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 slogan of Egg Mania, a cafe devoted to eggs on the side streets of Jersey City’s India Square, is “Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande,” or “Whether it’s Sunday or Monday, have an egg every day.” The place was founded in 2016 by five friends, who missed the street food that was available when they were growing up. Predictably, the walls are painted yellow, and the lengthy menu touches on several categories that run from curries to biryanis to dishes normally found in a meat idiom, with ova — sometimes boiled and shredded, sometimes scrambled or served sunny side up — as a substitute.
The food is affordable and very, very good. Who could resist a dish called maniac curry? It featured sliced boiled eggs bobbing in a fiery red sauce that’s also slightly tart. As with many dishes at Egg Mania, it was served with raw onions and buttered slices of white bread toast. A friend and I also tried an intensely green biryani redolent of mint and curry leaves, as well as a dish called “desi kheemo” made with shredded boiled eggs in a sauce that was almost a paste — something like the Punjabi favorite keema, which is usually made with meat. A few paneer dishes without eggs are also available, as is a chicken dish or two that’s not on the regular menu, plus burritos and french toast. 14 Liberty Ave., between Newark and Van Winkle avenues, Jersey City
One of the most interesting inexpensive meals to hit the Macdougal Street strip just south of NYU in a long time is the kushari at Kusharista, a walk-up quick service restaurant that originated in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (the original is now closed). Sometimes called the Egyptian national dish and celebrated as a predominant form of street food, kushari consists of noodles, rice, chick peas, and lentils mixed into a kind of dry porridge and moistened with a tangy tomato sauce. The dish supposedly had its roots in India, and British colonization apparently had a hand in it, too. The bare-bones version at Kusharista — the brainchild of chef and owner Mohamed Momen — is spectacular in its own subtle way, but there are several other internationally inspired versions available. True to its fast-casual concept, you can also invent your own version of kushari, though I’d advise against it. 106 MacDougal St., between West 3rd and Bleecker streets, Greenwich Village
Informal Russian restaurant Stolovaya, hidden away in Homecrest, Brooklyn, flaunts its Soviet theme with hammer and sickle emblems and Leninist slogans — mainly for the purposes of nostalgia. The dumplings called vareniki and pelmeni are a specialty, offered with a choice of many fillings. The best include a mild sauerkraut, slippery mushrooms, and grainy and mellow veal, in that order of preference. The Georgian standard of chicken tabaka is particularly good here, and the charcoal grilled kebabs called shasliks are also well worth ordering. Finally, check out the generous pickle platter, with its ostentatious slice of pickled watermelon. 813 Ave. U, between East 8th and East 9th Streets, Homecrest