Best cheap eats in NYC
As if you needed any more evidence that this is the city that never sleeps, enter Veselka, the 65-year-old Ukranian dining room that concocts comfort food at all hours, but especially when you need it most: at 3am, after a few drinks. Packed with sauerkraut, sweet potato or other irresistible fillings, the doughy pierogi offer a quintessential NYC experience. Four for $7.
The Israeli vendor inside Chelsea Market has been hailed for its whole-roasted cauliflower, but this carnivorous option is just as gratifying. After all, it combines a few of our favorite things: a beef patty, melted white cheddar, garlic aioli, sour cream, tomato and pickles, all nestled within a homemade pita. $12.75.
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.
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. Jackson Heights (facebook.com/areperiaarepalady). $6.
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.
New York doesn’t get enough credit as a taco town. Case in point: This mini chain slings Left Coast–level beauties with fillings like grilled steak and nopal cactus. The real winner here, though, is the adobada (marinated pork) taco served with cilantro, onion and guacamole (it’s free!) on a handmade corn or flour tortilla. $3.50.
It’s worth braving the lines at this Soho favorite that peddles Sicilian pies. A pepperoni masterpiece, the Spicy Spring should be the first you try: Each mini “cup” glistens with a pool of rendered fat that soaks into the layers of gooey mozzarella and fiery fra diavolo sauce. $4.50.
Chef-proprietor Helen You hawks more 100 different types of dumplings at her sit-down establishment. Built in the northern Chinese style, each medium-thick pocket holds a juicy meat-and-vegetable filling. Most memorable among them is the minced-lamb variety, accented with little flecks of chive, celery and green pepper. Six for $7.95.
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.
Feasting on a Papaya King frank is an iconic experience. Once called “the best hot dog in New York City” by Julia Child, the Yorkville longtimer offers a handheld platter of two dogs, served with kraut, relish or the signature tangy red-onion sauce, plus a 16-ounce drink. (Is a hot dog a sandwich? You’ll be too full to care either way.) $6.50.
Talk about a sweet deal: The dough is dense and flaky, and the Nutella and dark-chocolate flavors are rich and sweet, making the felicitous combination our dessert nirvana. $14.95.
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.
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.
With several notable recent openings (886, Win Son), modern Taiwanese comfort food is definitely having a moment. And the island’s national dish, braised beef noodle soup, is the calling card of Richard Ho’s namesake restaurant. Twirl those thick noodles on your chopsticks with rounds of beef shank, and slurp up every last drop of the 24-hour-simmered, anise-scented broth. $14.50.
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.
Sure, you can snag banh mi for less in Chinatown, but chef Johnny Huynh seriously amps up his version with a pho-inspired filling of brisket, cilantro, jalapeño and house-made garlic aioli. The star of the show is the brisket, which is smoked for 14 hours on mesquite and applewood: It spills beautifully out of the unorthodox, coal-oven–fired loaves. $14.
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.
Paulie Gee’s spinoff slice shop get the ambiance down exactly from the faux-wood Formica tables and letter-board menu to the red plastic trays and the paper plates on which each slice is served. The star of the menu is this pepperoni slice drizzled with Mike’s Hot Honey for some sweetness and spice. $4.25.
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.
Manhattan’s only Bolivian restaurant has no seats, so your best bet is one of its salteñas. Traditionally eaten at breakfast but appropriate for any time of day, the portable, flaky pastry envelops a center of stewy chicken. Hey, this is New York: No one’s judging you. $6.95.
Don’t call it a donut. The second you bite into the crullers at Daily Provisions, you’ll forgot what donuts even were. The fast-casual sister spot to Union Square Café churns out three flavors—glazed, maple, cinnamon—of the honey-laced French variation. A holy trinity, indeed. $3.50.
Debuting as a Madison Square Park hot-dog cart in 2004, Shake Shack has evolved into an internation burger powerhouse. Thin patties of a proprietary Pat LaFrieda blend (brisket, chuck and short rib) are shellacked with tangy ShackSauce and American cheese before getting nestled in a griddled potato bun for a classed-up classic. $8.09.
Tonkotsu, or pork bone, ramen may be more well-known in NYC, but this homegrown chain has cornered the chicken ramen niche for its delightfully rich version of paitan ramen. The creamy broth, made from boiling whole chicken, comes with straight egg noodles and the requisite toppings of scallion, onion, nori and kikurage. $10.
In just a few short years, the popular Smorgasburg stand has transformed into a formidable barbecue empire that stretches into New Jersey. Pitmaster Hugh Mangum sates carne lovers with his Texas-meets-Carolina-style meats. The thrifty set should opt for this sammy, packed with smoked boneless ribs that are covered in black-cherry BBQ sauce and topped with dill pickles and onions. $12.
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.
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. Elmhurst (718-424-7156). $9.
Hop the ferry to Staten Island and get transported back to the good ol’ days at this Dongan Hills staple, serving up a renowned bar pizza that rivals the city’s crispiest brick-oven pies. Head to the back dining room and order an individual-sized round with sausage and zesty red sauce, or be a purist and get it plain Jane. Large $9, toppings $1–$2 each.
It’s a late night choice. Maybe the late night choice. The deep-fried falafel stuffed in a pita with a creamy tahini sauce and salad is the one drunken snack that actually doesn’t make you cringe the next morning. Kinda sorta? $3.50.
