When you think of New York City, “cheap” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind. As far as cities go, New York tends to land on the pricier end of the spectrum, so cheap eats likely don’t seem easy to come by. But let me tell you, there are tons of cheap places to eat in New York City if you only know where to look! (And I am more than happy to lead you down the path of affordable options, because your girl knows how it feels to be on budget.) More NYC budget-saving insider tips here.
There are plenty of fancy, high-end restaurants to choose from, but we’re not here to be posh today – we’re here to be practical. So if you’re looking for some great, budget-friendly, delicious places to eat for $10 and under in New York City, here is the inside scoop straight from some real New Yorkers!
20 Cheap Places to Eat in New York City
(Manhattan and Brooklyn, to be specific!)
When you think of famous New York specialties, bagels are probably one of the first foods that come to mind! (And for good reason.) NYC has perfected the art of the bagel, and let me tell you, there is no shortage of bagel shop options in this city! However, not all bagels are created equal. Ess-a-Bagel is, by far, my personal standout bagel shop in Manhattan, and they take their craft very seriously.
Their bagels combine the perfect balance of fluffy dough, a generous heaping of cream cheese, and all the classic flavors. You can’t go wrong with an Ess-a-Bagel!
Cuisine: New York bagels (is that an official cuisine?)
What to order: I keep things simple with the classic sesame bagel and plain cream cheese (toasted or un-toasted depending on the time of day – if the bagels are fresh out of the oven, I just eat them as is). Bonus – they’re only $3.15! Such a steal for a filling NYC classic meal on the go. Perfect for a quick breakfast before museum-hopping or strolling around Manhattan.
Hot tip: Try to avoid peak meal time hours if you want to keep your sanity. Lines at Ess-a-Bagel can get crazy long real quick, and the last thing you want to do in NYC is waste time standing in more lines. If you can manage to go in between rush hours, you’ll get in and out much faster. You can also order ahead of time for large groups or parties by calling them at 212-980-1010 or order bagels for delivery using Eat24 or other delivery services. Either way, the wait is worth it.
Note: Ess-a-Bagel accepts cash and credit cards, and their staff are some of the most genuine New Yorkers around. Strike up a quick conversation with them and soak up some true New Yorker spirit. They’re busy but efficient and friendly, and most of them are happy to chat!
2. Souvlaki GR
(Suggested by my friend Rachel of The Mulls, who is a native New Yorker!)
Souvlaki GR is an itty bitty Greek taverna that describes themselves as “a little taste of Mykonos in the heart of NYC” and that’s precisely what you get at this yummy Greek eatery! Their decor is on point, as is their delicious food – both will work to transport you over to the Greek islands in no time.
What to order: Souvlaki GR is towards the top of our $10 and under limit, but still has plenty of options for those on a budget, including delicious chicken, pork or veggie skewers with tzatziki & pita for only $4.25, beef skewers ($5.50 each), or shrimp ($8 each). My pick would be the SGR Souvlaki Pita, which comes with tomato, red onions, fries and tyrokafteri (spicy feta) for only $7.75. Those spicy feta fries are TO DIE FOR. Plenty of other options for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, and the atmosphere can’t be beat!
Hot tip: Both of their locations are fairly small, so I’d recommend avoiding peak meal times if you want to get seated quickly!
Note: They accept reservations at their Lower East Side location, so if you can plan ahead, do! They are also open late (11pm on weeknights, 12:30am on weekends) making Souvlaki GR a great place to start or end a night out.
Veselka is a bit of an East Village legend. This Ukrainian 24-hour diner serves up the best kind of comfort food: fried (or boiled) pierogies, potato pancakes, borscht…all the good stuff you’d want after a night out on the town. It is my go-to late night restaurant and has been for many years. They crank out delicious Ukrainian dishes faster than you can say Я сумую без тебе (I am sad without you). In reference to the pierogies you’re drunkenly waiting for, obviously.
Cuisine: Diner, Ukrainian
What to order: A small plate (four) of assorted pierogies (my favorite is the arugula and goat cheese, fried) for just $7 will keep things safely under the $10 mark. To beef up the meal, add a plate of potato pancakes and upgrade to the large plate of seven pierogies. Thank me later!
Hot tip: In typical diner fashion, Veselka is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That means that it’s where a lot of revelers end their nights out (translation: if you go late in the evening, there will be a lot of drunk folks). I may or may not have been to Veselka sober less times than I can count…
Note: Veselka accepts cash and credit cards and generally doesn’t have a long wait. Their service isn’t the friendliest ever, but then again, these guys are working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So I cut them some slack. Don’t be afraid to throw your hand up when you’re ready to order if you feel like they’re taking too long. They’ll hustle over and get your order in.
Mamoun’s is a yummy Middle Eastern food joint that has been making New Yorkers happy since 1971. They serve up perfect grab and go meal for exploring New York City on a budget! (Even if you’re not on a budget, you’ll want to experience Mamoun’s at least once, it’s basically a New York institution.) With plenty of vegetarian and meat options, there’s a little something for everyone, and they do what they do very well.
Where: 2 locations in Manhattan, which you can check out here (the West Village one is their flagship location).
What to order: With a menu full of affordable, delicious options, you really can’t go wrong with any item! But my personal favorite is the vegetarian falafel sandwich, which comes with falafel, hummus, baba ganouj and tabbouleh, for only $3.50. And y’all, it is FILLING.
Hot tip: If you’re in the mood for some yoga, their St. Marks location is right next door to Yoga to the People, where you can snag a free yoga class (I’d recommend yoga first, then food, so you don’t feel like a fluffy falafel trying to downward dog). It’s also a great area for wandering and people-watching!
Note: Mamoun’s is open super late (1-2am on weeknights and 5am on weekends) so it’s the perfect spot to hit up after a bar-hopping around St. Marks! They accept cash and credit card.
Dig Inn is the sustainable, healthy answer to fast food. Offering seasonal, delicious options in a buffet style format (akin to the Chipotle line setup), Dig Inn has options for everyone – including those with gluten, dairy and other food sensitivities! When I was doing my last Whole30 (which is basically the paleo diet on steroids), I took myself out to lunch one day and discovered the awesomeness of Dig Inn. I was amazed at how many options I had, and so thankful to find a place I could eat and also enjoy.
Cuisine: Farm-to-table, Vegetarian, Paleo
What to order: I really enjoy their Classic Market Bowl with pesto and tofu added, which is only $9.95 and comes with 3 side dishes (my faves are the Maple Cauliflower with Chickpea Crumble, the Cashew Kale Caesar, and the Charred Brussels Sprouts. The total for these bowls comes out to just around $11, but we’ll let it slide because HEALTH!
Hot tip: If you’re just feeling a bit peckish and not in need of a full meal, grab a few of their yummy sides and munch on those instead.
Note: If you choose to go to their Brookfield Place location, allow a little time for browsing around the shopping center and wandering around by the Hudson River outside!
It wouldn’t be a New York food post without Shake Shack! Love it or hate it (and no one really hates it), this NYC-based burger chain is great what they do. While I don’t personally eat hamburgers, they do have a couple of other options I enjoy, particularly their chicken sandwich! They also have a ‘Shroom Burger (made from portobello mushrooms) for the vegetarians out there. Beware: it is loaded with gooey, delicious cheese and is AMAZING. If you’re gluten free, they’ve also got you covered with GF buns!
Cuisine: American, Traditional
Where: 19+ locations in all 5 boroughs, see locations here.
What to order: My personal favorite – the Chick’n Shack (crispy chicken breast with lettuce, pickles and buttermilk herb mayo, hi) and their crinkle cut fries with a cold root beer. Order a Concrete Jungle for dessert and thank me later.
Hot tip: My favorite Shake Shack locations are the original Shack in Madison Square Park (such a gorgeous spot for an evening burger in the summertime) and the Grand Central location (perfect for satisfying a hungry traveler since it’s just a few steps away from the train platforms in an awesome food court).
Note: Shake Shack accepts cash, credit cards, just about anything. Avoid their location in the Theater District at all costs. The line there is always a nightmare since it’s smack dab in the middle of tourist central. Also avoid the Madison Square Park location (or any location) during peak hours, such as 12-2pm or 6-8pm, unless you enjoy standing in looooong lines. They are generally pretty efficient, so even though they’re consistently busy, you shouldn’t be waiting terribly long for your food!
Bonus tip: They have an “A Line” and a “C Line.” Choose wisely. The main “A Line” is for burgers, fries, everything. The “C Line” however is for cold drinks, including their famous concretes ONLY. If you’re short on time and just need a quick beverage or frozen custard, C Line is the one for you!
I discovered Dhaba after coming back from London in 2015, fresh off of a Dishoom London obsession. I was on the hunt for some Indian food that could compare with the incredibly high standards that Dishoom had set. Dhaba filled that hole in my heart. With curry and samosas. Dhaba has now made it into two of my NYC food posts, so you know I must really love it.
What to order: Indian food is perfect for sharing (and you’ll never be able to finish an entree alone, so split up the work and try different dishes in the process)! If you’re eating solo, get the samosa chaat ($9.50) or kalmi kabob (chicken skewer) for $9.95. If you’re with a partner or group, split an order of the saag paneer ($15.50), aloo wadi ($15.50) garlic naan ($4.50) and/or samosas ($7.50) to make it more affordable.
Hot tip: Dhaba (like most Indian restaurants) has an extensive vegetarian selection, which is awesome. They also have a specifically vegan section, in case you or your fellow diners are in need of vegan options!
Note: Dhaba accepts reservations and takes cash and credit card. They have some great lunch specials so definitely take advantage of that if you find yourself nearby at lunchtime!
Hill Country is Southern comfort food at its finest. Healthy food will not be found here. I repeat, throw your health food dreams out the window before walking into this place. Your dreams of tofu and kale have no place at Hill Country. However, if you’re looking to clog some arteries in the most tasty way possible, read on!
Cuisine: American, Southern, Traditional
What to order: The Chickwich ($7.50) which is their original fried chicken sandwich. It’s delectable. Add a soda for $2.50 and you’ve got yourself one delicious meal. If you’re able to go a little above $10, add in a side of the Cheese Fried Mashed Potatoes (I can’t even describe how good these potatoes are in words, you’ll just have to try them for yourself!) for $3.75 and a mini pie cup (my fave is the Double Cherry) for $3.50.
Hot tip: They have pebble ice (does this excite anyone else?) and an amazing selection of Boylan Sodas on tap in their soda machines.
Note: Hill Country generally has a line at the Manhattan (Flatiron) location, Brooklyn tends to be a little quieter overall.
There’s much to be said about pizza in New York City. People will try to convince you that one place has THE best pizza, but I honestly think it just depends on what you’re in the mood for. If you’re curious about the Roberta’s vs Grimaldi’s debate, check out my Insider’s Guide to New York City. But I digress. Artichoke Pizza has some of the best (like, best of the best) pizza in NYC, hands down. You won’t find many Artichoke deniers. It’s delicious.
Cuisine: Italian, Pizza
Where: All over the place! Check out their many locations here.
What to order: My personal favorite is the Vodka pizza ($5/slice) but the Margherita and the rest of their offerings are crazy good too. You can’t go wrong here! And yeah, you can get a dollar slice of pizza just about anywhere in NYC, but I can guarantee you it won’t be as good as Artichoke. It’s worth the $5 (and their slices are HUGE).
Hot tip: Grab and go. Artichoke isn’t exactly a sit and relax kind of environment – it’s generally filled to the brim with busy people looking to scarf down a slice and be on their way. If you want a more leisurely experience, take your pizza to go and find a nearby park to sit and people watch from.
Note: Know what you want before you reach the front of the line. Artichoke is a busy place, and while New Yorkers are nice at their core (we really are), you don’t want to waste our time hemming and hawing over your pizza decision when 25 people are hangry behind you. Be kind, choose ahead of time.
Started by two brothers back in 2009, Baohaus is an affordable eatery in the East Village serving up Taiwanese steamed buns with assorted fillings (vegetarian and meat, take your pick)! The perfect quick meal that will warm you up and offer a unique option that’s a little outside the box.
