Follow the eater

Four of the city's trendiest gastronomes lead us on tours of their favorite wallet-friendly food spots.

Kim noshes on fried chicken at Hunan Delight

Photograph: Dan Eckstein

Fried food with Sohui Kim Chef, the Good Fork

"Monday is our only night off, so we like to treat ourselves," says Sohui Kim, chef at two-year-old Korean-tinged restaurant The Good Fork (391 Van Brunt St between Coffey and Van Dyke Sts, Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-643-6636), which she owns with her husband, Ben Schneider.

On the Monday night the couple heads out with us (Schneider graciously agrees to drive), they want something fried, and Hunan Delight (752 Union St at Sixth Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-789-1400) beckons with its $5.35 order of eight chicken wings. "This is our guilty pleasure," Kim says as we dig into the wings and a mess of homemade dumplings ($5.75--$6.75). Kim started going here years ago, when she lived across the street, and she watched the restaurant morph from a fluorescent-lit, bare-bones place to a sleek, wood-paneled den. The quality of the food is blessedly unchanged.

That old "99 Luftballons" song is playing in the background when we arrive at Australian-themed Sheep Station (149 Fourth Ave at Douglass St, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-857-4337), where we attack a plate of fried calamari ($8); huge, two-person portions of fish-and-chips ($13); a monolithic meat pie ($12); and a $6 side of poutine, a French-Canadian dish of french fries, gravy and cheese curds. Kim pronounces the calamari "very fresh, with a really light coating." She's also enthusiastic about the meat pie: "It's very moist, well-spiced and seasoned nicely." Schneider is initially skeptical about the beer-battered cod, but changes his mind after a few bites. "I love it," he gushes, as Kim wipes some tartar sauce off his chin.

Next up: Taro Sushi (446 Dean St between Flatbush and Fifth Aves, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-398-0872). "It's as good as Blue Ribbon, but half the price," Kim says. They're big fans of the "phenomenal" appetizers ($6 each): light, crispy tempura; ankimo, silver-dollar--size slices of monkfish liver treated with sake; karaage (deep-fried chicken); and maguro natto (tuna and fermented soybean). The karaage is the big winner. "Awesome," Schneider says, while Kim praises the dark meat: "It's not like nuggets."

For our last port of call, Ippudo NY (65 Fourth Ave between 9th and 10th Sts, 212-388-0088), we climb into Kim and Schneider's 1979 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, which they plan to convert to biofuel using their kitchen's fry oil. "We're big-time ramen fans," Kim says, "but we've been pleasantly surprised to find that the other Japanese tapas-style food was just as tasty." We order the kakuni (Berkshire pork belly with bok choy and a hard-cooked egg, $9), the bakuretsu (a tofu and pork hot pot, $9)." The hot pot earns points for its spicy, bubbling broth—"It's very homey, and similar to Korean cooking," says Kim—as does the kakuni. By this point, we've been eating for more than four hours, and Kim and Schneider have to head back to Red Hook to relieve their babysitter—and, presumably, to dream of what they'll be dining on next Monday night.—Rebecca Flint Marx

Pichet Ong of P*ong and Batch | Julie Reiner of Clover Club | David Waltuck of Chanterelle |