Thursday, January 12, 2012

List | 2011, best eats on a dime

Here's a rundown of my favorite eats on a dime of 2011, somewhat by category. I've also included an honorable mention or two for each category, as well as a "possible contender" that I hope to try and compare during the new year.

Best Burgers on a Dime

Shake Shack will always be a proud guilty pleasure of mine -- the Shack Burger is my "poison" of choice. It not only has an amazingly tasty patty but also three other things that make it that awesome of a burger. First is its perfect size -- that way, after eating the deliciousness that is the Shack Burger, you won't feel as greasy afterwards yet you'll still feel comfortably full. Second is that the bun is buttered and toasted, adding another dimension of supreme awesomeness to the burger. Lastly is the Shack Sauce -- a mystery until you have a bite of it on a Shack Burger -- which rounds out the burger by bringing all of the flavors into a cohesive vessel. At $4.55 a pop, you cannot go wrong with a quick stop at Shake Shack. Just be wary of long lines during prime dining hours. If you're going to the Madison Square Park location, check the Shack Cam on Shake Shack's website to see where the line is at.

Honorable Mention: Mark's bacon sliders (with the bacon infused within their patties).
Possible 2012 Contender: Corner Bistro's Bistro Burger (a cheeseburger with bacon).

Best Ramen on a Dime (how oxymoronic that sounds, haha)

Totto Ramen is an equatable alternative to the pricier (and longer-wait laden) Ippudo. If you get here early enough, the wait shouldn't be more than 10-15 minutes (remember, this space is much, much smaller than Ippudo is). For about $10 (compared to Ippudo's $16 per bowl), you can get yourself a hefty bowl of ramen noodles with a densely flavored soup base and accoutrement of additional ingredients, too. You can wish for it to be spicy or just regular miso, and you won't feel cheated with the amount of ramen included. Totto Ramen even blowtorches its char siu (broiled pork) before it is served alongside the ramen noodles.

Honorable Mention: Rai Rai Ken's miso ramen (soybean-based noodle soup with bean sprouts, cabbage, onion, crispy garlic, chicken, and scallions).
Possible 2012 Contender: Ramen Misoya - mame ramen (ramen noodles topped with ground pork, mung bean sprouts, cabbage, scallions, bamboo shoots, and a panko encrusted fried shrimp) with a side of charshu.

Best Meatballs on a Dime

The Meatball Shop has a wittily written menu from which you can order "balls" with a dry-erase marker (yup, you write on the menu!) -- either as a hero (seen above), as a slider (one meatball on a miniature bun), as "naked" (just sauce with a side of focaccia), as a smash (meatballs on a hamburger bun), or as an "Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink" salad (meatballs served over a bed of salad and vegetables). If you're moderately hungry, the hero or the slider is the best way to go. More decisions are to be had after this -- the kind of ball, the kind of sauce, and the kind of cheese you wish to have all together. Along with the regular offerings, there are weekly/daily "specials" that encourages a dynamic menu at The Meatball Shop. If it's your first time, I highly recommend just getting the classic meatballs with classic tomato sauce just to showcase how great the guys at The Meatball Shop are at making some delicious meatballs. Venturing out will shortly ensue during your subsequent visits, which I know will be inevitable :P!

Honorable Mention: Potbelly Sandwich Works' meatball sandwich (my version: meatballs with Swiss, mushrooms, and Italian seasoning).
Possible 2012 Contenders: Frankies 570 Spuntino's meatballs with pine nuts and raisins.

Best Hot Dogs on a Dime

Asiadog offers Asian-inspired twists on the New York classic hot dog with a toasted bun. My continual favorite is the wangding hot dog -- beef hot dog with Chinese barbecue pork belly in plum sauce and a cucumber slice, topped with scallions. It is essentially a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich in hot dog form! Plus, you can get 2 for a mere $7! So if you're itching to try something outside the realm of ketchup, mustard, relish, and 'kraut, Asiadog has what you're looking for.

Honorable Mention: Gray's Papaya's hot dog with onions.
Possible 2012 Contenders: Crif Dogs' chihuahua (bacon-wrapped hot dog covered with avocados and sour cream) or tsunami (bacon-wrapped hot dog with teriyaki sauce, pineapple, and green onions) hot dog; Japadog's terimayo hot dog (all-beef hot dog with teriyaki sauce, mayo, and seaweed).

Best Tacos on a Dime

Dos Toros Taqueria and its incredible crispy chicken tacos are worth a detour on your way home from a late night out. They also make for a great quick meal without the typical fastfood grease and lower grade ingredients. Besides the freshest, local ingredients, what makes these crispy chicken tacos receive such high praise is that the tortilla is toasted with a sprinkling of cheese before filling it with protein and the assorted token condiments. That way, the tortilla has a balanced crunch to counter the more moisture-inducing ingredient-heavy taco filling for a longer period of time. The melted cheese, as opposed to being just a loosely topped, is a fitting addition as well. Lastly, the protein is not overpowered by the condiments of sour cream, salsa, and guacamole. The taco experts behind the counter have a system of closely making sure that the condiment to protein ratio is not overdone. Priced at little over $7 a taco, not a bad way to go!

Honorable Mention: Korilla BBQ's Rib Eye of the Tiger tacos (bulgogi with Korilla sauce, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, tomato salsa, and lettuce).
Possible 2012 Contender: Toloache Taqueria's carne asada tacos (chile-rubbed skirt steak with avocado and tequila salsa borracha).

--circa 2011

Shake Shack (Theatre District)
691 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10036

Totto Ramen
366 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019

The Meatball Shop
84 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002

66 Kenmare Street
New York, NY 10012
available on Saturdays at Brooklyn Flea, 11 AM - 5 PM
for other locations throughout the week, check here

Dos Toros Taqueria (West Village)
11 Carmine Street
New York, NY 10014

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