144 Union St., entrance on Hicks St., Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; 718-855-2632
Neil Ganic has been opening and closing versions of this restaurant around Brooklyn for over a decade now, and the latest incarnation, straddling the BQE in western Carroll Gardens, provides delicious proof that the bargain-seafood concept works. Ganic employs a fish-market conceit, with the daily catch on full display and the menu posted in a window pane overhead, and combines the simplest of preparations (whole grilled porgy, for instance) with the most comforting of presentations (most plates come with buttered vegetables and buttery mashed potatoes). The BYO policy keeps prices low, and despite an expansion into the adjacent flower shop, the space feels as cozy and unpretentious as its predecessors.
Piece of Chicken
630 Ninth Ave., window on W. 45th St.; 212-582-5973
What can you get for a buck these days? At the still-operational kitchen window of the recently shuttered theater-district landmark Jezebel, where owner Alberta Wright launched back-of-the-house takeout service this past winter, you get plenty. One dollar buys you a scoop of black-eyed peas, or a pile of vinegary collards, or a piece of fried whiting, or a fat-streaked rib bit, or a small pile of crispy chicken livers. And yes, it buys you a piece of chicken, fried to a golden-crusted, tender-fleshed turn. The food comes from the same kitchen that once dispensed $32.75 entrées, and all that is required for the steep discount is the patience to wait on a somewhat sluggish line and the willingness to eat your bargain supper out of a Styrofoam container with hot sauce that comes in packets.
Pio Pio Salon
702 Amsterdam Ave., at 94th St.; 212-665-3000
The latest addition to a Peruvian chainlet that began in Queens more than a decade ago and spread to Yorkville and the Bronx, Pio Pio Salon stays true to the crowd-pleasing formula: luscious spice-marinated rotisserie chicken served at bargain prices. The $28 Matador Combo (a whole bird, rice and beans, tostones, and avocado salad) is dinner for three or four normal-size adults, though they might try to pawn off the accompanying salchipapas, a plate of French fries topped with sliced hot dogs, on an unsuspecting toddler. Start things off with a Pisco Sour and don’t miss the creamy green hot sauce.
229 First Ave., nr. 14th St.; 212-228-9000
Two weeks after its April opening, this Filipino storefront morphed from an unassuming steam-table setup into a just slightly more assuming full-service restaurant with a crackerjack kitchen. The menu reads like a culinary primer to one of the world’s great melting-pot cuisines, a crazy quilt of Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, Malay, and Indian influences, and with most main dishes hovering around the $8 mark, you can afford to do a little globe-trotting. Go for the adobo (on-the-bone pork and chicken stewed in vinegar and soy sauce), the giant stuffed-eggplant frittata of sorts called relyenong talong, and anything topped with the super-crispy skinned lechon, like the Bicol Express—a yin-yangy simmer of incendiary chiles and creamy coconut milk. For dessert, do what the chalkboard sign propped up outside the restaurant says and order the halo-halo, the cooling crushed-ice-fruit-and-bean concoction that’s like an Orange Julius on acid.
Province Chinese Canteen
305 Church St., at Walker St.; 212-925-1205
Province isn’t your typical sandwich shop. For starters, it swaps the ubiquitous ciabatta and Pullman loaves for the steamed Chinese buns called mantou, a soft, sesame-flecked cushion for such Asian-fusion fillings as tender braised short rib and kimchee, chile-spiced mackerel, and braised pork shoulder with hoisin sauce and pickled cucumbers. There is a burger, made from Angus beef, but the designated condiment, rather than ketchup or mustard, is spicy sambal sauce. And even though you do get (shrimp) chips on the side, the wise move would be to splurge on a serving of sesame noodles, topped with chicken, roast pork, or wrinkled little nuggets of chile-sauced fried tofu.
141 First Ave., nr. 9th St.; 212-529-2740
One of the biggest events this year among Japanese expats, noodle slurpers, and culinary screwballs of every persuasion was the opening last month of this ramen bar, a first U.S. branch of a Japanese mini-chain. And for good reason: The shio (or salt-based) broth is a revelation—smooth with a mellow roundness, subtly flavored with various things like dried scallops and dried anchovies. The noodles range in thickness from spaghettini-size to linguine-size, and, served hot in broth or cold (tsukemen style) on a separate plate for dipping, are firm and springy and pretty much irresistible. A non-ramen must-have dish is the oyako-don, crumbly pieces of minced chicken like the kind you’d find in a Thai larb, topped with a soft-cooked egg and served over rice. The best place to eat is at the low counter opposite the kitchen where three ramen wranglers, their heads wrapped in what appear to be gym towels, buzz about like members of a radical modern-dance troupe.