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.
There’s no place in the five boroughs quite like Peking BBQ. First off, this restaurant in Woodside not far from the LIRR station looks like a typical Chinese carryout from the outside, but just inside the front door are the rotisseries loaded with whole chickens and racks of pork ribs that characterize Andean barbecues. Is it a chifa, which is what Chinese-Peruvian cafes are called? Well, not quite, but the restaurant — which is deep and narrow, with an industrial décor reminiscent of a school basement — is a wondrous hybrid.
Sure the rotisserie chickens are great, spice rubbed and furnished with the usual green dipping sauce, which is mainly chiles and mayo. But the ribs are even better, with flavorful, richly textured flesh that doesn’t automatically pull from the bone, though they require a little tooth work. Those two specialties are offered on a multiplicity of bargain plans that often include salad and french fries, fried rice, or rice and beans. Besides that, the menu also offers stir fries, lo meins, sweet and sour dishes, and a whole section entitled “Broccoli.” 58-11 Woodside Ave., between 39th Avenue and 39th Road, Woodside
DF Nigerian Gourmet
Most days, this van parks in front of the Nigerian Consulate near the corner of 44th Street and Second Avenue between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., but you should call 718-451-6330 to be certain. Via a caterer of the same name (DF stands for “Divine Flavored”), it vends a dizzying array of dishes from the West African country, including the peanut dusted kebabs called suya, joloff rice topped with chicken, meat and fish with sauces made from crushed melon seeds or okra, English snacks like meat pies and sausage rolls, and a wonderful dish of fried plantains matched with chicken gizzards, with the memorable name of “gizzdodo.” 828 Second Ave., between 44th and 45th streets, Midtown
BBQ Olive Chicken
A neon sign reading “Best of the Best Quality” blazes against the exposed brick wall of 32nd Street restaurant BBQ Olive Chicken. This Seoul chain, which counts over 1,000 stores in Asia, Africa, and England, was recently touted on a Korean TV soap called Goblin, hence its current popularity. The café showcases fried chicken in several flavors fried in olive oil, including golden olive spicy, soy garlic, teriyaki, curry, and Jamaica. Though the chicken isn’t prepared to order as at many Korean chains, it’s good anyway, fried in advance and deposited in a series of hot reach-in cases in a variety of formats: some over rice, some featuring complete chicken pieces, and some wrapped up in rice balls. The one I liked on a first visit was the “hot spicy chicken sandwich” on a sweet bun for around $6. The kimchee and slaw are extra, and beer is available. 25 West 32nd St., between Fifth Avenue and Broadway, Koreatown