East Village Food Tour Part I: Crif Dogs, Thai Me Up, Vinny Vincenz, Zaragoza, Vanessa’s Dumplings, & Cecel Cafe Crepe

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NYC Food Guy loves the East Village for its culinary variety and it’s old school New York vibe. What better way to celebrate the diversity than a food tour? But with almost 300 eateries south of 14th Street and east of 3rd Avenue, how would I narrow my tour down? Simple, I imposed two requirements: 1) A meal had to be under $10 and 2) There could be no wait staff. Bonus points awarded to late night spots.

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Miss Menu & I hit 6 spots Sunday and were pleased with every spot except one. Read on for bacon wrapped hot dogs, Thai food in a baguette, excellent Sicilian pizza, authentic Mexican tacos, surprisingly good steamed veggie dumplings, and some unique crepes…

First spot we hit up was Vanessa’s Dumplings where we ordered…

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings ($4.49)…

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…which despite NYC Food Guy’s carnivorous inclinations, were pretty tasty. Check out the innards.

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We also ordered a Sesame Pancake with vegetables ($2.49).

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Review:

The steamed veggie dumplings were delicious. They were freshly steamed and very flavorful. Inside I found mushrooms, scallions, cabbage, carrot, and a little tofu.

The sesame pancake, despite its lack of sesame seeds, was spot on. It was fluffy inside and crisp on the outside. The vegetables were fresh and flavorful. Cucumber, cilantro, carrot, bean sprouts, and shredded lettuce were all dressed in a very light vinaigrette-like substance.

Total price with two drinks: $9.65

Open until: 10:30PM

Walking south on 14th street, Thai Me Up was next…

You’re looking at just one half of the Black Pearl Sandwich we ordered…

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… Seven vegetables plus chicken in a sweet soy sauce flavored with sauteed Thai seasonings, something our gracious host Amir called “The BBQ sauce of Asia.” Lettuce, tomato, a touch of mayo and some additional spices are added before serving.

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Review:

Excellent. When all was said and done, this was my favorite meal of the tour. The Black Pearl Sandwich was a total break from the norm. Steam fried and sauteed mushrooms, corn, cabbage, peppers, carrots, and broccoli, plus lettuce, tomato, a little mayo, sprouts, and some additional spices added post-sautee, all inside a fresh, hollowed out baguette. It was like an entire Thai meal in a sandwich, a revolutionary idea. At first, the Black Pearl Sauce was reminiscent of Hoisin sauce, just spicier and more garlicky. As I continued eating, however, the mayo melded perfectly with the Black Pearl Sauce and the vegetables to create a delicious Thai-flavored juiciness that permeated each crispy, steaming bite.

Here’s how Thai Me Up works:

  1. Choose your vehicle: Sandwich, Noodles, or Rice.
  2. Choose the filler: Tofu, Chicken, or Beef.
  3. Choose a sauce: Black or White Pearl.

Everything is steam fried and sauteed with just a tiny bit of canola oil if necessary and then served to order.

Price: $7.59

Open until: 12AM Friday & Saturday, with later hours come summertime

Turning off of 14th onto 1st Ave, Vinny Vincenz was stop number 3…

Sicilian slices are where it’s at. Here’s a look at the pie…

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… and the delicious corner slice I ordered…

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They also make a mean Margarita slice, as you can see from this pie shot…

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Review:

Vinny Vincenz always gets the job done. Their Sicilian slice is light, airy, and crisp with the cheese to sauce ratio favoring the mozzarella, perfect for a Sicilian. The sauce is sweet but mildly bitter and doesn’t overpower the slice. The crust is crispy but not burnt. It’s airy not doughy or gummy like some lesser Sicilians. This is a great late night spot after a night in the East Village. I’ve left Crocodile Lounge, where they give you a free mini pie with every drink, just for a slice of the good stuff at Vinny Vincenz.

