“Cheap eats” is an expression you rarely hear about in the NYC dining scene, but unbeknownst to many, it is out there. I’m not even just talking about the traditional neighborhood bodegas, street carts, or local Chinese takeout joints where people on a budget usually flock. In all of the below places, you can get a decent meal (fries can be a drunken meal….) for $10 or less.
Some disclaimers on the below list:
- I didn’t include pizza because all of NYC has a consistently cheap, abundant pizza scene. Whether it’s dollar pizza or Roberta’s, your level of drunkenness can qualify the taste.
- I also wanted to include places that are originated in NYC. Shake Shack is native and worthy, but you can now eat their burgers in Dubai. Same rule applies for my precious, white-sauced Halal Guys. Yes, after 25 years as only in NYC, they are now taking over for Pitbull with the title of “Mr. Worldwide.”
- My apologies that not every borough can be included. I live in Queens, so it’s a lot of what I know. So maybe visit Queens?
Venezuelan street food never looked so good as it does at Patacon Pisao. What began as a food truck in Washington Heights, there’s now two permanent locations in Elmhurst, Queens and the Lower East Side. It’s best known for its use of plantains in its sandwiches, and believe me when I say you’ve never tasted plantains like this.
What to order: The Shredded Beef Patacon – $7.00
Green plantain sandwich with shredded beef served with ketchup, fried white cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and special sauce.
When Freddy Zeideia opened this Middle Eastern food truck in Astoria, I don’t think he dreamed that he would be rated as the #1 food truck and the best falafel on many NYC lists for years to come. With a recent brick and mortar location added to Astoria, as well as another truck in Manhattan, this is one meal (and line) that gives Halal Guys a run for its money.
What to order: Chicken and Falafel Combo Plate – $8 ($11 at the restaurant)
This includes rice and salad with all the fixings.
What began in Williamsburg and made the rise for its outstanding fried chicken and pies, the Brooklyn joint is now a NYC household name with another recent addition to the Lower East Side. Although many dishes run just above the $10 mark, they have one of their best known specialties making the mark. And the pies are all under $10.
What to order: Chicken Biscuit – $7.50
Crispy chicken cutlet on a buttermilk biscuit slathered in hot sauce & honey butter.
Otto himself wanted to bring some of the Southern California taco scene to NY, and succeeded in every way. Otto’s focuses on tortillas made from scratch daily with delectable fillings and sides. With locations in Hell’s Kitchen, the East Village, and the West Village, you’ll never be too far from a craving.
What to order: Carne Asada and Carnitas. Guac with Rice & Beans $8-$10
Added with cilantro and onions, red salsa or green salsa.
What was once the perfect East Village drunken food, Pommes Frites has now taken their authentic Belgian fries and unique sauces sensation to the West Village. A local disaster could never take down the greatness that is the frites.
What to order: Large Frites with Pesto Mayo, Sweet Mango Chutney, or Parmesan Peppercorn – $6.25
(Comes with one sauce per order, and there are also additional free sauce options. Extra $1.40 per sauce.)
This delicious Columbian street food run by founder Maria Cano has been serving the neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens for years. Her sons now run a brick and mortar location in the same area as well, for when you need your sit down cravings met.
What to order: Arepa de Queso – $4.00 ($5 at the restaurant)
Corn flour with mozzarella inside. Served with cheese and butter on top.
Starting from a basement stall at a mall in Flushing, Queens, it has expanded to seven locations around the city. Its aim was to bring the little known cuisine of Xi’an, China into the U.S. It greatly succeeded with signature hand-ripped noodles, secret spice mixes, and Xi’an “burgers” with house made flatbread.
What to order: Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand Ripped Noodles – $8.75-$9.50
Wide, hand-ripped noodles mixed with sautéed spicy cumin lamb.
Vanessa opened her first Chinese dumpling shop in 1999 as a hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown, and she now has two additional locations in Williamsburg and Union Square. This is an authentic dumpling haven worth spending your money on.
What to order: 4 Boiled Chive & Pork Dumplings — $3.25; Sesame Pancake with Kimchi $2.25
Brooklyn is known for its slew of amazingly cheap hole-in-the-wall Caribbean eats, and Peppa’s is no exception. This small takeout joint on Flatbush Ave leaves much to be desired aesthetically, but the food is really what you’re coming for.
What to order: Jerk Dinner Small size – $9.00
Jerk chicken spiced to perfection with rice and peas.
What some consider to be the best Thai food in the city, this unassuming joint in none other than Woodside, Queens continues to be a favorite among the masses. While most dishes are a bit above the $10 mark and is cash only, it gets the job done in quantity and quality.
What to order: Combo of Roasted Pork – $10
Crispy pork, sweet sausage and boiled egg; served with special sweet house sauce over rice.