Sometimes it seems like the only affordable thing to eat in The Big Apple is literally one big apple. And sometimes even that can set you back (we’re looking at you, Whole Foods). After moving to New York City, it quickly became clear to us that hitting up the hottest restaurants on a regular basis was simply not an option for our budgets. That’s why we set out to find the most affordable and satisfying eats in our downtown neighborhoods. Here are just a few of the gems we’ve discovered.
1. Ofrenda, West Village
Come for the guacamole and stay for the unbeatable happy hour deals (that last all week long)! Ofrenda is a small, modern, and cozy Mexican restaurant in the heart of the West Village. It’s dark, dia-de-los-muertos ambiance is perfect for holing up in winter and slurping down as many prickly pear margs as it takes to forget about the city’s brutal chill. In spring and summer, they offer outdoor seating that goes great with a flouncy dress and red sangria.
- Perfect for: happy hour drinks with your besties, dinner before going out, or bites with your co-workers
- Ambiance: Authentic Mexican with contemporary vibes
- What to Order: Guacamole, Smoky jalapeno margaritas & fish tacos
- Plan to Spend: $30 for drinks and shared bites
http://ofrendanyc.com | @ofrendanyc
2. Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop, Lower East Side
Did you ever wake up and immediately start craving a sandwich? Yeah, same. Skip the deli and head to Tiny’s Giant Sandwich shop in the LES to get your fix! They offer a massive range of hot and cold sandwiches, build-your-own options, and salads too. We go for ‘The Veggiest of Them All” + cheddar. It’s $10 but usually lasts us two meals.
- Perfect for: Take out, near-by delivery, casual, quick lunch
- Ambiance: Bright, airy, hip and simple
- What to Order: “The Veggiest of Them All” (add cheese and extra avo) or The Spicy Rizzak + homemade chips
- Plan to Spend: $12
3. Darrow’s, Union Square
Keep your wallet and diet happy by dining at Darrow’s in Union Square. Darrow’s offers a farm-to-table breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. With cold pressed juice on tap (every basic betch’s dream) and extremely health conscious guidelines, Darrow’s is great for a guilt-free and satisfying meal, and probably a fresh juice cocktail to go with it!
- Perfect for: Post-work out noms, healthy lunch, casual dinner and/or drinks
- Ambiance: Totally open and bright with lots of natural light. The look of the awesome two-story space matches the light, healthy food that Darrow’s serves up.
- What to Order: Avocado toast with cashew ricotta, sweet potato hash and a smoothie or cold-pressed cocktail
- Plan to Spend: $15 – $30
http://darrowsnyc.com | @darrowsnyc
4. Upstate, East Village
In general, our relationship with oysters is a little rocky. Each time we try them we find them either overpriced or underwhelming. That was until we dropped by Upstate in the East Village and discovered their unbeatable oyster happy hour: 6 oysters and a beer for $12. Paired with friendly service and a casual atmosphere, it’s the perfect spot to relax and unwind.
- Perfect for: Oyster cravings, happy hour, date night, or dinner with a friend
- Ambiance: Upstate is small and there is not a large bar/waiting area, but the space is intimate, fresh and inviting. The hostess suggested we grab drinks nearby since the place was packed, and we appreciated her sincerity. Overall, the experience was far from rocky.
- What to Order: Oysters (unreal), and the crab cakes were sweet spicy perfection
- Plan to Spend: $30 – $40
5. Lil’ Frankies, East Village
(photo from @lilfrankiesnyc)
Get carbo-hydrated at Lil’ Frankies in the East Village. Lil’ Frankies is like stepping straight into your Italian grandmother’s kitchen (loud talkers and heavy drinkers included!). Their pasta and pizza game is on point and it’s great for budget-friendly, rowdy group outings. Also, Chrissy Teigen dines there regularly, so like – duh.
- Perfect for: Getting your pasta fix, group dinners, fun dates
- Ambiance: “Cozy” (aka cramped), dark, classic Italian
- What to Order: Pasta al limone, penne arrabiata, house red
- Plan to Spend: $35
http://lilfrankies.com | @lilfrankies
6. Randolph Beer, LES
Randolph Beer recently introduced a bottomless brunch menu – for just $35 – that does not disappoint. It includes an entree and unlimited drinks for 2 hours. The food was excellent and the brunch punch (cucumber, strawberry, vodka and a splash of lemon) is light, refreshing, and not too sweet. The menu has the perfect mix of indulgent dishes and nourishing choices. Randolph has three locations: RandolphBroome, Randolph Beer and Randolph Brooklyn, all three offering brunch.
- Perfect for: Bottomless brunch, group brunches, outdoor chilling, healthy choices
- Ambiance: Each location is a bit different but all are (intentionally) funky and quirky
- What to Order: Brunch punch, breakfast nachos, kale and grain salad
- Plan to spend: $40
http://www.randolphnyc.com | @therandolphnyc
7. Cafe Habana, Nolita
Been thinking about Mexican corn ever since you saw @somethingnavy’s instagram post last weekend? Travel to this Nolita gem to sink your teeth into some cheesy, spicy, perfectly grilled corn on the cob and a Modelo. It’s the perfect place for a snack break from Soho shopping or a super casual, filling, no-frills brunch. Don’t have time to sit down? Check out their outpost next door for a grab-and-go experience.
- Perfect for: Quick snack, authentic mexican, fun crowd, quality food
- Ambiance: Simple and traditional, laid back, Mexican diner
- What to Order: Mexican corn, a few tacos, and a cold beer
- Plan to Spend: $14
8. Nha Trang One, Chinatown
(photo from http://nhatrangnyc.com/)
Want to go to Chinatown for tasty Asian cuisine, but overwhelmed with the options? Check out Nha Trang for pho and traditional Vietnamese cuisine. You’ll leave with a full belly and a full wallet.
- Perfect for: Authentic Vietnamese, getting your grease-fix, hangover cures, sharing
- Ambiance: Low ceilings, dingy but not dirty, dim lighting, fish tanks and Chinese lanterns galore
- What to Order: Pho, crispy squid, spring rolls and Vietnamese coffee
- Plan to Spend: $10-15 (shared entrees)