114 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 228-0588

I am a spendthrift. I try to get a bargain on what I buy (thank you Living Social, Retailmenot, and Savored), but at the end of the day, I'm poorer than when I woke up. Mr. Dogz lives on the other end of that spectrum. He's a miser. So I know that I can always count on him to find a cheap place to eat. Here's the thing though. He's not picking some fleabag diner and nursing a plate of chicken fingers. He can usually find somewhere that's pretty good. It's a rare and valuable skill. This go around, he chose Saigon Shack, a small, bistro sized and crowded spot in the heart of NYU territory on MacDougal Street. 

We went around 1:30 in the afternoon, but the menu at lunch is no different from the menu at dinner. A cheap tasty spot in the smack in the middle of a studenttown is bound to have a line and this afternoon was no different. Many of the people in line were ordering to go though, so it thinned out relatively quickly and we were led to a corner table with a good camera angle. Most of the diners here, whose ages ranged from undergrad to tenure-track professor drank some sort of juice, tea, or aloe water drink. We stuck with tap. 

The food basically all arrived at once, but the Fried Roast Pork Dumplings were technically the appetizer. Learn from my mistake and take your time. That first bite will send a searing hot explosion of juice across your face and across your tongue. Sure, the explosion tasted good, but it hurt. Once you get past that, they were delicious. 

Dogz had been having a pho craving all day and when he was making suggestions earlier, they were all pho joints. Hence, it should have come as little surprise that he ordered the Saigon Shack Pho, a huge (they give you at least a liter) bowl of noodle soup with slices of beef, beef balls, house brisket, scallion, onion, and to top it off, a side plate of jalapeno, lemon, lime, and spouts that you can toss in for extra flavor or in case a six pound bowl of soup isn't enough food for you. I stole some of the beef, which was very tender and still a little pink and a chopstick's worth of noodles and thought it was fantastic. If you're the kind of person who walked into a ramen place and was turned off by the sometimes too salty, sometimes too fishy broth that ramen often uses and worry that pho will be similar, then fear not. Pho is far more mellow and this pho was great. 

My pick was the Spicy Brisket Banh Mi sandwich: super tender (not sinewy) brisket, carrots, sauteed onions, pineapples, jalapenos, and drizzled with a spicy au jus sauce that gave it some moisture without making it soggy and inedible. This was another winner and I inhaled both halves in about fifteen seconds. It's the perfect size for a sandwich, but despite everything inside, it's also incredibly light. I'm not saying that it's healthy because it probably isn't, but I've eaten grilled chicken sandwiches without mayo that made me feel more guilty.

Saigon Shack is cash only, but it's so cheap that you probably have enough cash on you already. With tax and tip, two entrees and an appetizer came to $25.

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