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 50 Cheap Eats Destinations in NYC.
Damas Falafel House
Though the backyard is not yet in operation for the season, this modest Lebanese spot with a nice slender dining room is cranking out great food at bargain prices, mainly for the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill carryout trade. Take one look at the kebabs in the glass case, or the pristine composed salads, or the unusually well stocked pastry case, and you’ll see what I mean.
Listen carefully to my advice: Kebabs featuring whole pieces of meat tend to be dry, but anything ground is much juicier, such as chicken or lamb kafta kebabs, as well as merguez and the meat-stuffed, cracked-wheat kibbeh, often called the national dish of Lebanon. Sandwiches in pitas are a steal, with platters that feature the same meats twice as expensive, but with the inclusion of a side salad assortment, hummus, and a mountain of rice, those platters easily feed two. A vegetable platter highlighting falafel, fava beans, and stuffed grape leaves is also well worth trying, and save room for desserts. 407 Myrtle Ave., between Vanderbilt and Clinton avenues, Clinton Hill
Chong Qing Xiao Mian
Chinese noodles are taking the East Village by storm, becoming one of the predominant restaurant types — many of them good for a fast meal at a fair price. This offshoot of a Hell’s Kitchen cafe specializes in noodle soups, most of them spicy, some featuring Sichuan peppercorns. Noodles come in two forms, one shaped like spaghetti and made from wheat, the other known as peel noodles, which were unavailable on my visit. But how could I avoid getting something called “beef viscera noodle”? The broth was fragrant with aromatic spices, and a slick of chile oil graced the top. Cilantro was thrown in by the handful, and there was plenty of tripe, but the tendon promised by the menu was lacking. The other half of the bill of fare offers Sichuan stews called mao cai at slightly higher prices, a dish that originated in Chengdu. Dumplings and cold vegetable apps also available. 82 Second Ave., between 4th and 5th streets, East Village
Oh boy! If you’ve never been to Gottscheer Hall, you’ve got a treat in store. Name checking the Slovenian region of Gottschee (with which Melania Trump reportedly has ancestral connections), Gottscheer Hall was founded in 1924, and still caters to the fading Teutonic community of this corner of Ridgewood. Photos of the smiling winners of the Miss Gottschee beauty pageant line the walls of the anteroom, a stairway heads up to a banquet hall that seems filled with ghostly music, and the serviceable bar offers a selection of German and American beers. There’s a short food menu that includes wursts, pierogi, goulash, spaetzle, and some of the best potato pancakes you’ve ever tasted, flecked with onions and sided with sour cream and applesauce. 657 Fairview Ave., between Linden Street and Gates Avenue, Ridgewood