Rent prices may be rising in this city, but for now, there are plenty of purveyors of cheap food that manage to hold on to leases, even in trendy lower Manhattan. That’s lucky for us — cheap eats joints are a well-ingrained part of our culinary fabric, and they comprise a full third of our roster of the 99 Essential Restaurants™ in Lower Manhattan. Here are 33 essential restaurants where you can dine for less than $10 — many of which offer items for far less than that.
456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street, 212-964-0003
The best values here come from dining in a group, which allows you to feast on dim sum by the basketful plus platters of other specialties. But this Shanghainese restaurant offers sub-$10 options for solo diners, too, particularly if you stick to noodles.
B & H, 127 Second Avenue, 212-505-8065
This decades-old East Village vegetarian lunch counter sells standards like grilled cheese and split pea soup plus Eastern European items like knishes and blintzes. Huddle at the counter for a cup of coffee or an egg cream with your meal.
Banh Mi Saigon, 198 Grand Street, 212-941-1541
Nothing on the menu at this 25-year-old Vietnamese bakery is more than $10, and most items are under five bucks. You want the banh mi, of course, which is one of the best in the city.
Caracas Arepa Bar, 93 1/2 East 7th Street, 212-529-2314
This East Village haunt has so successfully wooed crowds with its Venezuelan arepas, it’s spawned a mini-chain. The stuffed pockets are priced between $7 and $8.50, though the best deal is at lunch, when you get any arepa plus soup or salad for $8.50.
Casa Adela, 66 Avenue C #45, 212-473-1882
This Alphabet City cheap eats haven pays homage to Puerto Rico. It offers an easily sharable half of a roasted bird for less than $10, which leaves you extra money to order sides to fill out your feast. Go for the plantains, or, perhaps, a fruit shake.
City Bakery, 3 West 18th Street, 212-366-1414
Most people who pop into City Bakery order a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and perhaps a chocolate chip cookie or some other pastry. But pricing on entrees is gentle, too — soups, sandwiches, and cups of baked macaroni and cheese come in under budget as well.
Congee Village, 100 Allen Street, 212-941-1818
This is another group spot if you really want to maximize value, but there are many entrees to be had for less than $10. We recommend the salt and pepper squid, the cold jellyfish, or one of the congees, most of which cost less than five bucks.
Crif Dogs, 113 St. Marks Place, 212-614-2728
These are not your average hot dogs, and they’re going to cost you more than the dirty water franks you’ll find on the street. But nothing on the menu is more than $10, and each dog is a vehicle for a slew of wacky ingredients, making it a complete and filling meal.
Dominique Ansel, 189 Spring Street, 212-219-2773
Pastry whiz Dominique Ansel is making some of the most innovative food in the city right now, and he’s pricing his treats so that they’re affordable. Pastries ring in between $2.50 and $7, and more substantial items, like sandwiches, are mostly less than $10, too.
Doughnut Plant, 379 Grand Street, 212-505-3700
Mark Isreal makes his doughnuts with high quality fruit and nuts, which is largely how he’s built a fervent following since opening a wholesale business on the Lower East Side. Stop in for a breakfast treat that’ll set you back less than $4, and pair it to a cup of coffee.
Great NY Noodletown, 28 Bowery, 212-349-9023
This Chinatown shack commands a star-studded late night following, who come for noodles and dumplings — or both in soup. Eat your way through as much of the menu as you can handle — almost everything here costs less than $10.
Joe’s Pizza, 7 Carmine Street, 212-366-1182
You want an iconic New York slice, you say? Joe’s is your jam, then. You could share a pie with your buddies for a grand total of $20, but if you’re flying solo and just after a quick lunch, opt for a slice, which is $2.75 for cheese and $3.50 if you add a topping.
John’s of Bleecker Street, 278 Bleecker Street, 212-243-1680
John’s doesn’t serve slices, so we’re going to go ahead and assume that if you’re headed here, you’ve found at least one other willing cohort. And that means you can split a small — or even a large — pie and both spend less than a tenner each. If you just want to check out the atmosphere and you are, in fact, alone, there are a few pasta entrees that are equally budget friendly.
Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street, 212-254-2246
Most of the iconic staples at this LES deli creep into the $15 range, but if you’re dying to go and you’re cash-strapped, there are plenty of ways to get full on the cheap. The matzo ball soup, for instance. The grilled cheese. The burger. The chili dog. If you’re dying for pastrami, though, take solace in the fact that one sandwich can easily stretch into two meals.
Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle, 144 East Broadway, 212-566-6933
This Chinatown noodle joint offers nothing by way of atmosphere, but it makes up for its hideous digs with some deeply seasoned and bafflingly complex beef noodle soup. You can have a bowl of it plus a side of dumplings for less than $10, and you’ll leave stuffed.
Mamoun’s, 119 Macdougal Street, 212-674-8685
What might be the most famous falafel sandwich in the city can be yours for $3.50 (or $6, if you want the falafel served on a bed of vegetables with pita on the side). That leaves enough in your budget for a side of hummus, a little baklava, and a cup of tea.
The Meatball Shop, 84 Stanton Street, 212-982-8895
There are a few ways to have your balls for cheaper than $10 at this meatball restaurant: Get four of them smothered in sauce, sprinkled with cheese, and sided with bread; have them on sliders ($3 each); or get a couple on a brioche bun with a side salad. Or skip the meatballs altogether and stop by for a killer $5 ice cream sandwich.
