Whether you want to take a break from shopping to refuel with an inexpensive bite, line your stomach before hitting the local bars (or soak up the damage afterwards), or embark on a full food crawl, there are plenty of cheap eats in the neighborhood. Feast on everything from cult slices and hot dogs to superlative slow-roasted pork for less than $15.
RECOMMENDED: The best cheap eats in NYC
Blue Smoke alum Amanda Beame dishes out at Southern classics updated with sustainable ingredients at this homestyle eatery. On the menu: fried free-range chicken, Hudson Valley collard greens and pimento cheese sandwiches. The simple 17-seat space features an L-shaped reclaimed-wood bar and exposed brick.
Surely, there’s no more cultured a substitute for a grilled cheese sandwich than a piping-hot arepa filled with juayanes, a handmade cheese. This endearing spot, with flower-patterned, vinyl-covered tables, zaps you straight to Caracas. The secret is in the arepas themselves: Each patty is made from scratch daily. The pitalike pockets are stuffed
with a choice of 18 fillings, like chicken and avocado or mushrooms with tofu. Top off your snack with a cocada, a thick and creamy milk shake made with freshly grated coconut and cinnamon.
Relive your high-school stoner days, when you were broke and bored and nothing could satisfy those wicked 2am munchies like a hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese and a fried egg. Crif’s snappy deep-fried or grilled dogs have a cult following among tube-steak aficionados who swarm the joint at all hours for combos like the Spicy Redneck (bacon-wrapped and covered in chili, coleslaw and jalapeños) and the Chihuahua (bacon-wrapped with sour cream and avocado). You’ll also get gooey waffle fries and excellent root-beer floats, and for girls there are Crif-Dog souvenir thong panties, with a giant hot dog on the front that reads “Eat Me.”
You’ll get three meals out of a night 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. Offset fierce, springy dan dan noodles tangled around nubs of minced pork ($7.95) and batter-fried dry-pepper chicken wings ($9.95) with cooling reprieves like scallion pancakes ($3.55) or pork-charged pickled vegetables ($6.95).
The $55 tasting menu at this Basque-inspired restaurant is reasonable for a wild night on the AmEx, but it’s really all about the $8 tortilla española, or their $8 version of patates bravas (dubbed “bravioli” for its aioli garnish). Also, where else can you find mussels escabeche (that is, marinated in an lemon and herbs) for $10? Probably in some tiny tapacieria in the Basque country.
If you want to know how good hummus should taste, check out this slender East Village restaurant (there are two more locations, one in the West Village and one on the Upper West Side). We’re particularly fond of the supersmooth traditional hummus. It’s rich enough to be called “vegetarian chopped liver” and comes with a smart selection of condiments including pickles, olives, raw onion and chewy, bubbly pita for scooping.
The sandwich shop has never had it quite so good in New York. The field is crowded with purists and renegades, with star chefs and career-changing amateurs, all devoting themselves to making food fast, cheap and, most importantly, portable—so many new hoagies, cheese steaks, tortas, banh mi and stuffed Chinese buns. Mile End Sandwich, which opened recently near the Bowery on Bond Street, follows the same lofty path paved by ’wichcraft, Saltie and No. 7 Sub, to name just a few of its epicurean forebears. The neon-bright quick-serve operation expands a sandwich program that’s already among the city’s most cultish, building on the opening menu from the first Mile End, across the river on Hoyt Street. The place launched in 2009 as a Montreal-style deli serving smoked-meat sandwiches and Canadian bagels, before adding more ambitious haute juif cuisine. At their new sandwich-centric spin-off, Noah Bernamoff and wife-partner Rae Cohen offer the classics still served at the original restaurant—the same succulent hand-cut Montreal smoked meat on Orwasher’s rye, the same malty bagels (once trucked in from up north, now baked in-house) piled high with glistening lox. But that’s just where it starts. The repertoire here, not constrained by geographic allegiance, looks way past Quebec. There’s a fine turkey sandwich—the Grandpa—featuring French and Yiddish accents, with turkey rillettes, smoked white meat, brown mustard and rye. A Middle Eastern number combines fried eggplant, grilled hal
Dumpling houses are a typical go-to when pinching pennies, but this East Village den, run by sisters Hannah and Marian Cheng, employs a generation of recipes passed down from their mother, Mimi. The handmade ginger-and-scallion pockets (six for $8, eight for $10) are made fresh daily, filled with pork and bok choy, chicken and zucchini or kale, egg and mushroom. The little wonders are either pan-fried or steamed and then served with a side of Mimi’s secret sauce. Dessert dumplings are even cheaper at $5 for 4 and include a mash fresh banana in sweet dough sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Mathieu Palombino’s international pizza joint is but one of many that extol the virtues of the Neapolitan pie, but it’s stellar prix fixe distinguishes it from the pizza-slinging masses. The set menu includes a mixed green salad and choice of the margherita, Brussels sprout, soppressata or marinara pie for $12 on weekdays from 11am–4pm. Non-pizza crowd pleasers include jumbo chicken wings hit with chili flakes, mint and lemon ($11) and belly-warming meatballs topped with pecorino and fresh basil ($9).
In Astoria, just off the bustling shopping district of Steinway Street, lies a hidden treasure. Gaijin, meaning “outside person” in Japanese, is an apt moniker for Chef Mark Garcia’s modern take on Japanese food. Garcia and co-owner Jay Zheng met working in Chicago restaurants and planned for five years to open their own place. They brought their ideas—and nearly their entire staff—to the Big Apple for a soft opening last October. The staff look chic in crisp white button-downs and leather suspenders, with jaunty newsboy caps for the cooks. Jazzy pop provides unobtrusive background music for diners. The appetizers are divided into cold and hot plates and should not be ignored. The steak tartare ($21) topped with herbs and a diminutive quail egg is a religious experience. Sesame and paper-thin scallions give the raw meat an almost charred taste. Once a special, the bone marrow ($14), a cross-cut bone sprinkled with charred scallion, Chinese onion and parsley, is now a mainstay. Scoop out clouds of gelatinous joy to spread on griddled baguette with a tiny wooden spoon. A tuna flight ($24) offers three levels of fattiness—akami, chutoro and otoro—all superb. And in one of the most innovative presentations ever, three toothsome gyoza ($8) arrive attached, as part of a single pancake. The sleek, modern eatery seats 30, including eight chairs at the long, white sushi bar where Garcia holds court, turning out exquisite, jewel-like pieces of sashimi and nigiri with delightful topp
Venue says: “Our outdoor patio is now open! Dine with us and enjoy modern Japanese inspired restaurant serving fresh fish from the Tsukiji market, Japan”