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Where To Get a Cheap Veal Parm Hero, Ramen, Chili Fries, and Other Delights

Eater critic Robert Sietsema recommends three of his favorite cheap eats restaurants around New York City.

Venice Restaurant has been lingering on East 149th Street on the western fringes of the Hunts Point Market since 1951. Now the neighborhood is mainly Mexican, Dominican, and Salvadoran, and passersby stop to gawk at this odd remnant of the neighborhood's past. The menu is rooted in the cuisine of Ponza, an island 30 miles west of Naples in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where founder Fred Guarino came from. And the menu still offers a pleasing mix of antipasti, hot heroes, pizza, baked pastas, veal, pork, and seafood, the latter including wonderful scungilli (conch) salad.

venice R

[Clockwise from top left: veal parm sandwich, cheesecake, and baked clams. All photos by Robert Sietsema.]

At lunch many patrons drop by for a hot hero, including the outsize veal parmesan sandwich shown. It's a bargain at $7. Share it with a friend, and also grab an order of the baked clams, stuffed mainly with nicely browned crumbs so as to not interfere with the bracing flavor of the bivalves. Finish off the meal with a piece of perfect New York style cheesecake. At $3, you won't find a cheaper slice in town. Every meal comes with free garlic bread, and if you ask nicely, they'll also anneal the garlic bread with cheese. 772 East 149th St, Bronx, 718-585-5164.


[Clockwise from the top: Potato Corner, chicken wings, and chili cheese fries.]

Eateries specializing in potatoes are not a new thing. Currently, we have the wonderful Pommes Frites in the East Village and the horrible Potatopia in Greenwich Village. But in Chinatown? That is where the latest spud palace, called Potato Corner, has set down. The specialty is freshly made rippled potato chips with flavored salts in garish colors sprinkled on, but the place also does regular French fries, curly fries, tater tots, sweet potato fries, and chicken wings.

Of the shoe string variety about the same size and shape as McDonald's, the French fries are particularly good. Especially if you do as I did, and get the massive chili cheese fries ($4.99), which wisely uses meaty canned chili that forms a perfect complement to the fries. Lots of grated-up cheese that looks like they got it from Taco Bell is also avalanched on the fries. And for an extra 50 cents, you can get as many jalapenos as you want — which in my case was lots. The breaded and deep-fried chicken wings are also something of a bargain at $4.99 with your choice of dips (shown here: Thousand Island dressing). 234 Canal Street, 212-334-3457.

tamashi rammen
tamasi ramen
tamashi ramen

[Clockwise from top left: Tamashii Ramen exterior, dining room, shrimp, and ramen.]

Ramen prices have been spiraling out of control, so that getting a bowl and its accoutrements at some Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn parlors is likely to run somewhere between $20 and $30. Not so at Tamashii Ramen on Broadway in Astoria, where ramen remains modestly priced. The signature Tamashii ramen — with a light, Tokyo-style broth and add-ins that include an egg, bamboo shoots, scallions, seaweed, and slices of pork — will set you back only $10.95, or $8.95 at lunch. Which explains why the place is mobbed in the early afternoon. A friend who is an old hand at eating ramen in Tokyo pronounced the soup "very fine."

There are dozens of other choices, including the seafood-driven champon, a selection of vegetarian ramen, a curry ramen, and the currently popular tsuke-men style, with the noodles served cold on the side. Appetizers also abound, including the novel shrimp wrapped in ramen noodles and fried (shown). 2905 Broadway, Queens, 718-278-5888.

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