As a lowly college student in bustling Manhattan, one cannot always afford to eat at the hot spot, Michelin starred restaurants of the city. Yet, a passionate foodie like myself can find hidden, reasonably priced gems if he or she looks hard enough!
After finishing culinary school and working in some fantastic restaurants in Boston and Cape Cod, MA, I packed up and moved to NYC to study Hospitality Management at NYU. Opting to skip a meal plan, I was set on eating my way through the city, yet I knew I had to do so affordably, or I would quickly run through all the hard earned money I made working on the line. Thankfully, after doing lots of research, I came across some great spots where I can enjoy tasty food that fits my expensive palate and my price range.
Of all the places I have found, the one I return to again and again is Num Pang. With two locations in Union Square and Midtown, this Cambodian sandwich shop has consistently served me some of the best sandwiches I have had in my life. In fact, Num Pang actually means “bread” or “sandwich” in Cambodian. I frequent the Union Square location at least once a week, and for around eight bucks, I leave completely satisfied. The sandwiches are nothing like I’ve ever had before. With selections like coconut tiger shrimp, hoisin veal meatballs, and their signature pulled duroc pork, each sandwich is served with cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro, and a mouthwatering chili mayo on a toasted baguette. The combination is complete perfection, with the brightness of the vegetables and cilantro mixing perfectly with the heat and creaminess of the mayo. Yet, the real star is the baguette, perfectly toasted and fresh.
Num Pang claims to use products from local markets, which explains why everything always tastes so delicious. In addition to their standard menu, they also feature seasonal options. My personal favorite seasonal option is the five-spice pork belly with pickled Asian pear, which I have ordered at least four times. Num Pang has something for everyone, with multiple vegetarian options as well as soups, salads, and unique sides like their market pickles and tropical fruit salad. They also serve a great tart blood orange lemonade, that is ridiculously refreshing.
Num Pang’s Union Square location is nothing fancy. It’s a tiny place. Customers line up outside and order their food at a counter. They then pick up their meal and then either take it to go, or head up a windy staircase to a little room with a few stools and tables for eating. While there is limited seating and simple service, every time I have gone, there is a line, and with good reason. Num Pang’s system works: serve amazing sandwiches at a reasonable price, quickly and efficiently. They cater to students like me, busy businessmen and women, or just a foodie looking for a tasty meal.
If you are ever in the city and looking for a great sandwich, head to Num Pang. There’s a good chance you will run into me, since I’m there so much! I predict, if you try it, you will become a regular too!