Get in My Belly

There is so much to do in New York that it can be pretty overwhelming, and while it can be done, it’s difficult to just meander through the city looking for something to do. I thought I’d keep a running list on where we’ve been, for my own memory, but also as recommendations for anyone traveling to the city. Here are a few dirt cheap places we’ve tried recently that we can’t stop thinking about. Make notes for where you want to go when you come visit!

Ess-a-Bagel

We came to New York for a weekend in January for god knows what reason. The East coast is NOT a good place to visit January – March, so it’s doubly stupid for us East coasters to trek to another similarly freezing, dark, wet place. But the stupidity was rewarded by our friends introducing us to Ess-a-Bagel. This place has some notoriety in the city (I think it was named best bagels last year or something), so it’s not a little hole in the wall discovery. In fact, there has been a huge line each time we’ve visited, but it’s well worth it. We now live just around the corner from one of their locations and it definitely was a selling point when deciding on the place. The bagels are perfect – big, crusty and chewy on the outside, soft on the inside. My favorite thing to order is a plain toasted bagel with egg whites and cheese. Simple, and I’m sure very shiksa of me, but at under $4, I don’t really care. Plus they have cinnamon coffee, Dr. Brown’s, great black & white cookies, and yummy lox. I’m not a big fan of flavored cream cheeses, but they make their own and have a ton of varieties.

The Kati Roll Company

One thing I love about New York is that so much is accessible by foot. I’ve been a fan of yelp.com for awhile, but never has it been so useful! Click a bunch of neighborhoods and that single $ sign and you’re off. I found The Kati Roll Company there and was sold on a description of an “Indian Chipotle”. John and I love Indian food and were totally sold on this concept. It’s pretty dead on, too: beef, chicken, mutton, aloo masala, etc. wrapped in naan. I had one aloo masala (potato) and one mutton and they were so, so, so good! It was pretty crowded for a Wednesday night and we were definitely the only non-Indians in the joint, which we took as a good sign. It’s a really small unassuming place, but stylish and decorated with vintage Indian movie posters. The best part – we got out of there absolutely stuffed for under $20! As soon as we walked in and saw the grills I said, “I have a feeling I’m going to be craving this all week” and it’s been true. Too bad we have way too many other places to try!

Thai 51

In addition to Indian, John and I love Thai food. I mean, who doesn’t? I’ve never been to a “bad” Thai place, but it’s special to find a really good one. We were walking to run an errand and passed this place and did something that’s been happening a lot – “hey, I’m hungry? Are you hungry? We should probably eat”. This place was so cute it was hard to pass up . . . it also had a huge sign that said “$10 prix-fixe lunch – appetizer, entrée, and drink”. Sold. We figured the portions would reflect the measly price and were happy to be proven wrong. The service was so friendly too, and again, we were the only non-Thai people there for most of our meal. The actual restaurant is very small and can probably only seat about 25 people. The façade opens up so it becomes al fresco during the warm months, and across the street is a synagogue with a beautiful public garden, so it’s a really lovely setting. I had chicken pad thai which I guess is how most people judge the quality of a Thai restaurant, and I thought it was really good. John’s green curry was so delicious, too. We split spring rolls and veggie dumplings as well, and for ten dollars each?! We’ll definitely be back.

Gazala Place

This is another super tiny place that serves Mediterranean (actually,Druze, to be technical – have you heard of this? I hadn’t either, and I’ve been to Israel. Shame shame.) in Hell’s Kitchen. A couple of friends who live in the neighborhood brought us here, and if we lived closer I think we’d probably be in there often. First of all, it’s BYOB with no corkage fee – very cool. We all shared a bunch of different appetizers – the falafel and cegar stood out – and ended with a really delicious cake that had been soaked in milk and honey with a yogurt, blueberry, and pistachio topping. So good! It was also just a nice dining experience, as the place probably only holds 20 people. If we went back and ordered an entrée and a few mezze to share, plus brought our own wine, we’d leave having a really great meal under $25. Steal.

Rice to Riches

This is a pretty famous New York establishment, but I had never been before and so was willing to stand in line with the throngs of tourists to get a sample of this infamous rice pudding. Yes, rice pudding, who knew?! I happen to have always really liked rice pudding and tapioca, so I was excited. The place itself is really adorable and sort of space age themed. It’s like Pinkberry or any ice cream place where you pick your flavor and toppings. I chose the mascarpone cheese with dried cherries and it was absolutely to die for and I’m pretty certain I could eat it every single day. John got a banana flavored which neither of us were terribly crazy about, but it was still theoretically yummy. One thing that I loved was that the pudding is served in these environmentally friendly, super cute sealable and reusable dishes that come with matching spoons. We couldn’t finish our portions, so we just closed up the dishes and took them back home on the subway. It was so nice to wake up the next morning and remember, “ooh, rice pudding!”, which was obviously my very first waking thought; perhaps because I fell asleep thinking about it sitting in the fridge and dreamt about eating it. Plus, we have the reusable dishes that will be fabulous for toting lunch to work. You know, eventually.

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