Best cheap eats in NYC
Open in the East Village since 1938, this venerable, 400-square-foot lunch counter long ago passed out of the hands of the Jewish immigrants who established it and is now run by a Polish Catholic and an Egyptian Muslim. But the slim restaurant still serves the kosher dairy dishes it has always been beloved for. We stan their tuna melts, but their incredibly gregarious staff makes every moment worth it. $8.00.
Uzbeki, Korean and European dishes collide at this casual locale that might be a little less tense than actually dining with your in-laws. For a taste of all the nations, try the sweet and sour cold beef soup with pickled cucumbers and lots of cabbage. The broth is out of this world. $8.50.
These days, Williamsburg is a circus of high-rises and upscale eateries. In one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in Brooklyn it's becoming harder and harder to find affordable bites. Oasis is our no-fail, no-frills, trusty best friend for falafel platters and pita sandwiches. Beyond just damn good falafel, we really appreciate the bounty of pickled veggies that don't feel like an afterthought or filler. $4.00.
Try the national dish of Malaysia: coconut rice, ikan bilis sambal (fried anchovy and peanut sambal), cucumbers and hard boiled egg. $9.00.
At this 24-hour corner market, find stacked sandwich classics (chicken club, Italian sub) and original creations like the teriyaki-and-hot-pepper sandwich layered with creamy avocado slices, or the famous P.H.O. Real loaded with roast beef, bean sprouts and both hoisin and sriracha sauces. Our favorite? The Biden: a fried chicken cutlet, sundried tomatoes and avocado with creamy dressing. A great way to honor the former vice president. $8.95.
This Bed-Stuy stalwart specializes in two things: bake and (you guessed it) doubles. The former is a handheld fried dough bun stuffed with salt fish or fried sand shark and topped with a tangy-sweet tamarind sauce. And the latter? These Trinidadian snacks are built on a base of deep fried dough, or bara, wrapped around a savory potato-channa curry. Don’t forget a side of extra napkins. $3.00.
At this NYC original with locations in Flushing and Chinatown, find a pitch-perfect take on the Cantonese specialty of rice-based “crepes,” which come with fillings like pork, beef, curry fish balls and dry shrimp. While the Flushing location offers both small and large rolls, the Chinatown location only offers the large version—for just six bucks. Various locations. $6.00.
Don’t save this one for your Instagram feed: It’s sloppy, mushy and unphotogenic. But it’s also downright delicious. A heaving helping of rice comes with your choice of three Indian vegetarian options, such as chana masala (chickpeas), saag paneer (creamed spinach) and daal (lentils). $6.00.
New York City has an endless array of meaty burgers. Yet one of its very best is… vegetarian? The dense quinoa-chickpea patty is topped with Muenster cheese, iceberg lettuce, roasted plum tomato and dill pickle, all sandwiched between Martin’s potato buns. You definitely won’t leave asking, “Where’s the beef?” $6.00.
At the charming sit-down spot, Madcap Cafe in Carroll Gardens, you’ll find one of our favorite egg sandwiches in the whole city. For six dollars you can get a heaping “flat” with scrambled eggs and naan-esque bread wrapped around, that’s massive enough to tide you over until dinner. $6.00.
A vegetarian Indian food haven in Floral Park, Queens specializes in fast casual bites, savory snacks and colorful desserts. Usha is one of the best vegetarian destinations for generous portions, combo platters that allow you to try a little bit of everything and a menu that strongly demonstrates you don't need meat to have one of the city's most satisfying meals. The paneer tikka sandwich is a must-try. $7.00.
One of Jackson Height's best eateries is Lhasa Fast Food, specializing in Himalayan and Tibetan cuisine. At first we were scared to write about Lhasa for fear of blowing up one of our favorite spots. But you deserve to know how delicious the momos are there and we can't keep it from you any longer. Located inside a narrow hallway beyond a cellphone store, think of it as a speakeasy for great vegetarian-friendly food.
At this vegetarian Ethiopian charmer, you’ll get a spread of traditional bites, including red lentils in berbere sauce, mashed split peas simmered with tomato, and a chickpea stuffing with kale. Cool the heat of the spicier flavors with a strip of injera, a sourdough bread. $13.
Leaving any Dominican restaurant hungry is almost impossible, as every dish seems designed to stuff you full. Mofongo, a dense mash of garlicky green plantains and fried pork (meant for dipping in tomato broth), is the champion gut-plugger, though sancocho vies for the title by welcoming potatoes. $8.50.
Known to its fans as “the jewelry-store one,” the tiny Chinatown takeout operation does indeed share space with an accessories counter. Regardless, the cheap prices, succulent pork preparations and crispy-chewy bread that’s baked in-house make it easy to overlook the odd location. $6.00.
