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My report on EV cheap eats

b
brighton312 Feb 21, 2011 08:17 AM

This board frequently gets questions about cheap eats, East Village eats, and combinations thereof, so I wanted to post up a review of some of my favorite cheap eats spots (and a few of my least favorites!) I've lived in the East Village for a couple of years now and have found it to be a wonderful neighborhood for food! Mostly everything on this list has entrees under $15, with a few exceptions (Mermaid Inn, Buenos Aires, Flea Market Cafe) that I would not classify as cheap eats. Without further ado, here's a recap of my past year of eating... the highs, the lows, and the mediocres:

Mancora: I had a great meal at this Peruvian restaurant on 1st Avenue. Their rotisserie chicken is worth a visit. We really enjoyed their pisco cocktails. Also tried a few tapas, the chicharrones de pescado being the highlight (deep-fried cubes of fish). They give you plantain chips and a delicious mystery dipping sauce.

Mermaid Inn: We've only been here once because it is pricey. But we enjoyed every dish, from the skate with shoestring potatoes to the fish tacos. Being a New Englander by birth, I love the marine-inspired decor. Sidewalk seats are available- I recommend this route to out-of-towners looking to people-watch. The Old Bay fries were a highlight for us.

Anyway Cafe: This place is my village standby for drinks and Russian snacks. I take every out-of-town visitor here for the live music and unique atmosphere. Their martinis are good, but I go for the house-infused vodkas. I highly recommend the duck pelmeni and the salmon pelmeni with caviar. The smoked fish apps are good as well. I don't recommend the main dishes because we have seen the waitress microwaving them!

Klimat: I have posted here before about how Klimat is my favorite bar in the city. They have about eight Eastern European beers on tap and a good-sized menu of hearty food. I love the garlic fries, pierogies, and lamb burger. The bartenders are friendly and the happy-hour specials are good. I love dining solo at the bar.

Luke's Lobster: All I had here was the lobster roll because the roll alone made a big dent in my wallet! But I had to see what the hype was about. It is literally the size of a hot-dog bun, but true to the hype, it is indeed filled with delicious lobster unburdened by mayo or excessive seasonings. It was a great roll but too expensive to merit an encore.

Porchetta: This place seems divisive. I am in the "not so great" camp. I found the meat dry and the bread too tough. It was hard to enjoy the flavor of the meat in the face of all those textural issues.

Stage Restaurant: A wonderful hole-in-the-wall diner that serves up cheap Eastern European fare (not sure if they are Ukrainian or Polish.) I like both the hot and cold borscht, and the pierogies, of course. My SO loves the stuffed cabbage.

Streecha: A treasure on East 7th Street. I hesitate to call it a well-kept secret since I know it has gotten some press in the New York Times and elsewhere, but whenever I have been there, the only clientele has been Ukrainians and the odd NYU student. The menu is minimal and the atmosphere of this basement establishment is reminiscent of a hospital cafeteria, but the comfort food is great and ladies running the place could not be kinder. This is my standby for a cheap lunch of pierogies and borscht.

B & H Dairy: Continuing my list of Eastern European spots, B&H is similar to Stage Restaurant in that it is a lunch counter that serves the basics. It's pretty inexpensive and the blintzes are good. I recommend that out-of-town visitors hit one of these Eastern European places to get a taste of the Ukrainian East Village.

Veselka: We are regulars at this popular spot on 2nd Avenue. Always busy and convivial, even in the wee hours of the morning. We like the Deluxe Meat Plate and Vegetarian Plate, and I especially love the dill salad dressing. I've also never had a brunch there that I didn't love.

Odessa: Another Ukrainian diner, this one on Tompkins Square Park. The food here is no haute cuisine, but it is solid. They cook up a good brunch and I like their soups.

Mary Anne's: Hands down the worst Mexican food I have ever had. The only reason I'm including this place in my list is to caution people against going there! I had tamales that were literally inedible (think flavorless congealed mush) and my SO had fajitas that turned out to be a few slices of steak and peppers- edible, but certainly not worth the money.

Via Della Pace: Not the best Italian I've ever had, but we had a great meal here. The atmosphere is romantic but also a great place for a group. We all enjoyed our respective pastas and especially liked the bruschetta. We had about five different servers over the course of the night, which got a little confusing!

