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 50 Cheap Eats Destinations in NYC.
If you like meat and lots of it in your lunch special, Turkish newcomer Harmony Grill is your place. Located across the street from Penn Station, the place flaunts a pair of gyro cylinders (also known as doner in Turkey and shawarma in the Middle East) twirling like pirouetting dancers in the front window. A peek inside the glass case reveals more kebabs, including lamb shish kebab, and even better, lamb or chicken adana kebabs laced with garlic, chiles, and herbs. Plenty for vegetarians, too, running to eggplant salads, stuffed grape leaves, and a baby eggplant stew called bamya.
But what draws first timers in is the lunch special, whereby a gyro sandwich with plenty of meat and greenery in a pita is served with a mountains of crinkle cut fries and a canned beverage of your choice for $8. The chicken doner is better than the lamb, and for an extra buck, you can have a larger sandwich wrapped cylindrically in Turkish bread, which is something like a flour tortilla. 252 W. 31st St., between Seventh and Eighth avenues, Chelsea
This lovable neighborhood bar two blocks south of Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick has a distinguished list of beers in cans and on tap, cheap well drinks during happy hour, and a homey ambiance that keeps the regulars coming back. One more thing: It boasts the best approximation of Connecticut-style pizza in the borough of Brooklyn. The clam pie special is a masterpiece of cheesy bivalves, with a lemon perched in the middle, while excellent pepperoni and vegetarian pies are available by the slice. Hot grinders (subs), pastas, and small plates complete the menu, which may seem ambitious for a small neighborhood bar, but everything I’ve tried there in two visits has been great. 128 Central Ave., at Starr Street, Bushwick
Dosa Royale Counter
The stuffed and rolled (or folded) pancake called masala dosa is not as easy to find in the city as it ought to be, and one is usually well advised to go to Murray Hill, Eastern Queens, or various parts of Jersey to find it. But a fast food counter that’s an offshoot of Clinton Hill’s Dosa Royale in the half-empty Bowery Market provides them at a reasonable price of $8. Choose from five fillings, and the dosa will be cooked on the griddle as you hungrily watch. It’s served with sambar (a lentil soup) and two chutneys. Samosas, curry platters, and sodas also available. 348 Bowery, at 8 Great Jones Street, NoHo