The Eat Index, Vol. 5

11 top-notch NYC chefs name their favorite cheap eats

By Shari Gab

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10 October 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 11 culinary experts like to grub on their own dime.

Chef Diego Garcia, Gloria in Hell’s Kitchen
"My favorite cheap eats in the city are at Queen of Sheba in Hell's Kitchen. I always get the vegetarian platter because it's so great — and I'm not even a vegetarian!"

Max Fortgang, President and Co-founder of MatchaBar in Flatiron
“For function, Dig Inn. These guys have been saving my lunch expeditions since they opened doors in 2011. The perfect a combination of feel-good, filling and affordable. The holy trinity that New Yorkers constantly seek but so rarely find.

For vibe, The Corner Bistro. One of the few classic dive bars remaining in Manhattan. This spot has a storied history and most New Yorkers can spin a tall tale or two about this joint. Ten years back I found myself sitting next to Paul Rudd at the bar for three hours before realizing the guy I had been slamming grilled cheeses with was in fact Paul Rudd. Although, admittedly, it used to be cheaper, a quality burger for under $10 is something to celebrate in the West Village these days.

For nostalgia, Gray's Papaya. Legendary, iconic status in N.Y. for their famous hot dogs. When I was growing up they were $1.50 (now $2.50) per dog which still sounds cheap, but I remember having my mind blown by when my father told me he used to pay 25 cents and my grandfather told me he used to pay 5 cents. These guys are so legit that to order a hot dog with sauerkraut all you have to say at the counter is ‘I'll have one with ...’ This place has been a family tradition since before I can remember. R.I.P. 86th St. and 3rd Ave. location.”

Jeff Haskell, Culinary Director of In Good Company Hospitality
New York Noodletown: Amazing Chinese charcuterie and salty fish fried rice. Always a must-hit location after a late night out.

Prince Street Pizza: The pepperoni grandma slice is amazing.

La Superior Williamsburg: Great Mexican food and huge margaritas, and a great spot for brunch.

Kenka on St. Marks: Delicious Izakaya serving authentic Japanese food in a fun, party-like atmosphere.

Yakitori Taisho: Great skewers, cold beer and delicious rock shrimp.

Hagi Sake Bar: Fun late-night eats with offerings that are always interesting and delicious.”

Chef Adrienne Guttieri, Trademark Taste + Grind in Midtown West
“Definitely Noodletown! Late-night roast duck and fried rice hits the spot after a night of drinking. It's communal seating, so you usually wind up at a table with other cooks shooting the sh*t about service and more places to hit late night. Other fav cheap eats: Rockaway Beach Bazaar at Riis Park in the summer. Different vendors every year, always live music, food and booze right on Riis Park Beach. RIP Slice of Whit.”

Chef David Rotter, Boulton & Watt in ABC City
Cheeky: I love their fried chicken biscuit sandwich. Probably one of the best in the city. It's off the beaten path but always worth it.

Grand Sichuan: This place is amazing. Could eat there twice a day. The crispy beef with peppers is ridiculous.

Punjabi Grocery & Deli: Always killer food and all vegetables.”

Athena Calderone, author of Cook Beautiful
Tyme Fast Food: A brilliant on-the-go whole food concept which incorporates quality produce with no additives or preservatives and full of flavor. And I am obsessed with the Soba!  

Olmsted in Brooklyn: Their beer-batter delicata squash rings are the perfect Fall snack — kinda like an onion ring, but made with autumn abundant squash and a homemade green tomato ketchup.

Sullivan Street Bakery: Their Formaggio soft egg sandwich is beyond decadent — the creamiest and cheesiest calcio and pepe-style soft scrambled eggs on a perfectly warmed and soft baguette drizzled with olive oil and a hint of lemon.

The Long Island Bar: On my corner in Cobble Hill, so it is super convenient, but the Ladies’ Burger is just sooooooo good! Single patty burger, bright and crunchy pickles, house-made American cheese, and an unknown but super-tasty fancy sauce on a soft potato like bun and served with fries. Totally rivals a Shake Shack burger!”

Sushi Chef Sang Lee, Sen Sakana in Midtown
"I live on the Upper West Side and the absolute best cheap food for a hangover around there is the pho at Saiguette. You'll always walk away feeling better than when you came."

Chef Chintan Pandya, Rahi in Midtown
"My favorite go-to place for cheap food is Los Tacos No.1 in Chelsea Market. You can't beat the flavor and simplicity of their tacos, especially with the tortillas made right in front of you. It's definitely my to-go place."

Chef Jason Hall, Moxy Times Square in Times Square
Zibetto: Classic Italian espresso bar, phenomenal service.

Alidoro: Real Italian Sandwiches. Cash Only. NO substitutions. NO Changes to Menu offerings.

Taco Mix: Best Al Pastor Taco in the city. Open late, and preorder and taxi cab pick-up.

La Bonbonniere: Early morning. All-day breakfast sandwiches and BLTs.

Vanessa's Dumplings: Hot dumplings, freshly made-to-order and served at lightning speed. Also good for late night.”

Executive Sous Chef Brent Sims, Great Performances
Kati Rolls: cheap, made fresh, open late, heavily seasoned Indian-style street food. The vegetarian options are fantastic and starting at under $4 a roll, you can't beat it for really tasty food, real fast.”

Ken McCoy, Owner of Farmhouse Hospitality
Oaxaca Taqueria in Murray Hill is my go-to for cheap eats. You get a three taco deal with rice and beans for $10. All the tacos are tasty and they do fun specials like a cactus taco, But the camarones are the best in my opinion. I like it for the food, and the design is edgy. They always play fun, loud music and it's subterranean, so it's my kind of spot since it feels like a secret hideaway.”

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