Gnocco: This Italian spot on Tompkins Square Park has a cute open-air dining area in the back. The truffle oil pizza is great, and we got a complimentary mimosa at brunch.

Punjabi: This is the hole-in-the-wall on East Houston where all the taxi drivers get lunch. It is no-frills Indian food served up in styrofoam bowls and microwaved. You can get full for a buck or two.

Sonar Gaow: One of the many Indian restaurants on East 6th Street. Most of these places are interchangeable but I frequent Sonar Gaow because it's the cheapest and the staff is really friendly. Haute cuisine it is not, but I've never been dissatisfied with a meal here. I like all of the curries.

Kumo Sushi: I'm no sushi connoisseur, but I love this place. It's inexpensive and everything tastes fresh. Nice space and friendly staff.

Crif Dogs: Went here once for the experience and was glad I did! The hot dogs are unique and fun. A little too heavy for me, but fun for once in a while. The space is semi-underground and kind of dingy. I would get a hot dog and eat in Tompkins Square Park.

Northern Spy Food Co.: Gets full points for atmosphere, service, and quality of ingredients. The space is cute and homey. Love the soups. Get the burnt sugar ice cream.

Tuck Shop: Meat pies. Not really my favorite type of cuisine, but my SO loves them. They are definitely hearty and filling.

Xi'an Famous Foods: I like their curry lamb dishes, but I am in the minority in that I didn't like the cold skin noodles. It is definitely a unique place and will stand out among many Chinese restaurants that start to blend together after a while.

Guayoyo: I've heard this lauded as an alternative to Caracas Arepas. I haven't been to Caracas but I enjoyed the arepas at Guayoyo. They also have inexpensive lunch plates, mostly basic dishes like rice, beans, and fish.

Flea Market Cafe: Had a wonderful dinner here. I had the all-you-can-eat mussels and thought each of the four preparations were delicious- each different enough to stand out from the others. My SO had the sunset special, a prix fixe 3-course menu ($18, I think?) Loved his steak, escargot, and creme brulee. The space is kitschy and fun.

Westville: Thought this place was supposed to be comparable to Northern Spy, but Westville fell far short in my opinion. They served me the blandest grilled chicken breast I have ever had. Brussels sprouts were lightly cooked and totally devoid of seasoning. I understand they're trying to bring out the natural goodness of the ingredients but it did not work for me.

Russ and Daughters: Their fish is as good as everyone says. Go there and get lox and a schmear. You'll be happy you did.

Georgia's Eastside BBQ: Just barely south of Houston, but so good I had to include it. Just plain well-executed Southern barbecue. Ribs, chicken wings, and fried chicken are highlights. Not for the faint of heart.

Momofoku Milk Bar: In my opinion, worth visiting for the cake truffles. The corn cookie is good, and I liked the candy bar pie, but it is all very heavy-handed with the sugar and butter! The pretzel cake truffle is too salty for me but the others are unbelievable.

Buenos Aires Restaurant: Great steaks and salmon. The dulce de leche panqueque is to die for. They also sell jars of dulce de leche to go!

Frankie's 17: Okay, this is technically below Houston too. But we went there last night and loved our meal. SO had the cavatelli with sausage and I had the sweet potato ravioli in parmesan broth. Both delicious dishes with a unique twist.

This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef: I'm not much of a red meat eater, but I love the roast beef. I do not like cheez whiz, but my SO swears that it makes the sandwich even better. The sandwiches are generous- I can't even finish the small one.

Chickalicious: Had cupcakes and macarons here... in my opinion, the cupcakes were nothing special. The frosting was flavorless and the cake itself was mediocre. The macarons were fine but again flavorless. I wouldn't get dessert here again.

Goat Town: Have only had brunch here, and it was great in every way. I already posted a review about it somewhere. Pricey ($12-18 brunch plates) but worth it.

