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. Prices range because the term “cheap eats” is relative, but a meal can be obtained here for less than $20. Find the back catalog here. Also consult the bigger cheap eats guide, with maps, walking tours, and other resources.
Bravo African Restaurant
Though West 116th Street in Harlem has harbored one of our original West African communities since the late 1980s, by 2010 or so gentrification had caused many of the principally Senegalese and Guinean immigrants to move to Soundview in the Bronx, located along the 6 train route. Bravo is a five-year-old Senegalese restaurant that represents the result of that urban migration. While most of the earliest Senegalese restaurants had little in the way of creature comforts, Bravo has a large storefront, comfortable furniture, and a printed menu, most of which is available on a daily basis.
One can get a French breakfast there of buttered baguette and coffee, or a lunch featuring traditional Senegalese dishes such as thiebou djenn (fish and vegetables over flavored rice) or lamb mafe (in a thick peanut butter and tomato sauce). Harder to find dishes in this category include suppu kandja, fish and lamb cooked in an okra sauce glistening with palm oil, served with a mountain of rice and Scotch bonnet pepper. For lovers of okra, suppu kandia is unbeatable — and a powerful demonstration of the links between African and African-American cooking.
Dinner runs to the fried fowl called pintade, grilled lamb chops, or a Moroccan-style lamb shank. Check out the glass case on the counter for snacks like fataya, which are fried turnovers of fish or lamb. A few Guinean dishes such as sauce de feuille, a sauce made of sweet potato or manioc leaves, are offered, with giant lunches clocking in at $11, and some dinners, too. Open till 3 a.m., seven days. 1473 Westchester Ave., between Evergreen and Colgate avenues, Soundview
As a kid going to high school in Dallas, I ate miles upon miles of hot links, a spicy red sausage with an artificial casing cooked over charcoal and served on a bun with barbecue sauce. It was often the principal culinary offering of roadside convenience stores, then called “ice houses.” Imagine my surprise finding it again at Au Jus, an Upper East Side carryout that partly specializes in Oklahoma-style barbecue. The smoked sausage ($10.95) comes on two small rolls with melted cheese and chicharrones for crunch, and though the presentation is fussier that I remember from North Texas, the sandwiches are really great, smoky and juicy. Other choices at this palace of meat founded by Mohamed Kerikar and Philip Bozzo include corned beef, pulled pork, and roast beef and lamb. For vegetarians, there’s a grilled portobello. 1762 First Ave., between 91st and 92nd streets, Upper East Side
Minar Kabab Tikka Corner
This halal butcher shop and grocery in Jersey City’s India Square sports a kebabery in the front window, where wonderful brochettes are cooked over flame on a grill and in a clay tandoor oven. Consisting of a leg and thigh quarter, the chicken tandoori is probably the best in the city. The pieces are often cooked to order, and the poultry flesh turns out pink and fragrant. You get two pieces for $5.99, served with salad, onions, spicy green chutney, and a lemon wedge. Lamb kebabs, pomfret fish, quail, and two types of chicken tikka also available at Minar Kabab Tikka Corner, and so is seating along a counter that provided a view of the kitchen. 771 Newark Ave., between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Herbert Place, Jersey City, NJ