Thursday, November 1, 2012

NYC Cheap Eats Food Crawl

In June, Justin and I visited New York for a double whammy celebration-- his younger brother's high school graduation and his grandparents' 60th anniversary. While our short trip naturally focused on family time, we two gluttons, of course, planned for some serious eating as well.

Our red eye's morning arrival in NYC allowed for an early start on our day, which was to be dedicated entirely to our hefty "To Eat" list. In a fun twist (i.e. not fun at all), our first day coincided with the beginning of a heat wave, which brought scorching record temps and fairly oppressive humidity. After a quick stop at Justin's house to freshen up and drop off our luggage, we threw on the lightest clothing we had packed and hit the streets.

We began our day at Parm, a casual Italian-American spot known for its hulking sandwiches and skyhigh cakes and sister to the famed Torrisi Italian Specialties, which sits next door.

Parm (NY)

Although we had heard of lengthy waits, Justin and I walked in and were seated immediately at the lunch counter. With floral wallpaper and vintage signs and photos, the space radiated with the perfect amount of kitsch-- just enough to feel as though you were seated in an Italian nonna's dining room rather than a Bucca di Beppo.

Parm (NY)

Given our hunger and the chefs' stellar reputation, Justin and I struggled to stick to our small portion crawl plan. We, however, mustered every ounce of self-control we had and ordered two sandwich rolls to share.

Parm (NY)

My Eggplant Parm Roll ($9.00) arrived with with a heaping slice of eggplant parmesan positively bursting out of a white sesame seed roll and garnished with parmesan cheese and freshly torn basil. Each toothy bite yielded exactly what one what would hope for in such a sandwich-- a delightfully squishy bun, tender eggplant covered in a simple but flavorful red sauce and gooey cheese tendrils stretching from your last bite to the rest of your waiting sandwich.

Eggplant Parm Sandwich @ Parm (NY)

After a tip from a friend/all-around NY dining scene guru, we also ordered the House Roasted Turkey Roll ($9.00), partly because he vouched that it was the "best turkey sandwich [he'd] ever eaten" and partly because we wondered whether a turkey sandwich-- the king of boring, go-to healthy lunches-- could really be that good. The answer: a resounding yes. The mountain of tomatoes, red onions, shaved lettuce and juicy turkey topped with a sweet sauce I couldn't quite pin down lived up to the hype and edged out the eggplant parm as the tastier of the two (no small feat).

Roasted Turkey Sandwich @ Parm (NY)

Despite chugging ice water galore at Parm, the 98 degree weather and epic humidity dictated that our next stop was a cool one-- Big Gay Ice Cream Shop to the rescue! I've wanted to sample their sweets since first hearing of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck (before the shop opened in Fall 2011) because, if there is anything I love as much as ice cream, it's the gays.

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (NY)

My elation at both the air conditioning and the prospect of ice cream caused a serious case of tunnel vision, and I neglected to snap a shot of the interior, but the shop is cheerily decorated with its various awards as well as a giant, glittery unicorn mural.

Big Gay Ice Cream (NY)

Big Gay Ice Cream (NY)

After debating between various cones and sundaes, I opted for the shop's signature item--The Salty Pimp ($5.00), a vanilla soft serve swirled with dulce de leche, sprinkled with sea salt and, finally, dipped in chocolate. The classed-up cone perfectly melded sweet and salty flavors and felt simultaneously grown-up and gleefully childlike.

Bea Arthur, I'm comin' back for you...

Salty Pimp @ Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (NY)

As I mentioned, I neglected to snap a shot of the whole unicorn, but I did preserve for posterity its butt, which is fine since everyone knows that unicorns fart glitter.

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (NY)

While wandering down E. 7th Street, Justin and I sadly acknowledged that neither of us could handle a lobster roll from Luke's Lobster at that moment. After about 10 more minutes of walking, however, we reached Crif Dogs and were game for more.

Crif Dogs, recently featured on "The Layover" with food-lover dreamboat Anthony Bourdain, is raising the bar for wieners with its deep fried dogs and unique toppings. At night, the small restaurant joins forces with the bar next door PDT, a speakeasy-style bar with seasonal cocktails to offer a few special Crif Dogs creations (reservations are taken same-day only at 3:00PM). As we were meeting friends for dinner, however, a day time visit sans booze would have to suffice.

