As the weather finally starts to feel fall-like, make a date with Central Park for a little leaf-peeping. If you head to the subway stop at 86th St. and Central Park West, here’s where to stop afterwards for a snack.
Two dollars and a dream
When you hear about a coffeeshop selling everything for $2, you’re probably picturing a pile of tasteless muffins and bags of stale beans. But atEspresso Matto— a Kosher mini-chain with La Colombe Coffee and Mediterranean flair — the $2 menu isn’t a gimmick, but great value.
This is real food they’re serving here. Yes, they do have muffins, but there are also beet salads with labne and pecans; butternut squash over greens; fresh chocolate babka; organic mini-smoothies; vegan almond butter-chocolate cookies; or chewy bagels with wild smoked salmon and tzatziki, to name a few.
5 delicious meals and snacks under $5 on the Upper West Side
It’s all grab-and-go, but with a little bit of patience, $2 will even score you a hot meal. Order an herby frittata in a pita (with hummus and tomato) or a flaky Turkish pastry called a bureka (with spinach, cheese or potato), and they’ll toast it in their panini press for no extra charge.
Espresso Matto: 530 Columbus Ave., near W. 86th St., (212) 244-4281
Gone with the sunset
Lucky are those who spend time near Broadway and W. 86th St. in the daytime. The area’s sole taco truck — the petite silver rectangle called Tasty Burrito — is only open from around 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Eating along the B line: Tasty, cheap eats on the Upper West Side
As you’d expect, there are burritos ($7), but also tacos ($3), tortas ($8), tostadas ($4) and quesadillas, whose rustic wrappers are made by hand. So are the huaraches ($8), flat, wide cornmeal cakes slightly thicker than a tortilla spread with a layer of black beans and two kinds of cheese. For all of the above, you choose from eight different proteins, like spicy pork or chicken, plus three kinds of heat from the salsa bar.
The cart is also a fine pit stop for breakfast, especially for the extra-hungry. The huevos rancheros ($7) — runny-yolked eggs over rice and pink beans with pico de gallo, warm tortillas and a squiggle of chili-mayo — deliver day-long sustenance.
Tasty Burrito: Broadway between W. 84th and W. 85th Sts., (347) 757-2551
Shawarma and veggies
Flawless flatbread, donuts make this subway stop a dining hotspot
Most of the city’s truly great neighborhood restaurants feed something deeper than hunger, and such is the case with Ali Baba, the Yemeni-Israeli kitchen run by Moshe Harizy.
His food — falafel, shawarma, chicken soup and salads — is satisfying to the soul, rich with vegetables pickled, stewed, fresh, or grilled. You combine all of the above, with as many cured jalapeños as you can handle, in your choice of pita, a platter or the house-baked flatbread called laffa. The latter is seasoned, like much of the food at Ali Baba, with the super-healthy Yemeni spice called fenugreek. (Harizy is a former vegetarian and macrobiotic, so the high nutritional value of your meal is 100% on purpose.)
Harizy himself really sets the tone, by making sure even newcomers feel like regulars. Giving back is part of his mission: for the past three decades he’s fed not just customers but dozens of new friends, opening up his home for strangers for a free Friday night Shabbat dinner nearly every week.
Just be sure to check to see if Ali Baba is open before you go. Harizy tends to set his own hours, noting when he’s serving food on Twitter under the handle @UwsAli.
Ali Baba: 515 Amsterdam Ave., near W. 85th, (212) 787-6008
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