The flagrant ostentatiousness at many New York restaurants can at times make the dining scene feel like it's only for the elite. But some of the best restaurants in NYC still serve affordable bites for $10 or less. Dining on a budget in New York doesn’t have to feel like a constraint with our picks for jerk chicken, Sicilian-style pizza, creative veggie burgers, underground buffets, cuban bakeries and more.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC
The best of the city
We really like eating around the city, and we're guessing you do, too. So lucky for all of us, we've packed all our favorite restaurants under one roof at the Time Out Market New York. The DUMBO location has fluffy pancakes from the venerable Clinton Street Baking Co., thin-crust pizza from Patsy Grimaldi’s Juliana’s, Middle Eastern bites from Miss Ada, fried chicken from Jacob’s Pickles, Japanese comfort food from Bessou, cookie dough scoops from DŌ and more amazing eateries—all cherry-picked by us. Chow down over two floors with views of the East River, Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline.
Best cheap eats in NYC
Dig into this pitch-perfect take on the Cantonese specialty of rice-based “crêpes,” which come with fillings like pork, beef, curry fish balls and dried shrimp. Various locations. $6.
Consider this OG Williamsburg staple your no-frills, no-fail best friend for a damn good, toasty falafel sammy, stuffed with a bounty of pickled veggies that doesn’t feel like an afterthought. Plus, it’s equally filling and delicious at noon or midnight. $4.
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.
Since 1938, this venerable 400-square-feet lunch counter has been slinging kosher faves and other classics, like this midday mainstay with toasted challah, whitefish and melted cheddar. $8.
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.
Dumpling aficionados trek to this closet-size eatery to order the No. 6: A dozen pork wontons, doused in roasted chili oil and topped with a smattering of diced pickled vegetables, arrives on a Styrofoam plate. Despite more than 30 items on the menu, it’s the only dish everyone seems to order—and for good reason. $7.
This downright delicious—and delightfully sloppy—dish features a heaping helping of rice alongside your choice of three vegetarian mains: chana masala (chickpeas), saag paneer (creamed spinach) or daal (lentils). $6.
Located inside a narrow hallway beyond a cell-phone store, Lhasa Fast Food can be thought of as a speakeasy for great, veggie-friendly eats, including these delectable dumplings. $7.
The only thing we wished would change about Pata Paplean is that its noodle soups would be served daily (it’s only available on weekends). Whether it’s the steaming bowls of boat noodles or sweet-and-sour tom yum, you can’t go wrong at this bar serving food you’d find in Bangkok. $5 for all noodle soups.
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 charming, no frills digs: Whitewashed brick walls scrawled with handwritten notes buttress a corrugated-tin ceiling. $6.50.
A new fast-casual chain hailing from Cairo has opened in Nolita, bringing a menu of Egyptian street food. We loved the pickled lemon ta'ameya. The Egyptian cousin to falafel has a strong fermented flavor that’s everything. Pro-tip: Grab napkins because as you furiously nosh, the tangy beet dip will drip. $7.50.
The national dish of Malaysia is an addictive blend of coconut rice, ikan bilis sambal (a spicy sauce with fried anchovies and peanut sambal), cucumbers and a hard-boiled egg. $9.
Any number of plates would lure us back for the West African-inspired dishes at Teranga, a casual café nestled inside the Africa Center. On the gluten-free menu, you can’t go wrong with an all plant-based order where the Liberian “Ruby” red rice can be paired with beets, spicy fried plantains and a black eyed pea stew. $10.
What began as a modest cart is now upgraded to a sit-down restaurant specializing in arepas and other Colombian bites in Jackson Heights. The kitchen is run by Maria Piedad Cano and her family. Some of the best South American corn cakes to be found in New York. 2 for $7.
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.
Paul Eng’s family has been serving New Yorkers tofu for generations with little fanfare. Since reopening his family’s business last year, Eng is serving a savory tofu pudding that’s as silky as any other version available in the city. The addition of pickled radishes, fried shallots, sesame oil and dried shrimp makes his order as satisfying as any red meat-packed meal. Small $5.50, large $6.50.
The price of a simple roast chicken dinner has skyrocketed at trendier establishments in the city. But Peppa’s Jerk Chicken is perfectly grilled with hints of smokiness permeating through the juicy meat—at a fraction of the cost. $7-$10.
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.
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.
At the decade-old Pilar Cuban Eatery’s new Bed-Stuy sister spot, owner-chef Ricardo Barreras rethinks breakfast with underused-in-NYC Cuban ingredients. The pastelitos, such as the ground-beef Spanish empanada, could supplant a New Yorker’s go-to morning bagel: But while this pastry exhibits the same buttery, savory warmth, it’s dipped in house-made cilantro or hot sauce. $4.50.
This casual lunch counter in the Bronx focuses on all things pork, with recipes of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent: chicarrónes, pernil and the cuchifritos (the fan-favorite). Cuchifritos are fried meats, such as the standout morcilla, aka blood sausage. $2.
Green plantains with beef are worth trying at this Puerto Rican favorite. It's an exciting time for Puerto Rican food in New York (one of our favorite caterers specializing in the cuisine, Que Chevere is about to get their own stall at Essex Crossing). Derick López’s The Freakin Rican has gained much critical acclaim. $3.50.
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 bodega in Harlem known for their amazing chopped cheese sandwiches, also referred to as Hajji’s. $4.50.
The congenial, busy owners of this Mexican joint make their own fresh masa (corn dough) from grain soaked and ground on-site. This means tacos of spicy skate that's been tucked into ethereal corn blankets for you, and for the kids—if the timing is right (try late morning or early afternoon)—the spectacle of a bright green machine spewing out tortillas. Once the show's over, grab a table and share a mound of guac and chips, delicate mole-bathed chicken enchiladas or fluffy, well-spiced tamales. $3.50.
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.
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.
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.
“Smør” means “butter,” which is fitting, as smørrebrøds—open-faced toasts with buttered rye bread—are this shop’s signature. The curried herring is a canary-hued, enjoyable mess, with creaminess from the tarragon aioli. $9.
Unlike its beloved original location, which offers only table-side pies, Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop is all about, yes, the slice. Go for this “upside down” Sicilian-style square slice with a sesame-dusted bottom. Bonus: The space’s slime-green banquette stools, faux-wood Formica tables and letter-board menu gives the whole experience a cool 1970s feel. $4.50.
While they all worked at fine dining restaurants across town, Taka Sakaeda and his business partners are offering a much more casual (and affordable) experience here. Temaki hand rolls—filled with everything from scallops to tune poke—can be complemented with Japanese small plates and snacks. $8.
Chef Greg Baxtrom’s fusion of Japanese and French dishes is expertly executed in a dish such as escargot in shiso butter. This classic Gallic recipe is brightened with the use of shiso, which seemingly helps cut through the traditionally butter-drenched dish. $9.
Everything is under $12 at chef JJ Johnson’s fast-casual Harlem restaurant. We could not stop talking about the Crab Pockets, however. It’s like everyone’s favorite Chinese takeout version of crab Rangoon but better (it’s packed with real crab meat mixed with a garlic-herb cream cheese). If that doesn’t fill you up, go for any number of the rice bowls. $6.95.
In the face of tech-backed meat alternatives, made-from-scratch veggie burgers are dying. But at this new fast-casual eatery helmed by Amanda Cohen, the chef behind the vegan restaurant Dirt Candy, a new plant-based burger has entered the scene. $9.95.
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.
Hidden in a windowless basement of the Hare Krishna temple in Downtown Brooklyn, Govinda’s—a nickname for the Hindu deity Krishna—is a volunteer-run Indian vegetarian (sometimes vegan) lunch counter. Three dishes for $9.