code words

Code Words: NYC Food Guy

 

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In New York City, the stomach rules. Day or night, you can find culinary delights from every corner of the world and in every price range. Thankfully, the NYC Food Guy can help you savor every bite. Lawrence is a native New Yorker whose goal is to let people know where to find delicious and affordable food throughout the city. His Code Words column does just that with reviews, tips and tricks that will keep you sated.

NYC Food Guy loves the East Village for its culinary variety and its old school New York vibe. What better way to celebrate the diversity than a food tour? But with almost 300 eateries south of 14th Street and east of 3rd Avenue, how would I narrow my tour down? Simple, I imposed two requirements: 1) A meal had to be under $10 and 2) There could be no wait staff. Bonus points awarded to late night spots.

Miss Menu & I hit 6 spots Sunday and were pleased with every spot except one.

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First spot we hit up was Vanessa’s Dumplings where we ordered:

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings ($4.49) which despite NYC Food Guy’s carnivorous inclinations, were pretty tasty. Check out the innards. We also ordered a Sesame Pancake with vegetables ($2.49).

Review:
The steamed veggie dumplings were delicious. They were freshly steamed and very flavorful. Inside I found mushrooms, scallions, cabbage, carrot, and a little tofu.
The sesame pancake, despite its lack of sesame seeds, was spot on. It was fluffy inside and crisp on the outside. The vegetables were fresh and flavorful. Cucumber, cilantro, carrot, bean sprouts, and shredded lettuce were all dressed in a very light vinaigrette-like substance.
Total price with two drinks: $9.65
Open until: 10:30PM

220 E. 14th St near Third Ave.
New York, NY 10003
212-529-1329

 

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Walking south on 14th street, Thai Me Up was next…
You’re looking at just one half of the Black Pearl Sandwich we ordered. Seven vegetables plus chicken in a sweet soy sauce flavored with sauteed Thai seasonings, something our gracious host Amir called “The BBQ sauce of Asia.” Lettuce, tomato, a touch of mayo and some additional spices are added before serving.

Review:
Excellent. When all was said and done, this was my favorite meal of the tour. The Black Pearl Sandwich was a total break from the norm. Steam fried and sauteed mushrooms, corn, cabbage, peppers, carrots, and broccoli, plus lettuce, tomato, a little mayo, sprouts, and some additional spices added post-sautee, all inside a fresh, hollowed out baguette. It was like an entire Thai meal in a sandwich, a revolutionary idea. At first, the Black Pearl Sauce was reminiscent of Hoisin sauce, just spicier and more garlicky. As I continued eating, however, the mayo melded perfectly with the Black Pearl Sauce and the vegetables to create a delicious Thai-flavored juiciness that permeated each crispy, steaming bite.
Here’s how Thai Me Up works:
1. Choose your vehicle: Sandwich, Noodles, or Rice.
2. Choose the filler: Tofu, Chicken, or Beef.
3. Choose a sauce: Black or White Pearl.
Everything is steam fried and sauteed with just a tiny bit of canola oil if necessary and then served to order.
Price: $7.59
Open until: 12AM Friday & Saturday, with later hours come summertime

238 E. 14th St. near Second Ave.
New York, NY 10003
212-533-THAI (8424)

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Turning off of 14th onto 1st Ave, Vinny Vincenz was stop number 3…
Sicilian slices are where it’s at. Here’s a look at the delicious corner slice I ordered. They also make a mean Margarita slice.

Review:
Vinny Vincenz always gets the job done. Their Sicilian slice is light, airy, and crisp with the cheese to sauce ratio favoring the mozzarella, perfect for a Sicilian. The sauce is sweet but mildly bitter and doesn’t overpower the slice. The crust is crispy but not burnt. It’s airy not doughy or gummy like some lesser Sicilians. This is a great late night spot after a night in the East Village. I’ve left Crocodile Lounge, where they give you a free mini pie with every drink, just for a slice of the good stuff at Vinny Vincenz.
Price: $2.35 for a Sicilian Slice
Open until: 4AM Friday and Saturday

231 First Ave. near 14th St.
New York, NY 10003
212-674-0707

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While Miss Menu considered waving the white flag, NYC Food Guy was pumped for stop number four, Zaragoza, on Avenue A off 1st…
This chipotle-chicken taco was spicy and delicious. Take a look at the juicy chicken include a nice, light watermelon soda to wash it all down and its a meal you won’t soon forget.