This Wakefield takeout bakery—tucked inside the Baychester Shopping Center—brings flavors of the Caribbean to the Bronx. Load up on island staples like beef patties, ackee-and-saltfish and the house specialty, coco bread: The yeast-based pockets come stuffed with jerk chicken, hot dogs, or codfish and callaloo (amaranth stew). $2.25.
Owner Phillip Lee gained a following for his Mexi-Korean eats with roving truck Kimchi Taco, before opening this brick-and-mortar spin-off in Prospect Heights. In addition to kimchi-spiked BBQ short-rib tacos, tofu-edamame falafel rice bowls and Kim-Cheesesteaks, this location will serve edamame guacamole, pork belly burritos, and chicken tostadas with Mexican and Korean spices. Our favorite? The Big Belly Burrito: kimchi, brown rice, pickle daikon and roasted vegetables. $11.25 (this burrito is heaping and usually we save half for lunch the next day).
Get your mind out of the gutter—the giggle-inducing name doesn’t refer to some Urban Dictionary–sourced innuendo, but to this hole-in-the-wall’s specialty: the steamed bun. Thirteen varieties of stuffed, cotton-light mantou cover every inch of surface space in the small takeout shop. The buns are fluffy, mildly sweet clouds of dough: rich, nutty red-bean paste fills one; salty-sweet duck egg yolk oozes over another. The must-have, though, is the pumpkin bao, a perky yellow bun that reveals smooth, mellow squash puree. $1.00.
You'll be hardpressed to find better pierogis in Cental Brooklyn. $6.00.
At this takeout spot, decorated with tropical graffiti, the Washington Heights food-truckers dole out gluten-free Venezuelan dishes. Choose from a variety of ingredients to add to the patacóns (fried-plantain sandwiches). They come with queso, green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup and salsa verde. $7.50.
This popular, Big Easy–inspired sandwich shop offers a taste of New Orleans on the outskirts of Chinatown. The shrimp and oyster po'boys are the signature offerings, but fried chicken with gravy is where we put our money. Homey, down-South touches abound, from the Big Shot soda to the charmingly ramshackle digs: Whitewashed brick walls scrawled with handwritten notes buttress a corrugated-tin ceiling. $6.50.
Located inside a Bushwick tortilla factory, this BYOB taqueria serves tacos, tostadas and tortas filled with meats like salted beef, carnitas and chorizo. The digs are sparse—nothing more than a few plastic tables with folding chairs and paper plates—but with the scent of freshly pressed tortillas and braising pork in the air, you won't even notice. $2.50.
After test-driving the concept at Berg’n and Threes Brewing, brothers Max and Eli Sussman launched their first brick-and-mortar Mediterranean gem. The Williamsburg storefront functions as a hybrid specialty grocery and restaurant delivering elevated, homemade dishes, like this platter, perfect for two. $11.00 (split with a friend for $5.50).
Order the Number 6 at this Flushing, Queens favorite. $3.00.
Winner of the People's Choice award at the 2018 Vendys, this all-star Burmese food truck can also be found with a permenant location at the Queens Night Market from April-October. Keema palata is composed of a wheat flour flatbread stuffed with chicken, egg and clinatro. $6.00.
What initially feels like a hodge podge menu of curries, avocado toast with tostones, and ginger shrimp pho, makes sense when you learn more about the owners of Tamra Teahouse's personal history and culinary journeys. Founders Yunha Moh and Draman Berthe are first-generation immigrants (from Korea and Mali, respectively) serving up dishes that might just give fusion a good name again. With collective experience from prior jobs at Saltie, Milk Bar, Pok Pok, and Lucky Bee, the duo pair their culinary training with Afro-Asian inflections: curry is the common ground. We recommend the butternut squash curry served with corn. $10.00.
Bodega in Harlem known for their chopped cheese sandwiches. Also referred to as Hajji’s. $4.50.
You’ll get three meals out of one at this sizzling Philadelphia import—the one you ordered and enough leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day. The only thing bigger than the portions is the sheer spice; the menu is scrupulously ranked on a heat scale, from tolerably tingly to five-alarm mouth fire, including the fierce, chili-spiked, springy dan dan noodles tangled around nubs of minced pork. $7.95.
This venerable delicatessen, overstocked butcher and café is located in the city’s most beloved food-and-kitchen-supplies market. The glossy menu may paralyze your family with indecision; it lists more than 50 sandwiches, plus platters, pastas, soups, salads, stromboli and sides. Ingredients are of high quality, including Mike’s own soppressata and filet mignon bresaola. We suggest the Italian Combo. $8.50.
