Visiting New York City is an expensive endeavor. Fortunately, while splurging on world-class dining in the city’s famed restaurants is part of travel’s joy, there’s also a bounty of cheap eats in New York City for travelers on a budget.
Follow the locals’ lead to discover delicacies that are easy on both the palate and wallet. Just make sure that wallet is holding greenbacks in addition to credit cards: Most cheap eats in New York City are cash only.
The Best Cheap Eats in New York City
Cheap places to eat in New York are as abundant as neon lights and kamikaze taxi drivers. Here’s a list of 11 local go-tos where you can take a bite of the Big Apple without busting your budget.
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Everyone’s favorite Middle Eastern joint stays open late, usually with a line of hungry fans spilling onto the sidewalk into the wee hours. A West Village institution, the city’s oldest falafel restaurant has dished out crowd-pleasing cheap eats since 1971. Join the fast-moving queue for falafel or kebobs—why not both?—along with hummus and grape leaves for a shareable feast, then squeeze into counter seats or snag a table on the tiny patio. Or enjoy your meal in nearby Washington Square Park.
Deluxe Green Bo
A pilgrimage to Chinatown for dumplings, buns, and noodles is a tradition for cheap eats in New York City. Deluxe Green Bo, a Bayard Street mainstay, delivers steamy goodness in the form of Shanghai dim sum classics. The compact dining room is no-frills yet festive, as most tables are shared. You can’t go wrong with vegetable or pork soup dumplings with sides of garlic-sauteed green beans and scallion pancakes. Though you won’t spend much, don’t be surprised by how stuffed you feel when you walk out the door.
Union Square Green Market
On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday throughout the year, Union Square becomes cheap-eats central as more than 140 vendors from across the tri-state area fill nearly every inch of the park’s north and west sides. New Yorkers rub elbows in search of the freshest produce, meats, local wines, and artisanal breads, but there’s also a bevy of ready-to-eat foods like fresh and cured cheeses, New York pretzels and pastries, and, of course, delicious New York apples. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss a wedge classic apple pie.
The menu and vibe of this beloved West Village seafood restaurant is as straightforward and accessible as the name. People from all over the city come to Fish for reasonably priced coastal delicacies like oysters and littleneck clams, plus a sea-worthy special for lobster lovers: the whole crustacean plus a drink for $29.99. Dip in and snag a seat at the bar for one of New York’s favorite food traditions, slurping oysters on the half shell. Dial up a “Red, White, and Blue Special” of six Blue Point oysters or clams and a glass of wine or cold Pabst Blue Ribbon for $9.99.
New York’s legendary Jewish deli has been a family-owned Lower East Side institution for more than 100 years. Katz’s might not be the cheapest place in town, but for a meal to keep you satisfied all day and a heaping taste of classic New York, the experience is worth every penny. A whole stacked and packed slow-cured pastrami on rye will set you back about $20, but half sandwiches are a sweet spot—or opt for a nosh of knockwurst for just $7.95. Arrive early at lunchtime to beat the crowds, and if there’s a line, don’t stress; these pros know how to keep it moving. Hold onto your ticket and order from the counter cutter—an oh-so-New York experience.
This Big Apple landmark is the real deal, independently owned and with a singular passion: New York-style pizza. Located on Carmine Street in the West Village, Joe’s appears on many “Best of NYC” lists and attracts countless celebrities, as shown on its photo-lined walls. Expect old-school pizza made with fresh ingredients; according to Joe’s website, you’ll never find “string-bean, asparagus covered, wild turkey surprise pizza here.”
When restaurateur Danny Meyer first unveiled a pop-up serving hot dogs for an art fair in Madison Square Park, no one could have dreamed it would evolve into a permanent park installation—much less rocket to fast-food phenomenon status with locations all over the city and beyond. Burgers, hot dogs, and shakes are delicious at every Shake Shack outpost, but there’s always a pleasing buzz of energy around the Flatiron District original.
Bite into a single beef patty or portobello mushroom burger served on Martin’s potato rolls for less than $7, paired with an original ShackMeister Ale, made by Brooklyn Brewery, or a Fifty/Fifty, equal parts lemonade and iced tea.
New Yorkers love a success story like these three dreamers from Egypt, who began with a humble food cart at 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue and created a street food sensation. Muslim taxi drivers looking for quick and inexpensive halal meals made the discovery, and today a cross-section of the city, from Midtown execs to Midwestern tourists, lines up for perfectly seasoned dark-meat chicken, beef gyro, and crispy falafels over rice or wrapped in a sandwich.
With food carts and storefronts all over the city, Halal Guys is never far from sight. Striped red and yellow umbrellas are your beacon, as is an oft-present line.
Korean Food Trucks
A pair of popular food trucks have inspired a New York-size craving for Korean cuisine. When you spot bright orange and black tiger stripes prowling the city streets, make tracks for Korilla BBQ’s popular truck. You will be hooked—and stuffed—after noshing on a burrito loaded with bacon kimchi fried rice with marinated ribeye or tofu and shiitake mushrooms. Korilla now has a restaurant in the East Village as well.
Kimchi Taco Truck’s homemade kimchi is served in belly-filling bowls for less than $10 with your choice of protein, from Korean barbecue or seared pork to tofu edamame falafels. The truck changes locations daily, from DUMBO to Midtown and Soho.
Like most delicious New York restaurant stories, Papaya King began with an immigrant and a dream. Greece native Gus Poulos combined two of his passions—the classic hot dog and tropical drinks—to launch one of NYC’s most unusual culinary traditions. Since 1932, fans have gathered around the Upper East Side location on 86th Street for classic dogs with chili and fitting variations like the popular Hula Hula with pineapples and jalapenos. Most hot dogs ring the register at $3 to $4, making for some of the best cheap eats in New York City.
Los Tacos No. 1
Take three friends from northern Mexico and southern California, mix in a shared passion for all things taco, and you get one of Chelsea Market’s tastiest offerings. Los Tacos No. 1 makes tortillas in house and gives generous portions for the price point. Order up a carne asada quesadilla or pollo taco without even breaking a fiver. Round it out with seriously good guacamole and chips.
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—Original reporting by Jess Simpson