In this city, restaurants come and go faster than you can say "sustainable locavore burger." And even though there are great new additions to the culinary landscape popping up every week, you've gotta give kudos to anyone who can stick it out for over a year. With that in mind, we bring you Still Got It, our tribute to establishments that continue to serve mouthwatering meals and drinks long after the buzz has faded—or if the lingering hype is still justified.
Spicy Village takes the adage, "you get what you pay for," wrings its neck, and chops it into unrecognizable bits. The Henan kitchen's menu of low-price dishes dares you to pinch pennies as it offers dish after toothsome dish of noodles, dumplings, cooked vegetables, and soups. It's value is staggering. Its hard plastic decor is perfect. And the Spicy Vegetable Hui Mei is heaven for $5.75.
A proper table of dishes at Spicy Village, including fried peanut and lamb soup (Scott Heins/Gothamist)
Your first order of business is to get there early. Since opening in 2010, Spicy Village has been a favorite for noodle fiends on the LES, and the spartan, florescent dining room boasts less than twenty seats. On weekends, a line snakes up Forsyth Street toward the door. Put your name down, then send a friend to the corner bodega to pick up beer. The place is BYOB, which is glorious for obvious reasons.
Spicy Vegetable Hui Mei (Scott Heins/Gothamist)
A server will hand over paper menus as you take your seat, and a quick scan will confirm that you've come to the right place. Spicy Village's special is hui mei—essentially wide, flat wheat noodles served in dry stews or soups (the meat soups arrive with a slightly opaque color, but don't worry, that hazy lamb water is fantastic). Hui mei bowls come topped with an assortment of cilantro, mushrooms, bok choy, or tofu, and are excellent as-is, or with a little red pepper added on. A hearty bowl will cost you roughly $6. It's impossible to go wrong.
Garlic Chinese Baby Bok Choy (Scott Heins/Gothamist)
Appetizers and sides at Spicy Village run the somewhat-familiar gamut of Manhattan dim sum. There are savory pancakes, steamed vegetables, xiao long bao dumplings, and edamame. On a recent visit, the fried peanut ($3.25) and garlic Chinese baby bok choy ($5.95) were welcomed heartily by the half-consumed bottles of Tsingtao at our table. By the time the steaming bowls of noodles, savory meat, and herbs arrived, well, you get the idea.
Year after year, we've declared Spicy Village one of the city's best "cheap eats" options, and it's safe to say that pattern will continue. The place is certainly the best value for Chinese food in Manhattan. Crowd around one of their larger tables with a group of friends and, pop open a beverage of your choice, order a big bowl of noodles, pick up your chopsticks, and I assure you, everything will feel correct.
Spicy Village is located at 68 Forsyth Street between Canal and Hester Streets on the Lower East Side (212-625-8299).