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West African Delights in Chelsea — and Other Cheap Eats

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Critic Robert Sietsema highlights great affordable restaurants around town every week

Chelsea’s B & B provides a buffet of West African fare
Chelsea’s B & B provides a buffet of West African fare

This is the next edition of Three Great Cheap, a weekly series from critic Robert Sietsema that seeks to find and popularize New York City’s cheapest and most interesting food in the five boroughs and beyond. Also consult the compact guide and map 60 Cheap Eats Destinations You Should Know About in NYC.


B & B Restaurant

While most West African restaurants in the city are found in Harlem, Jamaica, and various Bronx neighborhoods, B & B Restaurant is situated in Chelsea, meeting the dining needs of cab drivers, Wholesale District vendors, and others who eat halal. Instead of focusing on one cuisine, the long steam table offers Guinean, Senegalese, Ivory Coast, and Ghanaian fare, including lamb and okra stew, tomato-braised fish, Joloff rice, yam or plantain fufu, and a dozen other choices per day.

Typical West African meal of okra stew, chicken gizzards, and Joloff rice
Typical West African meal of okra stew, chicken gizzards, and Joloff rice

Step up, pick a container of the desired size, and fill it up before weighing at the cash register in the rear. A meal usually runs about $7 or $8. Also on the steam table are fried chicken, jerk chicken, and a delightful sauté of chicken gizzards and onions, representing the cooking of the African diaspora in the Caribbean and United States. A cold section offers fresh fruit and salad items. You may carry your food out, or sit at one of the commodious tables that line the room in this pleasant and well lit cafeteria. 165 West 26th St., between 6th and 7th avenues, Chelsea

Jerusalem Restaurant

The falafel sandwich at Jerusalem Restaurant
The falafel sandwich at Jerusalem Restaurant

Perched on Broadway on the upper, Upper West Side since 1979, this narrow closet of a space is a vegetarian’s delight, offering a bargain falafel sandwich ($5.50) stuffed with just-fried falafel balls and pristine salad ingredients. Other vegetarian highlights at a similar price include fava bean stew, stuffed grape leaves, and very fresh tasting babaganoush. Lamb shawarma and chicken kebabs are also available in bargain sandwiches and platters, and don’t miss the french fries with hot sauce. 2715 Brodaway, between 103rd and 104th streets, Upper West Side

Tacos Morelos

Chicken in red pumpkinseed sauce
Chicken in red pumpkinseed sauce

You’ve seen its taco truck parked in Williamsburg, and its brick and mortar offshoot in the East Village — now, visit the mothership in East Elmhurst, Queens. With a cuisine centered on the Morelos state — located due south of Mexico City — the menu features such delectable and unusual items as chicken in red pipian (pumpkinseed) sauce, pork head cheese torta, and tacos placeros featuring things like boiled eggs, chiles relleno, and tortas de papa that do an impressive imitation of potato knishes. Imagine that in a taco! Tacos Morelos is also one of the city’s few taquerias that boasts a full bar, so you can get a shot of tequila with your tacos. 9413 37th Ave., between 94th and 95th streets, East Elmhurst