Best cheap manicures
Get your nails pruned and polished for $10 or less at one of these TONY-approved salons.
Fri Aug 19 2011
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson
Ace Nails 145 E 27th St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-679-4352). $10.
This snug space feels as warm as its pink-hued walls, thanks to an accommodating staff and the open arrangement of the furniture (four pedicure and five manicure stations line the walls, with drying posts positioned at the center). Manicures using of-the-moment OPI and Essie lacquers last a solid week, nails are always filed in a clean shape of your choice, and you won't find excess polish drips outside the lines.—Lauren Levinson
Beauty and Cutie Nail Salon 424 E 14th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-388-1299). $8.50.
The aestheticians at this unassuming spot preen your digits with patience and precision worth far more than a ten-spot: After diligently shaping the tips and trimming cuticles, the technician treats you to a brief-but-soothing hand massage before slicking on a double coat of your favorite in-demand OPI or Essie shade.—Sarah Bruning
Bijou Nails 417 W 58th St between Ninth and Tenth Aves (212-957-8939). $9.
Despite its slightly out-of-the-way location on a desolate midtown strip, this cream-colored salon is surprisingly bustling. With just five manicure stations available and a no-reservations policy for tabs less than $20, you can expect a wait, but it won't be more than ten minutes—service is speedy and efficient, making Bijou optimal for nails on the run. If you're fond of sporting shocking hues on your nail beds, you'll appreciate the selection of neon Color Club polishes, which punch up the otherwise standard lineup from Essie and OPI. A brief shoulder massage performed at the drying station is a welcome send-off.—Cristina Velocci
Buddha Nails & Spa 479 Third Ave between 32nd and 33rd Sts (212-481-5656, buddhanails.com). $9.
This nondescript 11-chair nail salon certainly isn't the swankiest joint in town, but it's a reliable place to get a clean paint job (tools are sterilized and repackaged before each use) at convenient hours (it's open until 11pm on weekdays). Be sure to make an appointment to avoid a wait, and pick up the frequent-visitor card to receive a free manicure after every fifth visit.—Rachel LeWinter
Chelsea Nails 100 W 23rd St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, second floor (212-924-6245). $9.50.
You'll be able to eavesdrop on more than just the routine gossip between friends at this minimalist nail salon: It's not uncommon to overhear customers interacting with the knowledgeable manicurists about which Essie or OPI polish color to select or what they did over the weekend. Despite the presence of eight manicure stations, you can expect a ten-minute wait, regardless of whether you have an appointment, so you may as well save yourself the phone call and just show up.—Brittany Leitner
Duane Reade Look Boutique 40 Wall St between Nassau and William Sts (212-742-8457, dr40wallstreet.com). $10.
If time is money, you'll save both by getting your nails done right after you pick up your prescriptions, a roll of paper towels and a smoothie at this small but sparkling two-seater express salon (it's fingers only), hidden in the vast downtown drugstore. The wall of OPI and Essie polish is extensive and brightly lit, and the friendly manicurists work efficiently, particularly during the lunch rush (noon--3pm).—Heather Young
Lin's Nails 516 Amsterdam Ave between 84th and 85th Sts (212-721-9948). $8.
The narrow railroad layout and minimal stations (there are just three marble-topped manicure desks and an equal number of pedicure chairs) at this petite salon hardly serve as hindrances: Thanks to its unassuming facade there's hardly ever a wait. Those who prefer having their cuticles cut and their nails filed square are in luck, considering that's the default modus operandi here; if you want anything else, you'll need to speak up—the technicians don't ask before diving right in. In an effort to accommodate pooch-obsessed Upper West Siders, Lin's is dog-friendly, so don't be surprised if you encounter a Havanese napping by your feet at the drying station.—CV
The Nail Place 791 Lexington Ave between 61st and 62nd Sts (212-421-3434, thenailplacenyc.com). $9.
Choose from more than 300 polish shades, including the latest from OPI, Essie and Zoya, at this hopping Upper East Side joint. Despite being in the midst of a renovation, the space is cozy and well kept, and the staff is both friendly and knowledgeable (our technician, Blanca Castillo, gave helpful recommendations about choosing a polish and taking care of our nails post-mani). The four drying stations face one another, so patrons who come in together will find it easy to chat as they wait for their polish to set. Bonus: The Nail Place offers customer-loyalty cards that get you your 11th manicure on the house.—Mary Squillace
Oasis Nails 254 W 10th St between Greenwich and Hudson Sts (212-242-8866). $10.
