In the 43rd installment of the “Three Great Cheap” series, critic Robert Sietsema recommends favorite inexpensive dishes from recent restaurant visits.
Arepas at Avila Kitchen in Greenpoint: Our city has had an intensive schooling in the street eats of Venezuela over the last decade, ever since arepa shops appeared in the East Village and caused a culinary sensation. Now the fad has come of age, and there are examples of this cuisine in many neighborhoods, especially Bushwick, Inwood, Ridgewood, and the East Village. This newish spot offers the usual collection of arepas turned into sandwiches, but the size here tends to be bigger, with best being chicken salad and avocado, and shredded beef with plantains and black beans, and guaranteed to fill you up.
There’s also a bacon cheeseburger made with a split arepa that’s worth trying. The restaurant additionally offers fried cheese sticks; salads involving beans, eggplant, and goat cheese; and empanadas. For much larger appetites, Avila has series of dinners that come with lentil soup, salad, rice, and beans, including pabellon criolla (stewed beef) and noquis (gnocchis) made with yuca and heaped with cheese. 685 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, (347) 844-9618
Pork chop at Village Express Asian Cuisine in West Village: Taiwanese restaurants are popping up all over town, slinging popcorn chicken, teriyaki, fried dumplings, noodle soups, and pork chops in various guises. This new West Village carryout brings inexpensive eats to what is often an expensive neighborhood, with plenty of voluminous full-plate meals featuring a choice of sauces, most under $10. The pork chop with Taiwanese sauce is particularly good — ground meat sauce cascades over the pork schnitzel, with a vegetable mélange on the side. Don’t miss the semi-elegant upstairs dining room with a view of the neighborhood. 33 Barrow St, West Village, (212) 620-7388
Papas a la Huancaina at Los Nisperos in the Bronx: Convenient to the South Bronx shopping district known as the Hub, Los Nisperos (named after a fruit) is a charming Peruvian café such as you might find in the back streets of Lima. Sure, there are rotisserie chickens served with the usual green sauce and yuca or plantains, but the restaurant also slings Andean specialities such as papas a la Huancaina (potatoes with yellow cheese sauce), Peruvian-Chinese specialties, the beef-heart kebabs called anticuchos, and meal-size soups featuring seafood and poultry. Fruit juices like the purple national beverage of chicha morada are on hand to wash the food down. 500 E 149th St, Bronx, (718) 292-3377
Check out a couple of previous articles in the “Three Great Cheap” series: