And not to say this means anything but vp Joe Biden ate here.
79 Chrystie (At Grand St)
Chinatown New York NY
For those recession minded individuals or people who just want an honestly good meal for next to nothing, look no further than Wah Fung down in the lower east side / Chinatown. They have the 3 meats over rice special for just $3.75. Fuck yes! I found myself starving a few weeks ago and got the 2 meat special for just $3.25 . The meat selections are Roast Duck, Soy Sauce Chicken, and Roast Pork.The roast pork (cha xiu) is incredible and worth it on its own. Get it with the chicken or duck and you are all set. They guy even drizzles the greasy meat sauce over the meat and rice for you to give it an extra caloric flavor. This place also serves some cheap noodle dishes on a steam cart, but honestly stay away from that. The lady who serves those items is not nice nor is the food. I sat and ate my food on the makeshift table/chair combination in the back and over the course of the time I was there, not one person ordered from her. It’s all about the greasy meat over the rice. Wah Fung is also conveniently located outside of one of those Chinatown bus lines so you’ll see an interesting mix of clientele. Nevertheless, the food turns over fast and it’s very fresh (and cheap). Check it out!]]>
They say if you really want to experience a culture when traveling, travel like the locals. Take the local trains and buses, hike / backpack on the street, hop on a bike and just explore. That’s exactly what Gisa and I did (although not exactly planned) on our 9 hour train ride from Jinan to SuZhou. Thanks to new advanced train booking systems, you can now book train tickets 10 days in advance in China. This is great if you have the foresight in planning a trip. This absolutely sucks if you are a last minute traveler like me. So all Soft Sleeper (4 beds in a compartment), Hard Sleeper (6 bed in a compartment) and Soft Seater (larger comfortable seats) were all sold out. All that was left was the barebones Hard Seater class. I guess we should have considered ourselves lucky because there’s actually a class of travel that is even more hardcore than the Hard Seater class : the No Seat Class. Essentially this is a ticket to get you on the train but you basically have to fight for whatever horizontal surface you can sit on. I did this once with my friends many many years ago traveling 13 hours from DaTong to Beijing settling on a nice comfortable spot on the floor between the trains next to the WC!
Plate Of The Day To The Rescue!
Should you ever find yourself needing to take a Hard Seater or No Seater Class, here’s some necessary supplies we found extremely useful for the trip:
1. Fang Bian Mian or Instant Noodles – Hot water is readily available for free on the trains so you can make yourself a nice comfortable bowl of noodles whenever you like. The trick is getting through the mobs of people sitting on the floor next to the water machine.
2. Crackers – I’d recommend some good old Chinese digestive crackers to help you stomach the trip.
3. Sunflower Seeds – more for passing the time than for nutritional value. Also it’s bonus points for trying to blend in with the crowd. They are also great for sharing with your fellow travelers and can also be used in general bartering for other goods such as fruit, magazines, and newspapers (Spitting shells on the floor is optional)
4. Peanuts – Same concept as the sunflower seeds. Try to get the unshelled ones for added fun and entertainment. We couldn’t find any that day.
5. Packet of tissues – As you may or may not know, most public toilets in China don’t supply toilet paper. BYOTP yo!
6. Sanitary Wipes – upgrade for the above item. Also a great way to wash your hands since most public sinks don’t provide soap either.
7. Water for obvious reasons
2. Beer (Blend in with the locals)
3. Bai Jiu (Chinese grain alcohol) – blend in with the locals, make friends, pass time, and prepare for a nasty hangover the next day.
4. Playing Cards – careful not to lose all your money to the locals
5. Ipod / MP3 player – the Kenny G soundtrack they loop on the trains gets rather annoying after 10 mins.
Most of the above you can buy from vendors on the train, but you never know. There is also a restaurant car on the train usually but this would involve leaving your valuables unattended so we didn’t get a chance to do this unfortunately. I’ve done this on the Beijing Shanghai ride and the food is awesome. There’s just something about watching the landscape speed by your dining table while chowing down on basic food.
