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.
In the first decade of the new century, tiny WaFa’s occupied two locations in Forest Hills, only to close in 2016 after becoming a neighborhood fixture for affordable Lebanese eats from a limited menu. By last year it had reopened in East Williamsburg, just above the fourth stop into Brooklyn on the L. The menu was expanded, and the dining room even more so. Now, outsize shawarma sandwiches of lamb or chicken rolled in pita and dabbed with garlicky toum are recommended, and so are vegetarian combo platters that might include makdous (pickled eggplants stuffed with walnuts), moussaka (eggplant, chickpea, and tomato casserole), and little spinach pies. 812 Grand St., between Bushwick Avenue and Humboldt Street, East Williamsburg
Ebe Ye Yie
Though downhill from the more popular Le Papaye — which sits right on Grand Concourse in the Bronx’s Fordham Heights — Ebe Ye Yie is the older Ghanaian restaurant, and one of the city’s earliest West African eating establishments, founded about two decades ago. The interior is uncommonly comfortable, dark except for a wavy piece of blue neon art on the walls, which are also decorated with original folk paintings and West African stringed instruments. A woman named Fatima doubles as chef and waiter, and she opens the place soon after 12 p.m. every day.
Putting a Ghanaian meal together usually involves selecting a starch ball that can be made with plantains or white yams (fufu), millet or maize (tuo zaafi), or rice pounded so the grains nearly disappear (omo tuo). These are matched with a soup, which in our case was a thick stew of mutton and dried fish flecked with thickened with the crushed melon seeds called egusi and dotted with bitter leaf, an herb. A friend and I also enjoyed a wonderfully slippery cow foot soup, and wache, a casserole of rice and beans topped with chicken and shito — the chile paste that Ghanaians often use to ramp of their already spicy food. Lunch or dinner at Ebe Ye Yie is a leisurely and satisfying experience. 2364 Jerome Ave., at East 184th Street, Fordham Heights
Terrace Fish & Chips
Way, way downtown near South Ferry is the last place you might look for a fish and chips shop, the kind often found in Harlem. This tiny closet, across a pleasant terrace from the Eater HQ, specializes in seafood fried to order, with a very crisp crust that keeps even flaky fillets fully intact. Sure the shrimp, clams, and even the abject crab sticks are good, but best of all, as in Harlem, are the whiting fillets, two to an order and sided with a too-big heap of fries (or salad, at your request). And the flounder is nearly whiting’s equal, flavorwise. 77 Pearl St., between Stone and Pearl streets, Financial District