The Eat Index, Vol. 3

Seven top-notch NYC chefs name their favorite cheap eats

By Shari Gab

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15 March 2017

You judge a barber by his cut. A tailor by his fit. A personal trainer by his girlfriend.

So when it comes to dining out, we want to go where the chefs go.

Ergo: The Eat Index, a series in which we hunt down some of the city’s most well-regarded chefs and ask them where they are chowing down.

The catch: cheap eats only. Novel concept in this city, we know.

From the corner bodega to a hole-in-the-wall watering hole, here’s where seven culinary experts like to grub on their own dime.

Rico's Tacos
Chef Chris Santos, VANDAL, Beauty & Essex and The Stanton Social
“​H​ole in the wall for amazing authentic (or as authentic as it gets in NYC) tacos, tortas and chilaquiles. So delicious!”

Turn Table Chicken
Chef Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern and Untitled at The Whitney
“What’s great about the menu is getting wings and drums, half and half (aka hot ‘n’ spicy sauce and soy garlic). Don’t miss either. Get a side of kimchi, and pile it on the seafood Korean pancake. And it tastes way better if you get there after 2 a.m. Wonder why!”

Dizengoff
Chef Jon Feshan, Kola House
"Chelsea Market is a landmark in NYC. One of my favorite places to eat at Chelsea Market is Dizengoff. Why? With only 15 seats and such a small space, they have a fresh and tasty food with a reasonable price. You get more than you pay for, which doesn’t happen often in NYC — a selections of spreads and pickled vegetables with fresh housemade pita."

Zaragoza Mexican Deli & Grocery, Polish G.I. Deli. and Ray’s Candy Store
Robert Ceraso, co-owner, The Wild Son, The Wayland and Good Night Sonny
Zaragoza: “Tiny taqueria in the back of what is essentially a bodega. Goat Taco for $3. Get a couple, try the salsas, be amazed you’re in the back of a bodega eating amazing tacos at ungodly hours, repeat.”
Polish G.I. Deli: “No tables but wonderful home-cooked Polish food by lovely people. They’ve been in the neighborhood longer than you and hopefully they’ll be here when you are gone. Ask David what Grace is cooking today. Can’t go wrong with some fresh pierogies and some mushroom soup. Grab a jar of some of the best spicy mustard anywhere and use it on everything. Grace makes breaded fish filets on Fridays. Grab a couple of them early before they’re all gone. Eat one before you get home and be happy you’re alive.”
Ray’s: “Ray is a neighborhood gem. Stop in to say hi and strike up a conversation if he’s not busy. Leave him alone if he is. He’s 85 and works every day, for god’s sake. Order some fried beignets for $5 (they’re more like zeppole but it’s hot fried dough with powdered sugar so don’t ask questions). Say thank you and tell him how glad you are he’s still there. Enjoy your beignets as you walk around the East Village and remember how awesome it all still is.”

Shanghai Asian Manor in Chinatown and Gena's Grill
Sara Leveen, co-owner, Hanoi House
Shanghai: “My family goes once a month for dim sum and we the love Pan-Fried Tiny Buns because they're a perfect hybrid of a bao bun and pan-fried pork dumpling. Their sautéed snow pea leaves are abundant and garlicky.”
Gena’s: “Pernil Asado with yellow rice and black beans and Pollo Guisado with white rice and red beans. Shared side of maduros. We love the coffee shop/luncheonette vibe, quick service and great value.”

Cibao
Chef Rob McCue, The Fat Monk
“It’s a little Cuban joint down in the East Village, NYC, right on Clinton Street. Aside from their rotisserie, I don't know what they do to make their chicken one of the best in the city. They're so tender and juicy you would think that these chicken were sous vide. When I bring my son down to daycare in that neighborhood, the morning streets are filled with an amazing aroma; it’s intoxicating.”

Various Locations
Chef Joe Isidori, Black Tap
Arturo’s Coal Oven Pizza: “A great old school and classic slice.”
Walter’s Hot Dogs: “Seriously the best hot dogs in America”
Los Tacos #1: “While everyone is waiting in line at Black Tap, I’m waiting in line for Los Tacos!”
Wohop: “Nothing like chow fun and cold beer at 2 a.m.”
Pipers Kilt: “The Eastchester burger is the inspiration for all of our burgers at Black Tap.”
Ippudo: “Who doesn't love to slurp?”

Taco Veloz
Chef Victor Chavez, Greenwich Steakhouse
“At the end of a night shift, there is nothing better than the fish tacos at Taco Veloz on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. It’s cheap and fresh. Goes perfect with a cold beer and a side of stuffed cheddar jalapeños. The best.”

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