Where: 238 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)
What to order: The Uncle Jesse Bao™ which is perfect for vegetarians! It’s a traditional bao sandwich with organic fried tofu served with crushed peanuts, Taiwanese red sugar, cilantro, and Baohaus’ famous Haus Sauce. So yummy! Bonus: they’re only $3.55 each, and two is more than enough for most people, bringing a satisfying meal in under $10.
Hot tip: If you’re not in the mood for a puffy bao, Baohaus also has some other delicious signature dishes like pork on rice bowls that are equally filling and budget-friendly.
Note: Their East Village flagship location is super tiny, so don’t plan on having a leisurely meal here – you’ll likely be standing and scarfing down your food. The place has a great vibe and their music selection is always on point (think old school rap).
How did we make it to #11 before talking about Mexican food?! Blasphemy. To make things right, I’ll throw in all my top favorite Mexican restaurants below. Tacombi is a hip, vibrant, fun taco joint that gets Mexican right. Their menu is simple but they do everything on it so well. And wouldn’t you rather have that than a massive menu with crappy execution? (Hands up over here.) P.S. Tacombi is another restaurant making its second appearance on the blog today!
Cuisine: Mexican, Tacos
Where: See a list of all locations here!
What to order: My go-to has always been the crispy fish taco ($5.49) with a side of rice and black beans ($3.49), but I also love their esquites ($3.95) as an appetizer.
Hot tip: Their tacos are generally filled to the brim and because they give you two masa tortillas instead of one, you can easily turn one taco into two! (So, basically – two for the price of one. Magic.)
Note: Tacombi is a hoppin’ taco joint. There is almost always a wait, and they don’t take reservations (alas) so your best bet is to avoid rush hour and/or bring a book and a heap of patience. It’s worth it, trust me.
As a California girl, I’m not the biggest fan of Tex-Mex, but Javelina’s fun atmosphere and delicious food have won me over entirely. Their enchiladas even pass muster for me, which is seriously saying something (I’m pretty picky about my enchiladas).
Where: 119 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003 (Gramercy)
What to order: The classic queso ($9 but worth every penny!), fresh masa tamales ($9), chicken taquitos ($9) or their amazing nachos ($10). For the record, my favorite queso is their Mag Mud queso, which has white queso, black beans, pico de gallo & guacamole (the caveat is that it’s a little over our $10 limit, at $12).
Hot tip: On a cold winter day in New York, Javelina’s Texas Red Chili ($8) or Tortilla Soup ($9) will warm you right up!
Note: They accept cash and credit card. Make a reservation, because they have limited space and are incredibly popular (especially for dinner).
13. Taco Chulo
For years, I lamented the fact that I could not find a decent Mexican-style enchilada in New York City. I was flabbergasted by the fact that New Yorkers could not seem to summon the courage to craft the legit enchilada I was missing so desperately. For reference: all the enchiladas I encountered were less enchilada and more “wet burrito” for the first few years of my time in New York, which was disheartening at best. When I finally discovered Taco Chulo’s enchiladas, my life was forever changed! They do Mexican food well, have a wonderful staff, great ambiance and awesome happy hour specials. What more could a California girl want?
Where: 318 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (Williamsburg)
What to order: To keep it around $10, my faves are the Surf y Turf taco ($6.50) which consists of batter-fried shrimp, cactus, jalapeños, lettuce, salsa roja, and crema, plus a side of rice and beans ($4). For the whole enchilada (literally), I love their Enchiladas Chulas ($17). Admittedly a LOT for some freakin’ enchiladas, but they are so dang good…I forgive them.
Hot tip: Go between 5-7pm for $6 Happy Hour margaritas. Heaven.
Note: While Taco Chulo is definitely popular, if you go in for dinner around Happy Hour, it’s usually pretty easy to grab a table. And bonus: cheap drinks!
As someone who rarely deviates from her food favorites, I sometimes have to push myself to try new things. Lam Zhou dumplings make me glad I ventured outside my comfort zone. Basic, delicious, well-done dumplings and noodles at super affordable prices are what make Lam Zhou famous. It is considered to be the best dumpling shop in Manhattan by many (and for good reason)!
