I love restaurant hopping. Whenever a friend visits from Los Angeles, I’ll take them on an extensive eating tour of the East Village where we’ll eat at four to five restaurants consecutively without stopping. My only condition: We can only order one dish between the two of us to share.
By the end of the evening, we’re stuffed to the brim, and my guest is sufficiently exposed to the different cuisines and restaurant atmospheres the area has to offer–without having to dish out an insane amount of money.
Here are our picks of great unique places in the East Village to go restaurant hopping. Most of these are order-at-the-counter, which means no tip required and less strain on the wallet.
10. Mamoun’s Falafel
Ah. The quintessential drunk food. Mamoun’s iconic $2.50 falafel will draw a long line of New Yorkers and tourists alike everyday of the week. Truth be told, it doesn’t have the best falafel in New York City like it claims–but it’s the value and quick service that makes the joint worth stopping by.
9. Pommes Frites
You can’t go wrong with fries. Beware of the long lines past 9 p.m., but the Belgian steak fries here are crisp to perfection and fried when ordered. The regular size, at $4.50, is more than enough for two. Pair them with the Vietnamese pineapple mayo and the sweet mango chutney sauce for a slightly sweet and salty combination.
Peels is a great place to stop for brunch, and its build-a-biscuit option is a hearty choice that is sure to jump-start your day. The buttermilk biscuit starts at $3, and additional ingredients range from $0.50 (red-eye gravy) to $3 (local organic scrambled egg).
7. Xi’an Famous Foods
Try deviating a little from the typical Sichuan and American-Chinese fare in Manhattan with this restaurant. The joint draws inspiration from Xi’an, a province in China. It serves up Western Chinese comfort food and is known for its lamb burgers ($3) and hand-pulled noodles ($6-$7).
6. Caracas Arepa Bar
Arepas are Venezuelan tapas. Think corn-flour rounds stuffed with beans, chicken, and guacamole paired with a spicy hot sauce. The line here can get really long, but thankfully they have an entire section devoted to takeout. We recommend the Da Pabellon (shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese, and sweet plantains) for $7.50.
Chances are you’ve never had Sri Lankan food before Sigiri. Well, neither did we. The portion sizes here are more than enough for two. Everything is family-style. The chicken lamprais ($15.25) will give you a well-rounded first-time experience. It’s rice served with chicken, fish cutlet, boiled egg, ash plantains, and eggplant wrapped in a banana leaf.
4. Crif Dogs
Crif Dogs is another one of those late night post-drinking spots, but there’s a reason the tables are always full. They offer creative takes on the classic hot dog like their Jon-Jon Deragon (cream cheese, scallions, and everything bagel seeds) for $3.75.
3. Panna II
This BYOB is insane. Although the food is standard Indian fare, the main draw here is the atmosphere. You’ll feel like you stepped into Christmas with the dangling lights and seizure-inducing decorations. It can get a bit claustrophobic in here, but head in with a plus one, bring a bottle of booze, and tell the servers it’s your birthday. The entire restaurant will turn into a light show.
Get your takoyaki, yakisoba, and okonomiyaki fix here. Otafuku is literally a hole in the wall. The takoyaki, or octopus balls, goes for $5 for six pieces and comes out creamy and piping hot.
It’s only open during select hours during the weekend, but this hidden Ukrainian kitchen serves up varenyky, borscht, and stuffed cabbages for cheap prices. It wins our nomination for best cheap, unique eat simply because you can order the entire menu for under $20.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 18, 2012