How to Eat in New York City on a Budget

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how to eat in new york on a budget
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New York City (NYC) is infamous for its pricey and luxurious dining experiences, leading many to believe that eating out in the city can quickly drain their wallets. Sure, there are upscale spots where the bills soar as high as the skyscrapers, but New York is also a city of diversity, including in its dining options. Whether you’re a visitor eager to find affordable eateries or a local hunting for the best deals, we will share the best tips on how to eat in New York City on a budget.

7 Budget-Friendly Places to Eat on a Budget in New York City

Eating around New York on a budget can be a thrilling adventure even without fine dining, which was noted as one of the most expensive non-essential expenses people spend each month. From hidden gems to beloved local staples, this guide highlights some of our favorite cheap restaurants in NYC. Whether you’re craving a slice of classic New York pizza or a plate of aromatic dumplings, these budget-friendly spots promise great flavors without a hefty price tag.

1. Taqueria Al Pastor (128 Wyckoff Ave)

Price: $4.50 to $15

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 from around 200 Yelp reviews

taqueria al pastor tacos

Taqueria Al Pastor is celebrated for its exceptional tacos, especially the al pastor, available for just $4.50 each. These tacos are crafted with marinated pork shaved from a spinning trompo, paired with onions and pineapple, nestled in a house-made corn tortilla. The generous fillings make even two tacos a satisfying meal, showcasing why this spot has quickly become a local budget-friendly favorite and a must-visit for taco enthusiasts.

2. New Park Pizza (156-71 Cross Bay Blvd Howard Beach)

Price: $2.75 to $23

Rating: 4.2 out of 5 from over 1,000 Yelp reviews

whole new park pizza

New Park Pizzeria stands out for its value for money. Customers eagerly line up for the hot, cheesy pizzas quickly served to accommodate the crowd. With a focused menu of just pizza and calzones, New Park has offered consistent quality under the same family ownership for over 60 years. With a strong 4.2 out of 5 rating from over 1,000 Yelp reviews, New Park is celebrated as a go-to spot for authentic, affordable pizza.

3. Xi’an Famous Foods (various locations)

Price: $5 to $13

Rating: 4 out of 5 from more than 1,300 Yelp reviews

spicy cumin lamb burger

Xi’an Famous Foods, a family-owned Chinese restaurant chain, currently operates 13 locations across town. Their menu features biang-biang noodles that are freshly pulled upon order, dumplings served with their signature dipping sauce, and a tangy, vinegar-based liang pi that’s perfect for hot summer days.

4. Mamoun’s Falafel (119 MacDougal Street)

Price: $3 to $14

Rating: 4.2 out of 5 from around 2,500 Yelp reviews

mamoun falafel

You can come across many falafel and gyro stands in Manhattan that are reasonably priced, yet the top one is Mamoun’s. The restaurant has been around since the 1970s and has a reputation for serving delicious and authentic Middle Eastern food. Their traditional falafel, served with tahini and salad, is less than $7, making it a great option for those on a budget. Other items, including shawarma, hummus, and baba ganoush are also tasty and affordable.

5. Native Noodles (2129 Amsterdam Ave)

Price: $5 to $16

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 from over 160 Yelp reviews

native noodles laksa noodles

If you’re in the mood for Singaporean cuisine, Native Noodles is a hidden gem in the city. This cozy cafe offers a relaxed ambiance, where dishes like laksa noodles and peanut satay noodles are served right from the kitchen window. While there are plenty of noodle dishes to choose from, don’t miss their smaller bites like fritters, dumplings, and buns. For something unique, try the roti john sandwich—a ground beef omelet hero with spicy ketchup and caramelized onions.

Here’s a sample food budget plan to help you navigate eating in New York on a budget:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Breakfast Falafel from Mamoun’s – $6.49 Homecooked Meal Homecooked Meal Scallion Pancake from Oohu – $8 Homecooked Meal
Lunch Calzone from New Park Pizza – $4.50 Laksa Noodles from Native Noodles – $13 Tocilog from Patok By Rach – $14.99 Kung Pao Chicken from Oohu – $13.99 Al Pastor tacos from Taqueria Al Pastor – $4.50
Dinner Homecooked Meal Carne Asada from Taqueria Al Pastor- $4.75 Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods – $13.15 Homecooked Meal Oysters and a carafe of wine from Ten Bells – $25

Total Weekly Food Budget: $108.37

Best Deals Around New York

Exploring NYC on a budget doesn’t have to be so limiting, especially when dining out. The city is teeming with incredible food deals that satisfy any craving without breaking the bank. From exclusive happy hours to unbeatable lunch specials, here are some of the best dining deals around New York City that promise both flavor and value.

