Tracy's New York Life | A Blog About Life in New York City: Cheap Eats: Xi'an Famous Foods

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cheap Eats: Xi'an Famous Foods

THE TWENTY-SOMETHING FOODIE
by Melissa Kravitz


Saint Mark's Place in the East Village--via Wikipedia

As a recent college graduate, I’m constantly on the lookout for food that’s cheap, delicious, and filling—a rare find in New York City, where a bagel with cream cheese can cost upwards of $7. 

Walk down Saint Mark’s Place and step in line for the Chinese restaurant that meets all the conditions for a hungry foodie making an hourly wage: Xi’an Famous Foods. Typical for a Manhattan food queue, the crowd is always abuzz with menu suggestions and the air of anxiety that people have whilst fiddling with their cash and waiting to order. 




The menu is simple: 16 photos of traditionally prepared Western Chinese food are posted on the wall, and as you step up to order an A1 Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles ($4.50) or a C4 Lamb Pao-Mo Soup ($7), you can dictate the level of spiciness (1-4) you desire.  As a girl who can handle her spice (read: a generous dose of Sriracha is added to all my meals) the mild level of spiciness is usually satisfactory.  Seriously, beware.

After ordering, and only after ordering for the entire party, have a seat at one of the few tables in the Saint Mark’s shop, and watch a video loop of Anthony Bourdain visiting the restaurant on No Reservations, as you wait for your order number to be called. The Xi’an experience is malleable: you can dine by yourself and not feel lonely at one of the 12 seats in the restaurant, share various dishes with friends, or order take-out and walk to Tompkins Square Park to make it a date.  


Xi'an was featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations

The texture of Xi’an’s food is phenomenal.  The cold noodles are both soft yet have an al dente bite to them, excellently slurping up the sauce while still maintaining the consistency of a freshly made rice noodle. The bits of seitan in various dishes are a tad chewy, and foreign to those who have never had such a substance, but act as a tough sponge to absorb even more of the fragrant sauces and balance out the starchiness of a solid noodle dish. Dishes are garnished with fresh bean sprouts, cucumber shreds, and cilantro, adding another twist of crisp texture and clean flavor to the already aromatic dishes.  




Xi’an operates on a no-nonsense basis. Don’t ask for recommendations; their most popular dishes are listed, if you’re curious.  Know that dishes taste better if served in-house on a Styrofoam plate rather than in a take-out container (their opinion, not mine).  Beware of excessive spiciness and don’t complain if your tongue starts burning. 

Serving up fresh, exceptionally flavorful dishes all under $10, Xi’an is the perfect spot for anyone short on cash (or time!) who still wants to indulge in quality international food.  Dishes like the Chang-an Spicy Tofu ($2) or the Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger ($3) offer a quick protein fix cheaper and tastier than pretty much anywhere else in the city.


The Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger --courtesy of Xi'an 

If you can’t make it to the East Village, Xi’an has opened new locations in Greenpoint, Chinatown, and Midtown, and still operates their original store in Flushing, Queens.


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