A 30-year veteran of the NYC food-truck scene, Colombia-born Maria “The Arepa Lady” Cano finally opened a brick-and-mortar spot in 2014, much to the delight of her cult following. The purest among these griddled corn cakes is the cheese arepa, with its queso oozing inside the sweet wrap for an ultra-decadent kind of grilled-cheese sandwich. $6.00.
Inday, one of the latest fast causal chains to take New York by storm, celebrates the vibrant, salubrious elements of Indian cuisine, so far succeeding wildly to establish itself as a front-runner in the neighborhood's competitive lunch circles. It does so with a flight of well-seasoned bowls, constructed in a Chipotle-esque fashion with customized proteins and bases. We recommend "The Curry Flower": cauliflower rice, turmeric lemongrass curry, pickled cucumbers, and crispy shallots. Various locations. $9.50.
Various locations. $9.50.
Trust us, you don’t need to order this aluminium bowl at 4am to enjoy it. The thin slices of chicken and beef gyro layered over warm yellow rice and crispy lettuce create a savory amalgam that’s satisfying at any hour of the day. There’s only one question left: White sauce or red sauce? Answer: Both! $8.00.
This Lower East Side nook that specializes in hand-pulled noodles from China's northwestern province of Lanzhou has expanded to a larger location down the block with a larger menu. Try the fish ball soup. $8.00.
The Israeli vendor inside Chelsea Market and a new UWS location has been hailed for its whole-roasted cauliflower, but our favorite is the ratatouille pita (tomato perfume roasted eggplant, tahini, spicy sauce and hardboiled egg) $11.50.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, say the French. This adage seems particularly true of this hole-in-the-wall institution, which has been dishing out carby bundles of goodness since 1890. We recommend this mouthwatering mix of salt-and-pepper mashed potatoes and onions wrapped in a thin layer of baked dough. $4.25.
This uassuming spot draw weekday-morning locals who line up to order the oversized, doughy bagels, especially the seedy and savory everything. Time Out tip: Make sure you know what bagel and shmear (there are 23) you want before you get up the register. The line is long, and the people behind you are very hungry. $3.35.
Opened in 1971, this south Brooklyn restaurant’s roast-beef sandwiches are legendary: Layers of thinly sliced meat are folded and pressed between perfectly toasted kaiser rolls. For the full experience, get the classic cooked medium, rather than well done, and top it off with the requisite “cheez” sauce. $5.95.
There's just one item on the menu at this relaxed Elmhurst mainstay: khao mun gai. Translated to "chicken fat rice," the beloved street-food dish first landed in southeast Asia by way of Hainanese immigrants. Here, it’s prepared in traditional form with a plate of chicken—meat, gizzards, liver—over jasmine rice with a side of broth and condiments of minced garlic and crushed chili. $9.
We love the curries at Goemon, but their black sesame cheesecake is also worth a bite. $7.50.
Think of this funky Queens restaurant as your home away from home for no-nonsense Indian fare. There’s a whole roster of traditional dishes (kati roll, chicken biryani), but the house-made charred naan, stuffed with melted Amul cheese and diced green chilies, reigns supreme for those on a budget. They will put to shame those 2am chili-cheese fries from college. $3.
This mini-chain doles out vegan sushi in its diminutive Gramercy digs. Combos include the Green Machine (English cucumber, asparagus topped with charred edamame) and La Fiesta (avocado, pickled jalapeño, chayote and cilantro), but the tastiest is the Spicy Mang, a fiery-sweet combo of black rice, avocado, mango and English cucumber topped with spicy veggies with a toasted cayenne sauce. $7.50.
The vintage Doyers Street parlor has been churning out dim sum favorites (har gow shrimp dumplings, steamed rice rolls) since the 1920s. Get the most bang for your buck with this oversize, pillowy white bun that encases caramelized nubs of roasted pork. $4.95.
The Jacobs Pickles team’s fast-casual spot is mainly about the dumplings, but skip over those for the soft-serve ice cream. The tangy pickle flavor isn’t overwhelming, and it gets bright, fresh notes from cucumber juice for those suffering from a lack of sweet tooth. $5.
California native Otto Cedeno doles out pitch-perfect tacos at this 13-seat joint lined with rustic wooden panels and white subway tiles. Opt for this delicious number, a supple house-made-daily tortilla topped with shrimp and serrano crema. $5.
Oxtail pho with massive slabs of bone-in short ribs may be all the rage at the moment, but there’s something to be said for the elemental comfort of traditional chicken pho. Light, clear, and pure in flavor, the restorative pho ga at this Vietnamese canteen could cure colds and broken hearts alike. $10.