Three Great Cheap, a sporadically appearing series from critic Robert Sietsema that seeks to find and popularize New York City’s cheapest and most interesting food in the five boroughs and beyond, is now going weekly. Also consult the compact guide and map 60 Cheap Eats Destinations You Should Know About in NYC.
Singh’s Roti Shop and Bar
A community of Guyanese immigrants have settled in South Richmond Hill, Queens and established several restaurants, bars, and roti shops serving their cuisine, which represents a mixture of Indian, African, and Chinese elements, all wonderfully transformed from the originals.
A splendid example is Singh’s Roti Shop and Bar, a large, well-lit, and colorful café that offers the wrapped flatbread meals called rotis, with a longer list of main ingredient choices than anywhere else in town. These run to goat, chicken, tripe, saltfish, duck, and a dozen other possibilities. Roti fillings also incorporate a potato and garbanzo curry, tamarind and “pepper” (chile) sauces, and an optional extra vegetable such as pumpkin or pureed greens. Other menu highlights: the blood sausage called black pudding, “shark bake” beach sandwiches, and doubles — a pair of small pooris flopped over a chick pea curry. Chinese lo mein and fried rice also available, in addition to Latin style roast pork. 13118 Liberty Ave., between 132nd and 131 streets, South Richmond Hill, Queens
After years, Hwa Yuan has reopened on East Broadway in Chinatown, recreating some of the city’s earliest Sichuan food. Its offshoot Shorty Tang’s is located right across the street from the Google offices in Chelsea, where you can get very fine renditions of some of chef Tang’s less expensive creations, including the city’s best cold sesame noodles and wonderful wontons in hot oil, incorporating a dab of bean paste added. The rest of the menu fills out not with Sichuan standards, but with dim sum as well as Taiwanese and Japanese fare, including beef noodle soup, fried calamari, seaweed salad, and ramen with a chicken broth. 98 8th Ave., near West 15th Street, Chelsea
While parts of middle Queens are paved with Peruvian rotisseries, this type of cheap and convenient restaurant is sadly lacking in Staten Island. That’s why the advent of Cuzco, located in a strip shopping center (with parking!) right on Forest Avenue not far from Clove Lakes Park comes as such a welcome surprise. The spice-rubbed roast chickens are indeed up to par, served with the usual green spicy sauce, and all the other culinary standards are available from a concise menu that features jallea (a giant fried seafood assortment that easily feeds three and includes fried yuca), and tallarin, the Peruvian-Chinese noodles. 1190 Forest Ave, Staten Island, NY 10310, (718) 273-9430