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The Contest Day 1 Dinner: $1 Tacos, Korean Leftovers, and More

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Here's all the stuff Eater editors ate to complete their $10 dining days. Spoiler: Two editors tapped out.

[Tacos from Izucar by Robert Sietsema]
[Tacos from Izucar by Robert Sietsema]

Major update: Last night two Eater editors tapped out of The Contest by eating some food at a party, so Hillary Dixler and Helen Rosner are out of the official competition, but they will continue to play along. Here's what the rest of the Eater editors ate last night in the $10 per day dining challenge.  Oh, and if you're participating in #TheContest at home, please share your notes and pictures over on the Day 2 forum post.

Dinner on Monday, July 13:

Player: Jarret Meskin

Purchase: Five fish tacos: $5

Strategy: For my first dinner during #thecontest, I opted to take advantage of our unrestricted alcohol budget. Cooper's Craft & Kitchen in the East Village serves up $1 fish tacos on Monday nights, provided you purchase at least one alcoholic beverage. So after ponying up $8 for a remarkably flat beer, I placed an order for five $1 fish tacos. I had set the bar very low for Cooper's tacos, but I was pleasantly surprised. While the fish wasn't packing much flavor, the chipotle aioli and lime pulled together to make these tacos well worth the $1 price tag. Now, please enjoy my unremarkable photo of said tacos.

Cooper's Craft & Kitchen | 87 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10003


Player: Robert Sietsema

Order/Strategy: I had just $4.50 left for dinner, which is coincidentally the cost of three tacos at the best taqueria in town, Bushwick's Izucar on Myrtle Avenue. So I hopped the L with a friend, and together we got six tacos, each with a double tortilla and heaped with cilantro and raw onions. Squirt on the chili sauce! No money left for Jarritos, though.

My outlay for today: a perfect $10, a phenomenon that will be hard to repeat.

After day one of The Contest, this is beginning to feel like a philosophical exercise as much as a culinary one, and I'm already very glad to have undertaken it. As Shakespeare said in King Lear, "Take physic, pomp!" We could all use a dose of humility.

Players: Sonia Chopra and Devra Ferst

Purchase: Vegetable dumplings, pork and chive dumplings, bok choy: $7.5

Strategy: For our last meal of the day, Sonia had $3.30 and Devra had $5.25. We decided to pool our resources and do a team dinner, so we suited up, grabbed our cash and our bottles of water, and jogged down from East Village to Chinatown. First stop: Vanessa's Dumplings, where Devra purchased a half-order of pork and chive dumplings ($1.50 for four, boiled) and we got the bok choy ($3) to share. From there, we swung by Prosperity Dumplings, where we ordered whole wheat vegetable dumplings ($3 for eight, boiled), doused them in hot sauce, and headed out to find a stoop to dine on.

Result: Devra, with $1.05 to spare, grabs an apple on her way home, and has some leftover fruit for tomorrow. Sonia's out of cash but still has half a sandwich from lunch and did walk just over four miles today in her searches for food, if that counts for anything.

Bonus: Regular viewers will know that I (Sonia) went into #thecontest with a mild fear of scurvy. There's currently slim to no chance of that happening, given that I had yuzu tea with breakfast and fresh vegetables in both my lunchtime banh mi and dinner side of bok choy. Stay tuned to see how the rest of the week goes.

Vanessa's Dumplings. 118A Eldridge Street. (212) 625-8008


The Player: Amanda Kludt

Purchase: 4 pork and chive dumplings and a sesame pancake sandwich with vegetables at Vanessa's Dumpling and a hot fudge sundae at McDonald's

Cost: $4.25, $1.19

Notes: My breakfast sandwich and banana and some well timed pieces of gum kept me going all day, but I was pretty ready for dumplings by the time I got to Vanessa's Dumplings in Williamsburg around 7:30. It's obscenely cheap and thus very crowded, and it takes a surprisingly long time considering the dumplings are premade. It probably took me 25 minutes to order and procure my food and then 1.5 minutes to consume it. I was late for a cocktail party, so I took the sesame pancake to eat later. Post party (I've never not eaten such beautiful food), I walked the 20 minutes home in search of a place to spend the dollar and a half I had left. I wandered through Williamsburg's Giglio Fest (see it on Snapchat, username eaterdotcom), but everything was too expensive. I searched in vain for a Mister Softee and then settled for a favorite of mine, a McDonald's hot fudge sundae. By the time I finished I didn't need the sesame pancake (which will now be Tuesday's breakfast).

