Every few weeks, Eater's critic Robert Sietsema shares a few of his favorite budget eats around New York City. Here, now, are three more great cheap restaurants you should know about:
You won't find cemitas there, or pambazos either. In fact, the only sandwich available at Don Pepe Tortas & Jugos is the mighty Mexican torta: a submarine-shaped telera roll overstuffed with a bewildering catalog of fillings, many ceremoniously cooked on a broad flat griddle known as a plancha. Don Pepe and his minions, who labor behind a small window surrounded by seductive, brightly lit sandwich pictures, turn out 35 types of tortas, many with wacky themes. Most are $7 or $8 and would feed an army; you'll be wrapping half the sandwich to take home with you for later — but only if you can stop gorging yourself.
Faced with a passel of geographically named sandwiches like the Atlixco (spicy pork leg, ham, and two cheeses), Poblana (air-dried beef, pork head cheese), and Haiwaiiana (ham, bacon, spicy pork, pineapple), which would you choose? On a recent Saturday afternoon, I went for the Espagnol Doble, shown in the picture in cross section. From top to bottom, the fillings included a slather of refried beans, slightly runny fried egg, slice of ham, plancha-fried cheese, split hot dog, potatoes, bacon, another type of cheese not fried, pickled jalapenos, sautéed onions, tomatoes, and avocadoes. God, was it good – salty, greasy, and irresistible. Now looking forward to sampling the other 34 tortas! 3908 5th Ave, Brooklyn, 718-435-3326
Let's face it: the Upper East Side is not a paradise of cheap eats. That's why Chicky's on 86 has been such a resource for going on 20 years. The specialty of this Greek rotisserie is charcoal-grilled chicken. A meaty quarter chicken, nicely charred and furnished with a choice of sides and a toasted pita will set you back $7.97 — and you get a free canned beverage in the bargain. The chicken flesh is smoky; the skin crisp and scented with lemon and oregano. Sides include coleslaw, green beans, baked potato, tomato-and-cucumber salad, mac and cheese, French fries, and Latin-style kidney beans . Walk past the storefront and see if the smell alone doesn't draw you in the door. For a fast-food establishment, the dining room is especially spacious and comfortable. 355 E 86th St, 212-996-8277.
If you've ever tried the dumplings from the Taiwanese street carts that usually park at Cooper and Hanover squares, you know how different they are from the usual Chinatown article. The skins are thinner, the shape distinctively elongated, and the fillings are exceptionally juicy. Now you can get these dumplings from a storefront close to Baruch College, just north of 23rd Street. DiDi Dumpling sells delicious pot stickers (steamed also available) at five for $3.95, with a choice of four fillings (pork, beef, chicken, and vegetable). Groupings of 10 and 15 are available at a discount, and you also get a special deal if you add a bowl of corn chowder or hot-and-sour soup; but skip the rather lackluster lo-mein add on. 38 Lexington Ave, 212-466-6618.