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.

Subway: Bedford ave.



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.

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



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.

Subway: Jefferson (L)



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.

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