Cheap Eats

Four righteous rice and beaneries.

Going bananas: Ropa vieja (with plantains) at Javier.

Lately, we've been spending a lot of time at Javier, a sunny West Village storefront with a handful of tables, a mellow vibe, a pre-Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack, and a knack for soupy, scrumptious red and black beans. It's clear from the first bite of the tender, vinegary ropa vieja that Javier is cut from the same culinary cloth as some of our favorite well-worn Latino lunch counters -- places like La Taza de Oro, La Fonda Boricua, and Margon -- that serve up good cheer and cheap, savory chow in equal measure. Owner Javier Martinez is part of a grand Spanish-American tradition -- even though he calls it "Latin-Caribbean" -- and he honors it with juicy pernil (roasted pork marinated in sage, oregano, and garlic) and pollo asado, a moist roast chicken that gets a double dose of garlic -- once when it's marinated and again in the sandwich when it's slathered with ajilimojili, a lethal blend of garlic, olive oil,and lemon (from $1.50 for a savory stuffed pastelillo to $7.50 for generous main dishes with rice and beans).

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· JAVIER, 70 Greenwich Ave., 212-929-7878
· LA TAZA DE ORO, 6 Eighth Ave.,near 15th St., 212-243-9946
· LA FONDA BORICUA, 169 E. 106th St.,near 15th St., 212-410-7292
· MARGON, 136 W. 46th St., 212-354-5013