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How To Eat In New York City On A Budget


by Lanni Reich



Traveling to New York City can be an exciting adventure, but it’s no secret that the city’s reputation for being expensive can make budget-conscious travelers hesitant. However, when it comes to dining out in the Big Apple, there are plenty of options for those with limited funds. With a little bit of research and insider knowledge, you can enjoy delicious meals without breaking the bank.


In this article, we will guide you through the best ways to eat in New York City on a budget. Whether you’re a foodie looking for the tastiest dishes or a traveler looking to make the most of your limited funds, we have tips and recommendations to help you enjoy your culinary journey without emptying your wallet.


New York City is a melting pot of cuisines from around the world, offering a diverse range of dining options for every taste preference and budget. From street food vendors to renowned restaurants, there is something to satisfy every craving without stretching your budget too far.


So, if you’re ready to embark on a culinary adventure through the streets of New York City while keeping your finances intact, let’s dive into our top tips and recommendations for finding affordable eateries and enjoying delicious meals on a budget.


Tips for Finding Affordable Eateries

When it comes to finding affordable eateries in New York City, it’s all about knowing where to look and how to stretch your dollars. Here are some tips to help you find budget-friendly dining options:

  1. Research Neighborhoods: Different neighborhoods in New York City offer varying price ranges for food. Explore neighborhoods like Chinatown, the Lower East Side, or the East Village, which are known for their affordable and delicious dining options.
  2. Check out Lunch Specials: Many restaurants in the city offer lunch specials with discounted prices. Take advantage of these deals to enjoy a tasty and affordable midday meal.
  3. Follow Food Blogs and Social Media Accounts: Stay updated with the latest food trends, restaurant openings, and special deals by following food blogs and social media accounts dedicated to New York City dining. They often share insider tips and discounts.
  4. Visit Ethnic Food Markets: Explore the city’s ethnic food markets, such as Little Italy or Jackson Heights, where you can find cheap and authentic dishes from different cultures. These markets are a great option for budget-conscious foodies.
  5. Take Advantage of Food Trucks: New York City is famous for its food trucks, which offer a diverse array of affordable and delicious street food. Follow popular food truck events and locations to enjoy tasty meals on the go.
  6. Opt for Brunch: Brunch in New York City can be a more affordable option compared to dinner. Many restaurants offer brunch specials on weekends, allowing you to enjoy a leisurely and reasonably priced meal.
  7. Search for Prix Fixe Menus: Look for restaurants that offer prix fixe menus, which provide a set price for a multi-course meal. These menus often offer a great value for money and allow you to experience multiple dishes without overspending.

By utilizing these tips, you can uncover hidden gems and budget-friendly eateries throughout the city, giving you the opportunity to indulge in a variety of flavors without breaking your budget. Now, let’s explore some specific options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and more.


Affordable Breakfast Spots

Starting your day with a delicious and affordable breakfast is essential for exploring New York City on a budget. Here are some recommendations for affordable breakfast spots:

  • The Bagel Store: This iconic New York City establishment offers a variety of freshly baked bagels with your choice of spreads and toppings at an affordable price. Don’t miss their famous rainbow bagels!
  • Taïm: If you’re a fan of falafel, Taïm is the place to go. Alongside their famous falafel sandwiches, they serve delicious breakfast pitas filled with scrambled eggs and Middle Eastern flavors.
  • Ess-a-Bagel: For a classic New York bagel experience, head to Ess-a-Bagel. They offer a wide range of bagel flavors and toppings, including their famous lox and cream cheese combination.
  • Clinton Street Baking Company: This cozy spot is known for its fluffy pancakes and delicious breakfast options. While popular for brunch, arriving early can help you avoid long lines and enjoy their mouthwatering dishes at a more affordable price.
  • Grey Dog: With multiple locations throughout the city, Grey Dog is a laid-back cafe serving comfort food. Their breakfast menu features favorites like avocado toast, egg sandwiches, and granola bowls.

These are just a few examples of the many affordable breakfast options available in New York City. Don’t be afraid to explore local delis, diners, and smaller cafes, as they often have budget-friendly breakfast menus that will satisfy your morning cravings without breaking the bank.


Now that you have fueled up with a delicious breakfast, let’s move on to finding budget-friendly options for lunch in the city.