1. Happy Hours

Many bars and restaurants offer happy hours not only for drinks but also for food, like discounted appetizers and $1-2 oysters. These happy hours typically run from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. It’s advisable to get there early, as these spots tend to get crowded fast, leading to lengthy wait times. Here are some places that offer happy hours:

Jeffrey’s Grocery (172 Waverly Place)

  • Happy Hour Offer: $2 Oysters
  • Happy Hour Schedule: Available from 3:30 to 5:30 PM, Mondays to Fridays

jeffrey grocery oysters

Ten Bells (247 Broome Street)

  • Happy Hour Offer: $1 Oysters and $18 carafe of wine
  • Happy Hour Schedule: 5:00 to 7:00 PM on Mondays to Fridays, 3:00 to 7:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays

ten bells happy hour oysters wine

2. Lunch Specials

Midday meals are often cheaper than dinner options, providing an excellent opportunity to eat in New York City on a budget. Many places throughout the city offer set lunch menus ranging from $10 to $15. Here are some places in NYC that offer these affordable lunch specials:

Patok By Rach (5057 Broadway)

  • Lunch Special Price Range: $14.99
  • Lunch Special Schedule: 12:00 to 3:00 PM

patok lunch special patok by rach

This quaint Filipino eatery, situated in Inwood en route to the Bronx, offers a concise fast-casual menu and ample seating. The Philippine-style barbecue on skewers is a delicious option that can be enjoyed as a snack or a full meal. Additionally, the deep-fried pork belly served with three dips is a must-try. For vegetarians or anyone looking for something exciting, the dish with taro leaves and coconut milk is a great choice.

Oohu Szechuan & Canton Cuisines (128 W 36th Street)

  • Lunch Special Price Range: $12.99 to $14.99
  • Lunch Special Schedule: 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

fish fillet szechuan
Oohu is a popular Szechuan restaurant in New York, with a rating of 4.5 out of 5. According to Yelp reviews, OOHU’s lunch special is considered the best deal in the city. They offer a range of lunch specials priced at $12.99 to $14.99, which include dishes such as Kung Pao Chicken, Mapo Tofu, and Lo Mein. Most lunch specials come with a side of rice and soup or egg rolls, making it a lot of food for the price.

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Extra Tips on How to Save Money on Food in NYC

Discovering how to eat in New York on a budget without draining your wallet is essential for fully enjoying your city adventure. Here are additional practical tips to help you save on food while exploring the city.

  • Grocery meals: Visit local supermarkets like Trader Joe’s, which offer a range of ingredients for home cooking and healthy ready-to-eat meals. Local delis are also great for inexpensive, quick options like fresh produce, deli meats, and prepared foods—perfect for a picnic in Central Park or a speedy dinner. These offer convenience and weekly specials and discounts to help stretch your budget further.
  • Cook your own: Cooking and planning your own meals can be a substantial money-saver, especially if your accommodation includes kitchen facilities. Consider preparing at least one meal a day. This reduces your food expenses and allows you to explore local markets and groceries for fresh, local ingredients. It also gives you control over your diet and can be a healthier alternative to eating out.
  • Food apps: Utilize food apps like Yelp and MealPal to discover cheap eats and secure discounts throughout the city. Yelp provides reviews and ratings to help you find budget-friendly restaurants, while MealPal offers discounted meal subscriptions. These tools allow you to explore a wider range of dining options and manage your food budget effectively.
  • Plan when to eat out: Strategically choose dining days to take advantage of restaurant specials and lower prices. Many NYC eateries offer discounted meals during early bird specials, weekday lunches, or late-night menus. By aligning your dining schedule with these deals, you can enjoy New York’s diverse culinary scene while saving money simultaneously.

Dining out in New York City can get costly. But with Cushion’s calendar sync feature, you can efficiently manage your dining budget. Integrating your bills and payments with your calendar lets you easily track them alongside your meal or dining out schedule. This allows you to stay within your budget by helping you determine when you can spend on a restaurant meal and when you should save and cook at home instead.


New York City’s reputation for expensive dining can be intimidating, but many affordable options provide delicious and authentic culinary experiences. By planning ahead, taking advantage of deals, and exploring local favorites, you can enjoy a rich array of tastes that reflect the city’s diverse cultural fabric without overspending.

Last Updated on April 04, 2024
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this website is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as financial advice. Consult with a financial professional for personalized guidance regarding your specific situation.

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