20 Places to Dine on A Dime in NYC

When you are 19 and broke and living in New York City, you learn how to be pretty cheap. It helps to plan where you'll eat and what groceries to buy for the week when living on a budget. What I want people to know is that even if you are cutting back on spending, you don't have to sacrifice nutrition and flavor.

Here are 20 places– restaurants, markets, bakeries– in NYC that are not only affordable and delicious, but also representative or New York's cultural melting pot alongside its old world immigrant history that you can see and taste. Enjoy!

Latin American

1. Bahia- Pupusas. Plantains. Plenty of Salvadoran meat options. You can dine like a king for $5-$10 here. My favorite is the pork and cheese pupusas ($2.50) with an Empanada de Lecha ($2), smashed yellow plantain patty stuffed with homemade pastry cream.

2. Costas- Are you in midtown in the mood for some seriously good Arepas under $10?  If you've never tried an arepa, it is a corn flour bread sandwich usually served with meat, beans, and other ingredients. For dessert you can get sweet plantains and queso for $3.50, which I would sometimes order on its own.

3. El Sabroso- Sure this place can look like a hole in the wall, but the succulent chicken, salad, rice, and beans all at $6 is a steal. I personally love the oxtail most, then the roast pork. It is within walking distance of Penn Station and the prices are hard to beat in midtown NY.

Middle Eastern

4. Oasis (Williamsburg)- Oasis is worth the stop on Brooklyn's L Train! I usually ordered a falafel pita sandwich ($3) almost every week, or a Shawarma sandwich ($6) with thinly shaved lamb and beef if I'm craving meat. I get all the toppings, especially the yummy pickled beets and cucumber. I really don't know of a better falafel sandwich.

5. Taim- If you're strolling through West Village craving hummus and Israeli salad (or really anything more healthy than my other food suggestions),  then this place is your go-to. Here are a few combos all under $10– Baba Ganoush (creamy eggplant) and fresh Za'atar Pita; Harissa Falafel, Hummus, Pita Side; or fresh Tabouli Salad, Kalamita Olives, and Feta Cheese. With any food decision you'll choose right. 

6. The Halal Guys- Located in food trucks all over the city, Halal Guys is a New York Classic right up there with dirty water street dogs you'll find at sidewalk corners in midtown. The falafel and gyros are what you'll keep coming back for all at around $7.

Dim Sum and Chinese

7. Nom Wah Tea Parlor- This is the oldest dim sum tea parlor in America. Beneath the faded red-and-yellow awning, past the porcelain lucky cats waving in the window, fluffy, oversize char siu bao (roast-pork bun, $3.50) are steamed on command, as are pleated, pop-in-your-mouth har gow (shrimp dumplings, $4.75).  The soup dumplings are also very affordable at $4.50. Bring a group of friends for a real dim sum brunch.

8. Lam Zhao Handpulled Noodle- Come for the tasty $3 dumplings, stay for the chewy noodles in anise-flavored beef broth. As you wait for your soup to be made, you can watch the master noodle makers stretch and wind dough, twirling it into long strands ready to be boiled. This hole-in-the-wall shop is in the lower part of Chinatown.

9. Shanghai Café- Have you ever tried a soup dumpling, or Xiao Long Bao? They are delicious dumplings with flavorful rendered fat, or "soup" inside. Shanghai Café has very tender, juicy soup dumplings  perfect for sharing or eating alone. The Shanghai Pan-Fried Noodles, crunchy and chewy, and the cold sesame noodles make it worth the trip into Chinatown. 


Kosher and Polish

10. B&H Dairy- Sometimes you just need blood-red borscht with sour cream running through it. The beety sweet flavor mixed with fresh sour cream and dill makes it comforting and healthy. You can even try your first NY-style eggcream drink here for two bucks.

11. Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery- I stumbled into this place by accident absolutely starving. After asking the owner what his favorite knish was (I had never had one before) he said the blueberry cheese was his number one. For $3-$4, this is an amazing snack, treat, or light breakfast on the go. Make sure you get it heated up for you.

12. Karczma - If you're really hungry and looking for a cheap hot meal to chow down on, Karczma's white borscht served in a bread bowl that comes with mashed potatoes and bacon, all for only $5.50. If you're still hungry, both the Hunter's Stew, Steak Tartare, or Stuffed Cabbage all  under $10 that comes with delicious sides to bump up the flavor. The restaurant is fun to go to with friends since the restaurant is decorated and servers are dressed in what looks like old world Poland.

13. Christina's - Even more affordable than Karczma, this gem is also in Greenpoint G Stop. A dinner of fried pork shank, coleslaw, and two scoops of mashed potatoes would be less than $10, and you’d walk away stuffed. The beef goulash served with potato pancakes is particularly recommended. You can also try this as an alternative to expensive brunch spots with their delicious omelettes or eggs benedict, each $8. Don't forget the Kielbasa Sausage as a very worth it $2 add on.


Dessert Is A Food Group, Right?

14. Moishe's Bake Shop- Located in the Ukrainian Village in Manhattan, this little bakery packs a tasty punch with its cookies, cakes, and pastries. But the reason I go is for the Yiddish Chocolate Babka fresh from the oven. If you don't get it warm, take it home and heat it up with a cup of water to make sure it stays moist. It's unbelievable.

15. Court Pastry Shop- As a kid I would love going to Ferrara's Italian Pastry Shop in Little Italy, but as it grew more popular the lines became less enticing to wait for. Then two year's ago my friend Galen had mentioned hiking up to Cobble Hill, Brooklyn for some amazing Lobster Tail pastry (meh, not my jam). But what I tried instead, their cannolis, were completely worth the trek. They may be the best in the city, outranking even the oldest pastry shops in Little Italy. This place is next level.


19. NY Dosas- You can find these mouthwatering samosas and dosas near Washington Square Park near NYU. If this truck is unfortunately closed, The Kati Roll Company is similar and just as cheap a few blocks away.

20. Doaba Deli- If you're up in Harlem visiting The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, then don't leave until you've stuffed yourself on Indian food and drunken arguably the best chai tea in the city. 

Affordable Markets for Fresh Meat, Fish, and Produce

18. Essex Street Market- You can find something for almost any meal you're hoping to make at a great price. With a fish market, butcher, fresh produce section, deli, cheese monger, bakery, and more, there is something for everyone. If you want to make a day of it, go to Hester Street Fair down the street located at the corner of Hester and Essex and open every Saturday from April 25th through Oct. 31st, 11am to 6pm. 

19. Stiles Farmer's Market- If I had been living in uptown Manhattan I would have frequented Stiles Farmer's Market in Hell's Kitchen. With some of the most affordable fresh produce prices in Manhattan, this place is consistently good for groceries. Any other groceries would cost twice as much, but you can do a decent amount of a week's shopping for $20 or less.

20. Mitsuwa Marketplace- I saved the best for last. Just across the river in Edgewater, New Jersey is one of the tristate area's best Japanese mega-markets, Mitsuwa. There are so many tiny aspects of Mitsuwa that feel like such a surprise– from their incredible bakery in the far back with matcha sponge cake to the affordable fresh sushi-grade fish, this is by far my favorite market in the area worth a day trip of eating a bowl of ramen and black sesame ice cream. You can even take a $3 bus to Mitsuwa from Penn Station and go with friends.

Did you enjoy our list? We put this together specially for our sister community, Under 30 Changemakers, and their upcoming Changemaker Summit this September in NYC. 

What is your favorite NYC restaurant or market? Let us know in the comments below!


Tara ByrneComment