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NYC: Five Great Street Foods

THELEwala Indian Cart FoodMamoun's FalafelNoodle Soup at Bo Ky, photo by lee kleinMeat Pie at The Tuck Shop, photo by lee kleinPork Bun at Momofuku, photo by lee klein

I don't visit New York City often enough to be able to recommend the trendy new eateries that are always popping up, but these five places are tried-and-true for delicious snacks under $10. 

I used to eat at Mamoun's Falafel Restaurant all the time when I lived in the Village. It’s been around since 1971 and just about everyone knows about it, so it’s not like this is a find. But the shawarma and falafel remain exemplary (the former $6, the latter up to $3.50 nowadays – still amazing deals). And the MacDougal street atmosphere can’t be beat.

Mamoun's Falafel

Across the street and up the block from Mamoun’s is THELEwala Indian Cart Food, a take-out Nizami Roll House. It is a closet-size space with a few stools, and gets packed late with a young Indian crowd. Specialties include the namesake Nizami rolls, a Calcutta street snack. Try the spicy and delectable Chapli roll filled with minced lamb, red onions, lime and fried egg; and Bhel Pori, a dish of puffed rice, potatoes, chickpeas and red onions, with two bright chutneys drizzled on top. In 2011, The New York Times named THELEwala one of the city's ten best snack spots for under $10.

THELEwala Indian Cart Food

When in New York, my wife likes to stop in at this medicinal herb store on Grand Street, between Mott and Elizabeth streets. In doing so, she discovered Bo Ky Restaurant right across the street. The place serves Vietnamese dishes as well as Chinese, which isn’t necessarily a good sign, but the Chinese foods I’ve tried here have always been praiseworthy – especially the Teochew style noodle soups from the Guangdong province. Last I checked they went for about $5.50 a bowl. It’s often crowded with the local Chinese community, which is usually a good sign.

Noodle Soup at Bo Ky, photo by lee klein

The Tuck Shop is a small spot tucked away at 68 East First Street in the East Village that specializes in Australian meat pies. Niall (pronounced Neal) Grant (in photo) from Dublin, and partner/chef Lincoln Davies is from Melbourne. The pies are sold in single-servings (average $6 each) and plumped with ground beef, chicken pot pie filling, vegan mixes, and so forth. They are all wrapped in flaky pastry, get baked throughout the day, and make a great afternoon pick-me-up – complemented with an Aussie beer of course (Coopers or Boags).

Meat Pie at The Tuck Shop, photo by lee klein

David Chang’s reinvention of the traditional Chinese pork bun at Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004 put pork belly on America’s map, and it remains not only the best pork bun, but contains the best pork belly preparation (all natural pork from Fossil Farms in New Jersey, cured in 50/50 sugar/salt mix for 24 hours, roasted, plunked in steamed bun thinly spread with hoisin and garnished with quick-cured cucumbers and scallions). "I've always said we wouldn't be where we are today if not for the pork bun," says Chang. "It's a dish that's synonymous with Momofuku." And it is served the same way today as it was eleven years ago.

Pork Bun at Momofuku, photo by lee klein