238 E 14th St (2/3), East Village
As I have proven (hopefully), you can get cheap eats all over this fine city, but the East Village is hands-down the mecca for interesting and inexpensive grub. You can argue that there are great finds in the LES, Flushing, and most of Brooklyn, and that is certainly true, but there is no other neighborhood that has (relatively) cheap rents, an ultra eclectic population, a major university, and a bohemian tradition. In the East Village I can probably find quality grub for under $10 on an average of every other block.
One of my current favorites is Baohaus on 14th Street. This little powerhouse with only a couple of tables slings gua bao aka Taiwanese hamburgers. These doughy buns are small, but pack a ton of flavor. We tried these 3: CHAIRMAN BAO ($3) all natural berkshire pork belly braised and served with crushed peanut, cilantro, haus relish and taiwanese red sugar; UNCLE JESSE ($2.50) organic tofu fried and served with crushed peanut, cilantro, haus sauce, and taiwanese red sugar; and BROCCOLINO BAO ($2.75) tempura broccoli served with zha jiang bean paste, shiitake mushrooms, minced daikon. Plus, we had to get the special JEREMY LIN curried fried pork chop with pickled daikon, pickled carrots, lemon aioli, jalapeños, and cilantro. They were all amazing, which says a lot, because it’s tough to get tofu to be on the same level as pork belly. The spongy bao itself makes a great container that doesn’t get soggy and balances the spicy, salty and sweet ingredients in a way that a tortilla could never do.
I also like the chill, street vibe of this place which plays hip hop and feels like a product of the neighborhood, and not a refined stuffy Midtown transplant. Here’s to keeping the East Village weird, cheap and delicious!