Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Cheap Eats Day
Claude C. and his newlywed bride Cosmina showed up in New York on their way back to Budapest yesterday, hungry and terrified about all the horror stories they had heard about how expensive it is to eat in New York. Cosmina is from Banloc, Romania, and although she lived in London (a truly expensive place to find even a snack) she was a bit shocked by American restaurant prices. Never fear. Dumneazu is here! I ran them down to Chinatown to a lunch joint on Canal Street that Fumie and I used to eat at almost every time we were in Manhatten.Chinatown is filled with cheap lunch parlors, especially ones serving noodle/wonton soups and roast meats. While there is a full menu, you can order your BBQ goodies by the pound - spare ribs at $6.40 a pound is about as good a deal as it gets.If you have a craving for duck, why pay more in some fancy mid-town bistro? Here's what five bucks will provide:Claude and Mina went for the spare ribs and shrimp fried rice. Romanians like meat, accompanied by meat, with a light meat dessert. I stuck to my old favorite chinese noodle soup - a huge bowl with roast duck, roast pork, and shrimp dumplings.If you haven't had enough, you can pick up some char siu bao - roast pork steamed buns - on the way out. Our entire meal for three came out to $21. Translated into Forints, Euro, or Lei that counts as a damn good deal. I actually started my day early up on 181st Street in the Dominican section of Washington Heights. I needed some late breakfast, so I stopped at a Mexican taco stand on the sidewalk near Broadway.I had no idea what I was getting into, so I just walked up and ordered a chorizo taco. The guy working inside answered me in Spanish, so I switched to my bad Romanian-influenced dialect of Castillian and asked him where he was from... "Din donde estas?" Apparently he understood me, and he was from Cuernavaca, Mexico.I'm from Hungary, I answered, and we can't get tacos in Budapest. "You don't have tacos in Hungary?" He was sincerely surprised. "What do you eat? No tacos?" "We eat mostly stews with potatoes (asados con patates.)" "Oye, amigo" he answered, "you people need tacos." Absolutely. Two whopping hefty tortillas wrapped around hot, spicy chorizo sausage with some killer green hot sauce and sour cream. Two dollars. I may have to get me a taco cart and set it up someplace on the Nagykorut. "No Tacos? Ridiculous!"