Get this Korean fried assortment for less than $5 at Boon Sik Zip.
Despite the upscaling of restaurants in general, and common foodstuffs in particular, there is still hope for eating some great stuff, even if you aren’t rich. We set ourselves the challenge of finding the best meals $5 or under, and this is what we came up with. Please tell us of similar places that you like. If we visit and do a piece – you’ll get credit for it among the dancing electrons of Fork in the Road.
10. Deep Fried Assortment at Boon Sik Zip in Food Gallery 32 – This open-late Korean food court is a wonderland of cheap eats, and it’s hard to spend $10 here. Yet, our $5 limit was something of a challenge, until we stumbled on this amazing $4.99 assortment of tempura-fried food, including squid, white sweet potato, pumpkin, and vermicelli-filled kelp rolls. With the dipping sauce, it makes a very cheery and nutritious meal. 11 West 32nd Street, 212-967-1678
9. Falafel at Oasis – Yes, you can get a cheaper falafel than the one here that costs $3, but you can’t get a better or bigger one. This beauty has three big balls, pickled cabbage, tahini, hot sauce, and various other roughages on a pita soft enough to be a winter mitten. Will it fill you up? I defy you to finish it! 161 North Seventh Street, Brooklyn, 718-218-7607
8. Quarter chicken at 2 Bros. – While this is one of the places offering 75 cent pizza, another specialty has recently appeared on the counter – a quarter roasted chicken, annealed with either plain, jerk, or barbecue sauces. The birds are baked in the pizza oven, then kept warm in the steam cabinet, so the flesh becomes even more tender. With as much yellow rice studded with vegetables as you want to eat. The price? $2! 1015 Sixth Avenue, 212-575-1216
7. Swedish meat balls at IKEA – Disappointed in me for including this place? If you have a yen for the salty and oniony meats, this set meatball meal will provide total satisfaction. And the price is right: $3.99, except at special times of the week, when it’s $2.49. Check website. And the dining room is nice enough for a date. 1 Beard Sreet, Brooklyn, 718-246-IKEA
6. Chile Relleno Taco at Tacos Cachanilla – The tacos placeros that have been popping up in taquerias and in Mexican eats trucks are one hell of a deal. This one ($5) features a cheese-stuffed and freshly fried Poblano pepper of humongous dimensions in a homemade tortilla the size of a vinyl record album. And to top off your hunger, the ‘effin thing is also filled with rice, sauteed chiles, and French fries! 5807 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-492-4369
5. Peanut Noodles at Yi Zhang – Also for $2 is a plate of good German egg noodles inundated with a thick peanut sauce. This utterly satisfying dish is found, not in a Yorkville German restaurant, but at a cheap Fujianese joint on the edges of Chinatown. If you still have the heart of a kid, the peanut butter noodles are so for you. 9 Eldridge Street, 212-961-6151
4. Indian Fritters at Mumbai Grill’s Sweets Shop — Nothing skirts the healthy/unhealthy divide, or fills you up, like Indian bhajias. Start out with something wholesome, like shredded root vegetables or potatoes and peas, dip them in a thick lentil batter, then fry the hell out of them. The result is bready and tasty and filled with vegetable goodness. The collection seen above is $2, served with two chutneys. 37-33 74th Street, Queens, 718-205-7577
3. 75-Cent Pizza at Bombay Fast Food/Pizza King — Finally, we get to the 75 cent pizza. Yes, most bargain pizza is one dollar per slice. This is no better, but is eminently edible, and the cheapness is shocking. This is what pizza used to be all about – a salty, doughy chew and a warm feeling in your stomach. 1013 Sixth Avenue, 212-840-3767
2. Peking Duck at Corner 28 – This is one of the most heralded cheap eats in town, and one I’ve been enjoying since the window opened over 5 years ago. A perfect serving of Peking duck – skin, brown flesh, hoisin, with yellow chives – is deposited in a Taiwanese-style steamed roll, and Voila! At $1 apiece, you could try to eat five, but two or three make a perfect meal. 40-28 Main Street, Queens, 718-886-6628
1. Four Dishes Over Rice With Soda or Soup at Mei Wei Kitchen – Yowza! For $4.50 the volume of food is extraordinarily large, you realize as the attendant heaps rice on your giant Styrofoam compartmentalized plate and hands it to you with an offer to cruise the steam table, which presents over three dozen dishes, many of them proteinaceous. Anything freshly fried is fine, and there are plenty of greens, stir fries, and cold dishes, most in a Taiwanese, Korean, or Cantonese vein. 8253 Broadway, Queens, 718-205-7571
And now, one more amazing deal for you downtown Manhattanites
0. Charcuterie at Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food – One of the Lower East Side’s best kept secrets, this roast meat stall attracts a clientele that includes all races and national identities, who line up for the gigantic $4 carryout containers with a choice of two meats over rice with bok choy or other steamed vegetable. My choice: duck and roast pig (not the red-red “roast pork”). Go across the street to Sara D Roosevelt Park to eat it. 79 Chrystie Street, 212-925-5175
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