In conclusion, places I would most recommend to someone looking to eat in the East Village:
Russ and Daughters
This Little Piggy
Veselka or Stage Restaurant
Northern Spy
Klimat
Goat Town

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Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

Tuck Shop
68 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003

Georgia's Eastside BBQ
192 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Anyway Cafe
32 E 2nd St, New York, NY 10003

Frankies 17 Spuntino
17 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

Buenos Aires
513 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

Veselka
144 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Odessa
119 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

Mermaid Inn
96 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003

Westville East
173 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

Gnocco
337 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10009

Stage Restaurant
128 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

B&H
127 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Mancora
99 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

Sonar Gaow
328 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003

Punjabi Grocery & Deli
114 E 1st St, New York, NY 10009

Crif Dogs
113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

Flea Market Cafe
131 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

ChikaLicious
203 E 10th St, New York, NY 10003

Via Della Pace
48 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen
24 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

Mary Ann's
86 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Porchetta
110 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

Klimat
77 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

Xi'an Famous Foods
81 St. Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

Luke's Lobster
93 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

Northern Spy Food Co.
511 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009

Momofuku Milk Bar
251 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003

Guayoyo
67 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

Kumo Sushi
214 1st Ave, New York, NY 10009

This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef
149 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

Goat Town
511 E 5th St, New York, NY 10009

  1. b
    brighton312 Sep 8, 2011 09:33 AM

    More thoughts on what I've eaten lately in the EV:

    The Redhead: We had a really mediocre, disappointing meal there. I had the seafood etouffee, in which every bit of seafood was overcooked and chewy, all smothered in a too-oniony broth. Sitting in the middle of the plate were two deep-fried balls of what looked like smushed rice. They should have just left them out, seeing as they were completely devoid of flavor. My dining partner had the fried chicken which he said was fine, but the portion was laughably small for $18 - two small pieces of chicken on a bare plate devoid of any sides or even garnishes. I also ordered a drink (the name escapes me) that consisted of a beer mixed with chili and lime. This was the most disgusting drink I have ever tasted. Then again, I'd never had it before, so for all I know the restaurant executed it perfectly. Regardless, I do not recommend it. The icing on the cake was that our server was so grouchy that we felt like we were imposing on her by expecting to be served. Maybe she was having a bad day or something... well, her bad day was contagious. The only redeeming element of the meal was the strawberry rhubarb souffle, which was very good. But no souffle could make me go back to this place.

    Mermaid Inn: I'm bringing up this place again because we just keep having good meals there, one after another. I've seen negative reviews on this board about its inconsistency and/or mediocre food, but I've never had a less-than-wonderful experience. Last time we went, I had an entire meal from the raw bar, and the oysters and shrimp were sublime. My dining partner had the haddock and it was cooked to perfection. We continue to love the Old Bay fries.

    Motorino: All the raves are justified. One of the best pizzas I've had anywhere, ever. We split the clam pizza and it was bursting with flavor. My only complaint is that the crust on the edges is too thick - I ended up wasting some of it. Oh, and it's really expensive. But you get what you pay for. That was one excellent pizza!

    Bisous Ciao: These are my favorite macarons in the city. I tried half a dozen flavors recently and the texture was perfect in all of them. The least rave-worthy flavor is the salted caramel, which doesn't have much flavor either of salt or of caramel. The best flavor, I think, is the jasmine green tea. It was so delicate. I also loved the rose and the vanilla. It cracks me up how the place looks like a fancy jewelry store or something. The macarons are displayed in a glass case like they're diamonds, and handled with just as much care! They even pack them in fancy boxes. They are just as beautiful as they are delicious.

    Grand Sichuan St. Mark's: This has become a standby thanks to their great and cheap lunch special. My favorite thing there is the soup dumplings. All the varieties are great. However, once I ordered the soup dumplings as delivery, and when they arrived, all the soup had leaked out. (No fault of the restaurant - I simply had not anticipated the stupidity of trying to order soup dumplings delivered.) Anyway, it's fun to eat in the restaurant at the front tables overlooking the street - I'd definitely take visiting family there.

    Je Bon: This is a cheap sushi/Asian fusion place on St. Mark's that is designed for drunk college students who want to stuff themselves on cheap sushi and then sing karaoke. In light of this, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the food is actually good. I've been back several times since. The tempura is great. The menu contains plenty of options for picky eaters, the prices are reasonable, the atmosphere is fun, the service is always incredibly prompt, and I've never had a bad dish here.

    Caracas: The Pabellon arepa is great. Definitely go during off-hours to avoid the line. I don't recommend the empanadas - they're deep-fried and nothing special. (By the way, anyone know where to get baked empanadas in the neighborhood?)

    Baoguette: Not knowing anything about these sandwiches, I was totally unprepared for the fact that it was filled with three different meats, two of which were processed meats like Spam! Yikes! The meat chaos was just too much for me. Side note: even though I wasn't a fan of this sandwich, I love the fact that thanks to living in New York, I can experience food-culture-shock just a few blocks from my apartment.

