Xi'an Famous Foods
81 St. Mark's Place
Sorry foodies, it appears that your hidden find is now available to the masses. A few years ago eating at Xi'an Famous Foods was like an Indiana Jones adventure. Ride the mysterious 7 train! Navigate the cramped and cluttered passageways of the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, Queens! Stick lamb face in your mouth!
But then Anthony Bourdain gave the place his seal of approval on No Reservations. The restaurant capitalized on its newfound fame and made the move to Manhattan. Its latest incarnation, on bustling St. Mark's Place, is by far its most hip. Brick walls are painted a slick shade of white. A curved panel of blond wood lines the ceiling. Television screens hang ready to entertain waiting customers. It's like your favorite indie band going mainstream and you're all like “I'm so over them” but really deep down inside you know they still kick ass.
Well, Xi'an Famous Foods in the East Village still kicks ass. The lamb burger is the way to go. Savory little chunks of lamb meat seasoned heavily with cumin and hot peppers are stuffed inside a pocket of thin white flatbread. It's spicy and greasy and totally worth the $2.50. If you're feeling more adventurous, just take a gander at the giant photos of each dish displayed on the wall, a welcome holdover from the previous locations. You can't go wrong with the noodles. You can see focused ladies in the back making them by hand, whipping the dough around sharply, rarely ever stopping to take a rest. The liang pi cold skin noodles are the most popular. Big flat wheat noodles are topped with bits of chewy wheat gluten, bean sprouts and a healthy dose of chili oil. The result is fiery and filling, the perfect way to go vegetarian for a day.
Looking to fulfill a dare? Then the lamb face salad is for you. It's spicy as hell and over the fresh, cool greens are a veritable Hannibal Lector-esque arrangement of chopped facial features. Look, an ear! An eye! Um, something else you can't identify! Okay, maybe you should just get the lamb burger.