Trying To Define The Cheap In Cheap Eats

Cheap eats get a lot of press, but how do you define cheap? It's incredibly subjective, dependent upon what you make, where you live, what your tastes are, whether your trust fund is large or very large or nonexistent. What's more, the definition of cheap fluctuates not only from person to person, but also from purchase to purchase. I've been known to visit four different drugstores while comparison-shopping for toothpaste. I've also been known to throw ridiculous sums at my half-qualified handyman just so I don't have to hang that picture myself. Am I cheap? It's hard so say. (Pretty sure my girlfriend would say "yes.")

Thus, while I initially intended to use this column as an opportunity to lavish praise on cheap grub, I've spent the past 12 weeks being far too lazy to figure out what exactly I mean by "cheap." Then it hit me: Why don't I think about this at work instead of working? Duh. So yesterday, I cleared a few hours from my schedule, declined a couple of pesky meeting invites and pretended I was swamped, then sat staring into the abyss of a blank Word document, noise-canceling headphones ostentatiously switched "on." Coworkers attempted to get my attention. I ignored them.

Here's what I came up with: FIVE BUCKS. Can you believe that took me three hours? If you also work in a cubicle, I bet you can. But, seriously, five bucks totally nails it. Five bucks is cheap. We're not talking New York magazine "Cheap Eats" cheap. We're talking actual, honest-to-goodness cheap cheap. The kind of cheap your grandfather told you about. The kind of cheap you just don't see anymore. If you don't have five bucks, you are really, legitimately poor (and, let's be honest, you're probably not reading Food Republic). For under five bucks, you're probably eating at home, assuming you have a home. Dollar Menu notwithstanding, five bucks is the entry point for dining out. If you can score good food for five bucks (or less), that food is cheap! Nice job.

I feel good about this. And so, in what I hope will become a regular feature, here's the first installment of Five Bucks!!!

Two Tacos from Tehuitzingo [695 10th Avenue, NYC]

Behold my paper plateful of shredded meat magnificence, basking in the green glow of this sliver-sized Mexican grocery in Hells Kitchen. One pollo. One carnitas. $2.50 each. When you go, walk straight to the very, very back (OK, maybe pause at the fridge for a Mexican Coke. I know I did.) of the store, where a small counter awaits. I swear, this place has a chicken torta that'll knock your socks off, but it's six bucks. For a truly cheap treat, go with a couple of tacos. There's a ton of varieties. Just make sure you get something that involves shredded meat, because while I'm not exactly sure how they achieve that perfectly signed and crunchy finish, but if Mexico did everything as well as this place cooks meat, I'd be on the next truck of illegal immigrants heading south of the border. Two tacos. Five bucks. Delicioso! Wait, that's Spanish, right?

What's the best Cheap Eats deal in your town? Remember, FIVE BUCKS!!! Share in the comments.