Mighty Quinn’s, 103 Second Avenue, 212-677-3733
You’ll have to order your meal at Mighty Quinn’s a la carte, and a sandwich and side-combo is going to put you over our cheap eats limit. HOWEVER. A sandwich alone here is substantial enough to get a meal, and each of those is less than ten bucks. We recommend the brisket, so imbued with smoke it’ll sting your throat.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers Street, 212-962-6047
This Doyers Street beacon has wooed crowds since the Five Points gangs roved the streets of the neighborhood, and it continues to pull in fans after a bit of a revamp in 2010. Nothing here is more than $10; we recommend dining with a crew so you can eat your way into food coma on dozens of different dishes.
NY Dosas Cart, 50 Washington Square South, 917-710-2092
Washington Square Park’s most recognizable food vendor sells vegetarian stuffed crepes to long lines of students, professors, and passersby all afternoon. Everything on the menu qualifies as a cheap eat.
Oriental Garden, 14 Elizabeth Street, 212-619-0085
This three-decades-old Cantonese restaurant has the largest collection of live seafood in town, and you can pick one of those marine creatures to eat for lunch, if you want. Otherwise, wrangle a feast of dim sum and other traditional dishes — like the fried chicken, a celebratory centerpiece.
Otafuku, 220 East 9th Street, 212-353-8503
The weird and wonderful Otafuku specializes in two things: Takoyaki octopus balls and cabbage pancakes known as okonomiyaki. You can sample each without parting with much dough; be sure to check out taiyaki — nutty, fragrant fish-shaped cakes filled with red bean paste — for dessert.
Prosperity Dumpling, 46 Eldridge Street #1, 212-343-0683
One of the most beloved take-out joints in the city, you can dine at Prosperity for just one solitary dollar. That buck goes a long way in buying you five dumplings, which are either stuffed with pork or vegetables.
Punjabi Grocery & Deli, 114 East 1st Street, 212-533-3356
This green-awninged slot is popular with cabbies, who fill up their gas tanks down the street and then pop by 24 hours a day for a cheap meal. Order a plate full of Punjabi specialties and side it with a little roti. You’ll have to find a bench nearby to eat — this place has no tables.
Shake Shack, Madison Square Park near 23rd Street, 212-889-6600
Danny Meyer’s Madison Square Park burger outlet initiated a global empire, but still fans throng this hut for cheeseburgers and concretes. Burgers start at $3.75 and top out at $8.50, which means you’ll probably have dough leftover for a side of fries or a beer.
Shu Jiao Fu Zhou Cuisine, 118 Eldridge Street, 212-625-2532
Of all the Fujian places in Chinatown, we love this one the most, and not least because a platter of rib-sticking peanut noodles is just two bucks. Really hungry? Get a platter of porky dumplings for just $3 more.
Sigiri, 91 First Avenue, 212-614-9333
Most of the items on this list are just above the $10 threshold, but if you’d like to sample this Sri Lankan place — and you should — without forking over more cash, there are a few ways to do that: order one of the fragrant soups, the curried vegetables, or the dhal (lentils).
Spicy Village, 68 Forsyth Street, 212-625-8299
This Henan spot is beloved by Mark Bittman and Danny Bowien (and many others), and so it’s constantly plagued by a large crowd. Go in the mid-afternoon, though, and you’ll be privy to the spicy chicken and the noodles, our two favorite dishes, without the madness. The menu tops out at seven bucks.
Stage Restaurant, 128 Second Avenue, 212-473-8614
Don’t miss the neighborhood’s best pierogies, which come from this Eastern European counter. You’ll want to try the egg on a roll, too, and maybe some borscht or roast beef. Don’t worry about the check — nothing you order will cost more than your budget, and many things are under five bucks.
Sun Hing Lung Co., 58 Henry Street, 212-962-7032
It’s the rice rolls that make Sun Hing Lung Co. so famous (although the Chinese breakfasts command a line, too). So step up and order yours, splashed with soy and peanut sauce and dusted with chili. It’s a cheap takeaway meal unlike any other in the city.
Tasty Handpulled Noodles, 1 Doyers Street, 212-791-1817
This noodle joint moved into its Doyers Street address in the middle of the financial crisis, and it brought cheap relief to the masses that suddenly found themselves on a tighter budget. Best to dip into a noodle soup or a platter of lo mein.
Veselka, 144 Second Avenue, 212-228-9682
What started as a Ukrainian diner has evolved into a restaurant that sells Ukrainian specialties with some American influence. No matter — the place still commands crowds all night long (it’s open 24/7) for borscht, kielbasas, and pierogies. You can enjoy many of Veselka’s treats for under budget, which makes it a good place to keep in mind after a long night at the bar.
Xi’an Famous Foods, 67 Bayard Street
Xi’an sells cheap eats heard ’round the world, thanks to appearances on myriad TV shows. But that everyone now knows about these canteens, which started in Flushing but gained notoriety after the first outpost opened in Chinatown, doesn’t make them any less worth seeking. Get the hand-pulled noodles topped with spicy lamb or a bun stuffed with garlicky pork.