Breakfast: $2 Gordita Discovery Post (aka “the Las Poblanitas for Breakfast!” Post)

I never realized that there was an the original thing that Taco Bell was mimicking when it introduced the gordita to its menu however many years ago (speculation: greater than three years, less than 10).

photoIn fact, I never knew that the gordita wasn’t entirely a Taco Bell invention until, famished at 11 a.m. and needing a break from the usual neighborhood suspects, a tiny thought popped into my head: I wonder if Las Poblanitas does breakfast?

Hmmm …

The answer: Yes, yes they do. And, like the majority of the lunch options I’ve tried here, it’s damn cheap and good.

However tempted I was by the $1 breakfast burrito ($1!!), I had to have a gordita, just to put this whole Taco Bell inventing-the-gordita fallacy to rest. (For the record, Taco Bell’s gordita is basically a taco, wrapped in a second, thicker, soft pita-taco shell.)

photo-1photo-2 So, what does a $2 gordita consist of? As Las Poblanitas does it, a gordita begins with a lightly-fried pita pocket made out of corn masa — think, the softness of the masa part of a tamale, but pita-thin, with browned exterior, plus warm tortilla chip smell. The shell is then stuffed with chicken or pork, warmed, and further stuffed with some cojita cheese, lettuce, the diced onion, cilantro and tomato mix.

All in all, a really satisfying savory snack. Toward the bottom, as the fillings taper off, I topped off the rest of it with a good shake from my desk-size Cholula hot sauce (yes, really).

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Lunch: Meeting the Local Street Meat, Ali Baba’s Halal Food

photo-3With $5 in my pocket and zero time to actually get away, it was either Papaya Dog’s $4.50 recession special — a pair of dogs and a drink — or a lunch plate from this cart parked on the southwest corner of W. 37th Street and 8th Avenue, which only sells small and large-sized platters of chicken or beef over rice, $3.50 and $4.50, respectively.

I think part of the reason why I hadn’t stopped here until now is the sheer confusion this cart causes me: photos of fries, various plate combinations, signage about falafel, eggplant and fish, but you can only buy rice platters? Huh?

photo-4As far as Midtown street meat goes, Ali Baba’s Halal Cart is no star player, but it’s not bad, either. Beat my expectations. The rice, although plain, was nice and fresh, not as dried out as the rice I had the other week on a plate from the Biryani Cart’s adjacent “Sandwich Cart”; the chicken was no chicken-lamb combination from Meal O’Bama one block east (on the same street), but it was better than average, nice-sized chunks without being too fatty.

And hey, for the price, it’s really excellent. Next tie, to help doctor up the rice, I might ask if he could sauce up the rice, too, even before laying on the meat. Because we all know that white sauce makes everything taste better. …

Lunch: Hawaiian Barbecue In the Most Unexpected of Places (and Cheap!)

photoBBQ Chicken: $6.25. Huh? Never eaten here, but I could of sworn from the window display of a table set with a plate of plastic sushi that Osaka was a Japanese restaurant. (Plus, there’s usually something in a name.)

Turns out, the barbecue is Hawaiian-style, which means the chicken (there’s also spare ribs, for a few dollars more) is tenderized and marinated in a sweet, hybrid teriyaki-barbecue sauce, grilled, and served on a bed of rice with some salad greens.

photo(3)Yeah, it’s really good chicken. Big flavor, a lot of tenderness, succulence retained: This chicken absolutely destroys the parched, bland, “grill-charred” chicken breasts you find added to salads and pasta dishes, and lurking at delis, waiting to be tucked into sandwiches.

Next time, I’m going to ask for some extra sauce on the side. I found myself wishing I had some to pour all over the chicken and mash into the rice. It’d make it that much better. (As you can see, I had no issue finishing off the plate without sauce.)

photo(4)photo(5)About those spare ribs … The $6.25 barbecue chicken special is part of Osaka’s walk-in, off-the-regular-menu specials, and ends up being pretty basic. The Hawaiian meal listed on the menu ($8.99) opens up a whole new world: You get your choice of chicken or spare ribs, served with rice, soup, shumai, a California roll and salad. Hell yeah.

TIP: The walk-in, off-the-regular-menu menu has a number of lunch specials that hit the sweet spot, wallet-wise. Something to consider if you can ever move past the barbecue. (Photo of menu after the jump.)

Continue reading “Lunch: Hawaiian Barbecue In the Most Unexpected of Places (and Cheap!)”

Dinner: Impromptu ur Caesar Chicken Salad

A Caesar salad gets away with being so sparse in content because that dressing bullies anything in its path: Romaine, croutons, shavings of Parmesan, grilled chicken, all defer to that mighty dressing, and they like it that way. So it’s no surprise that the chopped Romaine in my fridge was just begging to be a Caesar salad, but I had other ideas.

photo(3)photo(2)
I bought a bottle of Kerry Wood’s Healthy Salad Dressing recently after sampling it at Whole Foods a few weeks ago, and I’m totally in love with this dressing, big, bold flavors, New Orleans-style.

photoI marinated the chicken cutlets (purchased from one of the most amazing supermarkets I’ve ever seen, under the Queensboro Bridge, literally) in about 2 Tbls. of the dressing, more olive oil, Cayenne pepper, lemon juice, salt, pepper for about 40 minutes before cooking them in a shallow bath of sizzling-hot olive oil (a few minutes each side, or until no longer pink inside).

After the cutlets cooled, I gave them a rough chop, and tossed them in with the romaine — and more Kerry Woods’ dressing. So simple, so good.

Lunch: Wednesday, May 6, 2009

photo23Meal O’bama: Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Didn’t think I’d be able to eat every single morsel of my lamb, chicken and rice combination ($7.50) and … I did. I’m not entirely ashamed to admit I was scraping at the rice grains stuck in the niches of the takeout container, to try to free them so I could smear them in the last of the white tzatziki-like sauce.

The scene at my desk was only about a half-step above sticking an actual finger in there and using it in a spatula-like function to finish the job at which my fork was proving woefully inadequate.

photo8Meal O’Bama is the newest cart from Kwik Meal crew; Midtown Lunch has all the details on the chef, the Irish-ish name and the cart’s sister locations.

I needed a bit of flair this afternoon; watching the two chefs work with such deftness in their ultra-utilitarian sidewalk kitchen (no corner unused), not to mention the food that followed, cheered me right up.

TIP: Say “yes” to hot sauce.