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.
There must be two dozen Nepalese cafes and carts in the swath of Queens that runs from Sunnyside to Jackson Heights. These places dispense a similar menu of momos, roast meats, and noodle stir fries and soups, along with Chinese and Indian dishes — or at least their unique interpretation of them. One of the newest establishments is located in the middle of this fertile Himalayan territory, in Woodside not far from the city’s most famous Thai restaurant, Sripraphai. Run by manager Shanti Sampang and chef Bhawani Rai, Sumnima Kitchen is also among the more modern Nepalese restaurants, with a handsome dining room of jumbled wood and brick in a modern design idiom.
The menu is ambitious, but not overly long. Momos come with the usual stuffings of chicken, pork, beef, or veggies, but they also come as jhol momo, immersed in a wonderful sesame gravy that makes them more of a meal. A pork rib roast comes grilled and detached from the bone in strips, and in a Tibetan section of the menu, find sha bhakleb, dough purses stuffed with a beef or chicken patty. Pour on the red or orange chile sauce.
A good snapshot of Nepalese cuisine is furnished by any thali — ten or so dishes presented on a round metal tray to furnish a full meal, with two types of dal, rice, papadum, pickles, condiments, and a main meat, fish, or poultry curry, with or without dhido, a ball of mashed millet. 39-04 64th St., at the corner of 39th Avenue, Woodside
Fle Fle Grill
Out of nowhere, Fle Fle Grill recently emerged at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 23rd Street, on the site of a closed bakery. A sign offering $4.95 falafels has drawn the public in, but this quick-service eatery with some raised counter seating has plenty more culinary attractions. Sandwiches, bowls, and trays provide context for a pair of shawarma cylinders, one chicken, one beef. But there are also Middle Eastern meatballs and grilled chicken breast in addition to that falafel. A series of tubs and squirt bottles offer garnishes, salad items, and condiments that go on the meals, most without additional charge. Don’t miss the white garlic sauce, brine pickles, or homemade jalapeño hot sauce. Most meals around $10 and under, and pastries are also available. 268 West 23rd St., at Eighth Avenue, Chelsea
P & S Bakery & Restaurant
P & S is a tiny establishment incorporating a Guyanese bakery and lunch counter in one storefront. It becomes exceedingly crowded at mealtimes, when the line stretches out the door. If the weather is bad and you feel like eating in, there are only two seats. And the reason one might endure these crowded conditions is to get one of the best chicken rotis in town. In the Guyanese style, the flatbread comes wadded on the side and it’s bigger than you think. The curry is mellow, until the chile heat hits you. If you want more heat, ask for Scotch bonnet sauce when you place your order at the window. To the left is a counter, where all sorts of sweet pastries are sold, but you won’t have any room for them given the size of the roti. Most highly recommended. 917 Utica Ave., between Church and Snyder avenues, East Flatbush