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. Also consult the compact guide and map 60 Cheap Eats Destinations You Should Know About in NYC.
Founded in 1988, Galicia is a Spanish restaurant just north of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Washington Heights that specializes in the food of Galicia, with some Dominican flourishes, making it unique in the city and a wonderful place. The furnishings include Galician sports pennants and painted seaside village-scapes, and the iconic caldo Gallego, a soup from the Spanish region containing white beans, kale, and pig foot, is not to be missed. Other specialties include Galician-style steamed mussels, octopus salad, veal in lemon sauce, and garlic chicken. The restaurant is threatened with closure due to rising rents, so visit sooner than later. 4083 Broadway, between 172nd and 173rd streets, Washington Heights
This multi-branch Jersey chain includes a location in Jersey City, just a couple of blocks from the PATH station at Journal Square. The strictly vegetarian menu describes itself as “modern Indian fast food,” which means chaats and pav-based snacks from Mumbai, some Amritsari and Gujarati specialties (including a lovely Gujarati thali), Indian-Chinese fare like Manchurian fried rice, South Indian dosas and their ilk, and the sweets called mithias, which are prominently displayed in a series of glass cases.
On weekend afternoons the place is hopping, with shoppers who throng Newark Avenue’s India Square to stock up on bulk spices, boxes of mangoes, and the vegetables that are unique to Indian markets, including snake gourd, bitter melon, and tindora, which is like a small cucumber. You can drop into Mithaas for a cup of masala tea and a couple of samosas, or for a giant meal presented on a metal tray called a thali. Don’t miss Mithaas’ special thali of the day, which often includes some surprises among its dozen or so curries, condiments, and breads. 795 Newark Ave., at Liberty Avenue, Jersey City, NJ
Consider the conkie. This coconut-laced cornmeal pudding studded with raisins comes wrapped in a banana leaf, and makes a great breakfast or dessert. It is only one dish of a wonderland of interesting Barbadian cuisine at Culpepper’s, the city’s foremost Bajan restaurant. The national dish of flying fish and coucou (an African-leaning mash dotted with okra) is ably turned out, and so are many other seagoing specialities. Rotis and jerk chicken and the tamale-like conkies are also available, and save some room for baked goods, which include lead pipe, a baton of sweet dough that lives up to its name. 1082 Nostrand Ave., at East New York Avenue, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens