Every year, city magazines publish their "cheap eats" guides, gushing over $35 Kobe beef burgers, and enotecas with $15 paninis that pair nicely with $60 bottles of Barolo.At GOOD, we're a little more realistic (and a lot hungrier). So grab a twenty from the ATM and follow our road map to America's seven best streets for exquisite food you can actually afford.
Roosevelt Avenue, Queens
On Roosevelt Avenue between 62nd and 82nd Streets, rice is the common language, and its preparation varies as widely as the languages spoken on the 7 train, which rumbles above the adjacent neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Woodside. From stores, supermarkets, carts, stands, and trucks, the cuisines and cultures of Latin America and Asia intersect. Treat Roosevelt Avenue as a 20-block destination; it requires several return visits to truly appreciate.Hopping off the 7 train at 61st Street, your first treat is about 35 paces away. Grab a toothsome pollo verde tamale from the friendly Mexican man under the station stairs, and then hoof it seven blocks to El Sitio, the venerable Cuban lunch counter, for ropa vieja, delicious fork-tender skirt steak stewed in tomato sauce. Next, try Asian chicken three ways: Experience the global evolution of fried chicken and Korean fast food at Unidentified Flying Chicken, hit the Little Manila fave Krystals for chicken adobo, and then, last but not least, is the authentic pad kra prow-a traditional dish of sautéed ground meat with basil sauce (get it with chicken, naturally)-at the Northern Thai standout Zabb Queens.It's worth returning for a nighttime pilgrimage to Little Colombia, which begins around 75th Street, to visit the Arepa Lady's small cart on Roosevelt Avenue. Her crispy, cheese-oozing Colombian corn cakes-only available after 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays-have inspired devotees to erect a MySpace page in her honor.
AREPA LADY Roosevelt Avenue between 78th and 79thTry the: Cheese arepasEL SITIO 68–28 Roosevelt AvenueTry the: Ropa viejaUNIDENTIFIED FLYING CHICKEN 71–22 Roosevelt AvenueTry the: Chicken wings with soy garlic sauceZABB QUEENS 7128 Roosevelt AvenueTry the: Pad kra prow
Travis Street, Houston
The expanse of Travis Street that runs through Houston's Midtown neighborhood allows adventurous eaters to dine and stroll-a rarity in the land of big oil and even bigger SUVs. Exiting the brand-new METRORail at the Ensemble/Houston Community College stop, walk to T'afia, local chef Monica Pope's Texas-sourced restaurant for the tasting menu, which changes nightly. On Saturdays, T'afia is transformed into a market, with vendors like the Houston Dairymaids, known as much for their cute aprons as their local cheeses. The same block also boasts the popular Breakfast Klub, which serves up chicken and waffles in stylish environs, and the kitschy, Austin-esque Tacos A Go-Go, which sits behind T'afia on Main Street.If you're still hungry (or a repeat visitor), head eight blocks down Travis to the bargain Vietnamese mom-and-pop, Cali Sandwich & Fast Food, for its bun bo xao, grilled beef with vermicelli. For a taste of older, more established Houston, drive five minutes down Travis to Treebeards for its world-beating gumbo that saves you the five-hour drive to New Orleans.
BREAKFAST KLUB 3711 Travis StreetTry the: Chicken and wafflesCALI SANDWICH & FAST FOOD 3030 Travis StreetTry the: Bun bo xaoTACOS A GO-GO 3704 Main StreetTry the: Breakfast tacosT'AFIA 3701 Travis StreetTry the: Daily tasting menuTREEBEARDS 315 Travis StreetTry the: Gumbo with sausage and shrimp
Fremont Avenue North, Seattle
With a statue of Lenin, an 18-foot public-art sculpture of a troll crushing a Volkswagen Beetle, and its own citizens calling it "the center of the universe," the Fremont neighborhood's counterculture cred is solid. That individualism also infuses area restaurants, many of them concentrated near the massive Fremont flea market.Just five blocks from the market, the 3400 block of Fremont Avenue offers encouraging culinary diversity. The micro chain Jai Thai's yellow curry is a local favorite, and down the block, the family-style Greek spot Costas Opa is a sure bet for the beef souvlaki. For diners who prefer visual appetite cues instead of menus, Blue C Sushi fits the bill. While living in Japan, the owner, James Allard, fell in love with kaiten-zushi, the affordable conveyor-belt sushi joints. Long-time sushi chef Shinichi Miura sends out creations that cost a measly $1.50 to $4.Further up Fremont, Paseo slings pressed sandwiches out of a blink-and-you-miss-it shack. Its gussied-up medianoche envelops succulent roast park in a French baguette for a sandwich that's about as unexpected as, well, a troll under a bridge crushing a punch-buggy.
