Xi’an Famous Foods: A Noodle Anyone Can Love
Xi’an Famous Foods is one of many noodle shops in Manhattan, yet because of it’s extraordinary brand of hand-pulled noodles, it has developed a rabid fan-base with notable followers like the New York Times’ restaurant critic Sam Sifton. Now with a storefront on St. Mark’s in the East Village, this Flushing-based mini-chain focuses on serving the unique and self-professed ‘atypical Chinese food’ of Xi’an.
The East Village outpost is tiny with just 2 tables and bar seats for no more than 10. Barely more than a take-out counter, the look is sparse and minimal with uneven metal tables, a smooth wooden eating bar, and mini-flat screen TVs that feature videos of noodle-making in noodle shops in China. One woman handles the cash register, the packing of to-go bags, and the part of the kitchen that churns out phenomenally tasty lamb and pork burgers. In the back is another hand-making noodles, nursing savory sauces, and serving up the famous noodle soups and noodle plates. It’s a small enterprise, yet guaranteed to be packed at all hours of the day, from open to close. Want to beat the line? Call in your order ahead and shoot in front of the masses waiting patiently in a queue.
Ordered from a picture menu tacked to one wall and served on floppy Styrofoam plates, the food is simple and savory. The most popular items offered are what Xi’an Famous Foods has become known for – the hand-pulled noodles. Not the loveliest noodles you’ll ever see, they are served raggedy, torn and clumpy, hot in a slop of salty, oily and spicy sauce with torn bits of tender meat or in a brothy umami-packed soup. In short, though unlike any noodles I’ve had before, Xi’an’s hand-pulled variety are phenomenal. Chewy, hearty, rich, satisfying, and amusingly unwieldy (plan to transform your napkin into a bib), these noodles don’t even need the cumin and chili oil-packed sauces provided – those are just the icing on the cake.
Aside from the hand-pulled noodles, Xi’an Famous Foods also serves up astoundingly good renditions on burgers, served on flattened oily bread and stuffed with sweet marinated pork or spicy cumin lamb, cold ‘skin’ noodles, and unusual soups and salads (lamb offal soup? spicy pig pudding salad with garlic?). Recommended dishes include the top-notch Savory Cumin Lamb Hand-Pulled Noodles, the Stewed Pork Burger, the Pork Zha Jiang Hand-Pulled Noodles, and the Spicy and Tingly Beef Hand-Pulled Soup Noodles.
Xi’an Famous Foods is some of the tastiest cheap food in Manhattan. Just $9 can get you a pork burger, hand-pulled noodles, and a drink – where else can you get so much grub that tastes so delicious for so little money? Skeptics of Xi’an Famous Food’s need only to look to the line that can curl around the block at peak hours – everyone from yuppies to hipsters to greying NYU professors to Wall Street suits dashing just uptown for a taste waits patiently for a little bit of noodle magic.
Perfect For: thin wallets, noodle fanatics, a taste of Flushing without the subway ride, student lunch breaks, super savory takeout