At the newer, larger (20-seat) Baohaus, everyone's favorite chef-blogger and Four Loko supporter, Eddie Huang, is plating $2 bao, or buns. There's the fried chicken Birdhaus bao, the Broccolino bao (tempura broccoli, shitake mushrooms, daikon), and the more meal-worthy minced-pork stew on rice. We'd still be happy making a meal of four bao, though. (That's just $8!)
Birdhaus bao $5; minced pork with stew on rice $5.
238 East 14th Street (between 2nd and 3rd avenues); 646-669-8889
It looks like an old-school American diner, but it smells (and sounds) straight out of Havana. This Midtown joint offers Cuban sandwiches at its lunch counter, where cooks have assembled a mini-kitchen just for churning out porky delights. There's a makeshift griddle used for melting cheese onto each thick, white roll so they're good and crunchy before they're stuffed with meat and pickles. Cubano sandwich (includes soup or rice and beans), $9.
138 West 46th Street (between 6th and 7th avenues); 212-354-5013.
Above, Fisherman's Dawta.
While the space is new, the chef is not. Formerly at Brawta, Jennefier Ewers (this is not a typo) has been cooking Caribbean food in New York City for years. She and daughter Kamilah serve honest, tasty dishes—our favorite being jerk chicken with rice—at their new eatery. Enjoy your meal under the trees of their charming back patio. If you can swing it, we recommend the $4 ginger beer; it's actually ginger-y, not too sweet, and packs a nice little kick.
A plate of jerk chicken with rice and steamed cabbage, $10.
407 Atlantic Avenue (between Bond and Nevins streets); Brooklyn; 718-855-7555.
El Rey Del Sabor has been a favorite in the food-cart wars for the past few years. The owners grew up in Puebla, Mexico, so you know their tamales ($1.50), tortas ($6), chalupas ($7 for three), huaraches ($7), and enchiladas (three plus a side of beans and rice for $8!) are authentic. We go for the tongue or the vegetarian tacos, which are $2.50 each and drizzled with a sauce so hot, any signs off a cold will be banished by the time you're finished.
43rd Street (between 5th and 6th avenues): 60th Street
(between Lexington and 3rd avenues); 49th Street (between Lexington and
Above, The Hummus Place.
There are four Hummus Place locations in Manhattan, and the namesake dish is equally good at each of them. It comes topped with a variety of ingredients—tahini, sauteed mushrooms, fava beans, and hard-boiled egg. Our favorite is the classic, sprinkled with whole chick peas, olive oil, and spices. Another hearty main-dish of note is the shakshuka, a stew of tomatoes, peppers, onion, and eggplant, topped with over-easy eggs.
Hummus Masabacha $6.95, Shakshuka $7.95.
109 St. Mark's Place (between 1st Avenue and Avenue A);
212-529-9198; 71 7th Avenue South (at Bleecker Street); 212-924-2022;
2608 Broadway (between 98th and 99th streets); 212-222-1554; 305
Amsterdam Avenue (between West 74th and 75th streets); 212-799-3335.
Rai Rai Ken
There's a slight basement-funk smell to this East Village noodle shop, but pay it no mind. It's otherwise charming—and quietly Zen-like—with a solid-wood counter and a cozy miniature diningroom. (The counter, and one more mini-counter that seats three, is all there is.) The shio ramen is the reason to come: Salty, smoky, warm, and filling, it's a restorative meal.
Shio ramen, $8.50.
214 East 10th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues); 212-477-7030.
Above, Joe's Pizza.
Finer pizzas can be found in New York City, to be sure. But in the same way a Mars Bar sometimes satisfies a certain craving better than Mast Brothers' dark chocolate, sometimes you want a low-brow "cheese"-topped corner slice. During those times, look no further than Joe's, which makes the best of that breed of pizza. Sprinkle on some garlic salt, fold in half lengthwise, and nibble as you watch the West Village walk by out the front window.
Regular slice, $2.50.
7 Carmine Street (between Bleecker Street and 6th Avenue);
The Chicago-based sandwich chain has made its way to New York City (three times over now), with one shop conveniently located near Grand Central. But enough about geography—the sandwiches are great! Much better than your average Subway, but price-wise, pretty similar. Our favorite is the Italian, which comes with capicola, mortadella, pepperoni, salami, and provolone cheese for less than it costs to do a load of laundry in this town.
Italian sandwich, $5.80.
150 East 44th Street (between Lexington and 3rd Avenues);
646-289-4202; 101 Maiden Lane (between Pearl and Gold); 646-289-4201; and opening soon: 30 Rockefeller Center.
Union Square Greenmarket
Prepared-foods markets like Smorgasburg and the New Amsterdam Market abound, but don't forget about the good ol' greenmarket. Next time you're running an errand in Union Square, take a few minutes to grab a hunk of cheese and a bunch of grapes. Eat them then or pop them in your tote for later; either way, it's a cheap—and farm-fresh!—meal.
North and West sides of Union Square Park (around the corner of 17th
Street and Broadway).
SmashBurger's first New York location opened earlier this summer in Fort Greene, and we're thankful. Tasty $4.99 burgers are hard to come by these days. Here's what else is awesome about SmashBurger (aside from the prices): 1.) The burgers are never frozen and they're made of 100% certified Angus beef. 2.) They serve Brooklyn Lager. 3.) Their smashing technique ensures juiciness. 4.) The excellent fries are flecked with rosemary. When's the last time you saw that at a fast-casual resto?
Classic Smashburger with Cheese, $4.99.
80 Dekalb Avenue (between Hudson Avenue and Rockwell Place), Brooklyn;