This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef | 149 1st Ave. (bet. 9th St. & St. Mark's Place) | 212.253.1500 | no website


THERE HAS BEEN this cruel joke since early childhood—even back when I used to be skinny—that, at least in New York, some of the most unhealthy food was served in the neighborhoods with the skinniest people. That seems to still be the case with the svelte-denizened sidewalks of the East Village/Lower East Side, which is enjoying, as I have often stated here, a "food renaissance" as of late.

Every other week, there's some new, small, simply-themed restaurant (some of them barely seat or stand 6 people!) that opens to more-than-decent reviews and even greater foodie mania. Porchetta, Caracas, Veloce, Momofuko, Wechler's, Black Iron Burger, Robotaya, Luzzo's, and their ilk, serving fatty burgers, lardo-topped pizzas, and either new-fangled or traditional pork dishes that feature their tasty fat content.

Many of these places have menus on which none or very few of their items cost more than $10. Yet, everyone in this neighborhood fits easily into 24-inch waisted skinny jeans and six to a cab!

But then I remember that when I myself lived on 13th and Avenue A, my then girlfriend and I could barely scrape together enough money over a couple of days to share a plate of $5 pierogies at Veselka (especially after buying all the weed we were smoking at the time!).

How much, then would I have loved to have a place like This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef, where I today had the closest thing I've ever had to an authentic Philly Cheesesteak in NYC, and, rightfully, for under four bucks!

After taking the 6 train downtown and getting off at Astor Place (14th St.), walked a few blocks east to 1st, passing, on the way, the popular pizzeria Artichoke (the owners of which co-own This Little Piggy), whiched topped TimeOut NY's list of best pizza slices a year ago.

Turning on 1st Avenue, I walked down just past 9th Street, andn, almost missing the small storefront, finally find myself in the homey little space.

The menu, as seen on the wall's chalkboard, is thankfully, very simple and self-explanatory. They sell only three sandwiches: 2 roast beef and one pastrami. The roast beef sandwiches come, as listed, either "This Way", which is their version of a Philly Cheesesteak-like sandwich (supposed in homage to Sheepshead Bays Roll 'n' Roaster ) with Cheez Wiz and au jus, or "That Way", which is topped with gravy and melted fresh mozzarella. I ordered the more classic "This Way" with a side of their hand-cut fries.

Having never been to Philly or Sheepshead's Bay, I can't attest to the authenticity of the "This Way" roast beef sandwich; I can, however, speak to how great it is! Although the initial reference is to piggies, TLPHRB (?!) specializes in the beef that it slow cooks and slices in house. The beef is tasty and tender, highlighted by that clever, familiar zestiness unique to Cheez Wiz, and a true au jus whose flavors and aromas get soaked up into a nice, warm, "cushy" sesame seed roll. I couldn't even stop eating enough to save the half I had promised to deliver to my next door neighbor.

The skin-on, hand-cut fries were a pleasant surprise; almost as crispy on the outside as potato chips and as soft and airy on the inside as a baked potato. (I would later find out the neat little trick they did to do that: they lightly dredge them in salted flour before deep frying.)

I also knew halfway through the first sandwich that I would be ordering a second; not just because I was enjoying the first one so much, but it was also recommended by two other customers who had just finished their lunches. So I ordered the Pastrami Sandwich, which comes with coleslaw and mustard.

Another winner! Juicy, tender, tasty, brisket meat—they're not so much slices as they are chunks!—brined, nicely and subtly seasoned, and smoked till the edges are rendered nice melt-in-your-mouth, slightly grizzled fat. The coleslaw is bright and crispy and a great compliment to the textures of the meat and soft rye. And the mustard, well, I started to believe that mustard was not only made for pastrami, but should only be put on pastrami as well.

I was at least able to save half of the Pastrami Sandwich for my neighbor, Gina. There was no way I was going to let that sweet little piggy "have none"...! ;)

Bun Apple Tea!


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This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef | 149 1st Ave. (bet. 9th St. & St. Mark's Place) | 212.253.1500 | no website