Finding bargain eats like cheap falafel in NYC isn’t all that difficult, but finding good cheap food? Now that’s a skill worth writing about. From Bed-Stuy to the Bronx, we’ve shared our favorite cheap pizza joints and the best bowls of ramen under $10, but no file of cheap eats would be complete without a nod to New York’s favorite Middle Eastern street food: the warm and crispy, garlic- and parsley-packed falafel. So the next time you’re craving a quick and filling meal like one from vegetarian restaurants that won’t break the bank, head to one of these trucks, carts or counters for some of the best falafel pitas and platters a few bucks can buy.
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Best cheap falafel
Astoria’s Fares “Freddy” Zeideia has been dishing out Vendy Award-winning falafel since 2002. With a cart in Manhattan, a truck on Ditmars and a brick-and-mortar on Broadway (where a model of the famous food truck adorns the facade), the king’s crispy chickpea fritters thankfully never seem too far out of reach. Although falafel variations abound, keep it cheap with a $7 handheld sandwich: warm homemade pita stuffed with fresh falafel, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and pickled turnips generously drizzled with creamy tahini.
Dating back to 1971, Mamoun’s is the oldest falafel shop in New York, and arguably, the best bang for your buck. For a mere $3.75, Mamoun’s toasty pita sandwich (packed with falafel, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and tahini) will quiet any growling belly, whether it’s 4pm or 4am. Just add the hot sauce gingerly—this secret homemade scorcher delivers a delayed sting.
If you’re looking for a top-notch New York falafel experience without the clamor of the late night crowds, duck into Taïm, the West Village’s quiet and calming eatery that boasts a stellar all-vegetarian menu carefully curated by Israeli chef and former Bobby Flay apprentice Einat Admony. Experience Admony’s full range of Middle Eastern flavor and order the mixed falafel platter, which comes with three kinds of house-made falafel (parsley-cilantro-mint, Tunisian-spiced, kalamata olive), hummus, tabouli, Israeli salad and warm, pillowy pita dusted with fragrant za’atar spice ($12). Oh, and enjoy three distinct side sauces for dipping: nutty tahini, pickled mango chutney and Yemeni hot sauce.
Batata, which means “sweet potato” in Hebrew, is a much-welcomed Middle Eastern addition to a neighborhood populated by garlic knots and Sicilian squares. The $11 sweet-potato falafel plate is overflowing with smooth hummus, fresh Israeli and carrot salads, pickled red cabbage and a dual side of creamy tahini and piquant schug. Pair your plate with a drink or two—beer and wine is just $5.
This unassuming gyro joint slings some killer falafel alongside its famous chicken and pork souvlaki. The $5 stuffed-pita falafel sandwich comes canopied in fresh lettuce, tomato and onion with a generous drizzling of bright and refreshing tzatziki. And with all the dough you saved on that sandwich, why not splurge on a side of oven-baked Greek fries smothered in feta, oregano and olive oil? They’re just six bucks.
In 2014, New York City’s beloved Midtown food cart opened its first brick-and-mortar in the East Village. Here, crispy falafels are made fresh, as opposed to reheated at the cart, and come with the option of added hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush and olives (another departure from its flagship Sixth Ave cart). Each sandwich is just $5.49. And those signature white and hot sauces? They remain free of charge.
What it lacks in ambiance, Oasis more than makes up for in its dirt-cheap falafel plate. For just $7, ravenous night owls can sate themselves with five sizable falafel balls nestled alongside hummus, salad, pickled red cabbage, tahini and not one, but two rounds of warm pita. Add on sides until your heart’s content—and kiss what would’ve been a hangover goodbye.
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In walking distance to the Barclay Center, Brooklyn’s Bella Gioia is reminiscent of an underground eating club I once saw on an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Weathered crates lined exposed brick, adding to the European charm and open kitchen. Bella Gioia’s 5-10pm dinnertime is ideal for the after work diner. make sure to watch the clock because the kitchen stops serving at 8:45pm and is subject to change daily. Our server worked the room like a ballerina touching each table with a welcoming energy. With Italian accent in tow she pronounced everything on the menu with authenticity, making me want to reach for my Rosetta Stone. The sharable arancini ($9) was rich and flavorful enough to stand alone, only to be enhanced by the four dipping sauces and our red wine. Entrées missed the mark on flavor, texture and temperature. Ravioli de Cacocciuli ($19) served artichoke two ways, filling and fried – the subtle flavor of the filling was bumped up by the salt level of the tomato crème and the fried artichoke topper should have its own place on the menu since it was so good, however the ravioli’s pasta was thick and lacked that melt-in-your-mouth feel. Speaking of lacking, the Scallopini al Marsala ($23) lacked heat – the veal and sauce were room temperature to touch and the creamy polenta was bland. Dessert was a delicious dense chocolate cake ($10) swirled with a passion fruit drizzle. Overall, Bella Gioia has potential and great service, but can lack in final det
Venue says: “Voted as one of the top 10 best Italian restaurants in Brooklyn, we invite you to come in and truly taste the difference of Sicily.”