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The Best Budget Restaurants in NYC

by Dhriti

While backpacking New York, I decided not to go overboard to feed myself in a fancy restaurant. I prefer utilizing those extra savings on exploring other states. But I didn’t starve myself to death. There are always plenty of options for cash-strapped backpackers like me to eat well on a budget, only if you know how to avoid those fancy restaurants and eat in small eateries or from food truck’s I did the same. I googled all the best budget restaurants in NYC that offer the best food in the city and yet do not burn a hole in my pocket.

If you are also backpacking in New York, here is a list of those eateries you can visit.

1. Joe’s Pizza

With five branches in NYC, Joey's Pizza serves delicious bacon pizza at a very reasonable price.

Address: 7 Carmine Street, Greenwich Village, Near Bleecker Street, NY 150 East 14th Street, NY 1435 Broadway, NY 216 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn 124 Fulton Street, Manhattan, NY 1107 S University Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Price: 2$-20$
Well, we all know how Joey Tribbiani from F.R.I.E.N.D.S used to love pizza and sandwiches. If he had not been to Central Perk, he would have loved this place. And not just because of those extra cheesy and meaty pizza slices, but because it is affordable too.

When Joe’s pizza popped up in my google search for affordable eateries in NYC, I didn’t expect it to be so satisfying. Opened in 1975 and located in Greenwich Village, this restaurant’s menu may look rich, but the prices are way too low.

I paid 3$ for chicken, cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and bacon pizza and another 3$ for cold Starbucks. So, we can say, Joe’s Pizza is one of the best budget restaurants in NYC.

2. Good Enough to Eat

Serves very affordable and delicious breakfast, brunch, and lunch. It is one of the best budget restaurants in NYC.

Address: 520 Columbus Ave, New York

Price: 5$-20$
For the New Yorkers Good Enough to Eat is a very affordable restaurant that offers some of the best breakfast, brunch, and lunch with a myriad of cuisines. But for an Indian traveller like me, it was an expensive affair. I still give it a visit because of the hype this place has all over the internet.

The owner and chef Carrie Levin has given a homely American touch to each of her dishes. The brunch here is more popular, but visitors also enjoy dinner or in-between meals with a freshly brewed hot cup of coffee.

3. NY Dosas

NY Dosas serving South Indian delicacies at Washington Square Park since 2001

Address: 50 Washington Square S, New York

Price: 3$-9$
Ok, let’s be honest. I am obsessed with Indian food. I miss that aroma, the spicy, hot curries, rich cuisines. So, when I learned about NY Dosas, which is run by an Indian and offers South Indian food, I showed up.

It may be a small cart, but the long queue outside proves the efficiency of the chef. If you want to try south Indian food like Masala dosa, uthappam, Idly, famous Indian snacks samosa or vegan drumstick at an affordable price, include NY Dosas in your bucket list.

I had masala dosa and samosa, and it cost me just 11$. So surely I can add NY Dosas on my list of the best budget restaurants in NYC.

4. Lil Zeu’s Lunch Box

Lil Zeu's Lunch Box is an ideal place to have a hearty meal at a very reasonable price

Address: 112 W 50th Street, Midtown Manhattan, New York (2min walk from Radiocity Music Hall)

Price: 4$-8$
This one is the office goer’s favourite as this small food truck has some of the best cuisines on its menu. During lunchtime, the place sees a rush as office workers line up for gyros and platters.

The platter includes Rice, salad, souvlaki, grilled chicken, lamb double up and costs just 8$.

I found this place to be more affordable as I ate well without spending a lot of money.

5. The Halal Guys

The Halal Guys of Manhattan is always crowded with customers for their delicious Falafel platter

Address: 75 W 53rd Street, Near Radio City Music Hall

Price: 5$-10$
From lunch rushes to late-night food runs, The Halal Guys of Manhattan always cook amazing American halal food. During my stay in Manhattan, I almost every day visited this place for their delicious Falafel platter. The platter includes rice, lettuce, falafel, tomatoes, and your choice of toppings and white and hot sauce.

The food cart is always cramped with customers, so don’t expect great hospitality. You go and line up and order your food and wait for your turn.

6. Xi’an Famous Foods (Chinese)

To satiate the Chinese food cravings, visit Xi'an Famous Food - one of the best budget restaurants in NYC.

