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THE BEST: "Non-Fancy" NYC Restaurants


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Having just moved north of 86th street on the West side, we have a host of "non fancy", cheap and cheerful, options under $10.

On my short list is:

El Malecon for dominican Great Pollo alla brasa, chicarrones al pollo, and mofongo. For $4.00 at breakfast you get, eggs, mangy(mashed plantains with sauteed onions) and some great cafe con leche.

Pampa for steak

Sipan for peruvian

Noche for mexican

Indus Valley(great new indian). Good lunch deals for about $7.00

El Malecon has great Pollo a la Brasa at its two locations:

The main branch in Washington Heights near the George Washington Bridge:

El Malecon Restaurant

4141 Broadway, New York, NY 10033

(212) 927-3812

and the smaller branch between 97th and 98th Sts.:

El Malecon Restaurant II

764 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10025

(212) 864-5648

They also always have several daily specials, which always include something to please most people. Very good prices (1/2 chicken for $7.50, I believe).

I like Pampa, but it's in an entirely different price category from El Malecon. It's a somewhat formal but relaxed and friendly Argentinian steakhouse, and I really enjoy their marinated steaks, blood sausage, and crepes with dulce de leche (really fantastic, if you have room for them!). Good Argentinian wines, too. Do not order their entrana "for two"; order a regular portion of steak and split it with your dining partner: Their portions are gargantuan. Expect to pay about $40-50/person inclusive of tip for a meal including dessert and some wine by the glass.

I haven't been to the rest of the places on your list and would welcome some reviews.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I had a nice dinner in Flushing again tonight (at Restaurant Malaysia), so here are some Flushing contributions to this thread:

Restaurant Malaysia. Though in Malaysia it would be only "boleh tahan" (so-so), New Yorkers have to treasure this purveyor of authentic, tasty Malaysian food unadulturated for non-Malaysian palates. Compared to most any full-service restaurant in Malaysia, the menu is limited, but it's a few pages long, nevertheless:

Restaurant Malaysia Inc

13517 40th Road, Flushing, NY 11354

(718) 353-2901

In my experience, this is by far the best Malaysian restaurant in New York, though I haven't tried anything in Rego Park.

Sichuan Dynasty (also on 40th road). Quite possibly the best Sichuan restaurant within the city limits. Spicy, delicious food, good prices, varied menu. Just don't try to squeeze in on a weekend. Flushing residents know a good restaurant when they find one, and it is mobbed on weekends.

Jia Xiang Lo Restaurant, 135-25A 40 Road (do you see a theme developing?). Very good Shanghainese food, comparable to and sometimes better than Yeah Shanghai. Also inexpensive.

Finally, a Jackson Heights contribution:

Jackson Diner, in my experience, makes consistently tasty food that doesn't wimp out on the spices (though some is too salty). Not very cheap at ~$30 for dinner, but worth it. But do not partake in their weekend buffet lunch; always have dishes made to order. Definitely an informal restaurant with a somewhat cafeteria-like vibe. Convivial, and full of spirited conversation.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Also, it looks to me like some of the reviews on the Brooklyn Mobilize! thread might be relevant.

I'm not sure whether anyone has posted an actual review of DiFara's (Av. J and 15th St. in Midwood) on this thread. Quite simply, DiFara's makes the best pizza I've had outside of Campania. All his vegetables are fresh, he grows herbs in the window of his pizzeria, his cheeses are of high quality, his tomato sauce is wonderful, and even his crusts are great. Informal as can be, but a true artisanal marvel.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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What do people think of aKa Cafe on the LES?  Inexpensive, creative, consistently tasty (mmmm. . . . lamb's tongue sandwich).

Sounds intriguing! Where is it?

49 Clinton, right in the shadow of Wylie. Menu can be found here. Hmmm, from what I remember, their hanger steak slider is pretty darn tasty too, and they have great drink specials. (Last time I was there, the staff was preparing pomegranates to steep for future vodka drinks.) Portions are not large, though.

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Pan,

If you've been, I'm wondering how you think Restaurant Malaysia compares to Nyonya on Grand St. I was introduced to Nyonya by kids that've lived in Malaysia (not that that necessarily makes their opinion worth trusting) and at first I loved it (the super low prices didn't hurt). I've been less high on it in the last year or so - either it's gone downhill or I'm just sick of it. Some dishes are great, though - the spicy curry soup with tofu and fish stuffed peppers, the sizzling tofu...

