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.
The name seems a bit inauspicious for a noodle shop, one of dozens to hit the area between Wall Street and Midtown over the last couple of years. The place has a boxy, cluttered quality, with a modest amount of seating scattered around a room that’s also stacked with boxes of Taiwanese noodles. But this spot turns out to be one of the best in town when it comes to the excellence and affordability of its noodles.
The noodles are mainly rice and can be ordered dry or in soups, from an affable guy behind the counter who is joined in that space by an inspired cook. Priced at $7.99, the bowls offer a choice of spicy chicken, lamb, or beef. Lamb is preferred, described in the front window as “mutton vermicelli.” It’s something of a specialty of the house; order “spicy” and you get chile oil, chile flakes, and Sichuan peppercorn oil. While these constituted a very filling meal, it’s hard to ignore the great snacking and appetizing dishes, which include bitter melon, pig foot, spicy tofu, and killer scallion pancakes, quaintly described as “green onion pie.” Tired of noodles? Go for the chicken fried rice. 134 East 27th St., between Lexington and Third avenues, Murray Hill
Devin’s Fish and Chips
Since 2001, Devin’s has been a fixture of its Harlem neighborhood on the edge of Sugar Hill. It’s a small and charming fried fish joint that specializes in whiting sandwiches, fried shrimp, and whole porgies, on a menu with a few Dominican flourishes. A kitchen fire closed the place in 2014, only to reopen three years later, still under the watchful eye of owners Anthony Robinson and Debra Salichs. Now, the menu is more vegetable intensive, steamed fish is available as readily as fried, and the interior has been spruced up and made more comfortable, with a tiny dining room at the end of a long counter. There are fried fish combos fit for more than one person, but the solo diner can still go for the epic fried whiting sandwich, which boasts three perfectly cooked filets. Load on the tartar sauce! 747 St. Nicholas Ave., between 147th and 148th streets, Hamilton Heights
Helena Fabiankovic and Robert Gardiner opened Baba’s (a common Eastern European word meaning “grandmother”) in 2015, concentrating on the stuffed dumpling called pierogi, either fried or steamed. And what a range of pierogis was available: commonplaces like potato, cheese, and sauerkraut, but also such oddball varieties as mac and cheese and jalapeño. Multiple sauces and dips available at a slight extra charge, but you can also order other Balkan-leaning dishes like kielbasy sliders, bite-size schnitzels, and plain but satisfying ham sandwiches. 295 Third Ave., between Carroll and First streets, Gowanus