NY Time’s favorite cheap eats for 2010. Can’t say I love this list.
AYADA This is a serious Thai restaurant that makes no concessions to Western palates. The menu is encyclopedic; the waitresses are patient. Put yourself in the gentle but firm hands of the chef and owner, Duangjai Thammasat (known as Kitty), and she’ll guide you toward the best dishes, complex orchestrations of tart and sweet, salt and burn. (Reviewed by Ligaya Mishan) 77-08 Woodside Avenue (77th Avenue), Elmhurst, Queens; (718) 424-0844.
BAOHAUS For $4, you get a lily-white bun (the bao) brimming with Niman Ranch pork belly, glossy with fat and topped with the classic Taiwanese condiments: sweet pulverized peanuts, pickled mustard greens and cilantro. Dissenters will quibble that you can get it for less in Chinatown. Not with this quality can you. (Ligaya Mishan) 137 Rivington Street (Norfolk Street), Lower East Side; (646) 684-3835, baohausnyc.com.
CAFE ‘AT YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW’ In this sunny space two blocks from the boardwalk you can order an amalgam of Eastern European, Korean and Uzbek dishes from Russian-speaking ethnic Koreans hailing from Tashkent. (Dave Cook) 3071 Brighton Fourth Street (Brighton Beach Avenue), Brighton Beach, Brooklyn; (718) 942-4088.
CAMPO DE’ FIORI The dough for the pizza is a result of 15 years of experiments by an engineer specializing in the molecular properties of flour. But you can have a beguiling meal here and never taste a pie. The food is plain-spoken and appealingly rough around the edges. Although the vibe could be cozier, it’s worth lingering awhile. (Ligaya Mishan) 187 Fifth Avenue (Berkeley Place), Park Slope, Brooklyn; (347) 763-0933, pizzacampodefiori.com.
CASTELLO PLAN Quirky and wonderful wines are paired with delicious small plates, cured meats and cheeses at this wine bar. Relax in the dark dining room, or on the side deck when warm weather returns, grazing until late at night. (Betsy Andrews) 1213 Cortelyou Road (Argyle Road), Ditmas Park, Brooklyn; (718) 856-8888, thecastelloplan.com.
THE COMMODORE A dive bar with great food that feels as if it’s been around forever. The Commodore’s kitchen turns out a vaguely Southern array of crunchy, spicy, greasy, gooey and salty dishes that push all the right buttons when you’re rolling through your third drink of the night. (Oliver Strand) 366 Metropolitan Avenue (Havemeyer Street), Williamsburg, Brooklyn; (718) 218-7632, commodorebar.com
DOS TOROS The food here is simple and succulent, stripped-down cooking served in spartan conditions. The restaurant will bring to mind the sort of fresh, quick and cheap eating found at Mexican joints in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Oliver Strand) 137 Fourth Avenue (13th Street); (212) 677-7300,dostorosnyc.com.
DOSA GARDEN The deep, smoky, vibrant curries of Chettinad, in the southern Indian state Tamil Nadu, are featured here, along with a range of dosai with a rich, deep sambar sauce. Flavors build in fragrant waves, from sweet to spiced and earthy to a subtle, integrating chili burn. It’s all delicious. (Betsy Andrews) 323 Victory Boulevard (Cebra Boulevard), Staten Island; (718) 420-0919, dosagardenny.com.
HECHO EN DUMBO Daniel Mena, the chef, is at his best when he takes the big flavors of his native Mexico City and strips a dish down to its fundamentals. He believes in his ingredients; a dish like the short-rib tacos doesn’t need anything more than a squeeze of lime. The place is serene in the day, a scene at night, but food like this is worth standing and shouting for. (Oliver Strand) 354 Bowery (East Fourth Street), East Village; (212) 937-4245,hechoendumbo.com.
HILL COUNTRY CHICKEN Hill Country proved that great Texas barbecue can exist in Manhattan. Now the owners repeat the feat (down the street) with fried chicken and other Southern dishes. (Julia Moskin) 1123 Broadway (25th Street); (212) 257-6446, hillcountrychicken.com.
KUTI’S The chef and owner, Abdhul Traore, marries West African and Middle Eastern flavors from his native Ivory Coast, and insinuates a few French techniques in dishes like shrimp piri-piri and what must be the city’s only escargot panino. (Dave Cook) 355 West 116th Street (between Manhattan and Morningside Avenues); (212) 222-1127.
MEXICUE Winning combinations and smart deployment of sauces make it worth seeking out this truck offering Mexican sliders and gorgeous artisanal tacos. (Betsy Andrews) For locations: (260) 639-4283, mexicueny.com.
THE NORTHERN SPY FOOD COMPANY The menu at this Greenmarket-driven restaurant reads like a roster of favorite snacks and midnight feasts, executed with a precision honed in high-end kitchens. (Ligaya Mishan) 511 East 12th Street (Avenue A), East Village; (212) 228-5100,northernspyfoodco.com.
NO. 7 SUB Visit this takeout shop for subs stuffed with ceviche or broccoli; roast beef layered with pickled blueberries; or lamb with peanut butter, all with extras like candied wasabi, papadums, fried lemon or fermented soybean paste. Results, for the most part, are exhilaratingly delicious. (Ligaya Mishan) 1188 Broadway (29th Street); (212) 532-1680, no7sub.com.
PIES ’N’ THIGHS This restaurant’s new home is a Brooklynite’s imaginary version of a meat-and-three in the South. The thighs are as crunchy and as golden as ever, and the pies are honest, American and sweet. They’re enough to restore the faith of anybody who’s eaten too many fancy desserts that look like Frank Gehry’s rejected sketches. (Pete Wells) 166 South Fourth Street (Driggs Avenue), Williamsburg, Brooklyn; (347) 529-6090,piesnthighs.tumblr.com.