Whether you want to take a break from shopping to refuel with an inexpensive bite, or line your stomach before hitting the local bars (or soak up the damage afterwards), there are plenty of superior cheap eats in the neighborhood. Nosh on everything from addictive SoCal-style burgers to bratwurst for less than $15.
RECOMMENDED: The best cheap eats in NYC
Fernando Peña knows the way to a woman’s heart; his family’s Dominican cuisine won over girlfriend Suzanne Furboter, who then persuaded him to start a Latin-inspired restaurant with her. The result is hip Fatty’s Café, serving jalapeño turkey burgers, grilled cheese, creative takes on pressed Cuban sandwiches and one of the best mojitos around. Furboter and Peña serve as waitress and bartender, respectively, and treat each customer like family. On weekends, they offer a stellar brunch. Stick around after the kitchen closes; Fatty’s becomes a relaxed neighborhood bar.
Slurp noodles at this Astoria ramen house, from the Chace Restaurant Group (Ember Room, Spot Dessert Bar). Japanese native Koji Miyamoto dishes out steaming bowls from an open kitchen. The 60-seat space also features high ceilings, a dining-room skylight, and an abstract sculpture made of steel and Japanese paper mounted on one wall. Choose from eight soups, including the Hakata-style tonkotsu (pork bone), Hakodate-style (chicken bone) and vegetable broths, along with add-on toppings like chashu (barbecued) pork, onsen tamago (boiled egg) and menma (bamboo shoots). Gyoza, meat-stuffed buns and the rice-bowl dish donburi round out the simple menu.
This seductively low-lit Astoria spot is not your average neighborhood sushi bar. The owner, who’s Indonesian and New Zealander, and her Shanghai-born husband, chef Richard Lin, have opened this eatery fusing familiar Japanese dishes with elements from the tropics. Shredded duck salad pairs well with jicama and citrusy yuzu sauce; sushi gets unexpected hits of mango and jalapeño. Richard’s “white pepper tuna” sushi, a smoky yellowtail, is not to be missed.
Cheap Mexican cuisine has always been a starving-artist staple, and boho Astorians flock here well into the night. Inside the unprepossessing storefront—owned by folks from Puebla—is a menu of carefully made, nongreasy chow. The nachos could be the best you’ve ever chased with an icy Corona. They’re piled high with savory toppings like cinnamon-spiced chorizo, marinated beef, chicken, beans, Monterey Jack and top-notch guacamole. The tacos and burritos are excellent, especially the sublime chorizo versions. For dessert, a fruit batido is as thick and satisfying as an ice-cream shake.
Swig from steins and feast on brats at this 40-seat German beer hall in Astoria. Six taps dispense Deutschland brews, including Radeberger Pilsner, Hofbräu Lager and Spaten Oktoberfest. Soccer fans can catch games from Germany's Bundesliga league while chowing down on currywurst, riesen bouletten (pork and beef hamburgers) or schnitzel.
Everything about this sincere, unpretentious, I'm-over-Starbucks hangout bespeaks comfort. An expansion in 2010 added a colorful window mural, but the same welcoming vibe remains intact, abetted by mix-and-match furniture, sweet service and earnest acoustic musicians. The seasonal menu is filled with finger food, desserts and brunch options, many with Mediterranean touches like a pork-loin sandwich with grilled halloumi and pickled red onions. Drinks come in fruity, caffeinated or alcoholic forms, all with a healthy twist, and tea drinkers can choose from nearly two dozen organic varieties.
West Coasters love to tout the burger-building prowess of California drive-ins, but this Astoria fast-food spot gives them a run for their money. The addictive “double cheese”—a squishy toasted bun sandwiching two juicy patties cloaked in melted American cheese and brightened by raw onion, iceberg lettuce and tomato—is a gloriously greasy retort to Golden State smugness. A Thousand Island–like special sauce, slightly acidic, with a hint of ketchupy sweetness, drips through the whole messy package.
Don’t let the name fool you: There’s no mariachi band at this unusual Mexican haunt. But there is plenty of ambience. Maybe too much. Grab a seat inside the storefront cantina and you can experience the joys of blinding lighting, blaring Spanish soap operas, and a phone that rings constantly for take-out and delivery. The food is kinder and gentler: Dishes are enormous and prepared with care and flair. Pierna adobada, marinated pork, is layered with spicy, smoky flavor. A plump half-chicken swims in a mole sauce whose rich, dark taste approaches bittersweet chocolate. Burritos are entire meals neatly wrapped in a tortilla; we like the chorizo version best.