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Cheap Eats in NYC | How to Eat in New York on a Budget

Updated: February 10, 2024

No trip to New York City would be complete without trying some of the city’s fantastic food. 

This post lists 14 of the top-notch cheap eats under $10 in the Big Apple so you won't have to take a bite out of your wallet!

As a local walking tour company, we take thousands of visitors every month around the streets of New York City and a very common question that we get is where to eat well and cheaply.

Our local tour guides know hundreds of tasty cheap eats around the city for all tastes and the places in this list are just a small sample.

We also run a popular Travel Tips Facebook group with more the roughly 230,000 members and we and asked our members what their favorite cheap NYC foods in NYC are.

At the bottom of this post, you'll find what some of the members NYC Travel Tips Facebook group members say.

Our Facebook group is made up of locals, regular visitors to NYC, and those just getting to know the city.

There's no need to join to read the recommendations. So go take a look at our group for more ideas!


1. Mamoun’s Falafel

This tiny shop in Greenwich Village is the oldest falafel restaurant in NYC, going strong since 1972.

For those unfamiliar with falafel, it’s a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. 

It’s a pita bread sandwich filled with fried balls of ground chickpeas flavored with a range of herbs and spices.

Mamoun’s throws in parsley which gives the inside of the balls a light green color.

Mamouns Falafel

Once inside the pita, the balls are topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, tahini sauce, and, if you dare, Mamoun’s famous hot sauce.

The sandwiches are large and filling, so the sticker price of $7.85 is well worth it.

Mamoun’s is so good and affordable that it's a stop on both Greenwich Village Food Tours (see the video above).

  • Address: 119 Macdougal St.
  • Hours:
    • Monday - Wednesday: 11 am - 2 am
    • Thursday: 11 am - 3 am
    • Friday - Saturday: 11 am - 4 am
    • Sunday: 11 am - 1 am

Also at 30 St. Marks Place in the East Village.


2. Xi’an Famous Foods

Xi’an Famous Foods began as a 200-square-foot stall in the basement of the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, Queens (NYC’s largest Chinatown) in 2005. 

This family-run business was the first to bring the little-known cuisine of Xi’an, in Northwest China to the US.

It has since opened multiple locations around NYC.

The appeal is the savory, spicy seasoning on its dishes. Get the spicy cumin lamb burgers tucked into a crispy flatbread-like bun or the Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles.

Xian Famous Foods

For most dishes, you can request how hot (or not) you want it!

But the burgers come as they are. Be prepared as they are on the spicier end of the spectrum.

Need your greens? The Tiger Vegetable Salad is a fiery mix of cilantro tossed with celery, scallion, and sliced long-horn peppers in a sesame vinaigrette. 

  • Address: 45 Bayard St in Chinatown
  • Hours: Every day 11:30 am - 9:00 pm

Besides Chinatown, Xi’an Famous Foods has locations all around the city. It is also in the following neighborhoods: East Village, Lower Manhattan, Chelsea, the Upper East Side, Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Midtown Manhattan.


3. Joe's Pizza

Since 1975, Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village has been feeding hungry New Yorkers looking for a great slice to take on the run. Joe’s perennially makes our list of the best pizza in NYC

They keep it simple.

The $4 cheese slice is a big triangle of not-to-thin, not-too-thick crispy crust, slathered with a tangy tomato sauce and covered with lots of mozzarella. 

Joes Pizza

The result is a scrumptious - and foldable - slice, ideal for eating while walking as locals do.

If you prefer sitting, a small park is just across the street.

Joe’s may be well-known for its pizza slices but is also famous for its appearance in Spider-Man 2, in which Peter Parker works at Joe’s but gets fired as he is always late!

The best part is that they stay open incredibly late. On the weekends, it is so late that it is almost morning!

  • Address: 7 Carmine Street in Greenwich Village
  • Hours:
    • Sun-Thurs 10 am to 3 am
    • Fri & Sat 10 am to 5 am

4. Cheeky Sandwiches

This New Orleans-inspired sandwich shop started off in 2009 in a tiny space and has grown so much in popularity, that they are moving into the upscale Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side

Try the authentic shrimp and oyster po’boy or the succulent fried chicken sandwich with biscuits and gravy.

Cheekys sandwiches

Another fave is the braised short rib sandwich served on challah bread. Go full Louisiana with a muffuletta sandwich or beignets dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

  • Address: 35 Orchard Street as of Feb. 2024 but will be moving to the Essex Market at 88 Essex Street at a soon-to-be-announced date. Visit Essex Market with us on our Lower East Side Food Tour!
  • Hours:
    • Mon-Thurs 7 am to 9 pm
    • Fri 7 am to midnight
    • Sat 8 am to midnight
    • Sun 8 am - 9 pm

5. Los Tacos No. 1

This Mexican fast-food restaurant has been rated by many as making the best tacos in NYC. Los Tacos has

Dozens and dozens of members of our Facebook group agree!