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    Mermaid Inn
    96 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003

    Caracas Arepa Bar
    93 1/2 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

    Grand Sichuan
    23 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

    The Redhead
    349 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003

    Baoguette Cafe
    37 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

    Je'bon
    15 Saint Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

    Motorino
    349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

    Bisous Ciao
    101 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002

    6 Replies
    1. re: brighton312
      k
      kathryn Sep 8, 2011 09:50 AM

      > I also ordered a drink (the name escapes me) that consisted of a beer mixed with chili and lime. This was the most disgusting drink I have ever tasted. Then again, I'd never had it before, so for all I know the restaurant executed it perfectly.

      Most likely you ordered a Michelada, which is very common in Mexican restaurants.

      Sometimes it's beer with Worcestershire and or Tabasco sauce. I think you just probably don't like Micheladas.

      > Oh, and it's really expensive. But you get what you pay for. That was one excellent pizza!

      I don't think Motorino is "really expensive" at all in terms of what they're trying to do, especially in Manhattan. Prices seem on par with Keste and Company.

      The previous occupant of the space used to charge $20 for a pie (4 types of pie, no toppings aside from tomatoes and basil) and was cash only.

      > I was totally unprepared for the fact that it was filled with three different meats, two of which were processed meats like Spam!

      Comparing the filling to Spam is a little unfair.

      A good banh mi will have pâté or head cheese (French influence in Vietnamese cuisine).

      -----
      Motorino
      349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

      1. re: kathryn
        b
        brighton312 Sep 8, 2011 11:02 AM

        Hmm, I've never had pate or head cheese, so Spam was the closest comparison I could think of. I had no intention of being unfair to the restaurant - I was simply unfamiliar with the filling and was trying to think of a comparison.

        Re: Motorino - I haven't been to Keste or Company, so my impression of "really expensive" prices was in comparison to the pizza I'm used to eating, which is much cheaper (and lower-quality.)

      2. re: brighton312
        w
        windycity Sep 8, 2011 09:59 AM

        Sorry you didn't enjoy your experience at the Redhead. I'm surprised the fried chicken didn't come with a side salad - I've been a couple of times, but not in months as the lines are too long and the restaurant too crowded.

        On Bisous Ciao, I thought the macarons were fine, but not as good as Madeleine. I am looking forward to trying Laduree.

        In terms of bahn mi, you should try the ones at Nicky's on 3rd St. They are fresh and cheap, and the beef and chicken ones are especially good. They stop making the sandwiches when they run out of bread for the day, which has happened as early as 7p in my experience. I don't like the pork pate banh mi in general either. But I would hate for you to give up on banh mi so easily just because you didn't like the pork ones at Baoguette. Other Chowhounders also like bahn mi at Banh Mi So 1.

        For ramen, you might also want to try Men kui tei across from Cooper Union. I find their broth to be less dense/ more drinkable than Minca's but I like the Minca noodles better.

        Thanks for the helpful roundup!

        -----
        Saigon Banh Mi 1
        369 Broome St, New York, NY 10013

        Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches
        150 E 2nd St, New York, NY 10009

        Minca
        536 E 5th St, New York, NY 10009

        Men Kui Tei
        63 Cooper Sq, New York, NY 10003

        Baoguette Cafe
        37 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

        Bisous Ciao
        101 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002

        Laduree
        864 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021

        1. re: windycity
          JungMann Sep 8, 2011 11:55 AM

          If the OP doesn't like pate or Vietnamese cold cuts, your recommendation of chicken curry banh mi is a good alternative. I am a Banh Mi Zon fan, but perhaps Nicky's does curry chicken well.

          If you like Punjabi Deli, you should try Punjabi Food Express across the street. It is a pretty nondescript deli, but they make really good late-night Indo-Pak snacks: kebabs, samosa chaat and some pretty fiery aloo tikki. They also have sweets and a buffet, though I haven't tried the latter. The proprietors are also extraordinarily friendly and started to recognize me and treat me like a regular after my third visit in as many months.

