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.
While most Salvadoran restaurants in town are small cafes and snack shops that do a few soups, some pupusas, and maybe a fried pork dish or two, Bahia is different. This East Williamsburg mainstay has morphed into a full blown Latin restaurant that also caters to a variety of neighborhood denizens, including Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Italians. The menu offers an extensive seafood selection in Mexican, Sicilian, Spanish, and Central American styles, as well as pastas and burgers.
But turn to the Taste of Salvador section for some of the most arresting fare. There are wonderful Salvadoran chicken or beef enchiladas, which are almost like tostadas and sluiced with the tomato salsa called chirmol. Sweet corn tamales that look like little deep fried fritters are available as well; take a bite and crema spills out. Available in 10 varieties, the pupusas are one of the neighborhood’s favorite grab-and-go snacks, and yuca con chicharron (fried pork and manioc strewn with lightly pickled purple onions) has rarely been done so well. 690 Grand St., between Manhattan and Graham avenues, Williamsburg
The Roman type of pizza called the “pinsa” has become increasingly popular but is still not super common in NYC. The square pies have a mixed-flour crust, undergo a 48-hour period of rising, provide a fairly wild-ass choice of toppings, and come out lush and crunchy with toasted cheese spilled over the edge. Located only the steps away from the 72nd Street express subway station, My Pie Pizzeria Romana provides these delectable pizzas at slightly less than $5 per double slice, which is quite a bargain. I particularly liked the zucchini artichoke and the parma prosciutto cotto, topped with smoked ham. But I’m also interested in the potato rosemary and — straying quite far from Rome — the chicken buffalo. Italian sodas and several desserts also available. 166 West 72nd St., at Broadway, Upper West Side, or 690 Lexington Ave., at East 57th Street, Midtown East
There are many cafes called Oasis in the five boroughs, and this might be the least well-known. I was drawn inside by the facade’s strange ornamentation, including stunted Gothic spires and palm fronds, in an architectural style that went out with the horse and buggy. Perhaps the menu tries to do too much, because pizza, rotisserie chicken and ribs, Greek and Middle Eastern specialties, and Latin steam table classics are all offered. But if you stick with the cut price lamb gyro, you can’t go wrong. The shaved meat is piled in a pita with all the usual roughage, and plenty of raw onions and tzatziki — all for $6.43. Pizza’s pretty good, too, and Oasis remains open till 2 a.m. every night, which is quite an asset in its Western Queens neighborhood. 40-02 Queens Blvd., at 40th Street, Sunnyside