The Best Cheap Eats In NYC

You need only a few bucks to taste the best NYC has to offer

Cheap isn't a word often associated with dining in New York City. And don't get us wrong: We're thrilled by the ever-changing restaurant landscape and the countless opportunities to try new cuisines from exciting chefs. It's why we live here. But, sometimes, we just want some cheap eats.

Luckily, affordable and utterly delicious food is available in NYC; you just have to know where to look. After many years of scouring the city for the best lunch deals, the most incredible take-out options and the greatest bang-for-your-buck late-night bites, we've discovered some of the finest cheap eats New York has to offer.

Have another favorite to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

① Xi'an Famous Foods

This small chain of Chinese fast-casual restaurants is a favorite among New Yorkers, offering amazing deals at all 12 of its locations around Manhattan, Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens. Standout dishes include hand-pulled noodles with lamb or beef for $8 or $9. Despite recently increasing prices to provide better living wages for its staff, this mini empire is still one of the most affordable and delicious lunch options around. 

② Arepa Lady

Expanding from a popular food cart into its first brick-and-mortar location in Queens, the sons of Maria Piedad Cano, the legendary Arepa Lady, specialize in churning out their mom's famed South American cornmeal cakes at this casual sit-down spot. Although the menu is chock-full of affordable patacones and arepas, don't miss the arepa rellena, stuffed with sausage, steak or chicken for only $7.50.

③ MAKE Sandwich

This Union Square sandwich spot, which opened earlier this year, specializes in hearty, unique breakfast and lunch sandwiches. While you can customize your own order with tasty toppings like roast tri-tip, smoked Gouda, mushroom falafel or tomato-pepper confit for $11, many of the house sandwiches go for even less. Try the marinated pork belly with Asian pickles and mayo on ciabatta or the cheesy spinach and artichoke sandwich on a baguette, each $10.

④ Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle

This Chinatown staple is a personal favorite among TT editors. Serving up some of the best handmade dumplings and noodles around for ridiculously fair prices, the unassuming hole-in-the-wall offers 11 fried dumplings for $3, seven boiled dumplings for $2 and dishes like beef brisket noodle soup for $6. Pro tip: You can even get a package of 50 frozen dumplings to store in your freezer at home for just $9. It doesn't get much better than that.

⑤ Mamoun's Falafel

A Greenwich village falafel mainstay since 1971, Mamoun's is one of the first Middle Eastern establishments in the country. Despite having expanded to six locations around New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Mamoun's very affordable prices still stand out. Don't miss its classic falafel sandwich, served on a pita with tahini and salad, for only $3.50, or splurge for a shawarma or kebab sandwich stuffed with seasoned chicken or lamb for $6.50.

⑥ Los Tacos No. 1

This ever-busy, street-style taco booth might just be the best deal you can find in Chelsea Market. Started by three friends from Tijuana, Mexico and Brawley, California, who wanted to introduce the East Coast to real Mexican tacos, the stall dishes authentic bites that are more than worth the reasonable prices. Try any of their traditional tacos, ranging in price from $3 to $3.75, including carne asada and adobada, or spring for chips and guac at just $4.25.

⑦ Vanessa's Dumpling House

This family-run business opened in 1999 in Chinatown, where Vanessa herself started making the recipe that had been in her family for generations. Years later, Vanessa's has expanded to three locations around the city and the authentic dumplings are still extremely affordable. We're talking four fried pork dumplings with chives or cabbage for $1.50, three pork fried buns for $1.50 or a traditional sesame pancake for $1. 

⑧ Blue Collar

Though NYC boasts an impressive list of incredibly delicious burgers, most of them fall in the slightly ridiculous price range of $16 to $20. So where does one go for a really great cheap burger while avoiding the inevitable allure of fast food? Williamsburg's diner-esque burger spot, Blue Collar, serves up juicy, hearty burgers at prices we can actually stomach, like $6.45 for a double hamburger. And at $3 for a bacon, egg and cheese or $6 for a plate of chili cheese fries, this place is a cravings savior.

⑨ Joe's Pizza

In a city known for great pizza, it might come as a surprise that some of the cheapest also happens to be some of the best. Joe's Pizza, often regarded as the best slice in all of New York, has been a Greenwich Village institution since 1975. Today, crowds still line up (especially late-night) for classics, like the generous cheese slice for $2.75 or a large-square Sicilian slice for $3. Yes, we know you can probably find a smattering of $1 slice shops around Grand Central or throughout the East Village, but none of them can hold to candle to Joe's best.

Alpha Donuts

This Queen's diner serves up breakfast classics like cheese-filled omelets and syrupy French toast in an old-school environment, where nothing costs more than $10. And though it's open 24 hours, you'll want to show up early for its signature confection: feathery doughnuts that go for 90¢ apiece, with flavors ranging from sugared crullers to blueberry-glazed rings and apple jelly-filled pillows.

This article was originally published on 6/16/2017 and updated by Shana Bethea on 4/9/2018.


Falafel sandwiches and shawarma.

Photo: Mamoun's


Some of the best late-night food in NYC.

Photo: Mamoun's

MAKE Sandwich

Chicken + Slaw: cold charred chicken, apple-date slaw, roasted garlic remoulade.

Photo: Marju Randmer-Nellis

MAKE Sandwich

Zucchini + Falafel: miso-charred zucchini, mushroom falafel, tomato-pepper confit, hummus, sprouts, preserved lemon tahini.

Photo: Marju Randmer-Nellis

Vanessa's Dumpling House

Fried pork dumplings.

Photo: Vanessa's Dumpling House

Xi'an Famous Foods

Mount Qi pork noodles in soup.


Xi'an Famous Foods

Spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles.