Vinnie’s Pizzeria. 148 Bedford Ave. Brooklyn. NYC

Exotic toppings and vegan choices, along with late-night opening hours on weekends and a decent range of soft drinks (even two different types of root beer) make Vinnie’s a neighborhood winner for the rushed diner on a budget. The avocado & black bean slice was the only dull choice we tried; ground beef with ranch sauce was meat-feasty, and the mac’n’cheese slice was better than average. These gourmet options are $4.50 each but their fantastic simple cheese slices are $2.75. Try the beef patty too – it’s not as greasy as others I’ve tried, and packs a spicy punch. Sure, the servers could do with smiling more, but this is reliably good fast food.

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Subway: Bedford ave.

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Phở Grand. 277 Grand St. Lower East Side. NYC

At last, I finally get to eat my favorite streetside dish from my Saigon days (2006-9): Bo Kho. A Vietnamese take on the classic French stew, Beef Bourguignon, but replacing the red wine component (as a bottle of wine in the colonies of Indochine would never have been thrown into food) with substitute spices to replicate that flavour, is usually served with a crusty baguette. Star anise is the crucial spice here to achieve that rich French vin base. I ordered mine with rice vermicelli and it didn’t disappoint at all. Fat pieces of brisket and carrot sat in a curry soup, and I drank it down to the last drop, and all this for less than $8. Asian bottled beers – Singha, Tsing Tao & 33 – are all $3.50, service is friendly, and the overdose on wood paneling keeps it kitsch and cosy. There’s so much to try on the menu, and we look forward to many repeat visits.

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Subway: Grand St. (B,D), Bowery (J,Z)

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Amancay’s Diner. 2 Knickerbocker Ave. Brooklyn. NYC

Owned by the infamous Chang Han, a legendary lothario and bad boy (‘shady, not creepy‘) known for jello-wrestling with young ladies in his last joint (St Mark’s Market), Amancay’s Diner is Bushwick’s first and only 24-hour restaurant. It’s a colorful, spacious building with a reasonably-priced menu and the world’s only spin-the-bottle table. Our surprisingly succulent vegan burger was $14, Dill Bloody Marys ($9) and deliciously textured salmon scrambled eggs ($11) filled us up and service was friendly and attentive; throw in some live music and eclectic decor (naked Barbies, stencil art) and this is one of Bushwick’s best.

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Subway: Jefferson (L)

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Nancy Whiskey Pub. 1 Lispenard St. TriBeCa. NYC.

Shuffleboard and a quick snack brought us here, and the crabcake
basket with fries was perfectly serviceable. This place has a lot of regulars and a resilient history as the dive bar that stayed open after 9/11 and high rents. The choice of cheap draft beers is pretty dire though, and for a ‘whiskey pub’ there’s a very small choice of bourbon, rye and scotch – no more than ten bottles in total, in fact. The owner is a real character though, seemingly intox’d all day long, and there is a down-at-heel pop-in-n-out vibe here, with a sweet little smoking patio in the front; perfect for a quick drink before walking the few steps into the subway. Also popular with off-duty cops and harmless freaks.

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Subway: Canal St. (A,C,E,1)

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