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12. PHAYATHAI, Lake Ronkonkoma Why: The multilayered flavors
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12. PHAYATHAI, Lake Ronkonkoma
Why: The multilayered flavors of Thailand burst on the palate.
(Credit: Alessandro Vecchi)

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Best Cheap Eats restaurants of 2012

You can taste it in a deeply smoky pork rib. A perfect slice of toro sashimi. A ringing hot chicken curry. And savory noodle soup you can’t help slurping. Call it care. Craftsmanship. Pride. It’s there in the food because of the people behind the food -- from head chef to line cooks to servers, greeters and managers. Whether a place is richly or simply appointed matters less than the TLC in the house. And that, in the end, is what brings you back for more.

Here are the places reviewed in 2012 I want most to return to in 2013. --JOAN REMINICK, joan.reminick@newsday.com