Whether you want to line your stomach before hitting the bars (or soak up the damage afterwards) or grab an inexpensive bite while shopping, there are plenty of cheap eats in the neighborhood. Among our favorite cheap eats are the cult slice at Artichoke Basille’s Pizzeria and the eponymous Asian snacks at Rickshaw Dumpling Bar.
RECOMMENDED: The best cheap eats in NYC
Pastry genius Maury Rubin’s loft-size City Bakery is jammed with Chelsea shoppers loading up on unusual salad-bar choices (grilled pineapple with ancho chili, bean sprouts with smoked tofu, excellent salmon salad). There’s also a small selection of soups, pizzas and hot dishes. But to heck with all that: The thick, incredibly rich hot chocolate with fat house-made marshmallows is heaven in a cup (replaced by fruit-infused lemonade in the summer), and the moist “melted” chocolate-chip cookies are better than a marked-down pair of Prada pumps.
The building that houses this ground-floor food hall may be of the luxury variety, but the all-star eats inside are pleasantly wallet-friendly. Ease into the meal with Seamus Mullen’s shareable tapas, including deviled eggs zipped with smokedbacalao ($2), then make your way over to Court Street Grocers for hefty hoagies like the coppa-and-salami Italian combo ($10). End on a sweet note at the extended-through-winter Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams pop-up for double scoops of buttercup pumpkin or black-currant sorbet ($6).
West Siders have experienced a restaurant revolution, and now they can boast grade-A espresso too, thanks to the most recent location of the boutique-coffee chain. In addition to espresso-based drinks, a single-cup, drip-coffee bar dispenses a rotating selection of brews, while baked goods from companies like Ceci-Cela and Donut Plant provide just the kind of snacks a coffee drinker needs.
New York’s taco naysayers will have to find something else to complain about. At this perpetually-packed counter, a trio of West Coast transplants sling superlative bundles inspired by California street carts. Hand-pressed corn tortillas arrive piping hot, dressed with spit-roasted adobada pork and sweet pineapple batons ($4.50) or succulent, charred carne asada and creamy guacamole ($4.75). Beyond tacos, find nopal plates (cactus, beans and cheese for $5) and thirst-quenching agua frescas ($3.50).
Kenny Lao’s concept for a dumpling bar was a winner in a business-plan contest at NYU’s Stern School of Business, so he’s put it to the test at Rickshaw Dumpling Bar. Annisa chef Anita Lo developed the menu, which includes six different dumplings, each inspired by an Asian cuisine and matched with its own dipping sauce: classic Chinese pork and chive with a soy vinegar, for instance, or Thai chicken with peanut satay. If you want a full meal, pair your dumplings with a big bowl of noodle soup, then top it all off with a green-tea milk shake or a dessert dumpling of molten chocolate in a mochi wrapper.
In Spain, grazing on tapas is as much a social celebration as a culinary one, and leisurely Tia Pol embraces this tradition con gusto. Seating is on high stools, with spill-over at the bustling bar, where handsome diners stand cheek-by-jowl while guzzling fruity sangria. Reaching crowd capacity at Tia Pol isn’t tough: It’s as slender as the white asparagus that garnishes some of its dishes. The memorable menu is one part classical, two parts wholly original: Munch on superb renditions from the tapas canon – springy squid “en su tinta” (in its own ink); patatas bravas topped with spicy aioli – and then delve into eclectic treats that are eyebrow-raising on paper and delicious on the tongue, like chorizo with bittersweet chocolate, or crunchy fried chickpeas.