Elvieâ€™s is a turo-turo on the lower East side (13th Street) of New York. Set your expectations at that level and you will likely leave satisfied. My sister pops into Elvieâ€™s whenever she has to send something through Johnny Air Cargo which has office is just around the corner. The day we dropped by, it was after the lunch hour and Elvieâ€™s was only half full. We had sinigang, chorizo, beefsteak tagalog, pinakbet, pork barbecue, halo-halo, etc. Most of the dishes tasted pretty good, but the sinigang topped the list. The cool weather outdoors must have made it particularly comforting at the time. My beefsteak tagalog was a bit tough and the kid didnâ€™t like it either. Elvieâ€™s has been around for decades and has received good reviews from several publications in New York. Frankly, I donâ€™t think it would make any waves whatsoever in Manila but that isnâ€™t the point. The point is, in the middle of a huge American city that is probably home or the workplace of several hundred thousand ethnic pinoys, it is a sight for sore eyes, or at least those pining for a taste of home.
A turo-turo set up is usually a turn off for me as the food has been cooked and is sitting there for hours until someone buys it. But it is practical, and as long as you stick to dishes such as soups, stews, etc., you can still get a pretty good meal. If you can read the menu on Elvieâ€™s blackboard (tiny print in photo below), you would list out the Top 20 Pinoy dishes including kare-kare, nilagang baka, tortang talong, etc. Nurses from nearby hospitals and other office workers crowd this place at lunchtime and I suspect some of them do take-out later in the day so they donâ€™t have to cook when they get home. Each dish is served with a huge portion of white rice and for $35, four of us ate very well, drinks and desserts included. This was not fine dining at all, and I probably wouldnâ€™t bring a foreign guest to this place unless they were particularly adventurous eaters, but value for money was just right. If I were to choose between a $230 meal at a fancy pinoy fusion restaurant, or five lunches at Elvies for 5 people, the latter would win, hands down.
You should also know that Elvieâ€™s is across the block from Gabayâ€™s, that hole in the wall where Mrs. MM and The Kid made out like bandits on Bergdorf Goodman closeout shoesâ€¦ and interestingly, we spied another newish Pinoy restaurant across the street called Pistahan. This restaurant was a little more upscale turo-turo, with aircon, but we didnâ€™t get to try it out. Somehow it sent â€œcopycatâ€ vibes of the worst kind, but that could just be me. Tell me, why do Filipinos have this penchant for opening exactly the same business right next door to each other? When you go to Tagaytay, you pass by 40 roadside corn vendors all at the same point in the road. Or 50 plant nurseries side by side. Or all the flower or fruit vendors selling EXACTLY the same thing? This also applies to NEW YORK?! Considering how large the city is, why the heck would two turo-turoâ€™s open a stoneâ€™s throw from each other??? The final word? If you are in Manhattan and have a hankering for pinoy food and you canâ€™t be bothered to make it yourself, Elvieâ€™s will satisfy most basic cravingsâ€¦ and at $6-8 per person, thatâ€™s a bargain!