RG Writer – Agatha Khishchenko
We take our bodegas just as seriously as we take our restaurants. No one wants to waste time or money on a mediocre meal. There are a lot of great finds, but these are our favorites and they all meet our three
1. Spice and flavor, regardless of region.
2. Operate out of a bodega or small, relatively unimaginative space.
3. An entire meal costs less than $10.
Address: 114 East 1st
Street, near 1st Avenue
Phone: (212) 533-9048
This East Village deli is my absolute favorite place to get inexpensive Indian food any time of the day.
If you doubt their authenticity, check out all the taxis parked outside while the drivers run inside
for a quick bite and a taste of home. You can get yours to go or eat standing at the
counter inside. The samosa
with chickpeas – essentially smashed samosa and chickpeas doused in yogurt,
tamarind sauce, raw onions, and hot sauce – is only $2.25 and excellent. Ask for yours
with everything on it and add a dollop some of the mango pickle yourself for a little extra kick. Punjabi’s combination meals, which all range from $3 to $6, might be the best deal in the city. Each combo comes with
your choice of one to three vegetarian dishes and a choice of rice or roti. Don’t forget to order a sweet and milky
chai tea on your way out.
Address: 102 Suffolk
Street, between Delancey and Rivington
Phone: (212) 253-1158
If you want to taste real, Japanese home-style cooking, visit Soy in the Lower East Side. This tiny, treasure serves traditional, tofu-based dishes all prepared by chef & owner, Etsuko Kizawa. The veggie gyoza,
homemade dumplings, and meat croquettes are all terrific starters. But the real find is the curry rice dish — a rich
curry made with beef, potatoes, carrots and onions with a side of rice. There’s a side of rice to sop up all the creamy curry sauce.
If you’re a vegetarian, try the ganmo tofu patties cooked with daikon
radish and shitake mushrooms.
Zaragoza Mexican Deli
Address: 215 Avenue A,
at 13th Street
Phone: (212) 780-9204
I walked by this Mexican bodega-cum-taqueria everyday for three years before I realized this was the neighborhood go-to for tacos and tamales. Maybe it’s the unassuming storefront or the words “deli & grocery” that throw everyone off, but this is one of the city’s best kept secrets and some of the most authentic cooking you’ll taste without
traveling south of the border. You’ll have your choice of a taco or burrito filled with shredded fiery pork,
beef, chicken, tongue or goat. If
you’re lucky enough to snag one of the few tables in the back, grab a cold beer
and eat your taco inside.
Address: 157 Mott
Street, between Grand and Broome Streets
Phone: (212) 966-3797
While technically not a bodgea, the
rickety tables and no-frills space serve as the perfect backdrop for the Vietnamese menu.
The menu’s filled with house specials, noodles, and rice, but
I come here from one thing and one thing only: Pho. There’s seventeen kinds of pho to choose from, everything from beef, meatballs, pork, or chicken. They’re all made with the same an anise-spiced beef broth and rice noodles. At
$4.50 for a bowl (the
large is only $5.50,) you’ll have enough cash left to order a ca phe sua nong, a black coffee chicory coffee served in a
traditional slow-drip Vietnamese coffee pot with sweetened condensed milk.