Cuisine: Chinese, Dumplings, Ramen
Where: 40 Bowery, New York, NY 10013 (Chinatown)
What to order: Any type of fried dumplings – at 8 dumplings for just $4 it’s an absolute steal!
Hot tip: Lam Zhou temporarily closed after their lease ended and New Yorkers were in an uproar that their favorite dumpling shop was gone. Thankfully, they have reopened on the Bowery and all is right with the world again.
Note: Lam Zhou is cash only so be sure to have some on hand when you go!
15. Four & Twenty Blackbirds
Okay, okay. You caught me. Four & Twenty Blackbirds isn’t exactly a restaurant. It’s a pie and coffee shop. Sue me. I LOVE THEIR PIE. So much. Hands down, my favorite homemade pies in all of NYC. Don’t take my word for it, go check them out for yourself! Pie is totally a meal, right?
Cuisine: Desserts, American/Traditional
What to order: The lemon chess is an old fave of mine, as is their strawberry rhubarb (when it’s in season). Their menu is seasonal and changes nearly daily, so you never quite know what you’re going to get! They do have some staples (like the lemon chess) that are pretty surefire bets on any given day. A slice of pie is $5.75.
Hot tip: A lot of freelancers like to work from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, so you’ll catch quite a few people on their laptops, having meetings or reading on their days off. It’s a nice relaxed atmosphere, and lots of families bring their kids in and out as well.
Note: The pie may be a little on the pricey side, but holy heck. It’s worth it. Another tip: Four & Twenty Blackbirds has a mini pie shop at the Brooklyn Public Library! Pretty cool – grab a slice and then grab a book and head to Prospect Park for a nice afternoon of pie and reading in the sunshine.
16. Bogota Latin Bistro
I first tried Bogota upon the recommendation of a friend, and I’m so glad I did! It’s a Colombian restaurant specializing in arepas and empanadas, and boy, do they do ’em well. They offer a couple of vegetarian options, but mostly cater to meat/seafood eaters. The atmosphere is vibrant and the place is always packed, but it’s well worth a wait! They also have some delicious, unique drinks on the menu.
Cuisine: Colombian, Latin
What to order: The empanada sampler ($15) if you’re sharing with a friend. Also highly recommend the arepas ($4+ depending on toppings).
Hot tip: Get the mango margarita. You’re welcome in advance.
Note: As with most places in New York City, if they take reservations, make one. Bogota does accept reservations, and due to their high volume and popularity, I’d definitely err on the side of caution and make one no matter what day it is!
17. Crocodile Lounge
Cuisine: Dive Bar
Where: 325 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003 (Gramercy/East Village)
What to order: This one’s simple. It’s a dive bar. It’s nothing special. But! You get a free personal pizza with every drink purchase! You can’t beat that when you’re on a budget in New York City.
Note: If you’re broke and hungry, grabbing a beer and a free pizza before a night out on the town is a great deal and worth the trip. It’s not the best pizza in New York (by far) and that’s not why it’s on the list. It’s on the list because, well, free pizza!
You guys, my love for The Meatball Shop knows no bounds. I’ve loved it since the first time I was introduced to it back in the winter of 2010 by some friends on the Lower East Side. Since then, The Meatball Shop has opened up a bunch of other locations and gotten even more popular!
Cuisine: Italian, American/Traditional
Where: 6 locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn; my old haunt is the Lower East Side shop, and my second favorite is the West Village one. See them all here!
What to order: My go-to is the spicy pork meatballs (you get four hearty-sized balls) with fresh pesto and a side of delicious focaccia bread for only $9! Other affordable options: a side ($6) like roasted broccoli, rigatoni with your choice of sauce, freshly milled polenta, or mashed potatoes plus a slider (one meatball of your choice on an adorable tiny bun, the perfect size to try out different combos, only $3.50).
Hot tip: Add a fried egg to just about any dish for just $2! Sounds weird, tastes amazing. Try it! Also, their busiest locations are open until 4am on the weekends if you need a late night bite.