In the end, we were both a little bit disappointed (yet relieved) that the train ride wasn’t as hard core as we had anticipated. I guess times have changed. Smoking was not allowed in the seating area of the train nor was there much spitting in the cars. There was also Air Conditioning and flat screen TVs showing the news and short comedy clips for most of the ride. What an upgrade from what I experienced 5 years ago on the trains! Well I guess it’s all in the name of progress. Every time I visit China I am astounded by how quickly things advance. Did you know that the high speed train that links ShangHai and Beijing features private cabins with your own individual bathroom, TV and high speed internet? They are also building a new high speed rail (300+ Km/hr) that will cut the travel time by half down from Beijing and Shanghai down to 6 hours to be completed by the time of the Olympics. Amazing isn’t it? It still takes me an hour+ to get from JFK to Manhattan on the A train!]]>
Sandwiches, Salads, Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern
Working in Midtown has some advantages – easy access for all subways, commutes are relatively easy wherever you live, convenient shopping, and nice parks to hang out during / after work. The disadvantage however is that the food selection out here sucks. It’s either overly expensive or you’re looking at cheap Chinese and/or fast food. Everything else in between is just the same repackaged sandwiches and salad joints with different names and locations. You’ll usually find these at one of the many delis sprinkled throughout midtown.
One of the largest of these mega-cafes delis is Variety down on 46th street between 5th and 6th avenue. It’s another one of those Korean mafia type places that stuff every type of food into one location for you to quickly run in and run out. I once got a custom order non pre-made turkey hero sandwich, grilled, sliced and handed to me within 2 minutes. I just discovered the other day however that in the back is a middle eastern booth that fully rocks. (By the way, the sandwiches are good here and cheaper than most places. $5 for a grilled pre-made sandwich with a bag of chips and a pickles.) Walk past the sandwich counter, past the steaming mystery meat buffet trays and hang a left to the Middle Eastern Place booth (there’s a neon sign that points you in the right direction as well). The dude who works the booth is pretty cool – he’ll usually hook you up with a free fresh falafel to munch on while he prepares your dishes. I got the Lamb Schwarma. This is a real schwarma, not the imitation ones made with day old pita bread. He hand rolls the schwarma, stuffs it with all kinds of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc and lots of tzatziki sauce and hot sauce as well. Then he grills it on the panini press. For $6.49 it’s a pretty good deal – it’s a a huge sandwich that I had to eat for lunch and dinner. I also noticed they had a Soba noodle booth in the very back that I may go back and try. For now though I want to try the other options on the Middle Eastern menu.]]>
747 Columbus Ave
New York 10025
Btwn 96th & 97th St
Just moved to a new spot a few weeks ago and took a stroll around the block to see what restaurants and resources are around and I came across ” U Like Chinese Restaurant”. The name was what got me into the door but once inside I knew what I was in for – Cheap Chinese Restaurant Syndrome Yeah you know, Chinese fast food, Chinese for westerners, Chinese food for non-Chinese, etc. If you’re Asian and you’re caught eating at one of these places it can be shameful and embarrassing (if you are so proud – which I admit I am not). Yes the food is not authentic Chinese – it’s usually loaded with extra sugars, MSG, and the prices are so cheap you have to think twice about ordering a dish that includes meat. The chicken is always dark meat and NEVER order any fish dishes. The cool thing is though that these restaurants are regionalized for the neighborhood. I saw a place in Spanish Harlem on 110th St that has pretty good fried chicken and steak hoagies and another Cheap Chinese Restaurant down in the lower east side that serves stewed chicken, black beans, and yellow rice too.
Anyhow I ordered string beans and tofu over brown rice. In California it’s hard to order brown rice at a Chinese Restaurant – most times they even charge you extra, but here in NY it’s a free healthy option which is nice. The food was decent and cheap and I couldn’t complain. I usually order sesame chicken which they serve with a few sprigs of deep fried/blanched broccoli florets but the sauce is usually way too sweet for my taste. So what’s your take on cheap Chinese? Are you up for it? I don’t have any pride and I can eat at these places and besides it’s always fun to look at the expressions on the restaurant staff as they strain to hold back their laughter whenever I order dishes with my “jook sing” accent in Cantonese.