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Old-School Heroes With Fresh Mozzarella — and Other Cheap Eats

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Eater critic Robert Sietsema recommends three affordable treats in the area

Flames lick out of the clay oven at Tandir Rokhat.
Flames lick out of the clay oven at Tandir Rokhat.
Robert Sietsema

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.


Vito’s and Son

Vito’s and Son have been turning out heros since 1986.
Vito’s and Son have been turning out heros since 1986.
Here is the hero called the Hoboken.
Here is the hero called the Hoboken.

Hoboken is the place to go for some of the metropolitan area’s best heroes, and two venerable Italian delis are particularly known for them. Fiore’s House of Quality (founded in 1919), is the oldest, and Vito’s and Son (1986) is the newest. Both depend on squeekingly fresh mozzarella made in house, as the basis of many of their best sandwiches, and both offer daily specials that you should look up online before you go. Both delis also produce gigantic heros that easily feed two, unless you’re Tony Soprano.

Vito’s proves particularly adept at generating sandwiches with Jersey themes. Recently I strolled northward on Hoboken’s main drag to visit and scored a sandwich called the Hoboken. It was a vegetarian production layering fresh mozzarella (known locally as “mutz”) with roasted red peppers, pickled artichokes, and eggplant. Pesto is applied, as is one other dressing of your choice. I picked Kalamata olive spread, and it complemented the pesto. Also don’t miss the famous roast beef hero, a gloppy combo of rare meat, mutz, and brown gravy. Fiore’s has a competing version. 806 Washington St., between 8th and 9th streets, Hoboken, New Jersey

Ukrainian National Home

The kielbasa comes with sauerkraut, potatoes, and mushroom gravy.
The kielbasa comes with sauerkraut, potatoes, and mushroom gravy.

Once there were a dozen Ukrainian restaurants in the East Village; now only three remain. This one is cheaper, more rustic, and less artsy than the other two (Veselka and Odessa), with a menu containing fewer modern notions. The location is hidden behind the Sly Fox Bar in the same building as the Ukrainian Credit Union, and in common with the former, it has a full liquor license, which means you can have a cocktail with your kielbasa, goulash, stuffed cabbage, chicken Kiev, or potato-and-cheese pierogi. Portions are massive and prices are reasonable for a full-service, sit down restaurant. 140 Second Ave., between Saint Marks Place and 9th Street

Tandir Rokhat

This very small café on Brooklyn’s Coney Island Avenue has a very inexpensive and enjoyable menu. Descended from Central Asian tea houses, the place showcases a tile tandoori oven, and offers various salads, breads, and other baked goods, some generated in the oven, which engagingly spews flames as you eat. The lamb kebab is a gigantic shank that has been sliced before serving and tastes like the mutton barbecue of Owensboro, Kentucky. It is served on a bed of non toki, a parabolic cracker much like a matzo, and alongside come various vegetable salads. 2678 Coney Island Ave., between Avenue X and Desmond Court, Sheepshead Bay

The lamb kebab is smoky from the tandoori oven.
The lamb kebab is smoky from the tandoori over.

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