For this year’s edition of Cheap Eats, the Underground Gourmet ranked their top 101 spots for affordable meals in all five boroughs. Here, we highlight the five best dishes from that list.
El Rey Coffee Bar
There’s no falafel in this falafel sandwich, just chickpeas, avocado, fresh herbs, seasonal veggies, and a dusting of Middle Eastern spices. But it’s a dish so artfully conceived and executed you can imagine someone like Thomas Keller miniaturizing it, putting quotations around it, and serving it on a $275 tasting menu. 100 Stanton St., nr. Ludlow St.; 212-260-3950
Deep-Fried Chicken Thigh:
They marinate the chicken in a garlic, pepper, lemongrass, and red-curry paste. You plunk it in the dipping sauce (chile powder, palm sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, and tamarind). One bite, one dip, and that’s it. You’re done with McNuggets and honey-mustard sauce forever. 85 Ave. A, nr. 6th St.; 212-260-8570
Shanghai Pan-Fried Pork Buns:
Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen
As excellent as the soup noodles and everything else is at this midtown noodle shop, the pork buns might be the best thing on the menu. 811 Eighth Ave., nr. 49th St.; 917-388-2555
The Japanese cabbage pancake called okonomiyaki literally translates to “as-you-like-it fried thing,” and this is how Ivan Orkin prefers his: in buckwheat-scrapple-waffle form and drizzled with maple Kewpie mayo and Bull-Dog sauce. 25 Clinton St., nr. Stanton St.; 646-678-3859
A take on San Antonio’s deep-fried puffy taco so good it’s a wonder you don’t see the regional specialty at more taquerías around town. 141 Second Ave., nr. 9th St.; 646-678-4018
*This article appears in the June 30, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.