Three Great Cheap is a weekly series from critic Robert Sietsema that seeks to find and popularize New York City’s most interesting and inexpensive food in the five boroughs and beyond. Find the back catalog here. Also consult the bigger cheap eats guide, with maps, walking tours, and other resources.
Miss Dong Burger
Weekend afternoons, this Sunset Park Chinese burger joint Miss Dong Burger fills up with moms with their kids, as other neighborhood denizens dash in for carryout. It’s also open late, allowing for quite a different crowd just before midnight. The space is up a steep stairway on a side street, with a soaring ceiling and cartoon decorations in vast murals. The burger itself might draw you in: a good-size beef patty with a spectacular sear on both sides, simply presented with lettuce, tomato, and mustard, the last ingredient making it reminiscent of a specimen from Texas chain Whataburger — in a good way.
But, good as the burger is, the menu lavishes little attention on beef. Burgers are also available composed of chicken, shrimp, softshell crab, fish, and pork, with the pork tendered in thin cutlet form and accompanied by a pair of bonus fried wings. Chicken is the focus of several entrees, including chicken wings, chicken drumsticks, and the neighborhood favorite popcorn chicken, which can also be stuffed in a flour tortilla with sweet mayo dressing to make something called a spicy Mexican chicken wrap. A handful of more ambitious entrees are available, such as arctic surf clams with roe and a rosemary lamb chop. But don’t miss the fresh watermelon juice. Miss Dong stays open till 1 a.m. or later, seven days, and is BYOB. 711 54th St., between Seventh and Eighth avenues, Sunset Park
Open 24 hours, and possessing the narrowest of premises, Sammy’s is yet another offshoot of a halal lunch cart. The quality is high, the prices cheap (chicken shawarma sandwich, $5.99), and the menu vaster than you might expect in such an establishment. Topped with tahini and hot sauce, the falafel platter is a delight, with four almost meaty tasting bell-shaped fritters resting on a bed of cumin rice. Hamburgers, rotisserie chickens, and bonus South Asian dishes are also listed on the menu, including samosas, kati rolls, kofta, daal, and for breakfast, a spinach omelet on a paratha. Open 24 hours. 109 First Ave., between 6th and 7th streets, East Village
Sal, Kris, & Charlie’s Deli
This old timer near the Ditmars stop on the N and W slings some of the best Italian heroes in Queens. Lunchtimes and afternoons, long lines form along high counter deep into the storefront of Sal, Kris, & Charlie’s Deli. A stunning selections of luncheon meats and roasts is available, all served cold, so don’t expect a hot hero. But the cold heroes are fantastic, especially when elaborately garnish with hot and sweet peppers, which come in giant jars that decorate the room. All sandwiches strive to be $10 or less, including the signature known as the Bomb. Stacking up mortadella, turkey, salami, and two types of cheese, with sweet peppers, onions, and both mayo and mustard, one person would be hard pressed to finish this delectable gutbomb, which sports what seems like a perfect combination of sweet, sour, and savory flavors. 33-12 23rd Ave., between 33rd and 35th streets, Astoria