Budget-friendly Lunch Options

When it comes to finding affordable lunch options in New York City, there are plenty of delicious and wallet-friendly choices to explore. Here are some recommendations:

  • Mamoun’s Falafel: This beloved Middle Eastern eatery offers mouthwatering falafel sandwiches and platters at affordable prices. Grab a falafel wrap or plate, loaded with flavorful fillings and tangy sauces.
  • Joe’s Pizza: For a classic New York slice, head to Joe’s Pizza. They serve some of the best New York-style pizza in the city at reasonable prices, making it a popular choice for a quick and satisfying lunch.
  • BaoHaus: Craving some Taiwanese street food? BaoHaus is the place to go. Enjoy their signature steamed buns filled with delicious fillings like braised pork belly or fried chicken.
  • The Halal Guys: This iconic street food cart is known for its mouthwatering gyro platters and chicken over rice. With generous portions and affordable prices, it’s a perfect choice for a filling and budget-friendly lunch.
  • Taco Mix: If you’re in the mood for tacos, head to Taco Mix in East Harlem. They serve authentic Mexican flavors with a variety of fillings and toppings at affordable prices.

These are just a few examples of the many budget-friendly lunch options in New York City. Don’t hesitate to explore food carts, food markets, and local delis for more affordable and delicious meals.


Now that you’ve had a satisfying lunch, let’s move on to finding cheap dinner places in the city.


Cheap Dinner Places

When it comes to finding cheap dinner places in New York City, there are plenty of options that will satisfy both your taste buds and your budget. Here are some recommendations:

  • Pie Corps: If you’re a fan of savory pies, Pie Corps is a must-visit. They offer a variety of delicious handmade pies, from classic flavors like chicken pot pie to creative options like macaroni and cheese pie.
  • Xi’an Famous Foods: Experience the bold and spicy flavors of Xi’an cuisine at this popular chain. Enjoy their hand-pulled noodles, lamb burgers, and cumin-spiced dishes, all at affordable prices.
  • Veselka: This Ukrainian diner in the East Village has been serving comforting Eastern European dishes since 1954. Enjoy hearty pierogies, borscht, and other affordable classics in a cozy atmosphere.
  • Totto Ramen: For a delicious and affordable bowl of ramen, head to Totto Ramen. Their flavorful broth and tender noodles make for a satisfying and budget-friendly dinner option.
  • Pizza Suprema: Located near Penn Station, Pizza Suprema offers generous slices of New York-style pizza at affordable prices. Grab a slice or two to satisfy your pizza cravings without breaking the bank.

These are just a few examples of cheap dinner places in New York City. Don’t be afraid to explore local neighborhoods and try out hole-in-the-wall establishments for amazing and budget-friendly dining experiences.


Now that you’ve enjoyed a delicious dinner, let’s move on to exploring affordable snack and street food options in the city.


Affordable Snack and Street Food

When it comes to affordable snacks and street food, New York City offers a plethora of options that will satisfy your cravings without emptying your wallet. Here are some recommendations:

  • Hot Dogs at Gray’s Papaya: Grab a classic New York hot dog from Gray’s Papaya. Known for their affordable prices and delicious franks, this iconic spot is a go-to for a quick and budget-friendly snack.
  • Soft Pretzels from a Street Vendor: You can’t visit New York City without indulging in a soft pretzel from a street vendor. These warm and doughy snacks are a quintessential New York treat and are usually sold at affordable prices.
  • Egg Creams at Gem Spa: Experience a piece of New York City’s culinary history with an egg cream from Gem Spa. This classic drink made with milk, seltzer, and chocolate syrup is a refreshing and affordable option.
  • Street Tacos from El Rey del Taco Truck: Head to El Rey del Taco Truck for authentic and affordable Mexican street tacos. Whether you prefer carne asada, al pastor, or vegetarian fillings, you’ll find delicious options to satisfy your taco cravings.
  • Belgian Waffles at Wafels & Dinges: Indulge in a warm and crispy Belgian waffle from Wafels & Dinges. This food truck offers a variety of toppings, from Nutella to strawberries, at affordable prices.

These are just a few examples of the affordable snack and street food options scattered across the city. Take a stroll through popular street food areas like Times Square, Union Square, or Central Park, and you’ll find a multitude of affordable and delicious snacks to try.


Now that we’ve explored affordable snack and street food options, let’s move on to discovering money-saving ethnic cuisine in New York City.


