Back from hiatus, and running out of money fast. 😬 Kinda my fault, seeing as I spent the summer and fall eating out constantly while my unemployment payments dwindled. So right now, since I live like a nineteen-year-old frat boy and cannot cook to save my life, my meal options are essentially: Pop-Tarts, Lunchables, Hot Pockets, and cheap cheap cheap New York eats. There’s a ton of affordable food to be found, despite the fact that New York is obviously a very expensive city. I’ve already posted a list of some of my favorites, but there’s so much amazing, well-priced food in the City I could and probably will fill many lists with various options for affordable, quick-service eating in NYC—
NOTE: Photos in this post are from the restaurants’ Instagrams. I usually take my own pictures, but because I am only getting takeout and delivery right now, there’s no such thing as plating, and the food, while still delicious, is smushed and looks like shit. 👊🏻
Superiority Burger: Hip but not pretentious vegetarian burger shop in the EV. Not vegan, which makes it innately more enjoyable and less annoying on principle. There are vegan options, but there’s also cheese. Obviously great burgers, in addition to heroes and ice cream. Our core value: humility, their website says. Between the very New York sense of irony, very East Village punk rock sensibilities, and very un-vegetable-ish veggie burgers, there’s nothing I don’t love about this place.
Scarr’s Pizza: I’ll stick to one pizza place on this list and get to work on a whole other post for my favorite slices in New York. Scarr’s is not as well known as Joe’s or Lombardi’s, but it’s just as good, which is saying something. Especially their pepperoni jalapeño pizza, which comes with honey drizzled overtop. I’ve been religiously dipping my pizza in ranch dressing since childhood, and this is literally the only slice of pizza on the planet I do not dip, because it’s already perfect as-is. The crust is thin but never soggy, cheese to sauce ratio is ideal, and there’s just enough grease. Wouldn’t change a damn thing.
Punjabi Grocery and Deli: This famously amazing bodega is so unassuming it’s almost hard to believe it’s as delicious as it is. It looks very much like your typical, run of the mill corner deli. There’s no seating. No aesthetic (I love things with no aesthetic—no shit involved) or any cool factor whatsoever. Just perfect, cozy Indian snack food for a ridiculously low price. It’s perfect for late night drunchies, and is especially great in the winter. Warms you right up. It’s so beloved that in a recent GoFundMe started to keep the restaurant open after missed rent payments during the pandemic, almost $40,000 was raised in two days. People are kind of obsessed with this place.
Sticky’s Finger Joint: All chicken fingers all the time. I love restaurants that have a very specific focus because in most cases they know what they’re doing when it comes to their area of expertise. You can customize your fingers, but I would recommend going with one of their creations. The General Tso’s chicken fingers are my favorite, but everything on the menu is really good.
Petey’s: Ah. My number one go-to when I was walking dogs in Long Island City. This burger shop is the real deal. Shake Shack esque, greasy, juicy, and cheap. $5.25 for a cheeseburger. Buffalo wings are great too…and that’s pretty much the whole menu. Petey’s is a bare bones classic. They stick to what they do best (and it’s really really great).
Saigon Shack: Greenwich Village standby for Vietnamese comfort food. Weekly visits in college. Now their banh-mi makes me nostalgic, and their pho continues to warm my cold New York heart. The classic Saigon Shack Pho with beef balls and brisket is absolutely to die for. Perfect for delivery on a winter night, especially in the event of a second quarantine.
Harlem Shake: Right up there with Petey’s and the Shack. Similarly amazing burgers—fabulous in a no-nonsense, fast food way. They have great shakes (especially their signature red velvet), made with Blue Marble ice cream. Unlike Shake Shack and Petey’s, they have a ton of customization options, with add-ons like truffle oil, cheese sauce, and jerk mayo.
Absolute Bagels: Favorite bagel shop in the City. I even prefer it to Tompkins Square Bagels, which is saying something. In college, I used to go to synagogue a block over from here, and I would get one bagel before services and one after, which is really ridiculous because they’re particularly filling bagels (and because I also hit up the Oneg Shabbat 🤭). Always super fresh, with the perfect ratio of *exterior crispiness* to *interior squishiness*. First review that comes up when you Google them reads “Best bagel I’ve ever had. Period.” Final note—no photo for this one because they have no website and no Instagram, which in this case is actually a good sign. Absolute Bagels is one of those NYC favorites that’s so unanimously loved, they don’t feel the need to really advertise themselves or even let people know they exist. Because New Yorkers know.
Great NY Noodletown: Little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant on the Bowery, incredible prices, open late. Good for three AM cravings on a budget. Everything I’ve tried there is super flavorful, and the meat is all cooked perfectly, but the duck is especially great—get the roast duck wonton soup ($7.25) or the roast duck on rice ($5.25). Congee is also dank.
B&H Dairy: No-frills, classic New York luncheonette serving hearty, soul-warming Jewish comfort food. All vegetarian (definitely not vegan, as the name suggests, but it’s kosher and they don’t serve anything with meat…although there’s plenty of fish 🐠). Everything is delicious if not particularly exciting. All the old stand-bys are here—I tend to gravitate towards their knishes and matzoh ball soup, especially in the winter. They also have very good breakfast foods; a wide variety of omelettes, blintzes (favorite start to the day), and amazing challah French toast.