The Eat Index, Vol. I
Seven fancy pants chefs dish on the best cheap eats in town
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 new InsideHook 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.
Chef Alfred Portale
Gotham Bar & Grill
“It can be a challenge to find good eats on 10th Ave. Whenever I find myself in the neighborhood I pop in to Tia Pol. They have great tapas and a solid wines-by-the-glass list.”
“With only about 10 seats, I think this qualifies as ‘hole-in-the-wall.’ This Upper East Side omakase joint is great. Even better: it’s BYOB. Pro tip: make a reservation — they only do three seatings a night.”
“This is the best place to take a first date or out-of-towner who has never been. Like a scene out of Goodfellas, you walk in through an unmarked steel door. They take you downstairs, you weave through the kitchen, and out into the open you find yourself in a cool subterranean bar and dining room. The drinks: fantastic.”
Chef Shea Gallante
Xi’an Famous Foods
“The wait in line is the worst part but well worth it. Plan accordingly and arrive at the right time, and you can be on your way within 15 minutes. Can’t beat the quality and price! Get the B1 (Stewed Pork Burger) and N1 — Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles”
“Great sandwich. Always fresh, and a really good variety of flavor combinations. I especially love the bread. Get the LGBT (Linguica Spread, Goat Cheese, Bacon and Tomato with sautéed onions, seasonal lettuce and olive oil).”
“While the hotel was being built, this was my go-to. I would order the small veggie plate — they always have a great seasonal selection of veggies and grains that are always clever and well-seasoned. It’s hard to imagine how they can profit from it at a mere $6!”
Chef Olivier Palazzo
“Chicken biscuit sandwich smothered in gravy and topped with a tangy coleslaw. $6.50 — ‘nuff said!”
Seafood Premium Market
“Old school NYC lives on in a fried whiting sandwich. This joint serves up three whole pieces of fried whiting between two slices of wonder bread with tartar and hot sauce for $4.50.”
Chef John Beatty
“She was a speakeasy back in the day during the time of prohibition. They have a fantastic cocktail menu and their bites and nibble selection is tasty and delicious but super affordable. I usually go for the specials. Charcuterie, cheese and olives and whatever other little bits I can get my hands on.”
Chef Kevin Chun
Louie and Chan
Sal Kris & Charlies Deli
“For the fat kid in all of us. Although it’s located in Astoria, it’s well worth the trip for one of their enormous sandwiches, which are all under $10. Their two specialties — ‘The Bomb’ and ‘Italian Combo’ — both boast more meat and cheese than one person should ever consume. These beastly sandwiches are topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, sweet/hot peppers and several additional toppings if you so please, and rest in between 12-14” of a soft white or sesame Italian loaf. Be warned: they often sell out of bread before the end of the day. However, you can get a sandwich without bread, which I did when they ran out once. I went home and was able to make three — yes, three — enormous sandwiches with 7-grain bread.”
“This neighborhood eatery specializes in Henan cuisine will easily over stimulate your palate without breaking your wallet. Let the wonderful aromatics of cumin, anise and chiles warm you in a nice lamb/pork/beef/vegetable broth. Enjoy it with oxtail, beef brisket, lamb or their signature spicy chicken. Not to mention their fresh handcut noodles, which are amazing! I could go on about my favorite dishes, but I will let everyone discover it for themselves. It is usually packed at dinner time, so my advice is to call ahead and pick up a takeout order.”
Chef Joe Isidori
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer
“I love going to Spring Lounge. Everybody goes to Spring Lounge at night, but the best thing to do is go on Wednesday afternoons when they have free hot dogs! I sit at the bar, get a $4 Miller High Life, bag of salt and vinegar potato chips and a free hot dog. It’s my favorite way to spend an afternoon in my neighborhood.”
Chef Brendan McHale
“Their food is great. It’s honest. Their level of salt & acid is clutch and they change their menu a lot, but the menu seems just big enough where they can focus on the true expression of what they are trying to do. Plus I live two blocks away.”
“So I really dig the fried silverfish here. Plus there’s no corkage (fees), so my buds and I bring wine in. Silverfish is great with Chablis.”
Upstate Oyster Bar
“They carry a really great curation of oysters, including hard to get wild oysters. Their beer list is sick too.”
Punjabi Deli & Grocery
“Crazy excellent chai tea here. Those dudes take their time with it and it’s f***ing delicious.”