Los Tacos No. 1 was opened by three friends from California, these tacos may be the closest you can get to authentic Cali-style tacos.

The menu is easy to navigate with under 15 items,  including beverages.

You can get tacos or quesadillas filled with either: carne asada (grilled steak), pollo asado (grilled chicken), adobada (marinated pork), or nopal (grilled cactus).

Los Tacos No 1

Tacos are $5 each, but so fantastic, you’ll happily pay $10 for two! 

You can find them in several neighborhoods including Chelsea Market near the High Line, Times Square, Grand Central Station and the Financial District.

The first location was at the Chelsea Market where you can sit and munch your tacos with a gorgeous view!

  • Address: inside Chelsea Market at 75 9th Ave. between 15th St and16th St
  • Hours:
    • Sunday 11 am - 9 pm
    • Monday - Saturday 11 am - 10 pm

6. Crif Dogs

This small hot dog shop in the East Village has a big list of toppings for their franks, which are deep-fried in oil instead of grilled.

Start off with a Crif Dog for $4.50 and build on that.

Choose from pickles, cream cheese, hummus, sour cream, tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, sauerkraut, coleslaw, and more. Or opt for one of their signature Crif Dogs.

Crif Dogs

Try the “Chihuahua” (bacon-wrapped frank, sour cream, avocado), the “Spicy Redneck” (spicy bacon-wrapped frank, chili, pickled jalapeños, and coleslaw), or the “Tsunami” (bacon-wrapped frank with pineapple, scallions, and teriyaki sauce).

It’s open past midnight so you're covered for a late-night snack after a night out in the East Village.

  • Address: 113 St Marks Place
  • Hours:
    • Sunday - Thursday 12 pm - 2 am
    • Friday & Saturday 12 pm - 3 am

7. NY Dosas

On the south side of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, you’ll see a small food cart, with a long line. Join the wait for one of the large, delicious dosas.

Dosas are thin crepes made from a batter of rice and lentils (perfect for gluten-free folk!).

They are filled with potatoes and/or steamed veggies. 

NY Dosas

Your order comes with a cup of Sambar (lentil soup w/multi vegetables) and a side of coconut chutney -- all for under $10.

Enjoy your mouth-watering meal while watching the colorful characters in the park.

  • Address: 50 Washington Square South
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 11 am to 3 pm; closed Sundays

8. Joe’s Steam Rice Roll

This Hong Kong-style fast food restaurant specializes in, you guessed it, rice rolls. What’s a rice roll?

It’s rice ground fresh daily by a stone mill into a batter, then rolled on a tray,  filled with pork, shrimp, beef, or other vegetables, and then steamed. 

Joes Steam Rice Roll

The result is a translucent, chewy, and very tasty roll that can be topped with soy sauce, peanut sauce, or hot chili oil. 

For $8 and under, choose from beef, shrimp, roast pork, or vegetables. For $11, try Joe's Signature Rice Roll with beef, pork, dried shrimp, egg, and three types of vegetables.

Joe’s Steam Rice Roll has several locations in NYC including Chinatown, the Upper West Side, and Flushing, Queens.

  • Address: 261 Canal St in the Canal Street Market Chinatown,
  • Hours: Daily 11 am to 7 pm

9. The Halal Guys

With the tantalizing aromas wafting down the street, you’ll automatically gravitate to this food cart at W. 53rd Street and 6th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

So what is halal food? And what do these guys serve that has, made them so popular they now have more carts and storefronts around NYC?

Halal is the set of standards that meat must be produced to meet Islamic religious laws. The Halal Guys' signature dish that locals and tourists wait in line for is the Chicken Platter.

Halal Guys

First, they start with Halal chicken marinated for 12 hours in their magical seasoning of fragrant spices.

Next, they grill it to perfection, chop it up and serve it over yellow rice with hot sauce and their special white sauce.

If there is only one street cart you eat from on your trip, it should be this one.

It’s right down the block from the Museum of Modern Art, so combine a visit with a stop here.

No trip to New York City would be complete without trying some of the city’s fantastic food.  And just like you, we love great food at great prices.

  • Address: corner of W. 53rd Street and 6th Avenue
  • Hours: Daily 11 am to 4 am

The Halal Guys also has carts on the Upper West Side and Union Square.


