The Budget: $10
The Specs: Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles
The Mood: Sit on a stool and get messy
The Place: 67 Bayard St. (12 locations)
Xi’an Famous Foods is a family-run chain restaurant that is truly a one-of-a-kind. Xi’an is the first capital of China, but it is also home of flavors that go way back into history, a combination of Chinese and Middle-Eastern tastes. We’re talking cumin, chili, jalepenos, and Sichuan peppercorns. It’s spicy, but it’s fantastic.
The Chinatown location on Bayard Street is the second largest of their spaces in New York City, but it’s still fairly small. There are two double-sided tables, and four bar tables against the walls and front window.
Appreciate this picture I took with no one inside right as they opened. You will never see this place so empty again.
Order in the front and when your food is ready, it comes up in a food lift, a little surprise.
The choices here are not too extensive, and they are pretty self-explanatory. You find a picture of something that suits your palette, and then you ask the cashier for “B2,” or whatever it is. She gives you a number on your receipt, and you go grab a stool.
Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles ($9.80)
These biangbiang noodles are miraculously thick and doughy. They absorb up all the spicy chili oil, jalepenos, onions, bok choy, and sautéed lamb juices. It gets better as you keep eating.
If you can take the heat, don’t shy away from ordering it “spicy.” Like I mentioned before, this is what makes this place the real Xi’an deal. Otherwise, you’re just eating “Famous Foods,” and that doesn’t even sound real.
Note: The portions here are substantial–I could hardly eat half of my meal.
Throw some black vinegar into the mix if you get some soup. And no matter what, you will most likely want some more of that unforgettable chili oil–it’s a secret recipe you’re not going to find anywhere else in the city.
The people here at Xi’an Famous Foods are pretty serious about eating as soon as your dish is ready. If you give the noodles too much time to soak in the oils and seasoning, you’ve ruined the whole experience, and why would you want to do that?
Grab a pair of chopsticks, maybe a napkin to wipe off your face from the mess, and get ready for some serious Western Chinese food.
(Disclaimer: this probably isn’t a good date spot, unless you enjoy sweating profusely and dropping noodles all over yourself, in which I will most certainly still respect you.)
Put a fork in it.