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The best restaurants for cheap eats on Long Island: Our picks for 2017

2017 proved another good year for diners looking for good food at decent prices. Here, ranked, are the Newsday food staff’s Top 10 Cheap Eats restaurants. 

10. Raju’s Egg & Veg

Yellow tadka dal with basmati rice, Raju's Egg
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Raju’s Egg & Veg (70 S. Broadway, Hicksville): An American outpost of the India-based chain, Raju Omlet, Raju’s Egg & Veg specializes in Gujarati egg dishes, and your local diner does not evince one scintilla of the creativity the kitchen lavishes on the incredible, edible egg. Raju’s serves more than two dozen egg dishes, but almost all fall into one of four categories: “boil” (hard-boiled), omelet, “bhurji” (scrambled) and “half fry” (sunny-side up). “Crush” signifies a garnish of still more egg — boiled eggs that have been chopped. Don’t miss the butter boil tikka, whose deep, rich sauce is a tomato red, onion-and-ginger sweet, with a mellow heat from red and green chilies and the house’s signature “eggstraordinary” masala spice blend; the green cheese omelet; the masala half fry, trembly yolked eggs strewed with fresh chilies, tomato, garlic, ginger and masala. The restaurant is 100 percent vegetarian and kosher. More info: 516-822-2400, rajueggandveg.com

9. Choopan Grill

Choopan Grill changed hands last year, and is
Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Choopan Grill (1310 Middle Country Rd., Selden): Three years ago, Rona Mirzai, one of the region’s Afghan cooking pioneers, sold her share of the city’s most venerable restaurants and headed east, taking over this 7-year-old spot with her two daughters. Long Island’s gain is a menu of meats, curries, dumplings and hearty rice platters dubbed palau, all of which Mirzai learned as a little girl from her mother in Kabul. Recommended: badinjan burani, a silken fried eggplant dish of tomatoes, onions and jalapeños; aushak, boiled, bite-size dumplings filled with a garlic-laced leek mixture; steamed mantu dumplings stuffed with fragrant ground beef or chicken; and the Kabuli palau, a majestic platter that features slow-cooked lamb shank under a bed of rice scented with cardamom, tossed with sliced almonds and draped with ribbons of carrots and plump raisins. More info: 631-696-1817, choopangrillofselden.com

8. Koi Sushi

FIRST PAGE - TOP PIX - Baby yellowtail
Photo Credit: Doug Young

Koi Sushi (136 Main St., Sayville): It’s hard to miss Koi Sushi Lounge, a former diner sizzling with light at one end of Sayville’s Main Street. Inside, both the raw and cooked Asian-fusion dishes are decked out in rococo details — droplets of bright sauce, flower petals, fans of upright bamboo — but always taste very fresh. Kick off dinner with seared filet mignon carpaccio in yuzu sauce, butterlike white tuna topped with crisped mushrooms and truffle oil, or yellowtail “cigars” topped with daubs of sour plum sauce and crispy garlic. There are dozens of sushi rolls to choose from, but Koi really excels at nigiri sushi: jewel-like cuts of fish on sticky, well-seasoned rice. More info: 631-563-0777, koisushiny.com

7. La Vicharra Grill

The Huancaina o Ocopa appetizer at La Vicharra
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

La Vicharra Grill (62 Landing Rd., Glen Cove): Gold, in all its resplendence, is the predominant color at La Vicharra Grill. Not in the modest décor, which seems unchanged since Anthony’s Italian restaurant exited this Glen Cove address a few years ago, but in the food, which provides a window onto the singular cuisine of Peru. There’s the glossy sheen of cancha, roasted and salted corn kernels, a dish of which graces each table; the vivid Huancaína sauce that blankets slices of pale boiled potatoes; the mellow yellow of chupe, corn-enriched shrimp chowder; the burnished skin of a fried half-chicken, flanked by bronze-edged roasted potatoes; the pescado a lo macho, a thick fillet of fried sea bass napped with another gorgeous, golden sauce (this one based on a reduced seafood stock) and strewn with mussels, rings of squid and shrimp. More info: 516-801-1314, lavicharra.com

6. New Fu Run

Lamb chop with cumin, New Fu Run, Great
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