10. Gray’s Papaya

A trip to the Upper West Side would not be complete without grabbing a hot dog and a tropical-flavored drink at Gray’s Papaya. 

Ask any New Yorker, and they’ll know Gray’s Papaya. You may too, from the movie "You've Got Mail".

You can’t miss Gray’s, with its huge neon marquee on the corner of Broadway and W. 72nd Street and the wafting smell of grilled franks.

Grays Papaya

A frank with ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, onions, and relish will set you back at just $2.95.

For another two bucks, get one of the creamy, foamy tropical-flavored drinks.

Those on a tight budget with a big appetite will love the “Recession Special” (two Franks and a medium tropical flavored drink) for $6.95 and that’s including tax!

  • Address: 2090 Broadway at 72nd Street
  • Hours:
    • Sun-Wed 8 am - 10 pm
    • Thurs-Sat 8 am - 11 pm

11. Mei Lai Wah

Come for the best Roasted Pork Bun in Chinatown. Stay for the Pineapple Pork Bun.

The baked buns are a bit smaller than the size of a fist, with a firm, yet lightly flakey shell. Inside is a tangy roast pork filling. 

Mei Lai Wah

There’s very little room to move around in this shop, so once your order is ready, you’ll have to take it to go. 

If you are going late in the afternoon, you may want to call ahead as they may sell out of them as devotees snatch up 5 boxes at a time!

  • Address: 62 Bayard St. in Chinatown
  • Hours: Daily 8:30 am to 7:30 pm

12. B&H Dairy

This tiny no-frills diner-style restaurant has been serving old-world comfort food since 1938. 

It's one of the best restaurants in the East Village given the amazing food and equally amazing prices.

The $8.50 breakfast is available until 11 am and comes with two eggs any style, home fries, thick challah bread, orange juice and coffee or tea.

You can't order a side of bacon as B&H is Kosher and vegetarian.

B and H Dairy

Other terrific dishes on the menu are sweet cheese blintzes, boiled pierogies, borscht, and crispy potato pancakes. 

Be sure to check the menu if you crave something in particular. Each day of the week has its own specials and soups.

  • Address: 127 2nd Ave in the East Village
  • Hours:
    • Mon- Fri 7 am to 11:30 pm
    • Sat-Sun 7 am to midnight

13. Fried Dumpling

This hidden gem hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown is little more than a counter where you order.

The menu has just two items: 5 fried dumplings for $1.25 and 4 fried pork buns for $1.25 (cash only).

Stick with their specialty. Though they aren’t the biggest fried dumplings in town, they are delectable, lightly fried with a flavorsome pork filling. 

Fried Dumpling

They are served on a paper plate with a fork, and you can use soy sauce or hot sauce found at the counter.

Given that these dumplings are one of the best cheap eats in the city, expect a line.

Once you get your order, you will have to take them outside of the shop to eat, but it won't take you more than 5 minutes to finish them all  -- they are just that good!

  • Address: 106 Mosco St. in Chinatown
  • Hours: Daily 10 am to 9 pm

14. Ess-a-Bagel

Ess-a-Bagel has been making huge, delicious bagels in Midtown Manhattan since 1976. 

Lightly crunchy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside, their bagels can be eaten plain, but add one of the 20 cream cheese flavors for a filling sandwich.

ess a bagel

They don’t do any wacky bagel flavors here - just the classics: plain, poppy, onion, garlic, sesame, salt, and everything (all the toppings just listed!). 

A bagel with plain cream cheese is just under $5. Want a more substantial breakfast? Get a BEC (bacon, egg, and cheese) on a bagel for $9.

For lunch, you can’t go wrong with tuna or egg salad on a bagel for around $8.

Ess-A-Bagel is great, but there is some competition! Find out who they are from our post, 15 Best Bagels in New York City


Tips from Locals and Travelers

You don't have to take it from us that the places above are great.

We asked the more than 230,000 members of our NYC Travel Tips Facebook Group what their favorite cheap eats are.

Here are just a handful of replies, but many more members have loved the cheap eats listed in this post.

A group member visiting NYC asked for recommendations of the best bagels and Ess-a-Bagel was pretty popular.

Los Tacos came up often as did Joe’s Pizza.

Many of our group members went searching in Chinatown for fantastic and cheap food and found it.

Fried Dumpling was incredibly popular and Mei-Lai-Wah came up as well.

Halal Guys received many votes. Here one group member gives you some tips on what you can expect.

Hope you enjoy the cheap eats in this post as much as we do!


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About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: February 10th, 2024
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