This is it folks, the last entry of my #BallinOnABudget series, but probably the most important. Everyone needs to have their spots they can go to for cheap eats, and this list provides a backbone for places in Jersey to get an affordable meal. It’s a recession kids. This list was the hardest, yet funnest, to compile. It was hard to pick out favorites because I have so many. It’s like picking your favorite kid, which actually isn’t that hard if one of them is a fuck up. But these are all ‘A’ students. Because of how serious this list is, I’m putting all the entries in alphabetical order. Once again, only in Jersey folks, sorry rest of America. We’re neglecting large fast food chains in this list for obvious reasons.
Banana King, North Bergen – Appropriate that we start our list here. This was discovered by me and my friends back in high school. After a night of hookah, my buddy Geo and I needed some late night sustenance. We didn’t want a diner and we certainly didn’t want White Castle, so we started driving on Bergenline Ave. The yellow and green sign outside beckoned us. So did the 24 hour neon sign in the window. Actually, that was the most important. We did not regret the decision. Ordering is real easy. Get a sandwich, or an arepa, or a pincho (steak or chicken on a stick…yeah, that’s it) and, for the love of God, get a motherfucking combo. All the combo is is that you get it with a shake. That alone is worth the price of the combo. Pretty much every flavor you can think of and chock full of sugar, you can get it with protein or evaporated milk or regular milk or water, whatever you want. I used to only get a banana shake, but after having the mango, I’ve switched allegiances. Great late night spot if you don’t mind the clientele. Which is Hispanic so no big deal, but I know how you white people are.
Bobby’s Burger Palace, Paramus – We go from one extreme to the other. Yes, it’s a little pricier and yes, it’s a little chain-y. But Bobby Flay is a #StrongMove kinda guy, he goes on here. You can get plenty of food for under ten bucks, especially if you’re not a ravenous fuck like I am. See, I’m the kinda guy that goes to a place like this and, seeing all the choices, decides to go with TWO burgers because I can’t choose. And of course sweet potato fries. I love America. But anyway, you don’t have to be like me, a burger should be enough. Burgers are cooked to order and are some combinations you can’t get anywhere else, which is why this had to be put on the list. I’m a big Miami Burger and Santa Fe Burger man. Check out the menu to see/salivate for yourself, I’m not gonna ruin the surprises for you. They also have five dollar milk shakes, which reminds me of this classic scene from Pulp Fiction
Cinco de Mayo, New Brunswick – The first of many New Brunswick eateries on this list, which may seem a little skewed, but NB really is the Mecca of cheap food since it’s a college town. That’s really the thing I miss most about living in New Brunswick, the food. Cinco de Mayo was introduced to me by the bussers and cooks from the restaurant I worked at down there that I used to drink with. One day, they came over with tacos in tow and I asked them where the fuck they got those from. And they told me. Let’s get this straight. Actual Mexicans are voluntarily eating Mexican food served in this country? Much less New Jersey! I have to try it. Folks, you won’t be disappointed. There’s a reason these savvy culinary geniuses don’t eat at Taco Bell or On The Border or any of these American establishments. Part of it is because of the irony of the capitalistic system that they are enslaved by, but a bigger part of it is because of places like Cinco de Mayo. Open 24 hours, so it one-ups all the places on Easton Ave. A little further away from campus and in the not so nice area of town, but you can eat a delicious burrito the size of my head for four bucks. Most authentic Mexican food I’ve seen, certainly in Jersey at least.
Cubby’s, Hackensack – Another questionable inclusion because of the price of some entrees (they do have ribs and steak and if you can find me either for under ten bucks, I’ll find you a place that serves rubbery meat), but you can get a few Texas wieners for under ten. They also serve beer, which is pretty awesome. It speaks volumes that my grandparents fucking LOVE this place; they’re Cuban and super-picky and won’t eat anywhere that is not their house, but whenever they come over and we decide to go eat somewhere, it’s either the Tupperware full of food that they bring or Cubby’s. The french fries leave a little to be desired, but the hot dogs, burgers, and ribs and steak as well if you want to ball out are all fantastic. Same people have been working there since I was a little kid, the owner is a really nice guy as well. You can see why on their website it says friendly service is their top priority. A good BBQ is hard to do especially in Jersey, but Cubby’s hits the spot.
Dos Amigos, West New York – Not much as far as variety goes. In fact, the only choice you have is big or small. Steak sandwiches, or pan con bistec, is a staple of any food place in Hudson County and this is the king of them all. These sandwiches stack up favorably to any Philly cheesesteak I’ve had. Actually, what am I talking about, it kicks the shit out of any of them. I just forgot how delicious they are, I haven’t had one in over five years. I just actually closed my eyes, meditated, and remembered how these taste and the taste came surging to my mouth. That’s how you know I have a food addiction. Really small place so it’s hard to get a seat, because the demand for these sandwiches is great. But they also offer takeout. They put fries inside the sandwich that, I dunno what it is about them, but are THE perfect fries to put in a sandwich. Fuck, I can eat those by the handful.
