New Yorkers love cheap eats, from two pizzas for lunch ($6) to chicken and broccoli from a take-out menu ($9) for dinner. New York City offers many restaurants, pubs and bars with cheap findings, and we were dedicated to finding ones where every item on the menu is $25 and under. If you rule out chains in Time Square (Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday, among others), if you rule out pizza places, other chains like Chipotle, Subway, and McDonald’s, delis, diners, bar foods, burger joints like Smash Burger and Shake Shack, food trucks, or any handheld and convenience foods, you’re basically left with no cheap eating options.
The restaurants we sought out had to be not only cheap, but also “real”—places where you can sit down and relax, where the menus don’t have pictures of the food on them, where the kitchen is made up of chefs (mostly those who are renowned), and where we knew the food would be good. With all that in mind, we were actually able to find a treasure trove of restaurants around New York City and its boroughs. It turns out there’s a lot if you know where to look, so we winnowed our list to our top ten favorites, where each restaurant offered something new, an emphasis on fresh ingredients, and a menu full of food under $25 and under. Ready to start taking notes?
178 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009
This new laid-back restaurant specializes in breakfast and lunch using only locally-sourced ingredients. Mouthwatering menu items include a chicken and eggs breakfast (slow cooked chicken with potatoes, chicken jus and two eggs) and, for lunch, an aged cheddar grilled cheese on brioche with caramelized onions. The space is small and intimate, and offers meals to go if you don’t like to feel cramped. The menu’s highest priced item is $12.
303 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026
On many Caribbean islands, the ‘lolo’ refers to a small traditional restaurant where you can taste the flavors of the local cuisine. An ode to Caribbean beach vacations, small counter-order LoLo’s Seafood Shack offers Caribbean street eats like Conch Fritters alongside classic New England favorites like steampots with its many signature sauces, which is the most famous fare here. You select your seafood—shrimp, crawfish, snow crab legs—and your sauce, which includes garlic butter and Old Bay, ginger butter and scallion, coco curry, and a special sauce made just for the restaurant. Everything on the menu is under $20.
Lunch spread at Lolo’s Seafood Shack in Harlem, NYC. Pic by @ediblemoments A photo posted by @eater on
193 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012
A brick-walled eatery specializing in savory & sweet Lebanese flatbreads baked in-house, Manousheh basically brings the taste of Beirut to the city. The small, thin disks of dough are baked to order and topped six ways. The simplest is drizzled with olive oil and za’atar (a spice blend of sesame seeds, sumac, and thyme). After a quick puffing up in the oven, the flatbread is folded in half and served piping hot on a piece of parchment paper, a mix of soft and crisp at the same time. You can also get your flatbread topped with jibneh, a soft white cheese, or a salad of avocado, tomato, cucumber, mint, and za’atar. The most expensive meal on the menu is the $9 avocado and za’atar, with ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, mint, Lebanese olives and cucumbers drizzled with olive oil and sumac.
132 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009
Empellon al Pastor is a tequila bar and taco joint. Tortillas are homemade and are supple and tasty, with flavor and texture. The headliner taco al pastor includes fatty bits of pork mixed with sweet slivers of pineapple and three piquant salsas. Four dollar tacos are served on paper plates while bartenders sling $10 mezcal tonics. The eatery is in Alphabet City in New York City and is set in an old bar. By the time Empellon al Pastor opens for the day, packed crowds have formed, all waiting to taste the taco al pastor, along with other tacos with ingredients like beer braised pork tongue and chicken and chipotle. All the tacos range from $4-$7 dollars and the most expensive item on the menu are chicken wings.
Viva nachos. Empellon Al Pastor. A photo posted by Nick Solares (@nicksolares) on
231 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002
Nothing is over $12 at this cozy, 35-seat Italian eatery where only long pasta is served and which can be enjoyed not only in a dish, but also in a cone, to-go. For takeout, spaghetti on a cone was inspired by the way Italians served their street food at festivals back in the 1950s. The menu offers nine types of long pasta dishes like fresh spaghetti or bucatini dipped in delicate yet flavorful classic sauces like carbonara, bolognese, or amatriciana. The restaurant has a ’70s-inspired interior, a chef’s counter that overlooks the open kitchen, and that superior cone of pasta that you can take to the streets. Don’t forget to bring cash, as the restaurant is cash-only.
130 Division St, New York, NY 10002
This Greek restaurant in Chinatown pays homage to its location with a sign on its awning in Chinese characters. The food on the menu is known as being straightforward, with such dishes as moussaka with potatoes, ground beef, pork and eggplant, and the shrimp dish with anise-laced liquor and heavy cream served with or without spaghetti. These now-famous dishes make Kiki’s a destination spot. The restaurant is warm and cozy, with exposed-wood beams, and everything on the menu is under $20.
295 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Rose’s is a bar and grill with an emphasis on sustainable food. The restaurant is located near the Barclay Centers, which makes Rose’s a great hangout for pre or post food, especially since it has a bar that features hand-chosen craft beer. While there are only 14 items on the menu right now (which includes desserts), Rose’s is known for their simple hamburger with fries. The now renowned burgers come with no toppings, and no special sauces. They’re just made of a juicy patties and buttery seed buns. The burger is $15, and the highest price on the menu is for a pork loin that costs $19, still below our $25 and under price.
250 Broome St, New York, NY 10002
Kottu House is located in a compact storefront with brick walls on the Lower East Side. It features Sri Lankan food such as chopped roti dishes with different spice levels, and beef rolls, made from ground beef, curry powder and shredded vegetables. Their flat bread has texture and offers a shell for ingredients after being fried, making it both crisp and chewy. The food is like appetizers—called “short eats”—and is served with cups of sriracha hot sauce for dipping. Those beef rolls are only $6 each, and the highest price on the menu is a large order of crispy prawn for $16.
A photo posted by @plaisirsdelavie_ on
471 16th St, Brooklyn, NY 11215
The East Wind Snack Shop in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, is a Chinese snack shop specializing in dumplings, buns and, above all, their now-famous Hong Kong hot cakes (or “egg cakes”). Also on the menu is a roasted pork baked char Sui Bao and a salt and pepper vegetable spring roll. The East Wind is inspired by old school Chinatown and is dedicated to creating the freshest dumplings, which are made from scratch every day with house-made dough. In fact, everything on the menu is fresh and made from scratch every day using responsibly-sourced ingredients. The most expensive thing on the menu is the $12 for sweet chili ribs with jasmine rice.
A photo posted by Brian Kennedy (@bkinbklyn) on