Three standout cheap eats recommendations from Eater critic Robert Sietsema.
All of Greenpoint and parts of Williamsburg used to be speckled with cut-rate Polish eateries, where the city’s equivalent of the Southern "meat and three" prevailed. For less than $5, you’d get a meal consisting of a plate-flopping chicken or veal schnitzel, a kielbasa the size of your forearm, several pieces of roasted chicken, or a pair of braised pork shanks — which took some determination to pick apart — accompanied by a mayo-dressed salad of cabbage or beets, and not one but two scoops of mashed potatoes. For lovers of the deliciously bland and inexpensive, this one-plate meal totally rocked.
The number of these places has been cut in half over the last few years, but Northside Bakery (formerly known as Old Poland Bakery) handily persists. Half the establishment is a bakery specializing in babkas, paczki, loaves of sandwich bread, and cakes sold by the pound. The other half is a steam table and composed-salad bar, where everything, sides included, is sold by the portion at nearly unbelievable prices. A recent meal of cabbage stuffed with veal and rice, coleslaw, and a couple of scoops of spuds totaled $6 and change, and no tip expected! Also available were two dozen other entrees, including thick-sliced pot roast, the hunter’s stew called bigos, paprika-roast chickens, pork cutlets, and various other rib-sticking and meat-intensive fare. There’s a comfy dining room with a view of the street, over which a fakey looking suit of arm stands guard. 190 Nassau Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 349-7775.
A friend who had just returned from the Greek islands exclaimed, "This looks just like Mykonos!" We were surveying the interior of Souvlaki GR, a café on the Lower East Side laid out like a tiny Greek villlage, lined with whitewashed huts that have sea-blue windows and doors, and hanging branches of pink bougainvillea. Wooden tables are put out here and there under strings of lights, and the food is what you might find at a tavern — not fussy and not expensive, either. The off-price wine list alone is worth a visit.
The bread dips are a great deal. Three hefty scoops for $15 (out of a choice of seven), come with a generous wad of grilled pita triangles. The tzatziki is hyper-garlicky; it’s one of the dip choices, but it also comes as an accompaniment to many of the kebabs, which are the main reason for this café’s existence. The most economical way to experience these kebabs is in a pita sandwich, which comes stuffed with a brochette of your choice, tomato, purple onions, tzatziki, and french fries tight in the sandwich! The hamburger ($7) treated this way is particularly wonderful. The menu rounds out with salads and such orektika as spinach phyllo pies, Greek meatballs in tomato sauce, and zucchini fritters that go by the tongue-tying name of kolokithokeftedes. 116 Stanton St, (212) 777-0116.
Named after a pizza parlor in the martial arts movie The Last Dragon and located on Malcolm X in Bed-Stuy, Daddy Green’s is a modern evocation of the traditional New York neighborhood pizzeria. But it adds some pleasing notions all its own to the formula. For example, the classic cheese pie (12" or 16") comes crusted with sesame seeds, which add a welcome crunch and an extra mellowness. This is not a pie where you leave the "bone" (circumferential crust hump) behind. In addition there are several set personality pies available, like the Sophia Loren, which comes bombed with sliced tomatoes, red sauce that doubles the tomato component, pesto, and little wads of crushed garlic, an altogether exciting pizza. My favorite is the square, thin-crusted grandma pie; Daddy doesn’t go in for pizzas with a thick Sicilian crust. This is one place where reheated slices taste as good or better than fresh — due to the enhanced crunchability reheating confers.
Sidelines — some of which give a tip of the hat to the neighborhood and its traditions — include pastas like mac and cheese and baked ziti, plus a line of reconfigured sandwiches, such as an eggplant parm on a round loaf in which the vegetable is oven-roasted rather than breaded and fried. It’s fantastic and comes with a side salad for $10. The premises will remind you of the late lamented Pete Zaaz, with improvised tables and exposed brickwork. Two last caveats: Skip the kale caesar, which is perhaps too thickly dressed, and the chili con carne, which tastes too much like green bell peppers. 352 Malcolm X Blvd, Brooklyn, (718) 484-2142.