Price: $2.35 for a Sicilian Slice

Open until: 4AM Friday and Saturday

While Miss Menu considered waving the white flag, NYC Food Guy was pumped for stop number four, Zaragoza, on Avenue A off 1st…

This chipotle-chicken taco was spicy and delicious…

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Take a look at the juicy chicken…

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And a nice, light watermelon soda to wash it all down…

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Review:

Forget Tehuitzingo and Tulcingo del Valle on 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, Zaragoza provided the most delicious and authentic taco I’ve had since the Red Hook Ball Fields. The chicken was moist, tender, and fresh. The bite from the chipotle was subtle at first but combined with the chiles in the tomatillo sauce to provide a serious spice. The tomatillo struck a great balance between the chiles, jalapenos, and garlic, all without being too watery. The double tortilla was essential to support the weight of the lettuce, chopped onions and cilantro, and the chicken and green sauce. The Jarritos, a soda imported from Mexico, was candy-like in its flavor but remained light and not overly sweet.

Zaragoza, unwelcoming and unassuming from the outside, is really just a small Mexican grocery store that happens to serve some homemade delicacies. As I watched the friendly owner sprinkle fresh manchego cheese over a massive burrito, he told me Zaragoza is open until 4AM on weekends, a god send for future East Village nights.

Price: $2.25

Open until: 11PM weekdays, 4AM Friday and Saturday

Good thing stop number five, Crif Dogs, was 6 blocks away on St. Marks and A, I needed time to digest…

Because once we arrived, it was time to feast…

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NYC Food Guy ordered the Chihuahua, a bacon wrapped hot dog covered in avocado and sour cream ($4.50, add 50 cents for salsa)

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… while Miss Menu went with a Veggie Corn Dog ($4.75)…

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… and we split a small order of Tater Tots ($2.50)…

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Review:

Wow. Kind of mind-blowing. The Chihuahua was ridiculously delicious and decadent. The bacon was crispy and melded perfectly with the juicy, beefy dog. The bun was ordinary but it didn’t matter this was a Dog Show. The Veggie Corn Dog was nothing special. It was huge and the batter at the edges was tasty, but it wasn’t cooked enough in the middle. The fake beef flavor of veggie dog was too strong for me.

The Tots, however, would have made Napoleon Dynamite jealous. They were crispy, wafer-like, and potatoey on the inside, delicious in a way lunch ladies can only dream of. Spicy yellow mustard and ketchup graced the table while RC Cola products populated the soda gun and a two-headed Stewart’s Root Beer/Red Birch Beer fountain sat at the side of the counter.

Not enough? Crif Dogs has two, yes two, Ms. Pac Mans in store. One is the sit down variety; the other is the standard arcade. Need more? They also have a three-game arcade featuring Millipede, Centipede, and Catan, the similar game with the space ship.

Resting on the border between the East Village and ABC City, Crif Dogs has no delusions as to who they may be catering to with their offer of “Stoner Packs”. Four artery clogging mystery bags of Crif Dogs’ delicacies starting at $10 and ascending $10 more from Pack 1 to 4, the latter something they claim you will never be able to finish.

Price: $7.50 each

Open until: 1AM Sun. & Mon., 2AM Tues. thru Thurs., & 4AM Friday & Saturday

Full yet? NYC Food Guy always has room for dessert. But maybe he should have passed on Cecel Cafe Crepe…

… Where the unique crepes come shaped like ice cream cones and filled with pastry-cream. I ordered the large Apple Tatin

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… which looked like this…

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… and like this from above…

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Miss Menu wanted some straight up Nutella but the crepe-man misheard and added the pastry-cream…

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Review:

Disappointing. The crepes, though thin and cooked fresh, didn’t retain any heat as a result of the refrigerated pastry-cream. The cream itself was what you’d find in a cream puff. Tasty but nothing special. The apples in my crepe were also unheated and as a result my overall reaction was lackluster. Miss Menu was even more disappointed. As if it wasn’t enough that she dealt with her botched order, the Nutella was fake. Yes, impostor Nutella. It was obvious something fishy was going on when it was squeezed from a sauce bottle and it was even more obvious upon first bite. It clearly says Nutella on the menu, but unlike a rose, Nutella by any other name, is not still Nutella.

Price: $4 for the small, $6 for the large

Open Until: 12AM Sunday through Thursday, 2AM Friday & Saturday

————–

Phew. Part I is complete. I’m comfortably full. Then again it’s two days later and I’m still comfortably full. I jest. Truly, this was a great experience. I still have about 35 places on my East Village to do list and I’m pretty pumped for Part II, so keep your eyes peeled eaters because the fun has just begun.