Money-saving Ethnic Cuisine

New York City is renowned for its diverse culinary scene, offering a wide array of delicious and affordable ethnic cuisine. Whether you’re craving Indian, Chinese, Thai, or Mexican flavors, you can find budget-friendly options throughout the city. Here are some recommendations:

  • Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant: Located in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, Taj Mahal offers flavorful Indian dishes at affordable prices. Try their lunch specials or opt for their delicious biryanis and curries.
  • Golden Unicorn: When it comes to dim sum, Golden Unicorn in Chinatown is a popular choice. This bustling restaurant offers an extensive menu and affordable prices, making it a great option for a budget-friendly Chinese feast.
  • Pok Pok: For authentic Thai street food, Pok Pok in Brooklyn is a must-visit. They serve delicious and affordable dishes like papaya salad, noodle soups, and flavorful curries.
  • Taqueria Diana: Craving Mexican cuisine? Taqueria Diana offers affordable and mouthwatering tacos, burritos, and tortas. Their flavorful and filling options make it a great choice for a satisfying and budget-friendly meal.
  • Little Italy: Explore the historic neighborhood of Little Italy in Manhattan, where you can find various Italian restaurants offering affordable pasta dishes, pizzas, and cannoli. Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere while enjoying a taste of Italy on a budget.

These are just a few examples of the money-saving ethnic cuisine options in New York City. Don’t hesitate to explore different neighborhoods to discover hidden gems and enjoy affordable meals from around the world.


Now that we’ve explored money-saving ethnic cuisines, let’s move on to discovering affordable vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the city.


Affordable Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants

New York City is a haven for vegetarian and vegan food lovers, offering a wide range of affordable options to cater to different dietary preferences. Here are some recommendations for affordable vegetarian and vegan restaurants:

  • By Chloe: Known for its delicious vegan burgers, salads, and desserts, By Chloe offers a fast-casual dining experience with affordable prices. Don’t miss their famous guacamole burger or vegan mac and cheese.
  • The Butcher’s Daughter: This plant-based restaurant and juice bar in Nolita serves fresh and flavorful vegetarian dishes. From avocado toast to grain bowls, you can enjoy a variety of options at reasonable prices.
  • Vanessa’s Dumpling House: For a taste of vegetarian dumplings, head to Vanessa’s Dumpling House in the East Village. They offer a variety of affordable vegetarian dumplings and other Chinese street food favorites.
  • Candle Cafe: Candle Cafe, with multiple locations in the city, offers a menu filled with flavorful vegan dishes. From seasonal salads to hearty vegan burgers, you can enjoy satisfying meals at affordable prices.
  • Superiority Burger: If you’re a vegetarian or vegan burger enthusiast, make sure to visit Superiority Burger. They serve delicious and affordable plant-based burgers that will leave you craving more.

These are just a few examples of the affordable vegetarian and vegan restaurants in New York City. The city embraces plant-based cuisine, making it easy to find budget-friendly options that don’t compromise on taste or quality.


Now that we’ve explored vegetarian and vegan options, let’s move on to finding bargain dessert spots in the city.


Bargain Dessert Spots

Indulging in a sweet treat doesn’t have to break the bank in New York City. From decadent pastries to mouthwatering desserts, here are some bargain dessert spots where you can satisfy your sweet tooth without emptying your wallet:

  • Levain Bakery: Known for their famous chocolate chip walnut cookies, Levain Bakery offers affordable and delectable treats. Sink your teeth into their warm, gooey cookies for a delightful dessert experience.
  • Chinatown Ice Cream Factory: If you’re in the mood for ice cream, head to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. They offer a wide variety of unique, Asian-inspired flavors at reasonable prices. Don’t miss their popular lychee or black sesame ice cream.
  • Spot Dessert Bar: Stop by Spot Dessert Bar for innovative and affordable dessert creations. Their menu features unique treats like Matcha Lava Cake and Golden Toast, which are perfect for sharing or indulging on your own.
  • Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream: With a wide range of inventive ice cream flavors, Morgenstern’s offers affordable scoops of indulgence. From classic vanilla to unique flavors like burnt honey and black coconut ash, there’s something for everyone.
  • Doughnut Plant: Dive into fluffy doughnuts at Doughnut Plant, where you can find both classic and inventive flavors. Their doughnuts are made fresh daily and are reasonably priced, making them a great option for a sweet treat.

These are just a few examples of the bargain dessert spots in New York City. Whether you’re craving cookies, ice cream, or pastries, there are plenty of affordable options to satisfy your dessert cravings.


Now that we’ve explored bargain dessert spots, let’s move on to discovering happy hour and drink specials to help you save some money while enjoying a refreshing beverage.


