Of course, Little Italy is known for its traditional Italian fare, but for the best cheap eats in the area, you may want to broaden the ethnic scope. Fill up on an Asian-accented hot dog or gourmet felafel. Alternatively, grab a superior sub or a slice of pizza, or head to Chinatown.
RECOMMENDED: The best cheap eats in NYC
The Brooklyn Flea favorite has set up permanent digs for its beloved East-meets-West hot dogs. As at their pop-up stalls, owners Melanie Campbell and Stephen Porto give classic American junk food an artisanal Asian spin at this tiny takeout shop. Toppings like kimchi, Japanese curry and Asian sesame slaw finish off beef, chicken and veggie dogs tucked into soft buns. This location's expanded menu also includes a deep-fried Korean pancake corn dog, salads and yam fries.
Noah Bernamoff and Matt Kliegman gave the authentic New York bagel—that hand-rolled, boiled-and-baked throwback— new life with their fledgling Nolita bakery. The small, crusty Montreal-meets-Manhattan rounds ($1.50) are excellent with just a thick schmear of house-made cream cheese, but the real fun comes in inspired combinations like lox-and-dill spread with radish and sprouts ($7), ricotta with apple and honey ($6.50), and egg salad with butter lettuce, red onions and cracked pepper ($6).
Lingerers are welcome at this Parisian-style café, whether they’re outside smoking and sipping lattes or inside gossiping over salmon tartare in the cool blue- and orange-painted space. The clientele is almost too hip for an activity as mundane as eating. Too bad for them. The menu is full of appealing bites, such as merguez with raisin-and-pine-nut couscous, plus affordable beer and wine.
At Sarah Schneider and Demetri Makoulis’s cheery egg-head hang, a.m. bodega standards like the bacon-egg-and-cheese get a serious upgrade: The house B.E.C. ($10) is built with Black Forest bacon, Shelburne cheddar, tomato jam and runny yolks dripping sensuously over a bouncy panino roll. Or you can build your own breakfast sandwich ($7) with fixins like egg whites with feta and caramelized-onion aioli on a buttermilk biscuit. Still hungry? Slap a helping of fried chicken—yes, you read that right—on that sammie for $7.
Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone started small with their first project together, a sandwich shop that opened in 2009, serving hoagies by day and tasting menus by night. But Torrisi Italian Specialties, that low-key debut, blew up in a flash, its inventive riffs on Italian-American classics catapulting the young chefs onto the national stage. Soon there were glossy magazine profiles, restaurant awards and long lines out the door. It wasn’t long before they outgrew their very small space. When your first restaurant goes platinum, all eyes are trained on your next project. Torrisi and Carbone unspooled theirs in two parts, turning their original venue into a serious restaurant (all tasting menus, all the time) and moving its casual half into the vacant spot next door. Parm, that new cozy annex, is the Italian-American deli the daytime Torrisi strived to be, with more sandwiches and sides, new starters and mains, and a full-service bar with house wines and cocktails. The decor pays kitschy homage to the old-school venues that inspired this cooking, with wallpaper from the 1950s, neon, Formica and red swivel barstools. But while the menu reads as well-worn as the space, the food is new and exciting, prepared by grease-spattered cooks in white paper caps who happen to have high-end restaurant résumés. (Torrisi and Carbone worked together at Café Boulud.) As at Torrisi, the co-owner chefs offer dramatic improvements on the food they grew up on, without sacrificing the integrity of th
The dumpling rivalry between Chinatown’s Prosperity and one-street-over Vanessa’s has been at a Yankees–Red Sox pitch for years, but there’s one clear department where Prosperity rules: price. While Vanessa’s has inflated to $1.25 for four dumplings, good ol’ Prosperity has kept its reliably plump, pan-fried pouches set at a measly dollar. Beyond those pork-and-chive–filled wrappers, find other for-a-buck bites including light, spongy sesame pancakes and fried pork buns. Feeling flush? Spring for beef noodle soup for a whopping $3.
Chef Einat Admony and her husband, Stefan Nafziger, bring their wildly popular falafel to Nolita with this 17-seat outpost. The chickpea fritters come in three flavors: green (parsley and cilantro), red (roasted red peppers) and spicy harissa. New plates include a seasonally changing salad (such as chopped kale mixed with crispy shallots, pears and roasted almonds), plus fruit smoothies with dates, ginger and coconut milk. Pick up one of the house-made products, like spicy harissa and preserved lemons, which line the shelves of this location.