Lunch: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

photo57Fried food bomb in my gut. And I only ate, like, half of my $5 lunch. If there’s a next time, I’m going for the $3 plate: Two pieces of chicken and fries. Or maybe I’ll sub in the rice for a few more cents.

I’ve been curious about the Chicken House for some weeks now. It’s not so pretty but it’s always busy, it’s cheap and I like the simplicity of the menu. If I had to choose — and I hope I never have to — I’d choose restaurants that do a couple of things really right (the In-N-Out philosophy), rather than throw the whole kitchen sink at you (which doesn’t mean that I don’t love Cheesecake Factory or Big Nick’s).

photo219The Chicken House sells fried chicken, fish, shrimp and crab sticks (!!), french fries, rice and beans, in various combination plates, which are listed on paper plates above the row of deep-fryers that is the heart of the production line, along with a case to keep the hot goods hot. There is no grill, at least not that I noticed.

photo313About a dozen stools line up along the old-school counter, the swivel-top kind. Tartar sauce, hot sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, Sriracha, salt and pepper, stand clustered in groupings.

Cornerstone Grill in Tribeca has the best chicken I’ve found so far south of Central Park, but there may be a time and place, like when I only have $3 in my wallet, that I’ll be back for more.

COST: $5
PREP TIME: 5 minutes wait

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Breakfast: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Really? Kozy Shack, the makers of excellent ready-made rice pudding, make a breakfast … um, cereal?

photo218I think I was as perplexed as I was excited about this product that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Because Kozy Shack’s “Ready Grains” is definitely not cereal. Too solidified. And it’s terrible cold (packaging reads “Enjoy hot or cold” so I had to try).

It’s better warm, like oatmeal, but really what it most resembles is a breakfast whole-grain pudding, which is fine by me: I think a plain version would be an improvement on the strawberry; the grains are sweet and milky enough without the preserves stirred in.

photo56Other morning score (all this at 7-Eleven, on E. 23rd Street near Park Avenue!!) was a bag of crispy cinnamon apple chips from Good Health. “Apple chips, you are so crispy and lightly sweet, it has been too long.” I’m working these back into the morning fruit rotation.

COST: >$5
PREP TIME: n/a

Linner: Monday, April 20, 2009

photo217

photo312Yeah. Linner. It’s sort of what happens when you end up not eating lunch until after 4p, it becomes some weird twilight-lunch/early-dinner hybrid.

When I finally did get around to eating a proper meal, I went for something nice n’ easy: The Fire Rock burger from Quantum Leap, which involves a veggie pattie that is comfortable being made of vegetables and grains (no faux meat taste or texture required), on a whole wheat bun with smokey chipotle sauce, jalapeno slices and mock bacon (salt quotient).

All Quantum Leap’s burgers come with a legitimate side salad (good greens) and housemade carrot ginger dressing, and either fries or another vegetable option.

photo50As I sat there waiting for my take-out, I was reminded that Quantum Leap has to have one of the coziest ambiances in the East Village for just the sort of day it was yesterday: Orange-hued walls, indoor greenery, big windows looking out at the rain coming down, the yellow cabs and occassional brightly-colored umbrella or golashes dots of color in the gray blanketing the world outside. It almost made me take my meal to stay, instead.

COST: >$10
PREP TIME: few lost minutes