Dining Under $10: Big Arc Chicken

Cheap late-night Middle Eastern food in New York's East Village

On late nights when you’re stumbling down the block in the East Village after a few drinks, there’s another option for Middle Eastern food besides your neighborhood Halal cart. Open from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. at First ave and 14th Street, Big Arc Chicken’s busiest hours are late at night, when cabbies and clubbers flock to this hole in the wall for affordable grub. Occasionally you’ll find that the door is locked, lights are off, and the cooks have cleared out except for the single worker who gets to take a break while the others go out the back door for ablutions and ṣalāh. It doesn’t take longer than fifteen minutes (except Fridays, when they’re closed between 1 and 1:30 PM). As soon as the door is unlocked customers pour for a healthy, cheap, authentic meal complimented by Al Jazeera in Arabic on the flatscreen TV. Be forewarned, this year Ramadan lasts until August 7th, and undoubtedly the crowds will increase after sunset even more so than usual.

Everything on their menu is inexpensive without compromises: Offerings include a half grilled chicken ($5) or whole with pita and hot or BBQ sauce ($8). They grill chickens all day, but get there when it’s fresh and hasn’t had the time to dry out at the end of their rush hour. Specials like a half grilled chicken with soup, green salad, pita and sauce rounds out a complete meal for only $6.50 at lunch. At dinnertime, a half chicken with baba ghannouj or hummus, green salad, rice, pita, and sauce is only $7.75. Guests frequently order pita sandwiches with falafel ($3.50) or various kebabs ($4.50). Instead of using boring fillers like lettuce and tomatoes to cut costs, Big Arc fills their pita sandwiches with diced cucumbers, red cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and other veggies. They’re known for stuffing their pita more generously than other falafel spots like Mamoun's. One of the most expensive menu items is the fish ($10), which we haven’t tried, but judging by the people around us it’s extremely popular. Other options include kofta, kebab and shawarma platters for meat eaters ($7-8.50), and hummus, baba ghannouj, or falafel platters (4.95). There is a vegetarian combo with all three for $7. Desserts available are baklava or honey cake ($1.50 each). Bonus: they deliver. With a variety of options for vegans, vegetarians, the health-conscious and omnivores, Big Arc has maintained a reputation as a reliable lunch, dinner, and late-night hot spot for all. Cash only. Delivery available.