Is Restaurant Malaysia far superior?

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Quite simply, yes, it's far superior! It also has a different vibe - more informal, more authentic, not fashionable...and cheaper.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I am confident based on my first trip to Moustache (Bedford St. location) tonight in asserting that it is an outstanding restaurant and a great value, and belongs on a top-20 non-fancy restaurant list. The noise level is a bit high, and it gets cold when the door is opened, but with food that good and that economical, I don't care much. Nice decor, too. See a longer review by me here.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Are the sandwiches also small, or are they filling?

aKa's sandwiches are rather small; so if you're hungry, it'd be wise to order an appetizer as well. The desserts, if I remember correctly, are quite good too.

Oh, and I agree with you about the food at Moustache, although I've only been to the location on the east side.

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After this afternoon, I'd have to say Grimaldi's belongs on this list. There's a thread about the New York Pizza Survey's pizza lunch at Grimaldi's today, and if you click here, you'll get to the page with the pictures:

Grimaldi's, Sunday 2/21

Seems like your best bet is to show up as close to opening time as possible; otherwise, you'll have to wait on line outside. Get the sausage pizza: It's a knockout! Other things that are special are the thin crust and the crunch and smokiness from the coal-fired oven (when it's gotten hot). Very different pizza from DiFara's, and different atmosphere, too (less friendly but quicker service, less ramshackle and less intimate room). Also, a non-food comment: The location near the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge underpass gives you some splendid views.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Belmont3, please post mini-reviews of those places, when you have the chance.

Also, have you tried Yeah Shanghai Deluxe? I ultimately concluded that it is superior to New Green Bo, though the latter is also a good restaurant.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'd like to add "Ciao, for Now" on East 12th street between a & b avenues. Open from 6to 6 its a perfect place for leisurely reading or writing while munching on some really good breakfast or lunch items. All the food is done there fresh daily. recco. items...any of their sandwiches, soups and a dynamite pumpkin bread!

the prices cannot be beat

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My two girls were in the city with my wife to go to the America Girl store on 5th. We had lunch at Katsu-Hama, which is alway excellent and certainly not the usual midtwown fare. Katsu lunch for everyone, except me -- I had Katsu-Don.

Dinner was at Pizzeria Otto, when the primativo was just fine, the pizzas good, the cheese and gelati excelent. Both were family friendly, but kept the adults interested.

(edited for spelling)

Edited by Willly (log)
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Following up on a previous post, I checked out Ivo & Lulu Friday night. It's a dimly lit, one room, BYO, 8 table cafe on Broome near Varick. It's a spin-off of A, up near Columbia. The kitchen consists of a couple stovetops and a sink in the corner of the room. It's like going to a friend's studio in the village for a dinner party. If your friend is a really good cook.

It's organic French Caribbean, but, from what we had, it seemed more like relaxed French homecooking with tropical accents (though, maybe that's exactly what 'French Caribbean' is).

There're only about 4 appetizers and 4 entrees on the menu.

Started with two appetizers:

Pheasant Terrine baked with Truffle Oil and Brie ($8) - Came in a little ceramic baking dish. Pheasant was ground up into little bits and dispersed through the melted, crusty brie. Tasted like the best cheesy corned beef hash ever. Salty and greasy, in a most pleasing, comfort food kinda way. If they'd brought me 10 pounds of the stuff I probably would have kept eating well past the point of being sick. Addictive.

Baked Avocados filled with Spinach Mousse in a Shitake Vinaigrette ($8) - Learned I don't like warm avocado. Wasn't so high on this. My girlfriend liked it, but I thought it was pretty bland. I couldn't really tell the avocado bites from the spinach bites, except that the avocado wasn't fully ripe so it wasn't soft.

Entrees:

Jerk Duck Confit in Mango Marinade ($10) - The duck was the star dish and cemented what's remarkable about this place: fresh, flavorful, distinct food at ridiculously low prices, considering the portions, quality of ingredients, and location of the restaurant. Generous portion of duck. Whole big juicy leg. The thick marinade was sweet, tart and spicy, essentially an excellent barbeque sauce.