Crif Dogs (NY)

Reminiscent of a dive bar, Crif Dog's dimly lit space holds a counter and a few small tables as well as a few old school arcade games--and a disco ball.

Crif Dogs (NY)

Crif Dogs (NY)

Although the Soup Nazi demeanor of the woman behind the counter proved a bit intimidating (adds to the atmosphere?...), we asked for a recommendation of the one hot dog we couldn't miss.

Crif Dogs (NY)

The Wiener Nazi recommended the Chihuahua ($4.50), a deep-fried, bacon-wrapped hot dog nestled between avocado chunks and a generous helping of sour cream, and she did not steer us wrong. While the combination at first seemed strange, the creaminess of both the avocado and the sour cream paired surprisingly well with the salty, crunchy bacon. When we had finished our dog, I was instantly heartbroken that it was gone.

Chihuahua @ Crif Dogs (NY)

While others might have taken a break, we forged onward to Baohaus, purveyor of Taiwanese street food such as buns, bowls and Asian-influenced fries with an emphasis on all natural, antibiotic- and additive-free meats. We passed owner Eddie Huang on our way in and caught his brother and fellow owner Evan in a pic of the shop's exterior, but I found myself chef-struck and chickened out on saying "hi."

Baohaus (NY)

But I did make friends with this guy.

Baohaus (NY)

In keeping with our plan to order one dish to split at each store, we settled on the Chairman Bao ($3.50) for our taste of Baohaus.

Baohaus (NY)

In our Chairman Bao, a thick slice of braised, all-natural Berkshire pork belly, crushed peanuts, cilantro, Taiwanese red sugar and a special Haus Relish rested in a pillowy soft bun. Deliciously simple and well-executed, the bao was so tasty that, if I wanted to say hi to the Huang brothers before, I wanted to hug them afterwards.

Chairman Bao @ Baohaus (NY)

After hours of eating, Justin and I finally took a breather and walked the High Line, a public park built on a preserved historic freight rail line. The High Line was built in the 1930s as part of the West Side Improvement, a large public-private infrastructure project. The rail line elevated freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous rail lines from the streets of Manhattan's West Side, a busy industrial district. Today, the High Line is no longer needed for transport but offers beautiful views of the City and a great opportunity to lounge and cool down with water features.

A view from the Highline

After taking in the sights and going about a whopping hour with no food, we again turned to a sweet treat to beat the heat.

Mixed Fruit and Passion Fruit Sorbet from L'Arte del Gelato (NY)

L'Arte del Gelato makes its gelato and sorbetto fresh daily and is often hailed as some of the best gelato in the city. We sampled a few of the silky, dense traditional flavors such as pistachio and nocciola but ultimately decided upon some light, refreshing sorbetto. Our passion fruit and mixed berry (frutti di bosco) sorbetto ($4.50) were both bright and crisp and tasted just like their namesake fruit(s).

Our first day in New York allowed for us to make a sizeable dent in our To Eat list. The day provided a fabulous start for our trip and shall go down as a day unrivaled in face-stuffing.

248 Mulberry Street (between Prince and Spring)
New York, NY 10012
Parm  on Urbanspoon

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
125 E. 7th Street (between 1st Avenue and Avenue A)
New York, NY 10019
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop on Urbanspoon

Crif Dogs
113 St. Marks Place
New York, NY 10009
Crif Dogs on Urbanspoon

238 E. 14th Street
New York, NY 10003
Baohaus  on Urbanspoon

L'arte del Gelato
75 9th Avenue (between 5th Ave. and 15th St.)
New York, NY 10011
L'Arte Del Gelato on Urbanspoon


  1. I love this post! So informative! It's like the perfect roadmap for cheap eats in NYC!

  2. You guys make me proud! EAT EAT EAT!

  3. @JustJenn & @Gastronomer: Thanks! We did our best :)

    @WeezerMonkey: Thank you! I changed the title of the post after reading your comment!-- although, we promptly blew the "cheap" part of our trip with out next two meals. Womp womp.

  4. Thanks for the terrific post! I'm planning to go to NYC with my boyfriend in September, this could be a great guide for us. YEAH!

    1. Thank you for the comment! I hope this list is helpful :)

  5. Just saw this, Misty! Yum!!! I went to NY in March and only ate at cheap places too.. it's the way to go! Did you hit up the Halal cart though?? it's my fave x]

    1. Yes, we did! I didn't include it here, though, because that was a different day. I should post those pics some time!