Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shop the Season: Top 5 Savory Snacks Under $5

Alvin was kind enough to eat his way through the Holiday Shops at Bank of America Winter Village in search of the best snack foods. Here are his results, capped at the very reasonable price of $5. 

If you’re anything like me, you love to eat.  A lot.  I’m not talking about eating a lot during meals.  I’m talking about eating a lot before, during, and after meals.  I’m talking about eating to pass the time.  I eat while I’m on the way to eat.  On more than one occasion, I have stopped by a restaurant to pick up food while on my way to a restaurant to sit down and eat.  Some people get ready to go out by dressing nicely.  I get ready to go out by appeasing my stomach.  Bottom line is: I love food.

But, if you’re anything like me, then you’re probably pretty broke too.  The city of New York is not conducive to a penny-pinching foodie, especially in the neighborhood of midtown Manhattan.  But in the heart of midtown Manhattan are the Holiday Shops at Winter Village, and while it tends to be tough to find good food at a decent price in Midtown, if you look hard enough you can find some great deals at the Holiday Shops.  I have five snacks for you that will satisfy your taste buds without breaking your bank.

Honorable mentions:
Hong Kong Street Cart (Booth H09) - Roast Pork buns (2 for $5.00)
Bavarian Food Company - Beef empanadas ($3.50)

5. Hong Kong Street Cart (Booth K13) - Chicken Dumplings with Dipping Sauce ($4.00)
Booth H09 in the 42nd Street Allee (map)

Dumplings are a staple of Chinese cuisine and are especially great for some quick snacking.  Hong Kong Street Cart offers two options: chicken and veggie.  What sets this dish apart from other dumplings is the sauce.  You’ll notice the menu advertises it as ‘dipping sauce’, not soy sauce.  They add some secret ingredient into the sauce that turns this snack from good to freaking great. Also notable from this cart are the roast pork buns (2 for $5).  I chose to highlight the dumplings though to let the world in on the secret of the amazing sauce.

4. Mighty Balls - Beef Slider with ‘Not Your Average Brown Sauce’ ($3.50)
Booth A06 in the 40th Street Allee (map)

The bread-to-meat ratio may seem disproportionate, but the extra bread is perfect to scoop up the delicious flavors in the sauce.

There’s not much that $3.50 can get you these days,  but over at Mighty Balls, it will get you a beef slider.  There’s the option of turkey and pork as well, but I went with the beefy version.  They also boast five different types of sauces, giving a healthy variety of options for us foodies.  The sauce may be as important a choice as the type of meat you choose as the meat will be generously bathed in the sauce before making its way into your belly. As an added bonus, I was able to take excess bread that was leftover and dip it into the sauce to top off the savory snack.

3. Strudels & Pies - Hot Dog Strudel ($4.00)
Booth D09 on the Fountain Terrace (map)

The soft, flaky, cheesy crust was a great complement in terms of taste and texture to the hot dog that hid inside.

The hot dog strudel at Strudels & Pies was surprisingly substantial for the $4 price tag.  The cheese-based dough surrounding the hot dog offered an extra layer of flavor and texture that separates this from the typical hot dog you get from New York street carts.  The light flakiness of the dough is very complementary to the substance of the hot dog it surrounds.  The only obvious improvement to this snack that I can think of is adding a dipping sauce.  If I have a mustard-based sauce to dip this sucker in, this snack cracks the top two.

2. Pão De Queijo - Baked Brazilian Cheese Roll (4 for $5.00)
Booth D10 on the Fountain Terrace (map)

From left to right: traditional, sun dried tomatoes + parmesan, pepperoni + mozzarella, and bacon + mozzarella.

Cheese lovers rejoice!  These bite-sized cheese balls are native to Brazil.  They are made fresh daily with yucca flour and, as an added bonus, are gluten-free!  The yucca flour produces an extremely doughy and chewy roll.  And I’m not typically a cheesy lover, but these cheese rolls had me believing I was one.  There’s over nine flavors to choose from (the four I chose are on the left), and while the plain traditional flavor is great on its own,  you’ll definitely enjoy the rolls with added flavors.  My favorite was the pepperoni + mozzarella, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

1. La Sonrisa Empanadas - Roasted Chicken Empanada ($3.75)
Booth F02 at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue (map)

I wanted to take a picture of this empanada after I’d bitten into it to show you how much chicken and vegetables are packed inside, but after the first bite, the taste was so good that I forgot about everything else and snuffed this bad boy down.

If I could only choose one snack from the Holiday Shops to eat, this is it right here.  What makes these empanadas the best bargain snack at the Holiday Shops is that they are deep-fried fresh right in front of you when you order.  The dough itself is a crispy, crunchy taste of delicious.  I would order this just for the satisfying crunch of the dough.  It’s more satisfying than the crunch you hear when you first step on a ground with fresh snow (and that is a satisfying feeling to step on fresh snow).  On top of that, they jam substantial amounts of roasted chicken and assorted vegetables that practically oozes out of the empanada.  Not to be outdone by its product, the service at La Sonrisa Empanadas is exceptional as well.  When I couldn’t decide between the chimichurri and spicy mayo sauce, they gave me both.  This folks, is definitely the top savory snack for this year’s Holiday Shops.

The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park
Monday - Friday: 11am - 8pm
Saturday: 10am - 9pm
Sunday: 10am - 6pm
#Winter Village

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