Alphabet City has long been a cheap eats favorite, with Kate's Joint for veggie-heads, Westville East for market lovers, and Nicky's Vietnamese sandwiches for the best salty-sweet-hot sandwich for under $5. You can get ramen (Minca) or delicious baked goods (Ciao for Now) or the city's arguably best coffee (9th Street Espresso), before even getting to welcome Cafe Cortadito, a new sure-to-be neighborhood favorite on 3rd Street and Avenue B.

With miniature vases full of rose petals and Cuban-theme decor (cigar boxes, cookbooks), Cafe Cortadito opens its windows for a light and airy atmosphere during weekend brunch, and a more intimate, semi-formal table service for dinner. Chef Ricardo Arias mans the kitchen and his wife, Patricia Valencia, happily services the tables.

We stopped by for an early Saturday meal, craving Cuban breakfast dishes, and were pleasantly surprised by their sub-$7 prices. A good way to start is with their namesake drink, the Cafe Cortadito, a shot of espresso with just a touch of steamed milk. Espresso drinks come in big colorful mugs, an eye catcher against the mural-ed eastern wall and the warm hues of the rest of the restaurant.

Though we didn't, for dinner must-tries are the skirt steak, churrasco or vaca frita, where strips of skirt steak are marinated with flavors of bright citrus and garlic, then pan-fried with a tear-inducing dose of onions. Bocaditos, the Cuban pressed sandwiches, use rolls from Parisi bakery, and aside from the usual meat-and-pickle laden Cubano (and lots of other meat options), Cafe Cortadito also offers a Vegetariano: melted Swiss, ripe avocado, roasted red peppers, and a black-bean purée.

Gothamist's brunch was filling despite the usual diner-style plate heaped with homefries and over-buttered toast. Instead, we had the amanecer corralito, a fluffy omelet with savory-sweet plantains, accompanied by a slice of smoky-sweet ham and two thick cuts of spicy red chorizo. A second egg dish, a scramble with roasted bell peppers and onions came with french bread toasts, and while tasty, was relatively unexciting. Pastries--croissants and muffins--were not yet available when we stopped by, but for the better, focus on the home-cooked options.

Service is surprisingly casual--as is the food--tasty without being at all fancy, as is on par for the neighborhood. We can't wait to get back to take advantage of the BYOB, and take a stab at that churrasco.

Cafe Cortadito is located at 210 E. 3rd St., (at Ave. B) and open Tues. - Sun., 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. and on Mondays after 5 p.m. (212-614-3080)