 

Vanessa’s Dumplings

220 E. 14th St nr. Third Ave.
New York, NY 10003
212-529-1329

 

Thai Me Up

238 E. 14th St. nr. Second Ave.
New York, NY 10003
212-533-THAI (8424)

 

Vinny Vincenz

231 First Ave. nr. 14th St.
New York, NY 10003
212-674-0707

 

Zaragoza

215 Ave A nr. 14th St.
New York, NY 10016
212-780-9204

 

Crif Dogs

113 St. Marks Pl. nr. Ave. A
New York, NY 10009
212-614-2728

 

Cecel Cafe Crepe

135 First Ave. nr. St. Marks Pl.
New York, NY 10003
212-460-5102
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51 Responses to “East Village Food Tour Part I: Crif Dogs, Thai Me Up, Vinny Vincenz, Zaragoza, Vanessa’s Dumplings, & Cecel Cafe Crepe”

  1. Larry Gomez Says:

    Big L:
    Very well done! Bravo…I think you might have something here.
    All the best.
    Big L
    PS-He’s rounding third……

  2. Rico Says:

    Very well done. How did you go to all of these spots in 1 night? That’s incredible.

    Please tell Ms. Menu that I would give her straight Nutella.

  3. DDR Says:

    The Chihuahua is a sublime expression of the heights man is capable of reaching. I must have one.

    How long before Miss Menu puked?

  4. sarah ricks Says:

    No offense, but you need to work on your photography skills. I want to throw up after looking at this website.

  5. DDR Says:

    Really, sarah? I think the photos are well done and I like the cross-section shots that show the innards of a dish. Especially this particular post.

    My only complaint is that on some of the postings, the photos are gigantic and cannot fit on my monitor screen, which is pretty large. I have to scroll from side to side to get the whole picture. But methinks Foodguy took care of that because it hasn’t been a problem with any recent postings.

  6. Vince Says:

    Man this site ALWAYS makes me hungry!!
    I loved the idea and the self imposed rules.

    Another great post. Keep em coming.

  7. Lizzie Says:

    i definitely do not want to throw up after looking at this website, i think your photography is on point and that thai sammich is quite intriguing…

  8. Rico Says:

    Oh yeah, one more thing… the word “innards” is pretty hilarious……..

    -Rico

  9. Dan Says:

    wow. simply wow, i’m jealous your stomach for getting to take in all this food in one night. and sarah you couldn’t be more wrong, the pictures are awesome.

  10. EW Says:

    DDR — why the hell would you bring up puking on a site that people come to to build up an appetite? what is wrong with you? it’s people like you on the internet whos lousy taste ruins things for the rest of us

  11. sar-UH Says:

    seriously sarah, the pictures are solid. “no offense,” but you need to work on your not-being-such-a-fat-disgusting-mess skills. have another twinkie fatty

  12. DDR Says:

    EW – weak.

  13. Miss Menu Says:

    Thanks, Rico – I may hold you to that! Watered-down imitation “hazelnut spread” is not ok in my book!

    And DDR, I’m proud to say that I survived the entire adventure without getting sick! (I’ll refrain from using the “P” word for you, EW!) But as they say…no pain, no gain, right?!

  14. DDR Says:

    Miss Menu – Not sure if I’m impressed or frightened. Either way, job well done.

  15. ME Says:

    WAIT..YOU ATE EVERYTHING YOU BOUGHT ALL IN ONE DAY?!!

  16. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    BIG L-

    Thanks man. He really is a good jewish boy. ‘Preciate the kind words.

    Rico-

    What a guy, straight Nutella huh? As you can see, she responded to that on her own, but I somehow think she might have misread you there. I on the other hand am just not going to touch that one. And yes, I ate at all these places in one day. How you ask? It’s because I’m the NYC Food Guy and I’m unstoppable. Ha, well not really. It’s all mental. I had high hopes for 10 places so I was happy to stop at 5.

    Sarah Rick,

    Are you a vegetarian? What made you so sick?

