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The Cheap List



346 W. 52nd St., nr. Ninth Ave. 212-586-2880
A snug, stylish tapas bar with a twist: Hooni Kim’s inventive menu fuses his Korean ancestry with his classic French training, yielding delicacies like poached sablefish with tender daikon, masterful fried tofu, and a kimchee-fried-rice “paella,” resplendent with bacon, chorizo, and the occasional crispy bit. The signature dish, or dishes, though, might be the pair of sliders—bulgogi beef and spicy pork belly, each dressed with scallion vinaigrette on soft butter-grilled buns. They’re dispensed from the kitchen unremittingly and consumed with the same gleeful haste as a sack of White Castles. (CECS: Bulgogi beef sliders, $12, plus fried tofu, $7; total: $19.)

548 Court St., nr. 9th St., Carroll Gardens 718-596-3248
This unassuming comfort-food café located at the heel of Carroll Gardens is home to one of the best new burgers in town, and it’s not even a member of the Pat LaFrieda Appreciation Society. (The meat is from Master Purveyors in the Bronx, which also supplies the venerable burger joint J.G. Melon, in case you were interested.) The flavor-packed patty is tender and juicy, and if you were a reviewer of romantic film comedies, you might say that it has great chemistry with its brioche-bun co-star. There’s a lamb burger, a scallop burger, and some exotically topped and/or stuffed beef-burger specimens, too, but our motto, as always, is: Stick to the classics. For dessert, consult the restaurant’s Facebook page to discover the pie of the day; the banana cream is killer.(CECS: Tuesday’s special beef burger and Sixpoint Sweet Action on draft, $10, plus tempura green beans, $6; total: $16.)

691 Sixth Ave., at 20th St., South Slope 718-499-5052
Like its sister pizzeria, Lucali, ­Giuseppina is long on atmosphere and short on menu: You’ve got pizza, and you’ve got calzones. (Toppings too, if you insist on complicating matters.) The nineteen-inch pies seem a cross between New York and Neapolitan styles, with a wide, flat cornicione, or lip, that turns brittle as it cools. It’s a fine pie, mostly distinguished by the dusting of grated Parm around the edge and the fresh basil leaves strewn on top. But given our druthers, we’d go for the calzone every time, preferably stuffed with marinated artichoke hearts, and a bowl of peppery marinara sauce on the side. (CECS: Small calzone, total: $10.)

Fonda Nolita
267 Elizabeth St., nr. Houston St. 917-727-0179
Unlike its taco-truck brethren, the vintage VW bus its owners have christened Tacombi never leaves the garage. Instead, it’s the centerpiece of a somewhat elaborate stage set, meant to evoke a Mexican street scene. While not entirely convincing, the setting is novel enough and tacos tasty enough to merit a virtual vacation. Of the daily assortment, we recommend the chicken-chipotle tostada, the taco de cochinita pibil, and the all-day breakfast taco filled with eggs and chorizo. It doesn’t hurt that the tacos are nicely seasoned and minimally garnished, and that they’re made on fresh corn tortillas from Corona’s estimable Nixtamal. (CECS: Tostada de tinga de pollo, $4, plus taco de cochinita, $4, plus horchata, $3; total: $11.)

21 E. 7th St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-228-4923
Order anything from the entrées section of the menu and you will break the Cheap Eats bank, but it’s possible—maybe even preferable—to dine well at Sara Jenkins’s trattoria on appetizers and pasta alone. Especially when that primo piatto is what’s become the joint’s signature: a bowl of anelloni, the wide paccheri-size tubes of ridged pasta that, unlike, say, rigatoni or mezze maniche, wear their sauce-gripping grooves on the inside and, in some inexplicably wonderful, gravity-defying way, cling to Jenkins’s spicy lamb-sausage ragù like no spicy lamb ragù has ever been clung to before. The anelloni is such a hit that Jenkins—an expert on the subject of single-food specialization from her success at roast-pork mecca Porchetta—jokes that she should open an anelloni outpost on St. Marks Place that serves neither appetizers nor entrées, just that sensational noodle. We’re so there. (CECS: Mozzarella-and-bottarga crostino, $8, plus anelloni, $17; total: $25.)

Bab al Yemen
413 Bay Ridge Ave., nr. Fourth Ave., Bay Ridge; 718-943-6961
Middle Eastern–food fanatics, take note: No amount of falafel and shawarma can prepare you for aseed, a Matterhorn of soft, bland dough in a moat of lamb gravy, meant to be anointed with emulsified fenugreek and tomato relish, pinched and dipped, and swallowed without chewing. Less exotic, perhaps, but even more impressive is a sizzling stone pot of Yemeni omelette, with a layer of ground lamb forming a crispy burnt crust beneath egg-and-tomato stew. But don’t even contemplate making the trek to this modest, hospitable spot without sampling the curry yamaani, an unexpectedly harmonious marriage of tender diced chicken and creamy hummus, or the fattah b’lahm, an intimidatingly hefty assemblage of soft-cooked lamb and sauce-soaked Yemeni “croutons,” which are actually torn from the giant wheels of puffy blistered flatbread that, along with lamb broth and salad, accompanies many dishes. Digest over complimentary sweet mint tea—or the subway ride home. (CECS: Yemeni omelette, $8, plus curry yamaani, $10; total: $18.)

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