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.
Camillo in Flatbush is justifiably applauded for its Roman pinsas, oblong pies with a crust made from a mixed grain dough, then topped with oftentimes novel combinations of ingredients. The same pie in round form is a specialty of Park Slope’s Pinsa Lab, where pies are concocted as you watch, topped with ingredients that are sometimes prosaic, sometimes crazy. This is a playful pizza genre. You can order for carryout, or sit in the comfortable dining room, not far from Barclays Center.
Favorites include La Mexicana, which features jalapeno, roasted red bell peppers, and sausages; and the diavolo, which lubricates the crust with tomato sauce and then piles on the black olives and pepperoni. There are 26 pies total (not counting the ones you formulate), including three vegan pies and three dessert pies — all under $10 a piece. 86 Fifth Ave., between Saint Marks Place and Warren Street, Park Slope
This tiny combination deli (with only two counter seats) aimed at South Asians makes some pretty good food, at rock bottom prices. One specialty is haleem, a magical wiggly pudding of lentils, grains, and minced chicken. It tastes great scooped with naan or eaten over basmati, and leaves a glow on the lips. Other snacks and sweets available, including two types of samosa, dal, and a selection of kebabs. Milk based fudge-like desserts called barfi make a nice conclusion to a meal at Kharian Deli. 184 Seventh Ave., at 21st Street, Chelsea
Isan and other regional Thai fare has become commonplace around the city, in zingy renditions that don’t spare your tongue (or your wallet). As you contemplate dining at such hotspots as Ugly Baby and Uncle Boons, never forget their precursors and enablers — like Chao Thai, a tiny place in Elmhurst with a bright orange façade and relentlessly green interior. Bar snacks like barbecued pork and Isan sausage are served with shards of raw ginger and bird’s eye chiles, and any of the meat salads called larbs would make a nice focus of your meal. This old timer deserves a revisit. 85-03 Whitney Ave., between Broadway and Macnish Street, Elmhurst