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          Banh Mi Zon
          443 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

          Punjabi Food Express
          203 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

          1. re: JungMann
            w
            windycity Sep 10, 2011 12:05 PM

            I've actually never had chicken curry banh mi, I was recommending the bbq chicken banh mi which is pretty common at a lot of shops. I'm trying to wrap my head around chicken curry banh mi. . .Would that be like a chicken tikka masala on a baguette? It sounds good, I just have a hard time thinking about a very liquidy banh mi. The same way I never got the sloppy bao at baoguette.

            1. re: windycity
              JungMann Sep 11, 2011 05:06 PM

              The curry banh mi I have had are made with Vietnamese yellow curry and are usually rather dry. Wetter might actually be good.

      3. MWinston Feb 22, 2011 07:36 AM

        Fantastic roundup. Now I've got a couple more places to add to the to-do list!

        1. t
          tpigeon Feb 21, 2011 10:12 AM

          What about Katz's? I don't think it is any more expensive than R&D.

          3 Replies
          1. re: tpigeon
            b
            brighton312 Feb 21, 2011 11:00 AM

            Agreed, I think it's worth a trip for any visitor. I don't frequent the place because I'm not a big meat eater, but I do appreciate their pastrami on rye and matzo ball soup.

            1. re: brighton312
              s
              Scotty100 Feb 21, 2011 12:06 PM

              How about The Smith? One of my favorite burgers in the city and prices probably in-line with veselka etc.

              And +1 on Porchetta. Awful. Truly f* awful.

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              Porchetta
              110 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

              1. re: Scotty100
                f
                filmbomb Feb 21, 2011 12:57 PM

                The Brindle Room has the best burger in the Easy Village and one of the top 2 or three in all of NYC.

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                Brindle Room
                277 E 10th St, New York, NY 10009

          2. k
            kathryn Feb 21, 2011 09:38 AM

            Have you tried Motorino? Grand Sichuan St Marks? Ippudo or other ramen? Baoguette or Nicky's? The Redhead for a splurge?

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            Ippudo
            65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

            Baoguette Cafe
            37 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

            Motorino
            349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

            1 Reply
            1. re: kathryn
              b
              brighton312 Feb 21, 2011 10:59 AM

              Motorino, Baoguette, and The Redhead are all on my list of places I want to try! For ramen, I like Minca on East 5th Street--but I have not yet been to Ippudo. Tried to go one time but the wait was so long that we decided to take a rain check. I'll have to time it better next time.

              -----
              Minca
              536 E 5th St, New York, NY 10009

            2. daffyduck Feb 21, 2011 08:51 AM

              i agree i dont think Chickalicious has good cupcakes or macaroons. i would stick to their other items. i like their puddings in particular.

              4 Replies
              1. re: daffyduck
                Miss Needle Feb 21, 2011 09:19 AM

                I actually like their cupcakes but only their specialty ones. I agree that their macarons really aren't very good.

                Their adult chocolate pudding is really one of my favorites. And their cheesecake is also really elegant. Rich but not super heavy. And their affogato, while not traditional, delicious.

                1. re: Miss Needle
                  daffyduck Feb 21, 2011 09:36 AM

                  which are the speciality ones? i've had the smores, vanilla, black\white, and caramel.

                  1. re: daffyduck
                    Miss Needle Feb 21, 2011 09:42 AM

                    Just checked their website. Looked like their prices went up.

                    I guess I meant to say premium ones. The premium ones are: caramel, smores, mocha, triple chocolate and toasted almond. I actually don't like the smores and never tried the toasted almond. I found the caramel, mocha and triple chocolate to be good. Not crazy about the regular ones -- maybe because they can be on the dry side. Their cupcakes are on the small side and more prone to getting dry.

                    1. re: Miss Needle
                      u
                      uwsister Sep 8, 2011 10:37 PM

                      I also like their "premium" cupcakes better than regular ones. I don't think regular ones are half bad though - perhaps I've been lucky, but I haven't had a dry cupcake from there. I remember liking red velvet and caramel cupcakes quite a bit, especially the fluffy, subtle red velvet.

              2. loratliff Feb 21, 2011 08:38 AM

                Good list. Just a niggling note: it's Northern Spy Food Co., not Northern Spy Fruit Co. If you can, it's worth editing so that others can find it during search.

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                Northern Spy Food Co.
                511 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009

                1 Reply
                1. re: loratliff
                  b
                  brighton312 Feb 21, 2011 09:13 AM

                  Fixed. Thanks!

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