The four-cheese mac-and-cheese at Macaroni Macaroni is engagingly crunchy.
If you haven’t been on the stretch of MacDougal Street between Houston and West 4th in a while, you need to pay a visit. This student haunt and historic refuge of bohos from John Reed to Bob Dylan has lately become the city’s biggest open-air food court, with a whopping 34 dining establishments, most of them on the middle block north of Bleecker. And many of the eats are incredibly cheap, too. So put on your bib and dive in!
10. Four Cheese Mac-and-Cheese at Macaroni Macaroni — This place can’t decide whether it wants to be a pizza parlor or a mac-and-cheese place. No matter, the simpler mac-and-cheese formulations are by far the best, including the one illustrated above, which contains four cheeses (cheddar, muenster, romano, and Velveeta — well, three cheeses, at least). The top is nicely crumbed for extra crunch, and the smallest size makes a nice lunch. 120 MacDougal Street, 212-260-2653
9. Hamburger at Minetta Tavern — There are two hamburgers, of course, at this Keith McNally bar and restaurant formed from the ruins of an ancient Greenwich Village Italian tavern. Go for the Minetta Burger, rather than the more expensive Black Label, and enjoy a bulbous, juicy creation topped with aged cheddar and oodles of caramelized onions. Go early or very late, or it’s difficult to get into this tumultuous space, which looks so quiet and innocent from the outside. 113 MacDougal Street, 212-475-3850
8. Vegetarian Platter at Mamoun’s Falafel — This beloved dining stall was the first to bring falafel sandwiches to the metropolitan area, founded as the first branch of a New Haven, Connecticut, establishment in 1971. And budget dining in the city has never been the same. Our favorite meal here is the vegetarian platter, which allows a choice of three dishes, served with a tahini-dressed salad and pair of warm pitas. 119 MacDougal Street, 212-674-8685
Mamoun’s — Village cheap-eats stalwart since 1971
7. Sicilian Slice at Artichoke Pizza — We’ve already extolled the wonderful Sicilian slice at Artichoke Basille pizzeria, which now has several branches in downtown Manhattan. The square slice is glossed with olive oil, deploys great cheese and a sprightly tomato sauce, and is much better-tasting than the vaunted artichoke slice, which seems to be drowning in what might as well be canned cream of artichoke soup. 111 MacDougal Street, 646-278-6100
6. Masala French Fries at Chipsy — As with Pommes Frites in the East Village, the fried potato fingers are twice-fried in the Belgian manner, but, somehow, here they seem less greasy, and the potato inside has a finer texture. Skip the charge-added sauces, and have these french fries sprinkled with Indian masala powder, and you’ll have one of the city’s great cross-cultural snacks. 99 MacDougal Street, 212-244-7799
5. Spicy Brisket Bahn Mi at Saigon Shack — Brisket on a banh mi may sound like an odd idea, but it works perfectly at this combination bar, pho shop, and sandwich parlor. The meat has been long and lovingly stewed, much of the fat left intact for richness, and the usual pickled and shredded vegetables added, along with jalapeños at your discretion. It’s as if Katz’s Deli were located in Ho Chi Minh City. 114 MacDougal Street, 212-228-0588
4. Malai Chicken Roll at Thelewala — The explosion of places serving Indian urban street snacks has been a boon to the New York habit of walking and eating at the same time (and sometimes talking simultaneously on the cell phone, too). Thelewala cooks up the street food of Calcutta, and it’s no Black Hole — the Malai chicken roll is a splendid wrap-up of flatbread, pulled poultry, fried eggs, spices, and purple onions, and you won’t go away hungry. 112 MacDougal Street, 212-614-9100
3. Yellowtail and Avocado Crudo at Mermaid Oyster Bar — The most recent branch of the East Village Mermaid franchise comes alive at happy hour, when East Coast oysters cost just $1 apiece, and there are all sorts of drink specials, too. But what we enjoyed most was a yellowtail crudo: boxcars of raw fish interspersed with perfectly ripe avocado, for a terrain by turns squishy, briny, slippery, and firm. 79 MacDougal Street, 212-260-0100
2. Lamb Shawarma Sandwich at King Falafel — Though the late lamented Yatagan is gone from the block between Bleecker and West 3rd Street, the chevron of delicious greasy meat has been hoisted by King Falafel. The potentate twirls a shawarma cylinder of chewy lamb fragments (no composed meat here), cut with a generous hand into a bulging pita with roughage, tahini, and — at your request — a blistering hot sauce. 119 MacDougal Street, 212-674-8685
King Falafel also offers some impressive pastries.
1. Mallawah Press Toast at Creperie — This branch of the yellow-awninged chainlet inherited the brief menu of a previous place specializing in Israeli “press toast” — a flaky flatbread wrapped around a variety of ingredients, which is then pressed into groovy oblivion in a hot sandwich press. The mallawah features sliced egg, sharp olives, Swiss cheese, hot pepper sauce, and zaatar seasoning, and it’s a wonderful hammer blow to the tongue. 112 MacDougal Street, 212-253-6705
This unprepossessing premises offers our number-one thing to eat on MacDougal Street.