The Big Apple is chockful of fancy, Michelin-starred restaurants and home to some of the most famous high-end eateries in the world. Luckily, you don’t need to empty your pockets to eat iconic dishes here. Some of the best cheap eats in NYC also happen to be some of the best menu items in the city. Take some advice from a local and stick to these hole-in-the-wall eateries.
Best Cheap Eats in NYC Hot Tip: Pizza
Pizza is ubiquitous in New York. You’ll find everything from gourmet pies to $1 slices on every street corner in the city. But what if you want value and amazing flavor? The slices on this list range from $2.50 to $4.50 a slice.
Bleecker Street Pizza has — hands down — the best Margarita-style pizza in the city. They call it their Nona Maria, named after the founder’s grandmother. They’ve also been named “Best Pizza in NYC” by the Food Network several years running. In fact, if you see a delivery guy hauling dozens of pizzas outside, they’re probably headed for Food Network headquarters over in Chelsea.
Best Pizza has one of the best grandma-style slices in Brooklyn. This thick-cut pizza was invented out on Long Island by none other than the grandmothers who brought their recipes over from Sicily.
Joe’s is another single-slice hotspot. We recommend being a purist here and going for the cheese slice.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, head to Vinnie’s of Brooklyn. This old-school pizza counter has been open since the 1960s but has managed to battle rising rents by keeping up with the times. They serve creative slices with themes like ‘Mexican street corn or ‘mac attack.’
Dumplings and Dim Sum
When it comes to cheap eats in NYC, you can’t go wrong with dumplings and dim sum. Most Chinese food in the city is super affordable (especially in Manhattan’s and Brooklyn’s Chinatowns).
Vanessa’s has inexpensive dumplings in a variety of flavors, ranging from basil chicken to pork and chive. But the kicker is they also have tons of other items, including wontons in spicy chili oil and sesame pancakes (a sandwich made with fluffy sesame pancake bread, veggies and roast duck, chicken or pork). Most menu items are under $5 (though prices fluctuate heavily outside of their Chinatown location).
If you’re jonesing for a Michelin-starred meal that happens to be one of the best cheap eats in NYC, head to Tim Ho Wan in Union Square or the Meatpacking District. Most dishes are under $5 each.
Bagels and Bialys
New York City is known for its bagels. They also happen to be some of the best cheap eats in NYC. Most bagels with schmear and toppings cost under $5. Yet not all bagels are created equal. If you want one that’s chewy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, we recommend:
- Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys: historic bagel shop with a variety of schmears and toppings. They also have sandwiches and bialys (the bagels non-boiled, no-hole cousin).
- Black Seed: award-winning bagels that boast thinner rings and a variety of toppings.
- Ess-a-Bagel: fluffy, giant bagels with plenty of schmear flavors and toppings in Midtown.
You can’t go wrong by buying a hot dog from a vendor in Times Square or Central Park for only $2. The problem is, the price differs from vendor to vendor — and customer to customer. If you want a hot dog for a deal, you’re going to have to act like a local.
Most vendors will try to sell you a hotdog for $4 if they know you’re a tourist. Our advice? Just hand over $2 and say, “That’s it, right?”
Some of the best cheap eats in NYC also happen to be sweets. Luckily, you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to get your sugar fix here. Some of our favorite iconic foods include:
New York Cheesecake
Junior’s and Eileen’s are tied for the title of the best cheesecake in the city. Jerry Seinfeld famously dubbed Eileen’s the best. But Junior’s is a local institution in Brooklyn. Both places sell slices for under $8.
You’ll find ice cream in all flavors and forms in NYC. Most cones and cups cost under $10. The best no-frills ice cream can be found at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. Or, order soft serve in a fish-shaped cone at Taiyaki. Show off your love of interesting flavors and textures to your friends at Ice and Vice. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is also a hit in the summer and has a great location — right underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
While most tourists head straight for Magnolia Bakery (they’re everywhere now!), we recommend bypassing their Greenwich Village flagship and heading straight for Molly’s. They offer creative flavors and donate a decent amount of profits to schoolteachers. The Little Cupcake Bakeshop in NoLita and the Cupcake Market in the East Village have some of our favorite flavors, too. Cupcakes generally cost under $5 each.
Yes, the cronut is totally worth the hype. This croissant-donut hybrid can be found at the Dominique Ansel Bakery (voted ‘Best Bakery in the World’) in a variety of rotating flavors.
Don’t be afraid of the raw cookie dough at Do; it’s pasteurized so there’s no raw egg in it. It brings back all of your childhood fantasies of licking the bowl while your mom made homemade cookies.
Yes, pudding feels a little ‘blah,’ but the flavors at Sugar Sweet Sunshine are out of this world. We happen to think their banana pudding is the best in the city. Their schmapple pudding tastes like someone smushed up an apple pie and turned it into pudding.
Need more off-the-beaten-path ideas in NYC? Download one of our itineraries — all built by locals.