Venison ($10) - I'm not sure how they described this on my menu, but, if I remember correctly, it didn't give the impression that it would be served as sausage. Well, that's how it came out. The sausages were tasty, but extremely rich and smoky. Also, not the best complement to the duck. Too many rich meat dishes. (Not the widest selection of veggies on the menu) The girl was not high on the sausage. Don't know much about Caribbean cooking, but this seemed more like a German hunter's winter breakfast.

Dessert:

Chocolate cake and something apple I think. Not memorable. Desserts may not be their strength, but we were also pretty full by this point.

We brought a $14, slightly sweet but crisp 2000 Cotes Du Rhones (from Eguilan?) which worked well with the food.

If you look at my individual dish descriptions, you may not be enticed to try the place, but I gotta say that it's a pretty exceptional find. I'd give it a vote for this top 20 list, especially given how much intimate ambience the place has. Grand Sichuan, Katz's, Grimaldi's, etc., are obviously all great, but here's a place you can take a date on a Friday night, and get a little drunk, for $60 total.

It's packed on Friday and Saturday, so, if you don't want to wait, go on weekdays or early/late. No reservations.

PS - One other thought for this list: Manchenko Tei (sp?) can only vouch for the 55th st. location, but the creamy ginger noodle soup is a winner...

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Don't know if anyone has mentioned it yet - but this month's cover story in Gourmet Magazine is New York. Haven't finished the issue yet - but it seems to cover a lot of ground - including some "non-fancy" restaurants. Robyn

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I had dinner at Madras last week and it was very good. I ordered a cream of wheat crepe with potato, onion and pepper. It was listed as spicy -- but it wasn't.

Their mango ice cream was really good. Our total bill was about $50 including tip, but we also each had a glass of wine.

On a side note, the waiter was muttering under his breath every time he walked away from a table, which in most places is considered bad service, but I just found it highly amusing.

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Peasant on Elizabeth

(Ssshhhh!!!)

Don't be so quiet. :laugh:

Would you please contribute a mini-review?

and

Peasant on Elizabeth

(Ssshhhh!!!)

Good food and reasonably priced, but I've had my last meal in the dark..... but the specialty is roasted meat. I just didn't want to wrestle with a quail or animal shank in the dark. I just don't get it.

Sure thing

on my most recent trip

to start - tripe - perfectly done - small pieces, cut on a bias, fresh ripe tomato base, tender and finished in that beautiful wood burning oven and served in terra cotta - as is the seppiolini. Frank DeCarlo, chef/owner must have eaten tripe often as a kid and does it authentically. (The tripe I recently had on the uws pales by comparison)

mezzo - maltagliatti w/rabbit - amazing - If he's not making his own pasta, I don't want to know. The pasta was very light and still had perfect bite. The rabbit was sweet, moist and pulled. Very delicate textures and flavors in a light cream.

main - suckling pig - once again, perfectly done, succulent pulled meat, over a simple bed of potatoes finished with garlic, parsley and olive oil - with a perfect crackling laid over the whole teasure. No one does it better.

dessert - pear pie w/ ice cream - enough for two if you're in a sharing mood - but a good reason to be glutttonous if ever the was one

service - always good as far as service goes but waitstaff was genuine and warm at times, at others, aloof and cool

As for the lighting, yep, it's a little on the dark side but they take the roasted meats off the bone for you so there's no carving in the dark. I don't think I've used a knife there yet.

As for the decor, it's pretty bare and in that, almost sexy. I've, on a couple of occasions had this strange compulsion to eat with my fingers - and have (and it wasn't the company). And the smell when you first walk in - wood burning - does something to me too. Hard to explain.

I guess what I like most about Peasant is that everything is real. Nothing I've tried there so far is contrived or over-thought. I've always left feeling - "Now that's what it's supposed to be like." A perfect meal.

Peasant is just about the food. No models, no pretense, no waitng for an early table. Later, it does get crowded and chefs tend to gravitate there after service - so try to go early.

For an absolutely perfect, simple and non-fancy meal, go. Just go and you'll see what I mean - or maybe you won't - which is not such a bad thing. I like to think of it as mine - all mine. :rolleyes:

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