Efe’s Mediterranean Grill, New Brunswick – The complement to Sahara (from the last post on BYOB restaurants). Similar in quality, but cheaper, I’ve never strayed from my lamb kebab platter followed my an order of baklava. The lamb is tender and cooked to order (well, kinda) the rice is divine, some of the best rice I’ve ever had. But the baklava, so gooey so sinful, I don’t actually know how they do it. Maybe they just put a shit ton of honey, I dunno. But the baklava I can eat everyday of my life. You can eat there and take it to go, the only downside is they close a little on the early side especially compared to other New Brunswick spots. And me, we always straddled that line so let’s just say we weren’t their favorite customers. But we had to be because of the sheer amount of business we gave them my sophomore year. I swear, me and my friend Zach must’ve eaten here once every three days or so that year. The other spots we’d eat that year: Hansel and Griddle and Sanctuary. Both fantastic places that I would put on the list, but it’d be way too many places in New Brunswick on here. I decided to include two more widely known places down below. But Efe’s, Hansel, and Sanctuary probably make up three fourths of the Mount Rushmore of New Brunswick eateries. Last spot is up for debate.
Fiore’s Deli, Hoboken – When I was a kid, I knew Thursday as the day of the week my dad would bring us Fiore’s roast beef and mozzarella sandwiches. Besides Football Sunday, Thursday was the only other day of the week I really looked forward to because of those fucking sandwiches. I’d finish mine in under thirty seconds and quickly start eyeing my younger sister’s or brother’s, knowing they probably would not finish it. The sandwich is simple: bread, roast beef, fresh mozz, and gravy. It’s all in that fucking mozz. Best mozzarella I’ve ever had. Don’t give me any other shit. The cheese kinda tears off as you bite into the sandwich, the sign of good mozzarella. If you go there, get any sandwich with this mozzarella. Me, I just loved the combination of it with the roast beef and gravy, but they have many others. Beware though, the line gets really long, especially during peak hours, so go early like my dad used to. Right when this cheese is freshly made. Anyone who’s eaten here knows why I’m ranting like a mad man right now. Everyone who hasn’t needs to go there now. Fuck, it’s Thursday, maybe I’ll go before work…
The Hot Grill, Clifton – I went here once when I was a kid, but the fact I remember this speaks volumes to the food. Nice to see when I was doing research for this list I saw that this was critically acclaimed. All I remember from this place in the dancing hot dog guy on the television screens and the Texas wieners. This was actually the first place I had one, and the dog was top quality. The gravy fries are clutch as well. I need to make a return trip very soon, really delicious place.
RU Grill, New Brunswick – I put these on here for the fat sandwiches, the ultimate #BallinOnABudget meal. For those of you unaware, Rutgers has a tradition called fat sandwiches, where you put a bunch of random shit in a sandwich. Chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, gyro meat, cheesesteak, there are no rules for a fat sandwich. Most people get em at the Grease Trucks, but I contend that the best fat sandwiches on campus are made here, at RU Grill. Open much later than the Grease Trucks and has better quality of ingredients, I always satisfied my fat sandwich fix here. Plus, their pizza is pretty solid, so when I was really drunk, I’d get a fat sandwich with a couple of slices. The staff is really nice and does a great job handling the drunkenness of the patrons late at night. I had to put fat sandwiches on here and I think RU Grill gets the nod here. Everyone has their fat sandwich. Mine is the Fat Elvis: gyro meat, mozzarella sticks, lettuce, tomato, french fries, white sauce, and hot sauce. If the guy from Man Vs. Food went with five of these, maybe he would’ve won the challenge.
Stuff Yer Face, New Brunswick – Another New Brunswick spot and another traditional Jersey meal. The boli, short for stromboli obviously, is perfected here at Stuff Yer Face. Food Network’s own Mario Batali used to work here when he was a Rutgers student, as most of you probably know. Boasting over one billion different combinations of strombolis, they come in three different sizes: baby, large, and huge. Any combination that has pepperoni or sausage or capicola is fine by me. They also have an extensive beer selection, and the word extensive is short-changing them. What an impressive list of beers. Most of them come in bottles, which is completely fine because some of them are really exotic. Just a real nice meat and potatoes kinda place. Beer and boli, what’s not to like?
Tastee Sub Shop, Edison – Introduced to this place late in the game by the one and only Dr. Klioze, but what a place, I can’t enough about it. One of the things it shares with a lot of the places on the list is that there will be a line out the door, almost consistently. Some of the best subs I’ve ever had and that’s a bold statement, but it’s true. Nothing really spectacular when you pull all the components apart and examine them. The bread is mediocre at best, the cold cuts I guess are pretty solid, but it’s not Boar’s Head or Black Bear quality. I guess the toppings are nice, but that doesn’t make a sandwich. But together? Out of this world. President Obama visited here on his trip to the area. If it’s good enough for the president, it’s good enough for me. I roll with either the Super sub (pretty much an Italian hero), tuna, or honey turkey. Their hot peppers are killer. I can’t say enough nice things about this place. The fact I’ll still drive down there from time to time to get some speaks volumes about their product.
White Manna, Hackensack – An even more appropriate way to close the list: the world famous White Manna in Hackensack. Featured in many Food Network and Travel Channel shows, White Manna is the original. I don’t wanna hear about any other dive burger place. This is it. If you haven’t heard of this place, you don’t care about food. Period. Always a hassle to get on line, but it’s really worth it. Place is smaller than my living room and you’ll end up smelling like burgers when you’re done eating there, but this place should be on the bucket list for every foodie out there.
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I conclude my #BallinOnABudget food series. Look for other #BallinOnABudget series in the future, as well as any other posts here on the #StrongMove. I hope y’all have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have had writing it. Thanks for the views and all that have commented either on the blog, my Facebook, Twitter, or in person. Remember, just because it’s a recession doesn’t mean you can’t go #BallinOnABudget.