Address: 96 8th Avenue, Chelsea, Manhattan, NY 45 Bayard St., Chinatown, Manhattan, NY 328E 78th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan, NY 54 Willoughby st. Downtown Brooklyn, NY 648 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Price: 10$-12$
I am an Asian, so Chinese food is something that I crave almost every day. I can’t resist the urge to have some Chinese noodles on a rainy evening. Located in various parts of NYC, Xi’an Famous Foods is a chain that offers authentic western Chinese cuisines at a very reasonable price.

Since I was staying in Manhattan, I visited their Chinatown restaurant. I tried dumplings and noodles, and it was mouth-watering. Although most people love their noodles the most, I can still feel the taste and aroma of those little dumplings.

It is a little more expensive than the rest of the eateries I visited, but Chinese food is to die for.

7. Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen

To relish the authentic Chinese cuisines cooked in a traditional style, visit this best budget restaurants in NYC.

Address: 811 8th Avenue, New York

Price: 9$-12$
Another Chinese restaurant I visited is this one, where I didn’t burn a hole in my pocket. It is one of the most budget-friendly Chinese restaurants in NYC. Once you enter the restaurant, you will be taken on a culinary journey to China. The aroma of Chinese spices, herbs, and sauces reflects the traditional cooking style of China.

Though the name suggests that you will get hot, freshly cooked steamed buns, a bowl of chicken ramen is what you’re going to order. The hand-pulled noodles will give you a homely taste of China, and you will want to come here every day.

8. Los Tacos No 1

Address: 75 9th Avenue, Chelsea Market, New York 229 W 43rd St. Near Times Square

Price: 2$-10$
The tacos of this restaurant are cooked with fresh and tasteful ingredients, which will reflect true Mexican culture and flavour. They have two branches, and both are located in Manhattan, and I visited both. Both places are always crowded with people, so expect no seating availability.

Tacos are super cheap yet super delicious, and I want to suggest you visit this place if you are looking for a budget-friendly restaurant that satiates your appetite.

9. Gaia Italian Cafe

The cafe offers delicious Italian bites at a very lower price and is the one of the best budget restaurants in NYC.

Address: 119 Essex St. New York (3 minute work from Lower East Side Tenement Museum)

Price: 1$-40$
Whenever someone asks me for a budget-friendly place to get good food in a minimalist, cosy atmosphere, I direct them here. The cafe offers authentic Italian bites at a very lower price. It is always jam-packed with regular and new customers, it is difficult to find a place to sit here, but the food has a homely taste and is worth all the hassle.

They freshly prepare and cook food once you order, so have some patience and expect a bit of delay in getting your order. If you are too hungry, then don’t visit. Else, this place is an amazing eatery in the town to have fresh homely food.

From regular brew worth 1$ to dinner that will cost you 40$, they have everything for all budgets.

I had a Piccantino worth 7$ that included salami, mascarpone cheese, spicy cabbage, parsley and tomatoes.

Being one of the best restaurants in New York, Gaia Italian Cafe serves affordable food for everyone.

New York has around 26,000 restaurants, so finding a cheap one is not a big deal. You will find a cheaper food joint almost anywhere in the town. If you truly want to spend less on food, avoid fancy restaurants and make it a habit to try the street food carts. Street food is a popular culture in the millennial world because of the amazing taste at a cheaper rate. Try them.

Quick Tips

  • Expect a crowd
    Street food trucks or cheap restaurants are always crowded, so patiently wait for your turn.
  • Bring Cash
    Such places don’t always expect a digital payment, so keep some cash handy.
  • Don’t Expect fancy hospitality
    Eating at a cheap place means you have to compromise with the comfort of getting special attention from the chef or the owner. Most of the customers line up, order, pay, and take away their food and eat standing
  • Avoid Alcohol
    Well, it is tough to avoid alcohol if you are on a trip and enjoying your vacation. But alcohol is a budget-killer. Food is expensive, but alcohol is overpriced. But if you can spend the extra cash, then try small cheap bars.

The aforementioned places I listed are where I visited during my stay. I found these places cheaper and what amazes me is that they don’t compromise with the quality of their dishes. New Yorkers are passionate about what they do. I avoided fancy restaurants during my stay, had alcohol in cheap bars, bought it from a local wine shop, and drank it in my room.

With so many things to do and so many places to explore, you are sure that you are going to get the best budget restaurants in NYC. You can try it out.

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