In this often self-segregated city, Chicago's Uptown neighborhood is anomalous, a genuine microcosm of Studs Terkel's home turf. It's 42 percent white, 21 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic, and 13 percent Asian-and the dining options reflect the mix. Since much of the area is still BYOB, bring your poison with you and save your money for dinner. Silver Seafood is a good place to start, since it allows you to select a victim from its tank. Have it steamed and served with a soy and aromatic herb garnish. If participatory dining isn't your thing, head to La Fonda Latino Grill up the block for some grilled beef loin with chimichurri sauce and sweet plantains. Save room for desert at Thai Pastry, where the pink-and-green vermicelli served with a sweet coconut-milk sauce more than makes up for the often spotty service. Head back down Broadway for a nightcap of rye on the rocks at the Green Mill, a haunt for old-school jazz where former co-owner Al Capone once held court.Farther north on Broadway, in the area now defined as Edgewater, the cuisines of Africa and Latin America predominate. At Ethiopian Diamond, the classic chicken stew doro watt goes well with the live jazz on Fridays. Welcome to the Other Chicago. Say goodbye to the Loop and its soggy deep-dish pizza.
ETHIOPIAN DIAMOND 6120 N. Broadway StreetTry the: Doro wattTHE GREEN MILL 4802 N. Broadway StreetTry the: Rye whiskeyLA FONDA LATINO GRILL 5350 N. Broadway St.Try the: ChurrascoSILVER SEAFOOD 4829 N. Broadway StreetTry the: Steamed red snapperTHAI PASTRY 4225 Fremont AvenueTry the: Vermicelli and coconut-milk deserts
Southwest 8th Street
MiamiLittle Havana's main drag, Southwest 8th Street-Calle Ocho to locals-is renowned for its authentic Cuban cuisine and its robust hatred of Fidel Castro. The boulevard's quaint and walkable blocks run from 14th Street to 18th Street. Disregard the "Viva Bush" stickers at Los Pinareños Frutería and focus on the guarapo (sugarcane juice), fresh-squeezed orange juice, and the recession-proof $3 lunch special. Also, if you time it right (the last Friday of every month), Calle Ocho between 14th and 17th becomes a street fair for Viernes Culturales. Go gallery hopping, catch a show and pause for tapas at Casa Panza, which also features Flamenco dancing three nights a week.Immigration from Cuba and other Latin American countries has expanded Little Havana from downtown to the edge of the Everglades. As in most of Southern Florida, you'll need a car to get around. Grab a pair of 75-cent Colombian empanadas at San Pocho Restaurant and continue a few blocks down to Taqueria El Mexicano for bistec a la Mexicana-beef chunks simmered with tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños. For the authentic Miami Cuban experience, dine with the common folk and power brokers at Versailles. Just don't wear your Che shirt.
What Nolensville Road lacks in charm and walkability, it compensates for with a thorough culinary road map to the New South-count on Mexican, Middle Eastern, and African cuisines. You'll need a vehicle and a few visits to master the terrain, but it's worth it. Move beyond the Middle Eastern food of the Levant at the ornate Persian restaurant Parisa's, which specializes in khoresht, stews that pair meat with fruits. Of those, fessenjoon (chicken braised with crushed walnuts and pomegranate) is easily the best. For lighter fare, the nearby Istanbul Café's brick oven turns out admirable versions of the Turkish pizza called lahmacun: a thin disk of dough topped with minced beef or lamb and baked crisp in the oven.About a dozen or so blocks down Nolensville, pop by La Hacienda Marisqueria and scarf down the superior fish tacos, underpinned by cooling cabbage and doused with crema. The nearby Abay Ethiopian offers spongy injera bread to sop up its combination platter, a wise choice for indecisive diners. Head several storefronts back up Nolensville to sample the indigenous cuisine. Norman Couser's Country Cooking's venerable meat-and-three has occupied three different locations since 1955. For the last two decades, it has sat across the street from the Nashville Zoo. Opt for fried chicken as a protein and choose three sides. Just don't feed the animals.
The people who maintain that Los Angeles sucks never leave Hollywood. We know this to be true, because just east of Hollywood on Sunset, from Thai Town through Little Armenia and Silver Lake, there is some of the best Asian fare in the country. And it's cheap. In Silver Lake, start at the Anglo-Indian newbie Agra Café. Opt for the nuanced balti-a spicy curry cooked quickly over high heat, with origins in the Pakistani community of Birmingham, England-with mushrooms, lamb and chicken. Ask the waitstaff to make it hurt and bring your own beer-you'll need it. For neighborhood Mex, Alegria specializes in a complex mole that earned it a place on the "L.A. 99" list of Jonathan Gold, a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic. Don't worry about the faux coolness of the stark white Vietnamese Pho Café. Instead, slurp its namesake dish and hipster watch.About a dozen blocks farther west, Sunset runs into Thai Town and Little Armenia. In 1984, a visionary named Vartkes Iskenderian brought his Lebanese rotisserie chicken chain, Zankou Chicken. Twenty-three years later, after a protracted family drama over the chain's ownership, Zankou Chicken has spread across the city. Visit the original at Sunset and Normandie; taste the garlic sauce, and become a believer. A few blocks west, at Jitlada Thai, take a deep breath and order the prohibitively spicy kua kling (curry seasoned with turmeric and lemongrass), then exhale. Now stop saying L.A. sucks.
AGRA CAFÉ 4325 W. Sunset BoulevardTry the: Mixed baltiALEGRIA 3510 W. Sunset BoulevardTry the: Chicken molePHO CAFÉ 2841 W. Sunset BoulevardTry the: Beef phoJITLADA THAI 5233 1/2 W. Sunset Boulevard ·Try the: Kua klingZANKOU CHICKEN 5065 W. Sunset BoulevardTry the: Rotisserie chicken