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.
Horchata Deli Grocery
Named after a hot beverage made with rice and cinnamon, this corner Mexican deli-grocery boasts a complete line of dry goods and produce, a small cafe in its interior with three flower-bedecked tables, and a shed outside that’s part of the operation. Inside the shed, quesadillas and related antojitos are turned out on a griddle, then passed through a window into the store if you choose to eat inside the restaurant. Also available from the shed are a range of fresh squeezed juices. From that shed, a friend and I enjoyed the largest taco placeros we’d ever seen, enfolding an entire poblano chile stuffed with cheese and fried in batter, as well as yellow rice, a boiled egg, and a salad of cactus, cilantro, and onions. It was enough food for two.
As if that weren’t enough to attract you to the Horchata Deli Grocery, there’s a counter inside where tortas are fabricated, the Mexican sandwiches here made on an Italian bakery demi-baguette. The version featuring salchichas (hot dogs) and eggs was irresistible, slathered with red salsa and black beans, and loaded down with avocado and grated cheese. It would have made a perfect breakfast. Other tortas feature milanesa de res, carnitas, and — a surprise option — cochinita pibil, barbecued pork that’s a specialty of Yucatan. 90-02 37th Ave., at 90th Street, Jackson Heights
Ho May Kitchen
Located a short jog away from newish rock venue Brooklyn Steel in an obscure corner of East Williamsburg, Ho May Kitchen is a throwback to an earlier age. In addition to classic Chinese-American fare, it specializes in fried foods that include chicken, chicken gizzards, pork chops, and onion rings, all at rock bottom prices and quite good. The fried chicken sandwich, for example, is much bigger than Shake Shack’s or Chick-fil-A’s, with a fillet so long it sticks way out the ends of its sliced white bread. To sauce it, you must improvise with the condiments at hand, and a mixture of duck sauce and Chinese mustard does very nicely. The cost is $3.25. 100 Woodpoint Rd., at Frost Street, Williamsburg
Poseidon is named after the god of the sea, and the bakery, founded in 1923, is one of the city’s oldest Greek bakeries. Cookies and flaky pies, the latter both sweet and savory, are its specialties, and there’s a modest amount of counter seating if you want to refresh yourself on the premises and wash your meal down with an espresso-based beverage. Choices include spanakopita (spinach and feta), tiropita (several types of cheese seasoned with mint), a particularly good baklava, custard-stuffed galaktoboureko (my favorite), and several types of strudel. 629 Ninth Ave., between 44th and 45th streets, Hell’s Kitchen