Downtown Lunch: Jury Duty Tripe (and More)
Every Friday we check in with Daniel Krieger for a column called “Downtown Lunch”. After all, why should we Midtowners have all the fun? Daniel’s column is a chance to make us jealous of what office workers are eating in the lower half of the island. This week, Daniel is home sick- so I’m taking over! Which works out, because this week I have jury duty… and despite reading Daniel’s column every Friday, nothing works better to create jealousy than spending two days “working” a few blocks away from Chinatown. (The photos won’t be as good, but the eatin’ was mighty fine.)
When I first posted about my jury duty, you guys came through with a ton of great recommendations near the courthouse (I was summoned to 111 Court Street.) Cheap sit down restaurants, great dim sum (my favorite), and bakeries (can’t forget the bakeries!) Some even suggested I go south, into the true heart of Downtown Lunch’ing. But naturally, the pull of Chinatown was just too much to resist, and in true Midtown Lunch fashion I shunned the close recommendations for something that required a few minutes of walking for a big time (and borderline scary) payoff. Tripe from a cart.
Ever since I read Gordon Mark’s Guide to Chinatown Snacks on Serious Eats: New York, I have been craving some super cheap Chinatown street food. And although Daniel has done a great job covering Chinatown- he makes no secret of how grossed out he is by dirtiness… especially carts. To put it another way- ain’t no way the man is going to eat tripe from a cart. I on the other hand, see it as my duty. So, I trekked over to Grand Street, just east of Bowery- and found the recommended cart. The menu is entirely in Chinese, so it helps to look at the Serious Eats: New York translation and decide what you want in advance. They’ve got all sorts of offal goodies, but I was only there for one thing.
A short walk up Bowery to park next to the basketball court, and I was tucking in to my tripe over rice noodle rolls. Topped with three kinds of sauces, you’ve got that sweet & savory mix, with a little bit of peanut sauce, hot sauce, and of course the unmistakable flavor and texture of beef stomach. I have avoided this stuff for a long time, and you may think getting it off a cart may not the best idea- but I’ve got to tell you, this stuff is freaking good. Stewed to a surprising tenderness, the flavor is good, and the price is right. $2.50. No joke. ($1.25 for the noodles, $1.25 for the tripe.) If only there was one of these in Midtown
My $2.50 order was pretty filling, and I could have easily called it a day- but as you know, I feel that a meal is dictated by the price, not the amount of food. $2.50 isn’t a lunch. So I headed a block north to another of Gordon’s recommendations that I had been eyeing for awhile. Roast pork over rice from Wah Fung. Another super cheap treat $2.50 buys you rice, a tiny bit of vegetables (don’t worry, it’s not that much) and some delicious roast pork.
Watching it get assembled may have been the best part. After scooping some rice into a small tin foil container, with a few string beans, the guy chops up some sweet, gooey, red roasted pork. I kind of thought, well, that’s not that much meat. I know it’s cheap, but come on. Oh but wait… there’s more. Back to the trough for another piece. Phew. That’s more like it. Now that’s a good bit a meat. Wait a second. What are you doing? Back again? More? Another piece? For me? Wha?!? How are you going to get the plastic top down over that- oh. Wow. That’s impressive. (“I’m bustin’ Jerry. Busting!”)
For $2.50. Some may think it’s too sweet (you may say the secret ingredient is the ladleful of sauce), but I thought it was just right. Some may think it’s too greasy (you may say the secret ingredient is the ladleful of grease), but I say- bring it on! Amazing. $5 and I was stuffed.
Of course not too stuffed to hit up Mei Lei Wah for a coconut bun on my way back to the courthouse. 80 cents and still warm. I think I could get used to it down here.
Steamed Food Cart w/ Tripe, Grand St. Just East of Bowery (North side of the street)
Wah Fung No 1. Fast Food, 79 Chrystie Street (btw. Grand and Hester)
Mei Lei Wah, 64 Bayard St. (nr. Elizabeth)