Review:
Forget Tehuitzingo and Tulcingo del Valle on 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, Zaragoza provided the most delicious and authentic taco I’ve had since the Red Hook Ball Fields. The chicken was moist, tender, and fresh. The bite from the chipotle was subtle at first but combined with the chiles in the tomatillo sauce to provide a serious spice. The tomatillo struck a great balance between the chiles, jalapenos, and garlic, all without being too watery. The double tortilla was essential to support the weight of the lettuce, chopped onions and cilantro, and the chicken and green sauce. The Jarritos, a soda imported from Mexico, was candy-like in its flavor but remained light and not overly sweet.

Zaragoza, unwelcoming and unassuming from the outside, is really just a small Mexican grocery store that happens to serve some homemade delicacies. As I watched the friendly owner sprinkle fresh manchego cheese over a massive burrito, he told me Zaragoza is open until 4AM on weekends, a god send for future East Village nights.
Price: $2.25
Open until: 11PM weekdays, 4AM Friday and Saturday

215 Ave A near 14th St.
New York, NY 10016
212-780-9204

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Good thing stop number five, Crif Dogs, was 6 blocks away on St. Marks and A, I needed time to digest…
Because once we arrived, it was time to feast. NYC Food Guy ordered the Chihuahua, a bacon wrapped hot dog covered in avocado and sour cream ($4.50, add 50 cents for salsa) while Miss Menu went with a Veggie Corn Dog ($4.75)and we split a small order of Tater Tots ($2.50).

Review:
Wow. Kind of mind-blowing. The Chihuahua was ridiculously delicious and decadent. The bacon was crispy and melded perfectly with the juicy, beefy dog. The bun was ordinary but it didn’t matter this was a Dog Show. The Veggie Corn Dog was nothing special. It was huge and the batter at the edges was tasty, but it wasn’t cooked enough in the middle. The fake beef flavor of veggie dog was too strong for me.
The Tots, however, would have made Napoleon Dynamite jealous. They were crispy, wafer-like, and potatoey on the inside, delicious in a way lunch ladies can only dream of. Spicy yellow mustard and ketchup graced the table while RC Cola products populated the soda gun and a two-headed Stewart’s Root Beer/Red Birch Beer fountain sat at the side of the counter.
Not enough? Crif Dogs has two, yes two, Ms. Pac Mans in store. One is the sit down variety; the other is the standard arcade. Need more? They also have a three-game arcade featuring Millipede, Centipede, and Catan, the similar game with the space ship.
Resting on the border between the East Village and ABC City, Crif Dogs has no delusions as to who they may be catering to with their offer of “Stoner Packs”. Four artery clogging mystery bags of Crif Dogs’ delicacies starting at $10 and ascending $10 more from Pack 1 to 4, the latter something they claim you will never be able to finish.
Price: $7.50 each
Open until: 1AM Sun. & Mon., 2AM Tues. thru Thurs., & 4AM Friday & Saturday

113 St. Marks Place near Ave. A
New York, NY 10009
212-614-2728

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Full yet? NYC Food Guy always has room for dessert. But maybe he should have passed on Cecel Cafe Crepe
Where the unique crepes come shaped like ice cream cones and filled with pastry-cream. I ordered the large Apple Tatin and Miss Menu wanted some straight up Nutella but the crepe-man misheard and added the pastry-cream…

Review:
Disappointing. The crepes, though thin and cooked fresh, didn’t retain any heat as a result of the refrigerated pastry-cream. The cream itself was what you’d find in a cream puff. Tasty but nothing special. The apples in my crepe were also unheated and as a result my overall reaction was lackluster. Miss Menu was even more disappointed. As if it wasn’t enough that she dealt with her botched order, the Nutella was fake. Yes, impostor Nutella. It was obvious something fishy was going on when it was squeezed from a sauce bottle and it was even more obvious upon first bite. It clearly says Nutella on the menu, but unlike a rose, Nutella by any other name, is not still Nutella.
Price: $4 for the small, $6 for the large
Open Until: 12AM Sunday through Thursday, 2AM Friday & Saturday

135 First Ave. near St. Marks Pl.
New York, NY 10003
212-460-5102

————–
Phew. Part I is complete. I’m comfortably full. Then again it’s two days later and I’m still comfortably full. I jest. Truly, this was a great experience. I still have about 35 places on my East Village to do list and I’m pretty pumped for Part II, so keep your eyes peeled eaters because the fun has just begun.

To check out more adventures from the NYC Food Guy go to www.nycfoodguy.com

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