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. Also consult the compact guide and map 60 Cheap Eats Destinations You Should Know About in NYC.
Kimbap New York
Manhattan’s Chinatown continues to evolve, with more East Asian diversity than ever before. A recent addition to the collective menu is the Korean take on sushi known as kimbap or gimbap. It consists of rice rolled with other ingredients in gim, the dried seaweed called nori in Japanese and laver in English. But rather than featuring raw fish, as most Japanese tekkamaki does, kimbap is stuffed with things like fishcake, omelet, canned tuna, cheese, and ham or Spam, in addition to rice. In Korea, it’s considered classic picnic fare.
Now Elizabeth Street north of Canal has its own shop serving Korean sushi. Kimbap New York (a/k/a 88Kimbap) has micro scaled the dish for snacking, with each mini roll going for $1.25, and eight varieties to choose from on a roster that rotates. The walk-down shop is small and narrow, but a couch opposite the counter is provided for eating in. On a first visit, bulgogi and spicy fish cake were favorites. A filling and bland pumpkin soup, tiny containers of kimchi, and beverages are also for sale. 88 Elizabeth St., between Hester and Grand streets, Chinatown
Tacos El Chavo
A goofy cartoon character with a cap coming out of a barrel is the mascot at Tacos El Chavo, a new taqueria lunch counter in the Bronx’s hilly Fordham Heights. Fresh squeezed juices and batidos (milk shakes) are a co-specialty, as are Dominican empanadas. But tacos are the thing to get, either in the Mexican style (with raw onion and cilantro) or the American style (with lettuce, tomato, crema, and queso seco). Chicken or chorizo are always available, but if you’re lucky, you may find tripe, tongue, or braised goat (barbacoa). The same fillings may be had in tortas, tostadas, or huaraches. 8 East 183rd St., between Jerome and Wilson avenues, Fordham Heights
Pattie Hut & Grill
The jerk chicken is indeed very good at newcomer Pattie Hut & Grill in Bed-Stuy, cooked to perfection with a skin tasting of allspice (native to Jamaica) and Scotch bonnet sauce. Pick rice and peas or mac and cheese as your side, and you have a very cheap and delectable meal. But Patty Hut is also an all-day restaurant, and that includes breakfasts of codfish with okra, or liver and dumpling. Lunches and dinners available include jerk pork (Jamaica’s original jerked meat), oxtails, vinegary escovitched fish, and, of course, fried chicken. Open 8 a.m. till 11 p.m. every day but Sunday, which has more restricted hours. 516 Nostrand Ave., between Halsey and Macon streets, Bedford-Stuyvesant