Happy Hour and Drink Specials

Enjoying a drink or two doesn’t have to break the bank in New York City. The city is filled with bars and restaurants offering enticing happy hour deals and drink specials. Here are some tips for finding the best happy hour and drink specials:

  • Research Online: Use online platforms, such as Yelp or local blogs, to search for happy hour specials in different neighborhoods. Many establishments offer discounted drinks during specific hours.
  • Visit Dive Bars: Dive bars are known for their affordable drink prices. These no-frills establishments often have daily drink specials that can help you save money while enjoying a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Explore Neighborhood Bars: Visit bars in local neighborhoods where drink prices tend to be more reasonable compared to touristy areas. You can find hidden gems with fantastic drink specials.
  • Look for Pub Crawls or Bar Hopping Events: Joining pub crawls or bar hopping events can be a fun way to discover new bars and take advantage of drink specials and discounts offered as part of the organized event.
  • Check Out Rooftop Bars during Happy Hour: Rooftop bars often have stunning views but can be expensive. However, during happy hour, some rooftop bars offer discounted drinks, allowing you to enjoy the ambiance without the hefty price tag.

These tips will help you navigate the city’s bar scene and find the best happy hour and drink specials to suit your taste and budget.


Now that we’ve explored happy hour and drink specials, let’s move on to saving money on groceries and cooking at home.


Saving Money on Groceries and Cooking at Home

One of the best ways to stick to a budget in New York City is by cooking at home. By shopping smart and preparing your meals, you can save money and still enjoy delicious and satisfying dishes. Here are some tips for saving money on groceries and cooking at home:

  • Plan Your Meals: Take some time to plan your weekly meals in advance. This will help you create a shopping list and avoid impulse purchases.
  • Shop at Local Farmers Markets: Visit local farmers markets to find fresh produce at affordable prices. Not only will you support local farmers, but you’ll also get the best deals on seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  • Buy in Bulk: Purchase staples like rice, pasta, and canned goods in bulk. This can save you money in the long run and ensure that you always have essential ingredients on hand.
  • Compare Prices: Take the time to compare prices at different grocery stores and supermarkets. You may find that certain items are cheaper at one store compared to another.
  • Cook in Bulk and Freeze: Prepare large batches of meals and freeze individual portions. This will not only save you money but also save time by having meals ready for busy days.
  • Utilize Leftovers: Repurpose leftovers into new meals to prevent food waste. Get creative and transform leftover proteins into sandwiches or wraps, or use veggies in soups or stir-fries.
  • Embrace Simple Recipes: Look for simple recipes with minimal ingredients. This will help you save money on groceries while still enjoying delicious and nutritious meals.

By implementing these tips, you can reduce your food expenses and enjoy the satisfaction of cooking and eating homemade meals. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also have more control over the quality of ingredients and the flavors of your dishes.


Now that we’ve covered saving money on groceries and cooking at home, let’s conclude our guide to eating on a budget in New York City.



Exploring the culinary scene of New York City on a budget is not only possible but also incredibly rewarding. By following the tips and recommendations provided in this guide, you can enjoy delicious meals without breaking the bank.


Start your day with an affordable breakfast at spots like The Bagel Store or Taïm. For lunch, indulge in budget-friendly options like Mamoun’s Falafel or Joe’s Pizza. When dinner time rolls around, consider trying out spots like Pie Corps or Xi’an Famous Foods for a satisfying yet affordable meal.


Don’t forget to explore the diverse world of street food and snacks. Grab a hot dog from Gray’s Papaya, enjoy a soft pretzel from a street vendor, or cool down with a treat from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.


If you’re in the mood for international cuisine, explore money-saving options like Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant or Candle Cafe for vegetarian and vegan dishes. Craving dessert? Visit bargain spots like Levain Bakery or Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream.


When you’re in the mood for a drink, don’t overlook the happy hour and drink specials available throughout the city. And if you want to save some money, consider cooking at home. Shop at local farmers markets, buy in bulk, and get creative with leftovers.


New York City offers a wealth of affordable dining options, from inexpensive street food to budget-friendly restaurants. By planning ahead, exploring different neighborhoods, and taking advantage of happy hour deals, you can savor the flavors of the city without straining your wallet.


So, get ready to embark on a budget-friendly culinary adventure in the Big Apple. With the right strategies and a sense of exploration, you can discover hidden gems and indulge in delicious meals without compromising your budget.