You might have to wait an hour or two during weekend mornings to secure a spot inside, but the golden, warm and buttery flapjacks topped with wild Maine blueberries will make you lose all sense of time. $15.
After shifting gears from deli sandwiches to rum-soaked Caribbean fare, this canteen piles your plate with hot jerk-rubbed half-chickens that are deliciously smoky and cooked over a wood fire. $10.50.
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.
Soba, or buckwheat noodle, is the star of this Lower East Side noodle shop. Find diners eagerly dipping the chewy strands into bubbling crocks of chicken-and-bonito broth—pairings range from ginger-flecked chicken meatballs to sliced pork and special kimchi. Once the soba is gone, dilute the leftover liquid with the free noodle-cooking water to form a soul-soothing soup. $15.
The folks from Chelsea Market’s ridiculously popular Los Tacos No. 1 have turned their attention to fresh seafood for this spin-off. Nosh on the Baja-style fish tacos, a perky dream of breaded bass, pico de gallo, cabbage and mayo. Completing the beachy vibes, the tiny stand pours Pacíficos and Micheladas. $3.
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 worth-inhaling chicken shawarma, served with daily-baked pita. $12.
This dimly-lit lounge’s fat, broiled eight-ounce beef burgers, hooded in American cheese and crispy bacon, are so legendary that New Yorkers are known to wait in line for one. Though it might take a while to get your hands on the patties, dirt-cheap drafts of McSorley’s Ale should help pass the time. $12.75.
Although the entire menu can be ordered for a little more than a Benjamin at this cheapo-celebrated Hong Kong import, nabbing the signature baked buns filled with moist barbecue pork are musts for first-timers. Three for $5.25.
At this casual, takeout-focused offshoot of downtown Thai favorite Uncle Boons, you can find equally thoughtful renditions of regional favorites turned out by husband-wife chefs Ann Redding and Matt Danzer. For a one-dish meal, try the kanom jiin jay, green curry over rice noodles with avocado, rainbow chard, and crispy shallots. $14.
At this tiny Lower East Side shop, Hokkaido-born chef Yudai Kanayama celebrates the homiest pleasures of Japanese cooking like all-day wafu pasta, wintry strews, and Japanese milk bread. Spotlighting simple delights, a stellar rendition of karaage, or Japanese fried chicken, tosses the juicy nubs of meat in a light coat of batter that crisps up perfectly in the fryer. $15.
You might think the fried chicken is the way to go at Jollibee, the Filipino fast-food chain that debuted in Manhattan, and you’d be half right. Definitely order the signature chicken, but end the meal with the peach mango pie, a bar of thick, flaky crust encasing warm and juicy Philippine mangoes. $2.49.
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. Chinatown (917-261-4716). $10.
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.
This Bangkok transplant, a temple of northern Thai cuisine, serves the papaya salads of its namesake with grilled pork neck or fermented fish sauce and miniature crabs. A pocket-friendly favorite is the tum thai kai kem, the fiery original salad crowned simply with a salted duck egg. $11.
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.
Former Ivan Ramen chef Michael Bergemann is behind one of the city’s best slice joints found in an unlikely location—Hell’s Kitchen’s Gotham West Market. Taking on the city’s arguably quintessential dish, the all-important pizza pie, his West Side spot has slices with exceptionally light crust—thanks to the artisanal Central Milling flour, cake yeast and a nearly three-day fermentation—most appreciated in Corner’s no-nonsense Margherita slice. $2.75–$4.50.
This pint-sized Upper East Side hang pairs your childhood favorite—grilled cheese—with the apple of your adult eye, beer. Soak up daily-changing suds with curd-focused sandwich combos like this one with NY State cheddar, pork belly, kimchi and a fried egg on sourdough. Drool. $11.
Although it seems the poke wave is cresting, there’s nothing fishy or flash-in-the-pan about the Hawaiian bowls of seafood, rice and light vegetables—when done right. This shop, with locations in Murray Hill and the Financial District, combines the Hawaiian dish with some distinctly West Coast sensibilities, serving fresh, super-filling dishes of ahi tuna drizzled with shoyu and sesame oil over white rice, as well as an avocado-heavy, chili-dusted salmon tostada boasting a warm, freshly made tortilla that tastes oh-so-Left Coast. $13.45.
At Levain Bakery, the cookies are so huge, they might as well be lunch. These massive mounds stay soft in the middle, making them a boon to cookie-dough lovers. Don’t miss the loaded chocolate chip walnut number; the hearty-yet-gooey treat is the kind of half-baked confection your six-year-old self would dream about. $4.
Pig Beach slings delightful, succulent meats dressed to the nines in exquisite sauces to hordes of 'cue-craving Brooklynites in an expansive backyard patio and sprawling, 7,000-square foot warehouse. Don't mis out on these killer wings, in which Frank's Red Hot meets Hatch chili powder to create a marinade that’s at once sweet, salty and spicy. $9.
Thicker than their French counterparts, the double-fried Belgian batons—doled out in gingham-patterned paper cones—are spudsy vehicles for more than 25 exotic sauces, including sweet mango chutney, Vietnamese pineapple mayo and Irish curry. But you don’t need to slather on dressings; The golden, supercrisp frites are surefire crowd-pleasers on their own. Regular $6.25, one sauce $1.75, three sauces $4.25.
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.
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.