                1. re: ChiefHDB
                                  bigjeff Mar 18, 2010 09:25 AM

                                  I've never had it but that is supposed to be the draw, yup! The guy said they usually do have it.

                                  http://cheapassfood.com/eats/show/450...

                2. re: Jim Leff
                  Jim Leff Mar 8, 2010 05:50 PM

                  Ok, interesting. A new data point.

                  One of the two brothers emailed me to insist that Mon thru Sat it's always the same chef, and she never skips a day. So, apparently, whether she is out serving or not, it all is cooked by her, except on Sundays.

                  Interestingly, the jerk chicken was on Sunday. Not as good as the best I've had there, but pretty good, and better than the day everything looked so-so....which was a weekday.

                  So what happened on the day when the food looked forlorn? it wasn't real late in the day, so it wasn't that it had been sitting. And I could swear, by eye-balling it, that the fried chicken was done according to a different recipe.

                  We'll figure this out. It'd help if some of you chipped in your detective and observational skills.... :)

                  1. re: Jim Leff
                    ChiefHDB Mar 8, 2010 05:56 PM

                    Interesting... maybe she just wings it? I will do my best to add some data points Jim.

                    1. re: Jim Leff
                      s
                      sugartoof Mar 8, 2010 06:59 PM

                      It's on my list to hit up (along with the Bistro Truck nearby)......

                      ...but I'll take a wild guess based on seeing similar food to what you described around New York events, which was also sold at $5 "a plate", and theorize that it depends who she has helping her, if she's doing some outside catering, if she's refreshing food from a sale the night before. At least that would lend some logic. Maybe we'll find a pattern on the days it looks different.

                      Look forward to checking it out.

                      1. re: sugartoof
                        Jim Leff Mar 8, 2010 07:15 PM

                        Yeah, my first thought was it might be an issue of "assistants", but this doesn't strike me as a place where the executive chef lounges while her assistants do the work (god, Luzia's, the UWS Portuguese, was the poster child for this problem; Luzia was a genius, but she couldn't manage assistants. Charles Southern Kitchen same thing). It's a pretty "in the trenches" scene.

                        And her volume is really really high (at this price, it's a volume biz), so I doubt there's much leftover trade.

                      2. re: Jim Leff
                        v
                        Vandervecken Mar 24, 2010 11:31 AM

                        I have to say I didn't care for the jerk chicken. Looks great, tastes meh.

                        The fried chicken is top notch. I haven't tried the chicken legs + thighs swimming in that reddish sauce yet.

                        1. re: Vandervecken
                          ChiefHDB Mar 31, 2010 03:48 PM

                          Finally made my way over there today. Thanks a lot for the rec Jim, this place is almost certainly the best value in the whole area. Went just before 1, fried chicken was fresh and very crisp. Amazing for $1 a piece. I had a thigh, it was juicy and crispy on the outside. I was going to try the jerk chicken too, but she said it wasn't ready yet.

                          The mac and cheese was also well done, the cheese on top was perfectly crisp. Tastes like she uses a lot of mustard powder, which was interesting and different (I've used mustard powder in making mac and cheese before, but never THAT much). It probably really helped that I had eaten an extremely bland macaroni at a restaurant the other day. Hers was also much less creamy than the other one.

                          The candied yam was ok, but sliced to large. She needs to get more sweetened surface area on those babies. I was eyeing the greens, which looked outstanding, but she'd plopped the yam on and I figured I had enough food already.

                          All for $4. You're right, there's no way you can spend more than 5 bucks here. I will be trying it soon again for sure.

                          www.lawandfood.blogspot.com

                          1. re: ChiefHDB
                            Jim Leff Apr 1, 2010 07:24 AM

                            Glad you liked it. I still haven't tried the fried chicken; am a big fan of the baked.

                            I actually prefer the large-format yams. I like plain, unadorned yams, and I'm trying to eat healthy. So more yam and less sauce/salt/oil is, for me, a good thing.

                            1. re: Jim Leff
                              ChiefHDB Apr 1, 2010 08:24 AM

                              The baked looked very good, but that fried chicken was golden and glistening... I'm weak. Yeah, the yams are a total personal preference thing. I've never really liked them without loads of butter and sugar.

                              1. re: ChiefHDB
                                Jim Leff Apr 1, 2010 11:36 AM

                                Ha. For me, it's a "feature", not a bug....

                  2. v
                    Vandervecken Mar 24, 2010 11:25 AM

                    I like their pizza. The only 2 Bros pizza I've had has been from this particular location. First of all, the slices aren't giant, but they aren't on the small side as was written in the NYTimes. They're normal sized. Second of all, they're better than most, if not the best pizza; it's GOOD pizza. And third of all, the nice thing about walking into 2 Bros is it's always fresh pizza, not pizza with manky cheese that's been sitting around untouched for hours--as it so often has in the $2.75+/slice places. A pie comes out at 2 Bros and is gone in a few minutes.

                    You're right enough about the other food. You have got to try the collared greens, if you haven't already.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Vandervecken
                      s
                      silverlainy Mar 25, 2010 09:35 AM

                      I've tried the pizza at the st marks location and found it ok, good for the price but I wouldn't pay more for it.
                      I saw this thread and finally tried the fried chicken on 6th ave after always wondering if it was any good. The skin wasn't perfectly crispy since its pre-made but the drumstick was extremely tender. I would go back if I had a fried chicken craving and just wanted one piece. (Of course I still prefer popeye's but hey this is $1)
                      I was pretty impressed since I've tried the popular $1 fried chicken at Piece of chicken and found it pretty gross - I think the chicken meat was spoiled or something as it tasted sour.

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