Lunch: The Las Poblanitas Fail-Safe (aka “the Corona Ladies” Post)

Las Poblanitas‘ lunch-sign specials are my fail-safe option when payday is around the corner and I’m picking at the lint in my pockets, scraping together a few bucks for lunch.

photo(2)Today I tried the $6 chicken tostadas, a new lunch special written on a whiteboard that’s shown up outside the restaurant recently, some sort of addendum to the lunch specials posted on this sign that you’ll see most days on the southwest corner of W. 38th Street and Eighth Avenue.

The tostadas didn’t unseat the carnitas tacos as my favorite option off the cheap menu, but they did satisfy my craving for that crunch of tortilla chips that I miss when I order a burrito or tacos, neither of which come with chips (at least for free).

photo(3)Three large tostada rounds (all tostadas start with what is basically a big, circular chip) emerged from the kitchen smeared with beans and topped with diced chicken, ready for the the receiving line treatment: shredded iceberg lettuce; diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro; pickled jalapenoes; cojita cheese. White sauce? Yes, please.

Only then did it become apparent that Las Poblanitas is clearly unprepared to serve this special as a take-away order; the only way they fit into the take-out container was by stacking the third one on top of the other two and pressing down until the lid locked into place. I had strange flashbacks to when I’ve had to sit on an over-stuffed suitcase to get the zipper zipped.

photoIn my mind, one of the charms of Las Poblanitas is the no-frills decor, which includes the Corona ladies on the ceiling. It’s festive, in a basement-hangout sort of way. Cold beers in the fridge, decent Mexican food, Corona models beckoning: What more can one ask for from a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint?

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Breakfast: D-I-Y Smoothie Bar (Midtown Oasis)

photoPick a fruit, any fruit, and one of the two sweet girls who are perpetually manning the counter of this no-name mid-block oasis will blend you a custom smoothie.

Or, you can pick from a menu with names like “Berry Sunrise,” “Tropical Paradise,” etc. I just love the fact that I have the option to order off-menu.

photo(2)Is there a strawberry, mango, banana smoothie on the menu? No. Was I in the mood for a strawberry, mango, banana smoothie this morning? Apparently so. Did I have a strawberry, mango, banana smoothie ($4) for breakfast? Hell yes I did. Love it.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This no-name shop is one of the best things going on in the greater Penn Station / Port Authority neighborhood.

Smoothies, fresh pressed juices; croissants, danishes and big, thick slices of banana nut bread and carrot bread on the counter under a glass cake stand; a rotating selection of snacks, healthy and otherwise; Lotto tickets, fresh flower bouquets. It’s on W. 37th Street between 7th and 8th avenues — you can nearly spot the fresh flowers and palm frawns from either avenue. Go.

Dinner: Drunken Noodles Still The Champ (the “Go to Thailand Cafe” Post)

Thailand Cafe was a stumbled-upon find a few months ago, photoand I’m happy to report that the Drunken Noodles were exactly as I remembered them: Broad noodles in a lightly-sweet soy sauce that finishes with a creeping heat from the red chilies. Really, one of the most perfect Thai noodle dishes I’ve ever had.

The Drunken Noodles were the hit of the table last time, and took the crown again this time, and both times the noodle dishes as a whole were the winners. Thailand Cafe has since stopped serving beer by the pitcher, which is unfortunate for groups, but the entire list of eight or 10 bottles of wine are all $24/bottle — an ridiculously low price-point, even by East Village standards.

All in all, Thailand Cafe remains a fantastic East Village option for reasonably-priced food and wine, and stand-out noodle dishes.