    DDR,

    Miss Menu held it down. The only place she didn’t indulge was Zaragoza. I was thoroughly impressed. The Chihuahua is an angel sent from heaven. Thanks for the support man. Sarah seems a little misguided, I’m grateful to have you and Lizzie, Dan, and Sar-UH here to set her straight.

    Vince,

    Thanks for the kind words as always man.

    EW,

    Don’t be mad at DDR. He says what he feels. I have to respect that. Besides, we’re all culinary warriors, a little talk about…. ha well, maybe you’re right… In the end, DDR can obviously handle the hate. Look at his comeback. Simple yet strong. He knows his stuff. Thanks for the comment.

    Sar-UH,

    Thanks for backing up NYC Food Guy. Did you get your name from Cant’ Hardly Wait’s Aman-DUH? Classic flick. Amazing Jennifer Love Hewitt in that.

    ME,

    Oh yes, everything you see, I ate. It was an intense day but that’s how NYC Food Guy rolls. Thanks for the question.

    To all,
    Thanks for the feedback, it’s your support that keeps me going. Any suggestions about where to go next? I have an E. Village list that’s 40 deep but I’m ready for more. Bring it on!

  17. Danny Says:

    The timestamp on this is awesome, haha. You musta written this at 4 am. And after eating all that, I would be stuffed and up late too. You’re a trouper man, gotta hand to you and Miss Menu, that is a lot of food.

  18. Miss Menu Says:

    Uh oh, apparently I missed some innuendo. And usually my mind is quasi-in the gutter. But, even after way too many margaritas tonight, I’m still not getting it. Not a good sign!

    To everyone,
    I promise I didn’t clean my plate at every stop! It wasn’t as gross as it seemed…

  19. kingofketchup Says:

    haha what a great thread. Miss Menu with the priceless response about the watered down hazlenut hahahaha

    Marry me, Miss Menu. forget about Rico, he’s not right for you.

  20. Rico Says:

    Clearly I’m not classy enough for Miss Menu. Plus I couldn’t really afford taking a chick out to dinner 6 times in one night. You can have her KoK.

    -Rico

  21. Miss Menu Says:

    Rico – you seem to be entirely too sleazy for my likings. Back off.

    King of Ketchup – Take me out to dinner first, then we can take it from there.

  22. the REAL Miss Menu Says:

    Lovely, now someone is pretending to be me. The comment posted at 1:23pm was not written by me. Seriously…are people THAT bored out there that they have nothing to do but hack into people’s comments? Lame.

  23. DDR Says:

    To the fake Miss Menu:

    I expected more from you.

    Please redeem yourself by zinging someone.

  24. kingofketchup Says:

    ewie. does that mean you don’t want to go out for dinner with me, miss menu? i’ve already sabotaged one relationship with my ketchup addiction this year — i hope it isn’t happening again now.

  25. DDR Says:

    Ketchup – what is your icon/avatar? I can’t make it out.

  26. kingofketchup Says:

    it’s a packet of hunts haha

  27. kingofketchup Says:

    are the times fixed?

  28. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Danny-

    You said it man, I didn’t get to bed until around 7 the day I posted this story. It was well worth it though. I’m pumped for Round 2 of the tour. Want to get involved? Any suggestions?

  29. DDR Says:

    I would love to join you NYC Food Guy. Any suggestions of where we should go? BTW, is Miss Menu hot or what? She looks kind of cute in that pic on her blog, but I can’t really tell from an internet picture. Will Miss Menu be joining us?

  30. munch Says:

    i wanna munch box for dessert. any suggestions?

  31. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Wrong Site. Try Craigslist.

  32. ilikeoranges Says:

    zaragoza is by far the best taco on this side of the country. high five to that.

  33. DDR Says:

    NYC Food Guy – You didn’t answer me! Is Miss Menu hot? Will she be joining us on our food adventure?

  34. DDR Says:

    I guess the fake Miss Menu now wants to be the fake DDR. The posts at 7:38 and 12:07 are not mine. You can probably tell from the fake poster’s colossal doucheness anyway.

    I’m very happily married and don’t try to pick up women on blogs. Sorry to disappoint all the ladies out there!

  35. Miss Menu Says:

    WOW what a pathetic individual. This person has so much time on his/her hands that he/she needs to pretend to be someone else on a blog? Get a life loser.

