Despite their ubiquity and comforting uniformity, no two city bodegas are exactly alike. One has an inexplicable dearth of dish soap. Another has particularly ripe mangoes. And a handful serve up some of the finest cheap eats—from roast beef to roti—in the city.
Hana Food Corp
534 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg
This 24-hour Lorimer stop deli counter offers all of the classics, including a fine egg and cheese, along with an impressive variety of vegetarian options. The real standouts, though, are sandwiches with names like the Douche Bag and the My Girlfriend is a Whore, creative pairings of meat, cheese and bread that not only satisfy late-night cravings, but also allow the orderer to express pent up aggression with the world.
Tehuitzingo Mexican Deli
695 Tenth Ave., Hell's Kitchen
In the back of this small Mexican grocery, a tiny kitchen whips up what may be the best tacos in Manhattan. For either $2.50 or $2.75 a pop, you and a few friends could afford to try one of each of the almost 20 taco fillings, but whatever you do, be sure to try the wonderfully chewy, salted beef cecina and the rich, tender suadero (beef belly). Or the carnitas. Or the chorizo with potatoes. Oh try them all.
Sorriso Italian Salumeria
44-16 30th Ave, Astoria
For just a few quarters more than a Subway footlong, this deli and meat store offers up classic Italian heroes like a messy, comforting eggplant parm or a prosciutto, mozzarella and roasted-red pepper panino. Also on hand are some of the biggest rice balls in the city, stuffed with pork, onions and peas, and deep-fried to a crunchy, golden perfection.
Sunny & Annie's Deli
94 Avenue B, East Village
This bodega takes some of the city's best flavors, from spaghetti sauce and meatballs to barbeque and kimchi, slaps them between bread, and transforms them into cheap and hugely satisfying sandwiches. Craving Vietnamese? Try the P.H.O. Real, a crazy banh mi/pho mash-up—roast beef, bean sprouts, cilantro, Sriacha, and onion all on a surprisingly fresh roll.
Kam Hing Coffee Shop
119 Baxter St, Chinatown
It may not be your classic bodega, but this teeny tiny coffee shop is otherwise unclassifiable, so it might as well go here. While they sell your typical deli shrink-wrapped muffins and cookies, come here for their signature Chinese sponge cakes. These subtly sweet, eggy delicacies are truly revelatory and together with a small cup of coffee will only set you back a buck thirty.
Fast & Fresh Burrito Deli
84 Hoyt St, Cobble Hill
Hidden among the brownstones of Boerum Hill, this small deli lives up to its name with rapidly made-to-order burritos, tacos and tortas. The breakfast options, which are available all day, are standouts. Especially fine is the huevos a la Mexicana—a morning-style torta, served on a crunchy grilled torpedo bun, filled with rajas, eggs, refried beans, loads of pungent jalapenos, and ooey gooey melted cheese, all for $3.50.
43-46 41st St, Sunnyside
This Irish deli is a one-stop wonder. Pick up a pound of mince, a couple of packets of prawn-flavored Taytos, a refrigerated shepherd's pie, and a freshly made baked ham hero. If you're feeling particularly gluttonous, try the sausage roll—an absurdly juicy mound of sausage wrapped in flaky, buttery dough. It's the Irishman's Croissan'wich.
United We Stand Deli
814 Tenth Ave, Hell's Kitchen
Hell's Kitchen is full of similar delis, serving up sandwiches to area high school students, office drones and taxi drivers. But few offer as wide a range of comfortingly familiar sandwich options, including a fantastic roast beef, mushroom and brown gravy hero, while simultaneously making you feel like a good New York patriot. United we stand, indeed.
Evelyn Mini Market
4011 Fifth Ave, Sunset ParK
Most bodega delicacies lurk hidden deep within, waiting for serendipitous discovery. The gem at this Sunset Park deli, however, is outside for all to see—a small tamale and juice stand, strangely attached to the mini-mart's exterior. Be sure to try the chicken tamale, perfectly formed and stuffed with moist pollo, jalapenos and red salsa for $1.25. The stand's proprietor often takes breaks inside the deli, so don't fret if the stand is unmanned; just ask at the bodega counter and pretty soon tamale goodness will be yours.
Punjabi Grocery and Deli
114 E 1st St, East Village
A favorite among cab drivers and drunken East Village hipsters alike, this taxi stand Indian is the perfect end to a long, booze-soaked night. You probably won't get a seat, and the Styrofoam bowls bend a little under the weight of the substantial rice and three veggie special, but even in our 24-hour city, there are very few places where you can find so much flavor at all hours of the day. A must try: a hearty bowl of creamy, savory samosa chat, for just $2.