The technicians here work quickly—they'll have you at the dryers, where they'll occasionally throw in a brief shoulder massage, in just 15 minutes—making this spacious spot ideal for a manicure on the go. Plenty of seating (there are five stations) ensure that no one waits longer than ten minutes for a chair.—MS
Soho Nails 458 West Broadway between W Houston and Prince Sts, third floor (212-475-6368). $9.
If you're looking to save some dough on pampering after dropping too much in the nearby designer boutiques, this no-frills spot might just be the place. Featuring an array of polish colors from favorite brands such as OPI, Essie and Jessica, and 10 spotlessly clean stations, it's worth climbing the 30-plus stairs and overlooking the slightly sketchy outside appearance.—Elizabeth Denton
Ultra 123 Essex St between Delancey and Rivington Sts (347-898-3069, ultra-nyc.com). $10.
Take a seat at one of the sunny nail studio's three stations (voyeurs take note: The best people-watching post is near the oversize window), and settle in for an indulgent 30-minute treatment that's designed for relaxing. If you prefer a natural finish, you're in luck: The considerable range of Essie and OPI polishes includes nearly 100 shades of nude.—Sarah Theeboom
VIP Nail Salon 68 Reade St between Broadway and Church St (212-285-9552). $10.
This tidy salon is just a short walk from nearly every subway line, but you won't feel like you're fighting the teeming millions to get in the door—one of the eight manicure stations will likely be free. Though the polish selection (largely OPI and Essie, with a few China Glaze bottles thrown in to widen the spectrum) isn't overly large, you'll still feel spoiled with the attention given to properly shaping your tips before color is even applied.—HY
Agua De La Vida 571 Metropolitan Ave between Union Ave and Lorimer St, Williamsburg (718-302-4664, aguadelavidadayspa.com). $8.
This is hands down the best cheap manicure we've found in Williamsburg—not least because it doesn't look like one. There's no need to make an appointment at this small, friendly salon (though you may have to wait up to 15 minutes), and it's well stocked with pretty shades by Essie and OPI. Technicians are careful and conscientious ("Are you sure that's dry? Come back if you smudge it!"), and—marvel of marvels—the radio isn't even turned up too loud.—Sophie Harris
D'Beaute Beauty Boutique 535A Sixth Ave at 14th St, Park Slope (718-499-4888). $7.50.
This cozy Brooklyn salon is the kitsch freak's dream manicure spot: Powder blue walls, pillows with appliqud hearts, and neon orange and green lamps dominate the decor. Choose from your favorite Essie and OPI shades and kick back with a glass of lemon or cucumber water while you enjoy your super-cheap (especially for chichi Park Slope) polish job.—Sharon Steel
Bema Nail 1834 Williamsbridge Rd between Morris Park and Rhinelander Aves (718-792-2090). $7.
Walk-ins are welcome (and will encounter a negligible wait) at this girly salon, where the walls are pink, the facilities are clean, and the staff is friendly. There's a good-size, rainbow-spanning polish selection from OPI and Essie, and we especially swooned over the complimentary two-minute massage while our nails dried.—Hallie Gould
Mint Nail 253 New Dorp Ln between Edison and 10th Sts (718-987-0497). $7.
Though the main draw at this no-frills salon is its competitively priced, long-lasting UV gel manicures ($25), we're just as happy to hop the ferry for Mint's quick yet thorough basic mani, which will have your nails polished and dried in 20 minutes flat. The spot also boasts a large drying table with built-in slots for your hands and feet—a huge upgrade from the inefficient fans and cramped nail dryers used elsewhere.—Julianne Grauel
Mix Nail Salon 44-68 21st St between 44th Dr and 45th Ave, Long Island City (718-706-9887). $7.
Though a bit on the small and shabby side, this hole-in-the-wall salon is all business when it comes to manicures: Mix boasts an impressive army of nail polishes, including a near-complete collection of Essie options. Mingle with the local walk-ins before you grab a seat at one of the five stations. The super-speedy technicians will have your nails trimmed, shaped and polished in less than 15 minutes, so there's no need to fear a long wait. Sit back and enjoy a complimentary shoulder massage while your digits dry.—Kristen Valaika
Salon Tiara 23-02 23rd Ave between 29th and 31st Sts, Astoria (718-204-1527). $8.
You'll be charmed by this darling salon's lavender walls and girly accents, including tulle window curtains, plush purple pillows and a wall of framed illustrations. Despite having only six stations, the swift service guarantees you'll be in and out with barely any wait. You'll hate to leave so soon, however, once your manicurist gives you a complimentary mini shoulder massage as your nails dry.—Kristina Rodulfo