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:
[All photos by Robert Sietsema]
When the sea rushed down the main drag into the center of the tiny Brooklyn hamlet of Sheepshead Bay during Hurricane Sandy, it swamped every restaurant on the strip, sushi parlors and Russian bistros alike, and the Turkish cheap-eats haven Anatolian Gyro was no exception. But now the place — nearing its 20th anniversary — has relocated around the corner on East 16th Street into larger and fancier digs. The menu has been expanded, tables are more profuse and well-spaced, and during the day skylights let you see what you're eating by beams of sunlight. The refrigerator case remains well-stocked with kebabs, and humongous twin cylinders of chicken and lamb still rotate beguilingly in the front window.
The place calls the sandwiches made from these vertical spits "gyros" as a nod to the greater name recognition of gyro, even though the more proper term in Turkish would be "doner kebabs". Anatolian Gyro is open from 11 a.m. till 11 p.m. seven days, making for a great and inexpensive late-evening hang. For $6.25 you get an overstuffed pita of freshly carved lamb or chicken, garnished with iceberg, ripe tomato, raw onion, and minted yogurt (hot sauce on the side). By why not spring for an extra 75 cents and get twice as much meat on "home bread," a puffy Turkish flatbread made on-premises and dotted with toasted sesame seeds? The menu also offers many vegetarian salads, roasted eggplant dishes, and Turkish desserts such as the wonderful brown-top pudding. Wash it all down with multiple cups of Turkish coffee. Ask for "sweet." 2623 East 16th Street, Brooklyn, 718-769-4754
Eim Khao Mun Kai is one of those micro-focused restaurants that only serves one dish — but that dish is a doozy. It's a Thai twist on a simple chicken-and-rice recipe that originated on Hainan Island, the southernmost province of China. The dish is also popular throughout Southeast Asia and in mainland China itself, consisting of a chicken gently poached with ginger, usually in a broth of pork and poultry. The broth is then used to cook the rice that accompanies the sliced-up bird, served at room temp.
At Eim Khao Mun Kai, the chicken is laid across the top of the rice, and gizzards, livers, and hearts are served on the side, along with a spicy dipping sauce (that's the Thai part) and a bowl of soup. The result is a satisfying and very filling meal, priced at $8.99, which includes a can of soda. (You can buy the wonderful scented rice separately for $3.) 81-32 Broadway, Elmhurst, Queens, 718-424-7156
The East Village is one of the country's greatest repositories of Japanese cuisine, tendering, I'm sure, thousands of pieces of sushi per evening and hundreds of bowls of ramen. Often overlooked are the small refectories where Japanese expats seek out cheap, homely meals. One such is M2M ("Morning To Midnight"), an Asian grocery where a kitchen and sushi prep area have been flung down in one corner, and an array of tightly arrayed tables in another.
The noodles offered are not the currently glamorous ramen, but the more plebian udon, ghostly white wheat noodles with virtually no foodie cachet. Hey, they're good anyway, engagingly squishy and chewy. The cheapest bowls start around $5, but why not pay an extra $2.50 for the full monte: udon topped with shrimp tempura, fishcake, tofu, surimi, squid, pea pods, and sprouts? You won't go away hungry. Open till 2 a.m. 55 3rd Ave, 212-353-2698
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