New Fu Run (50 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck): This sparkling satellite of Flushing’s Fu Run (established in 2005) specializes in the cuisine of China’s Dongbei region, the northeasternmost area that used to be called Manchuria. Diners used to the standard Chinese-American repertoire will find the food gutsier and heartier than Cantonese, less incendiary than Sichuan. The kitchen makes lavish use of cumin, star anise and licorice root — not to mention fermented cabbage, potatoes and lots of animal parts. Try the sour cabbage with pork and vermicelli, midway between soup and stew; cumin lamb chop, really a rack of lamb overwhelmed by cumin seeds; and triple delight vegetables, a salty-sweet stir-fry of potatoes, eggplant and red and green peppers, each perfectly cooked and slicked in a salty-sweet soy-based sauce. More info: 516-708-1888, furunrestaurant.com

5. Clay Oven

Diners can choose from a variety of authentic
Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Clay Oven (601 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Hauppauge): In another breakout year for Indian food, Lubna Habibi was among those who stood out, pushing the limits of authentic South Asian food by expanding her popular halal restaurant to Hauppauge. A grandmother-like figure who shows no signs of slowing down, she is constantly tinkering. In her hands, tandoori spice beautifully blisters chicken wings, crispy paneer pakoras play on cheese sticks, and the lamb meatballs in a kofta curry cut open to reveal a hard-boiled egg. Most dishes on the menu are $10 or less, so venture outside your comfort zone and leave with leftovers for tomorrow. Other location at 863 W. Jericho Tpke., Smithtown. More info: clayovenhalal.com

4. The Brixton

Scotch eggs are on the menu at The
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

The Brixton (111 Deer Park Ave., Babylon): Among the scores of gastropubs that have opened recently, The Brixton distinguishes itself on quality and attention to detail. The interior subverts cliché with soft fabrics, custom woodwork and Danish modern touches; from the bar flow well-crafted cocktails. And chef Phil Pasfield’s kitchen puts out small plate after small plate of refined new classics, such as tarragon-scented lobster rolls, baby beet salad, Scotch duck eggs and a moist, meaty, crunchy chunk of chicken thigh perched on a biscuit with Cheddar and pickles. More info: 631-587-2000

3. The Local

The pastrami sandwich, topped with swiss cheese, tangy
Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

The Local (7 Depot Place, Babylon): At The Local in downtown Babylon, an airy sandwich wonderland masquerading as a sports bar, meat on bread gets almost Zen-like attention to detail. Executive chef Chris Weiss piles ribbons of rosy meat onto a toasted onion roll, then slathers on smoky horseradish sauce and molten Swiss for a sublime roast-beef sandwich. Pastrami on rye has a soft, silken edge and is served warm with slivered apples and shredded Brussels sprouts. And a sliced baguette is charred for a heavenly mayo-slathered banh mi piled with chili-spiked braised pork, sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots. Wash them all down with one of the European brews from The Local’s 14 taps. More info: 631-983-8900

2. Kabobshak Mediterranean Grill

The mixed grill platter with chicken shish tawok,
Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Kabobshak Mediterranean Grill (680 Middle Country Rd., Selden): This unassuming, family-run eatery in a Selden strip mall elevates Middle Eastern food to a level rare on Long Island. Don’t miss the shawarma, a tall stack of seasoned slices of meat that rotates on a vertical spit while heating elements on either side brown the exterior. Whether you go with the beef-and-lamb (with a haunting note of cardamom) or chicken (with an unexpected kick of fennel), get it in a sandwich, because Kabobshak makes its own pita. Kebabs are all standouts, and vegetarians will appreciate the well-balanced babaganoush, smooth and bright hummus and deeply verdant tabbouleh — worthy excuses to eat more pita. More info: 631-320-3351, kabobshak.com

1. Turkuaz Mediterranean Gourmet

A mixed appetizer plate with babaganoush, patlican saltasi,
Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Turkuaz Mediterranean Gourmet (493 Hempstead Tpke., West Hempstead): Turkuaz is nothing more than six tables in the front of a workaday Turkish grocery, but the cooking evinces a refinement and soulfulness that are absent in many multimillion-dollar restaurants. Chef-owner Ufuk Cetinkaya has mastered the greatest hits of Turkish cookery, from smoky eggplant salad to lahmacun (delicate lamb pizzas), to the regal Iskender kebab, spit-roasted lamb heaped onto pieces of toasted bread, then slathered with drippings and tomato sauce and finished with a side of yogurt. This is a run-don’t-walk dish. Long Island boasts a deep bench of fine Turkish restaurants, but Turkuaz belongs in the top tier. More info: 516-280-2973, turkuazmediterraneangourmet.com

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