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Cheap, Fun, and Delicious: Five Ideas for your Next Eat Outing

December 2, 2008     Views 1,885     Grabbed 1     Grab    

Cheap, Fun, and Delicious: Five Ideas for your Next Eat Outing

Your favorite thing to do is enjoy a staggering meal in one of the city’s best restaurants. But now you’re in belt-tightening mode, your cash flow withering as winter descends. How to cope? By finding a great food experience in NYC without sitting down to a pricey meal or an unsatisfying cheap eats selection. The experience is the thing. Here are a few suggestions for a satisfying (and thrifty) afternoon, all with deliciousness in mind:

1. Kalustyan’s. When did you last go to Kalustyan’s? Walking through the doors will make you grateful to live in this city. The towering stacks of dried fruit and nuts and endless array of spices (over 500) hit all your senses. Curry leaves, black mustard seeds, lime pickle, you name it. You can spend hours selecting the ingredients for a good dinner. When your basket is full and your stomach is rumbling, walk upstairs and order a mouthwatering mujadarra (a heaping pita full of soft stewed lentils, onions, and rice), noting your preferred spiciness for the counterman. This savory lunch will bludgeon you into a heavy stupor until it’s time to make dinner – and I mean this in a good way.
123 Lexington, between 28th and 29th, 212-685-3451.

2. Bonnie Slotnick’s. After buying magisterial-sounding spices from Kalustyan’s, you need some low cost inspiration for the actual recipes. Walk into Bonnie Slotnick’s for the perfect used cookbook to summon a gorgeous meal. If you want to find just the right book, ask. She will recommend the perfect book; trust me here. She knows. And if she doesn’t have it, she will track it down. Spending time in this bookshop will probably result in an internal promise to eat out less and learn how to make your favorite restaurant meals at home. While you’re there, don’t forget to read the framed letter from M.F.K. Fisher hanging on the wall, and be sure not to trip over her dog, asleep in the middle of the rug.
163 W.10th St. at 7th Avenue, 212-989-8962 (be sure to call ahead because the shop is closed one day each week, and that day varies).

3. Oms/b. I can’t imagine you are near Grand Central Station for any reason related to pleasure, but if you have to be in that neighborhood, your day just improved. Oms/b serves omusubi, or Japanese rice balls, in all sorts of flavors (and colors!). The friendly staff answers any and all questions as you pick out one of the beautiful pieces, wrapped like packages. (The word omusubi originated from a Japanese verb that means "to take hold of something with one’s hands.”) A collection looks like a pile of gifts: yukari-plum wrapped in pink soy, white rice topped with spicy chili shrimp, or soy sauce flavored rice with mixed vegetables and chicken. You’ll leave feeling well-cared for and well-traveled – much cheaper than flying to Kyoto.
156 E. 45th Street, between 3rd and Lexington, 212-922-9788.

4. Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop. Go in, sit at the counter, and order your egg and cheese on a roll. Look around, realizing that since 1929 Eisenberg’s has fed those who just wanted a sandwich they could trust. No irony, no parody – just a sandwich stacked high with turkey or pastrami on good rye bread. Bonus: no tourists! Just go.
174 Fifth Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd, 212-675-5096.

5.Economy Candy. Feeling blue? Walk into Economy Candy. The sickly sweet smell of commercial candy will envelop you like a warm hug. All your favorites are here – waxed lips, candy necklaces, pixie sticks, bubblegum cigarettes. (Bubblegum cigarettes! Think of it!) Some of these are still being manufactured specifically for the nostalgia fest that is Economy Candy. Pull handfuls from the lopsided piles of sweets, fill up a paper bag, and start staining your mouth deep purple. What does it matter that nothing in here is actually food? Face it, high fructose corn syrup is the taste of your childhood (sorry Michael Pollan).
108 Rivington Street, 800-352-4544.

—Susan Kane Walkush

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