Total for the day: $3.50 on breakfast/lunch, $1 on snack, -.33 cents for selling banana to co-worker David Yee, $4.24 on dinner, $1.19 on dessert = $9.61

Holdover: one sesame pancake sandwich with vegetables, one banana


Player: Daniela Galarza

Purchase: Dinner: Pan-fried chicken cutlet with kimchi fried rice, seaweed omelet; 50% off sesame chicken from Woorijip in Koreatown.

Dessert: A red bean-filled fish cake from Delimanjoo Bakery across the street. Behind us in line: Deuki Hong (Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, NYC); Eater Young Gun, class of 2015. The man has good taste.

Cost: $6.75. Remainder: $.15

Strategy: I wasn't as hungry as I thought I might be when dinner time rolled around, but I did want to get to Woorijip on the early side to take advantage of the 50% off table (any platters they have leftover from lunch get marked down by half after 5 p.m. Risky? Perhaps, but you only live once). My teammate and I scored a full-size box of sesame chicken for half price. He also scored a half-size box of fish cakes. We split the sesame chicken and a full-price large platter of chicken cutlets with kimchi fried rice. There were leftovers.

After dinner, we walked across the street to order a beautiful fish-shaped sweet cake filled with red bean paste. It's served warm, and tastes like a cross between a Liège waffle and a red bean mochi. I satisfied my sugar craving with a few bites and decided to save the rest for breakfast tomorrow.

Mood: Completely sated. Like I shot a three pointer with an assist.


Player: Vince Dixon

Vince dixon

Order/Strategy: You can't attempt to eat cheap at New York City delis and not order a BLT, sure to be the cheapest sandwich on the menu. Wrapping up a day of deli eats, I ordered a BLT from A&H Deli near Penn Station. It was $4.25, so I also got a banana for 75 cents, completely maxing out my budget.

In terms of mood, the rush hour commute really tried my "hanger." Also, I don't feel so guilty about my snacking habits, which judging by my sluggishness and mood at the end of the day, must be the fuel that usually keeps me energized and happy!

Player: Greg Morabito

My plan for this evening was foiled when I saw that the cold skin noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods actually breach the $5 mark now. (I'm not making this up, right? I remember that they used to be under $5 maybe a year ago.) So, I decided to hit up my back-up restaurant, Oasis, located directly across from the Met Foods parking lot on McGuinness Avenue in Greenpoint. This outpost of the popular Bedford Avenue Middle Eastern restaurant opened about a year ago, and it's always dead.

I equate this restaurant in my mind with the show Halt and Catch Fire: People vaguely know about them, but nobody cares enough to check them out, which is a shame. I sometimes wonder if I am their only audience. And if that's the case: How long will they exist? I've always preferred the sandwich from Oasis to the versions at Mamoun's or Taim. It's more substantial than the former and dirtier than the latter. They really load it up with pickled cabbage, lettuce, and tahini, so it's super healthy and totally good for you, I'm sure.

On the way back from Oasis, I passed by The Brew Inn, an awkward Greenpoint pub, that actually had a helluva deal running:

Had I seen this sign on the way to Oasis, the night might have taken a very different turn. Still, after purchasing the falafel, I was up one buck, which was just enough to buy a bunch of bananas from a vendor across the street. The sandwich was just as good as it always is. I'm not actually a banana fan but they did whatever bananas do. All things considered, not a bad way to close out the first $10 day.

For more of Eater's Cheap Eat Coverage, look here.