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Cheap Eats 2007: Pinakbet at Perlas ng Silangan
Pinakbet at Perlas ng Silangan

Photo: Evan Sung

Queens

Pinakbet at Perlas ng Silangan
This Filipino restaurant and club, with posters of foreign pop bands sporting a CHiPs look, features live acts at night. By day, the tunes are canned, but it's still worth a visit—our preference on a menu of more than 100 items is pinakbet, the Philippines' national dish: pork, tomato and eggplant sauteed with garlic, ginger and a touch of shrimp paste, served on a bed of fluffy rice ($5.50). 69-09 Roosevelt Ave between 69th and 70th Sts, Woodside (718-779-2991)

Pupusas at Izalco
Right under the 7 train, Izalco, an El Salvadoran spot with a jungle-hut interior, serves a standout $5.70 offering of three pupusas: fried corn-flour cakes that fall somewhere between an English muffin and a pancake. Each is stuffed with white cheese, refried frijoles or crunchy pork chicharrn. (Don't forgo the chunky house-made salsa—the spiciness cuts the grease.) 64-05 Roosevelt Ave between 64th and 65th Sts, Woodside (718-533-8373)

Chaat at Maharaja
At this spotless white storefront, $3.99 scores a belly-filling combo like the samosa chaat: two crunchy-crusted, potato-filled pockets on a bed of mushy chickpeas flavored with sweet chutney and tangy red onions. Enjoy, then stop by Patel Brothers (37-27 74th St between Roosevelt and 37th Aves, 718-898-3445) for some (necessary) breath-freshening gum. 73-10 37th Ave between 73rd and 74th Sts, Jackson Heights (718-505-2680)

Rotisserie-roasted chicken at Pollos a la Brasa Mario
Mario's, a Colombian rotisserie specialist, is the Famous Ray's of fowl—imitators are dubbed Marion, Maria and Mariel. Order the signature dish, a succulent rotisserie-roasted chicken served with a peppery green aji sauce. It's $4.25 for a meaty half bird. 81-01 Roosevelt Ave at 81st St, Jackson Heights (718-639-5555); 82-03 37th Ave between 73rd and 74th Sts, Jackson Heights (718-505-2680); 40-19 Broadway at 41st St, Astoria (718-932-2424)

Nearly everything at Cheburechnaya
Tune out the diners speaking Russian too loudly into their cell phones and lose yourself in these good, hearty, kosher Uzbek eats. The various $2.25 samsas (meat turnovers) are tasty and cheap, and Grandma-style stews are $5 per big bowl. Try the lagman, a Bukharian specialty, heaped with house-made noodles, sliced lamb, red peppers and kohlrabi in a tomato-based sauce. 92-09 63rd Dr between Austin and Wetherole Sts, Rego Park (718-897-9080)

Huarache at La Espiguita
Kick-ass South of the Border chow redeems the low-rent vibe of this Mexican dive under the N train. Five bills buys a humongous huarache: a 12-inch corn tortilla rolled around refried beans, Oaxacan cheese, lettuce and your choice of meat (the tongue and chorizo made our mouth water while eating). 2-44 31st St between Broadway and 34th Ave, Astoria (718-777-1993)

Souvlaki at Mr. Gyros
This minimall-based Astorian may have a fast-food appearance, but its Greek cooks turn out all the Hellenic hits with panache. The $2.75 souvlaki involves five ounces of chicken or pork butt marinated in olive oil and oregano, charcoal-grilled, then served with chili or tsatsiki (yogurt-cucumber) sauce and a pita. Oh, and yes—we just recommended you eat pork butt at a minimall. Eat it. 21-19 Broadway at 21st St, Astoria (718-204-5569) — Karen Tina Harrison

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