$5 and Under: Vanessa's Dumplings

Go to Vanessa’s for dumplings; stay for Chinatown’s best sandwich

Despite a recent makeover, Vanessa's Dumpling House is still a destination for Chinatown cheap eats, where four pork-filled, perfectly fried potstickers are just a buck. But if your order ends with the handmade dumplings, you're missing the best of Vanessa's budget thrills.

Around $3 will score you a plastic tub of steaming noodle soup—there are nine options, most loaded with vegetables and noodles or those dumplings. And $1.25 buys a thick, doughy pan-fried pancake stuffed with egg and scallions or pork and cabbage (which goes perfectly with the $2 pickled-cucumber salad).

Still, the real wallet-saving stars here are the plate-size rounds of soft, sesame seed-topped pancakes steamed to a fluffy focaccia-like thickness. For $1.50 you can get a wedge sliced open and stuffed with cilantro, shredded carrot and cucumbers; spring for a dollar or two more to add spicy tuna salad, Peking duck, rich roast pork (pictured) or shredded beef. Slipped into a triangular sleeve of wax paper, this Chinatown sandwich is greasy goodness-to-go at its very, very best.

Vanessa's Dumpling House, 118 Eldridge St. between Grand St. and Broome St.; 212-625-8008