Best Affordable Food in NYC

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New York is, notoriously, an extremely expensive city. But there are also a lot of amazing cheap eats for the foodie on a budget. I detest cooking and ate out constantly in college when I had no money, and I was only able to afford that *lifestyle* on account of 8 for 2 dumplings and dollar pizza. Here are my favorite affordable places to eat in the City.

Jajaja Plantas: Vegan Mexican restaurant with a few locations in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. They have amazing veggie chorizo that totally tastes real. My favorite fake meat outside of By Chloe and the Impossible Burger at Burger King. Their salsa and cauliflower tacos are also really good.

Jajaja tacos

Yonah Schimmel: On the border between the East Village and the Lower East side, Yonah Schimmel is a no-frills, hearty deli and bakery with the best Jewish comfort food in the City—amazing kugel and knishes. They officially have the best knishes in New York, according to Yelp and Trip Advisor. Great in the winter. Both the food and the place itself are incredibly comfy.

Sakib: Cheap, authentic and deeply satisfying Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food on Bedford Ave in Brooklyn. Everything is incredibly flavorful and generously portioned for the price. Really good service too.

Joe’s Pizza: Hands down, best pizza in the City. Better than Famous Ray’s. It is so fucking good, and also super cheap. So much cheese, perfect thin crust. They have a few locations now. Carry out or stand and eat. It’s perfect dipped in ranch dressing (I have to wander around begging for ranch at surrounding delis and bodegas, as Joe’s doesn’t have any). And Spider Man worked here.

Joe’s Pizza pepperoni slice

Cheeky Sandwiches: One of my go-to brunch spots on the Lower East Side. They serve great southern cooking, specifically sandwiches, for under $10 (fried chicken is the best—it’s very filling and is $6.50). It’s a tiny shop, kind of hard to find. The perfect start to a cheap day downtown.

Vanessa’s Dumplings: Classic, cozy, and in my opinion superior to Prosperity Dumpling. They sell frozen dumplings to take home, in addition to a full menu of amazing eat-in / takeout options. Pork and chive dumplings are the best. They’ve gotten more expensive but are still a great deal at $2 for four. Since my NYU days, Vanessa’s has opened more locations and moved down from 14th Street to the Lower East Side. Still just as good as the day my roommate first brought me there on the way to class.

Vanessa’s pork and chive dumplings
My preferred Vanessa’s order—I get the pork sesame pancake, which inevitably makes a huge mess, and I put whatever falls out of it on top of my pork and chive dumplings with spicy sauce. Very complex. 👌🏻

King Dumplings: An alternative to Vanessa’s. It’s just as cheap, and very authentic, down in Chinatown. Super cute little shop, with perfectly juicy and flavorful dumplings.

The Halal Guys: Basically everyone’s favorite. They were originally a little halal cart but got so popular they now have multiple permanent locations across the City. Their chicken over rice, with white sauce, is the best I’ve ever had. Most things are around $10.

Taqueria Diana: Wonderful little East Village, shoebox, counter service Mexican food. I am obsessed with their nachos—for $10 you get a truly massive, Super Bowl appetizer sized pan. It’s perfect for a late Friday night.

Crif Dogs: Another very East Village, no-frills comfy cozy favorite. Like Taqueria Diana, Friday night food. I always get a chili dog—all hot dogs are $4-7. They usually have a very cool speakeasy, Please Don’t Tell, hidden in the restaurant behind an old phone booth. You dial a particular number to be let in—it’s literally like entering the Ministry of Magic. More muggle-friendly but also hard to get in. Last I knew, you have to call at exactly 3PM the day before you go to get reservations, or wait and hope for the best. Right now they’re closed, but Crif Dogs is open for takeout.

Gray’s Papaya: Possibly the most famous super cheap spot in the City—they have great hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, etc. Although they’re best known for their hotdogs, which are very high quality despite being only $1.50. They also have a bunch of cool non-alcoholic fruity drinks, including a papaya flavored one.

Spend a long day out eating your way through the City. This weekend I was in Manhattan from 9AM to late night. Ate five meals for under $30. 🤘🏻