Cheap eats on the Lower East Side: Best nosh on a budget

Cheap eats abound on the Lower East Side, but which stand out from the rest? Fuel up at our critic-approved budget food spots.

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Whether you want to take a break from shopping to refuel with an inexpensive bite, line your stomach before hitting the local bars (or soak up the damage afterwards), there are plenty of cheap eats in the neighborhood. Feast on everything from superlative lox on a bagel to nouveau Chinese food for less than $15.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Lower East Side

Congee Village

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

There is comfort (and folk-medicinal healing properties) in congee, the Cantonese rice porridge that is the focus at this multilevel, always-packed LES standby. Choose among 29 versions—like the sliced pork with preserved egg, or chicken with black mushrooms, cooked over a low fire until bubbling. The rest of the expansive menu yields such finds as tender razor clams in black-bean sauce and impeccably fresh crabs.

  1. 100 Allen St, (between Broome and Delancey Sts), 10002-30
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’inoteca

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Friends gather at this LES haven and its sister spots, always abuzz with chatter, to share great food and affordable wine. The truffled-egg toast is the signature dish, but salads and antipasti (tender grilled calamari with borlotti beans and fennel; dense, delicious meatballs) are equally compelling when paired with a bottle from the list of small-producer Italian wines. The tables are tightly packed—diners seeking privacy can gather six or more friends and reserve a seat in

  1. 98 Rivington St , (at Ludlow St), 10014
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Kuma Inn

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

A clandestine second-floor location makes this dinner-only spot feel like a true find. Chef King Phojanakong channels his culinary pedigree (including stints at Daniel and Danube), along with his Thai and Filipino heritage, into elegantly presented small plates, such as an omelette studded with plump Washington Bay oysters, and hunks of seared ahi tuna luxuriating in a spicy miso vinaigrette. Desserts like the coconut ginger rice pudding, and a custardy twist on key lime pie made

  1. 113 Ludlow St, (between Delancey and Rivington Sts), 10002-32
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Mission Chinese Food

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Some of the hottest restaurants in the country these days came from the most humble beginnings, sprung from trucks, carts and fleeting pop-ups. San Francisco’s Mission Chinese Food, for example, can trace its roots to a different concept called Mission Street Food. That venture started on four wheels before occupying a cheap Chinese restaurant—a temporary shell that eventually became a permanent home for Mission Chinese Food in 2010. There, behind a run-down facade, head chef

  1. 154 Orchard St, (between Rivington and Stanton Sts)
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Russ & Daughters

  • Critics choice

Russ & Daughters has been serving lox, herring and other specialty foods since 1914.

  1. 179 E Houston St, (between Allen and Orchard Sts)
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Shopsin’s

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The legendary eatery has relocated from the West Village to the LES, but still churns out kitchen-sink dishes for a 12-year-old’s palate, such as pumpkin-pistachio–peanut-butter–cinnamon pancakes and chicken-burrito soup. Diners marvel at the wacky fare on a 200-item menu and then bide their time; many sit on the floor while waiting for one of 20 seats. Bizarro brilliance can be found in salty, toothsome macaroni-and-cheese pancakes and habanero-spiced fried chicken, but

  1. Essex Street Market, 120 Essex St, (between Delancey and Rivington Sts)
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Vanessa’s Dumpling House

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

As diminutive as its namesake nibbles, this pot-sticker pit stop with just a few seats serves five chive-and-pork dumplings, fried or steamed, for a buck. If you want them vegetarian, you’ll have to splurge and spend $2, but then you get eight of the tasty morsels. Fifty cents buys a sesame pancake the size of a pizza wedge. Even on rainy nights, a motley throng of Lower East Siders and Chinatown moms overflows onto the street, congregating below the cupola-shaped awning to

  1. 118 Eldridge St, (between Broome and Grand Sts), 10002
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Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

A veggie cheesesteak? It does exist, and you can find it at this laid-back LES joint. Their Silly Philly piles sliced Portobello mushrooms, sautéed onions and melted provolone atop a toasted sesame semolina roll.

  1. 129 Rivington St, (at Norfolk St)
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Yunnan Kitchen

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

The quaint era when Americanized Indian and Thai food passed for exotic gave way long ago to more authentic regionalization. Oaxacan, Isaan Thai and South Indian spots are the new norm in New York, featuring flavors that tend to rock our perceptions of their countries’ cuisines. Chinese food, too, has made a specialized shift to tongue-numbing Szechuan, lamb-centric Xian and snacky Shanghai cuisine. The rain-forest cooking of the southern province of Yunnan is the latest

  1. 79 Clinton St, (between Delancey and Rivington Sts)
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