Note: The Meatball Shop is extremely popular during the dinner rush, at any location. They don’t take reservations, so your only choice is to go in person to put your name down on the list (and waits can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours or more, depending on the night). So choose wisely! I’d recommend trying The Meatball Shop at lunchtime if you want to waltz right in and avoid the waits entirely, as it’s usually pretty quiet up until about 5pm.
19. Crif Dogs
Let’s continue on to another New York food staple, the hot dog! Now, you can get yourself a real authentic “dirty water dog” (ew) from a street cart on the corner in Central Park (or any corner, for that matter) or you can get a hot dog that actually tastes good. Disclaimer: one must have a street corner hot dog at least once in their lifetime, so this isn’t me giving you a free pass to avoid it. I’m just saying – they’re not the tastiest. Enter Crif Dogs, where they take hot dogs so seriously that it’s pretty much all they do.
What to order: If you’re vegetarian, get the Veggie Special Dog with onions, tomato, cucumber and jalapenos ($6.50). If you’re a carnivore, go for the original Crif Dog ($4.50). If you’re living on the edge, try the The Lil’ Ma, a bacon-wrapped Crif dog with peanut butter pickles and crushed potato chips (also $6.50).
Hot tip: There’s a (somewhat) secret speakeasy called Please Don’t Tell that you can only access from a special telephone booth inside Crif Dogs! It’s near-impossible to get into, but if you want to try your luck, you can call them and try to get through for a reservation or go 15 minutes before opening (i.e. 5.45pm) and stand in line. The cocktails are $16 (kind of standard for NYC) and supposedly pretty dang good. I still haven’t been but have friends who say it’s very fun!
Note: Crif Dogs has seating, but it’s limited, so you may grab a table and you may not. There are always brownstone steps to sit on outside if the weather is decent (and no one yells at you to get off of them before you’re done with your hot dog).
If you’re on the hunt for Ippudo-like legendary ramen but don’t want to shell out the big bucks, Momosan is a fantastic alternative for you! Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is the man behind the ramen (and it’s some seriously good ramen, y’all). Perfect for warming up on a chilly day!
Cuisine: Ramen, Japanese
Where: 342 Lexington Ave, New York, New York 10016 (Murray Hill/Midtown East)
What to order: The spicy coconut curry pork chashu, red miso ground pork, aji-tama, cilantro ($11, breaking our $10 rule by a slight margin but deliciously worth it). Plenty of other items on the menu under $10, including pork gyoza ($9), braised pork belly bao ($4) and much more.
Hot tip: Momosan does not accept reservations, so you’ll have to chance it. I’d recommend going for lunch (11:30am-3pm) if you want to be sure to get in.
Note: They do accept credit cards as well as cash.
Oops. I miscounted! Here’s a bonus, one of my all-time faves!
What to order: The tofu banh mi (a delicious vietnamese sandwich, for the uninitiated), which is just $6.50. The sandwich is made with mayo, butter, cucumber, julienne carrots, daikon raddish and cilantro served on a toasted French baguette with your choice of filling. I prefer the tofu, and I get it extra spicy – but beware, when they say spicy, they mean it. I also love their thai iced tea.
Hot tip: Bubble tea isn’t my personal jam, but if it’s yours, Hanco’s has an amazing selection of bubble tea for you to choose from, including matcha green bubble tea and super refreshing mango bubble tea!
Note: Hanco’s gets a huge lunch rush, so try your best to avoid that mess or you’ll be standing in a looooong line. Also, I’ve never tried their meat banh mi sandwiches, so I can’t vouch for those, but their sandwiches are super popular, so I think it’s safe to bet that they are also delicious.
You made it!
And now you know all my secret NYC food spots. Use this knowledge wisely.
I hope this massive list gave you plenty of ideas for cheap places to eat in New York City on your next trip! There are so many great restaurants in these five boroughs that deserve to be explored, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface in my eight years here (if you’re wondering why I moved to NYC, I talk more about that here). If you have any tried and true favorites that I’ve missed, I’d love to hear about them – drop them in the comments below!
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