'Sandwich King' Jeff Mauro on the prowl for cheap eats
New York City might have a reputation of being expensive, but that wasn't a problem for Food Network chef Jeff Mauro, who visited the city for his thrifty new series.
In "$24 in 24," the host of "Sandwich King" and the winner of season seven of "Food Network Star," heads off to different cities across the country looking for an "excellent day of eating" for a total of $24, including tip and tax.
The series begins Sunday in Mauro's hometown of Chicago, and airs its NYC episode on Oct. 22.
amNewYork spoke with Mauro about the show.
Are you naturally thrifty? Yeah, I guess I'm looking for a deal. My motto is I don't mind spending money, but I hate wasting money. I think that's how I apply thriftiness. When it comes to something to eat, if I'm going to spend money on something nice or good, I better enjoy it.
Will there be a focus on sandwiches? We're definitely looking beyond sandwiches. ... Naturally, it's one of the more affordable things on a menu, but that's just not our main goal. And it's kind of nice to be able to branch out and explore other menu items.
Was finding places in the city a challenge? Absolutely not. New York was probably the largest challenge as far as - even before we started preproduction or researching locations - everybody was like, "How are we going to do New York? How are we even going to survive?" But it was very surprising. ... There's so much competition and so many people just trying to get by in that city that you're bound to find a huge number of affordable choices. That's what we did. And all the food was exemplary in New York, for sure.
Where did you go? We went to the Bagel Store, which is in Brooklyn, where I had a bacon, egg and cheese bagel, but it's an egg bagel with bacon and cheese inside and then just a huge layer of bacon and cheese on top. And then, of course, I had it toasted and smeared with cream cheese, like it needed it. But that was $2.25. That guy is a huge character. He's been making bagels forever. You find so many great characters, real passionate people, and I think that really shows when I take a bite.
Where'd you go for lunch? We went to Artichoke Basilli's for lunch. I had a slice of their artichoke pie, which was like a double crust and it's almost like a spinach artichoke dip on a pizza with cheese. It's very rich. It would be hard to get through two. A big slice is $4.50 and that was my lunch.
And dinner? For dinner, I went to this place Bob White Lunch and Supper Counter. This guy left his job as a medical consultant at a hospital and started frying chicken at this place. You get three pieces of chicken, biscuit, greens, and that was $11.50. And it was excellent, excellent chicken.
Finally, the snack? We got a snack at Dough in Bed-Stuy, which was kind of an artisanal doughnut [place]. It was a great doughnut for a couple of bucks. It was a café au lait doughnut.
Tell the truth - New York has the best bagels, right? Yes. I guess maybe being in television, it seems like they're very ubiquitous on set in the morning. People gather up to go to their next location, and there's always bagels everywhere. Eating for a living on the road, I try not to eat the bagels. But I've got to say, I've probably tried a bagel in each city I've been in, and this one just blew my mind. ... I couldn't stop eating it. ... It's like a zombie smelling blood or a lion getting its first taste of human meat.
MAURO'S NEW YORK TOUR
The Bagel Store
349 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg
754 Metropolitan Ave.,
Artichoke Basille's Pizza
114 10th Ave.
328 E. 14th St.
305 Franklin Ave., Bed-Stuy
Bob White's Lunch and Supper Counter
94 Ave. C
On TV: "$24 in 24" featuring Jeff Mauro debuts on Food Network on Monday, Sept. 24, at 10:30 p.m. The NYC episode airs on Oct. 22.