My friend Shaun has basically become obsessed with Cafetasia, an 8th Street spot that, at first glance, doesn't quite seem like a probable candidate for a fixation (Shaun is kind of… particular). It looks like one of those typically fakey, vaguely Thai places in the middle of the NYU campus that serves cheap, bland fare to starving college students who don't know any better. And it very nearly is just that–except, inexplicably–the food is actually quite good.
The real draw is the lunch special where, for ten dollars (tip and all), you get a large dish and a small dish. I usually get the daily soup selection; their Tom Yum is surprisingly refreshing with crisp, bright veggies, it's very unlike the cookie cutter versions you might be used to. Shaun opts, always, for the fresh spring roll.?
He also never fails to order the Spicy Bail Noodles (pictured) which are not only actually spicy (unlike so many disappointing claims on menus all over town) but can, at times, produce beads of sweat on my brow and a slight rumble in my tummy. Other yummy dishes I've tried from the lunch menu include the mild Garlic Black Pepper, the rich Malaysian Laksa, and the warm weather pleaser Shrimp with Glass Noodle.
It's a big space, with tons of two tops and long communal tables. The decorating ia bit cheesy and it's run like a very efficient cafeteria. Lunch never takes longer than thirty minutes, which makes it ideal for a sit down option if you work nearby.
It's not likely to be a place foodies and tour guides will mention but, like lots of steady nearbys, it continues to draw a crowd by having the two most important parts of a restaurant down pat: good food at the right price.