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Where to Scarf Cut-Rate Burritos, Panizzos, and Soup Dumplings

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Three cheap eats recommendations from Eater critic Robert Sietsema.

All photos by Robert Siestema

Students need cheap meals, and increasingly Mexican bodegas are stepping forward to provide them. A case in point is Chinelos II, located on the western edge of the mammoth City College of New York campus, a half-block east of Broadway on 136th Street in a hilly neighborhood that might remind you of San Francisco. Selling cactus paddles and guaje pods, Mexican sodas and bottled hot sauces, and the sweet, colorful breads called pan dulce, a grocery occupies half of the two-storefront premises. A taqueria spawned by the bodega occupies the other, with a long counter behind which a guy makes your burritos and tacos. Two TV screens are tuned to south-of-the-border soaps, and seven tables are strung out in a space that could easily hold 17.

Chinelos is named after a folkloric dance costume native to the state of Morelos, and the menu is limited to antojitos and a few hot dishes displayed on a steam table. Most of the offerings on the menu cost a merciful $4 each, including quesadillas (with lots of vegetarian options, mushrooms and squash flowers among them); burritos stuffed with rice, beans, and a choice of meats; and tacos priced at $2.50 each. Shown is a suadero (brisket) burrito enwrapping rice, beans, and tender meat, and a plate of three tacos dorados, stuffed with chicken, deep-fried, then smothered in greenery, cheese, and crema. You can grab a Jarritos soda or a beer from the fridge next door. (But be careful! Beers consumed in the dining room are $4 each.) And don't forget to ask the waitress for the hot sauces — red and green — which are freshly pureed from tomatoes and chiles. They pack quite a wallop. 530 W 136th St, (212) 690-6077.

Oh! Susanna. Not the one in the Stephen Foster song, but the newish pie parlor named Susanna Pizzeria on Bleecker Street. The place is operated by three gentlemen of Verona, Italy, a town in the southern reaches of Emilia-Romagna. The menu slings two dozen thin-crust pizzas, in categories designated Traditional, White Pizzas, and Pizza Sandwiches, priced at $8 through $19 in the 13" size. Meal-size salads are also available in a dining room with a white-and-red decorative motif dominated by a flickering, wood-burning oven. The sunny backyard is a nice place to sit in fine weather. The biggest bargain on a menu is the so-called "panizzo." Priced at $5, it's a sandwich made with a single thin pizza crust folded over and stuffed. Other Italian names for it in other regions are torta al testo or piadina. In the example shown, the stuffing is bresaola, pecorino, and arugula. The sandwich tastes delectable, and makes a perfect light lunch. 182 Bleecker St, (646) 678-3466.

The expansive Fei Long Supermarket in Sunset Park boasts a wonderful food court for shoppers, small-scale by Chinese food court standards, but still possessing a beguiling choice of Asian cuisines among its nine stalls. There's a Japanese spot specializing in teriyaki and sushi, a Sichuan counter, and a Chinese charcuterie specialist whose name translates, "Shall We Eat." Well, why not? My favorite occupies a corner near the front entrance to the mall, called Shanghai Dumpling House, though that translation doesn't appear on the façade of the booth. The place does wonderful xio long bao, Shanghai soup dumplings distinguished by their thin skins and rich gravy inside. Six largish pork dumplings will set you back $4.75, constituting a decent-size feed for one person. The stall doesn't offer the usual pork-crab hybrid (sometimes presented with a wad of crab on top); instead, there's an all-crab dumpling priced at $9.75. Steep, but probably worth it. Other dishes available in a broad-ranging Shanghai menu include sticky rice, steamed gluten, sets of the more traditional Shanghai dumplings (small, with thick skins and no soup), and lo meins. Communal seating area provided. 6301 8th Ave, Brooklyn, 718-680-0118.

All Posts by Robert Sietsema [ENY]