    P.S. – Of course I’m cute 🙂

  36. the REAL Miss Menu Says:

    seriously? it’s getting old. find a hobby…or maybe start with a day job.

  37. Evan Says:

    Zaragoza changes up their fillings often. Best thing I ever get is when they have lamb. The lamb taco is incredible and such a deal. Hard to believe anyone would go to the San Loco.
    I prefer the pizza at Muzzarella next to Zaragoza. The white pesto foccacia pizza is perfection.
    You must try the $6 whole chicken from La Isla on 14th and B. Its a dominican place with hunks of pork skin in the window. The chickens recently went up in price but are still great, and they are open all the time. I will buy one, eat the delicious garlicly roasted wings and legs, then use the white meat over the next few days in soup or other dishes…

  38. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Evan,

    Thanks for illuminating Zaragoza’s changing menu. I didn’t realize it’s a rotation. What’s your favorite after lamb? How’s the lamb taco served? shredded? what kind of toppings? I agree, San Loco is weak, but if you’re drunk, it gets the job done.

    I looked into Muzzarella, nothing really looked amazing, then again, I was stuffed so that hurt the cause. I’ll keep the white pesto in mind for next time.

    La Isla, nice. I didn’t know about this place. Sounds great. What time’s it open until? So $6 for just a chicken? Any sides? What sides are worth while if any?

  39. Tresjolie9 Says:

    Have tried Vanessa’s dumplings a few times, quite authentic for the East Village. Usually things like sesame pancake sandwiches require exploring the backstreets of Chinatown, but I was glad to see one located close to Union Square, and with prices close to what you would find in Chinatown.

    However I did make one sad observation, bags of frozen pork buns, the same kind I purchase in my local Asian grocery store.

    But the dumplings are still good, as well as the prices!

  40. NYC Food Guy on Cool in Your Code.com’s “Code Words” « NYC Food Guy Says:

    […] You’ll now be able to find NYC Food Guy’s honest and delicious reviews at NYCFoodGuy.com and on CoolInYourCode.com. Get on over there right now and check it out, they’re sporting Part 1 of my East Village Food Tour. […]

  41. NYC Food Guy Recommends… Cheap Late Night Eats « NYC Food Guy Says:

    […] Zaragoza […]

  42. liya Says:

    umm tasty food…………………..

  43. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Liya,

    Damn right. Any more recommendations?

  44. mal Says:

    have you tried crepe creations by nyu?

  45. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Mal,

    I haven’t tried Crepe Creations, whats it all about? What should I get and where is it?

  46. Nathan’s Famous: Nothing Better Than Coney Island « NYC Food Guy Says:

    […] button for this on the register.  Unfortunately, the bacon cheese dog ($3.65) was nothing like the Crif Dogs bacon-wrapped version I hoped for. It was really salty and just made me feel sorry for my arteries.  I’ll […]

  47. Jill Marphi Says:

    Hey thier , why no one checking out Netcafe at 246 East 14th St Bet 2nd &3rd
    the coffee is the real good ,and the thier crepes are delicious.

  48. Crif Dogs: Cheap Late Night Eats on Another Level « NYC Food Guy Says:

    […] Good Morning is awesome although the Chihuahua is still my favorite. Read on for more […]

  49. NY Food Tour: Roast Pork Sesame Pancake at Vanessa’s Dumplings « NYC Food Guy Says:

    […] Add some standard hot sauce (not Sirracha despite the refilled bottles) for extra bite. The vegetable sesame pancake is equally […]

  50. maritza Says:

    Hi : Just came back from Thai me up, I had the pad thai black pearl, it was bad and flavorless. My cousin had the lemon grass one, we had to throw it she could not eat it , 😦 I think the food quality really went down. Hopefully vanessa will be better.

    THanks!! keep up the good work though, I will try the brunch in the place u recommended maybe this weekend!

  51. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    maritza,

    I’m sorry to hear that. Its interesting you note the decline because I couldn’t agree more, I had it this past summer and it was totally different from the first time I had it. Vanessa’s is definitely better, specifically eat in.

    Appreciate the vote of confidence, which brunch place are you going to go?

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