Cheap Eats in New York City

How to Eat for Under $25 a Meal (and no, food carts are not included)

New York City. A place known for its diverse cultural mix, its rich arts scene, its amazing shopping, and some of the best restaurants in the world. While New York is one of the most highly visited city in the world, it’s also known for its high cost of living.

People visiting NYC on a budget often arrive with the expectation that they will spend their holiday eating nothing but street hot dogs and bagels. Not that street hot dogs and bagels aren’t delicious – quite the opposite actually, they are a quintessential part of the NYC experience; however, it is a common misconception that you can’t get incredible meals in NYC for a decent price. Even budget traveler-foodies can experience all the amazing culinary masterpieces that this city has to offer. Ok, maybe not all, but there are many opportunities to eat at high-quality restaurants with great reputations for less than the taxi-ride costs back to your hostel in Brooklyn.

The following is a Monday-Sunday guide to excellent dinners in NYC, all for under $25 per person. 

Monday

Osteria Morini 

Osteria

You know when you’re in a foreign country (in this case Italy), you have a really fantastic meal, and you think nostalgically, “Wow, if only I could get an authentic meal like this one back home.” Then, months later, you hear about a restaurant that has “typical Italian cuisine,” so you (skeptically) decide to try it? While most of the time you are disappointed, one visit to Osteria Morini, and you will feel like you are back in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

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This restaurant is fully booked almost every night, and while normally their menu is on the pricier end of the spectrum, industry nights afford you the opportunity to try some of their incredible dishes for just $10 each. Try the cappelletti with truffled ricotta ravioli, melted butter, and prosciutto, or the risotto verde with shrimp, spring vegetables, and fossa cheese, and you will feel ashamed that you even considered ordering that extra value meal at McDonalds in order to save a few bucks on your budget.

Cuisine: Italian

When: Monday nights, anytime after 9pm

What: Any pasta dish on the menu is only $10

Location: 218 Lafayette St (between Kenmare St & Cleveland Pl), Soho

Tuesday

Agozar

Agozar offers a wide variety of traditional Cuban dishes; add to that a fantastic array of creative cocktails, lively music, and a great ambience, and your Tuesday night just got that much more loco. Traditional dishes such as Camarones al Ajillo (shrimp, double garlic sauce) and Flautas (crispy flour tortilla, beef picadillo, salsa verde, crema nata) are just a few examples of the impressive tapas dishes that you can choose from.

Lucky for you, on Monday and Tuesday nights every tapas dish is half off when you sit in the bar area. Go with a big group so you can sample everything. Oh, and don’t forget to try a mojito, or a few – they have 10 different flavors to choose from. 

Cuisine: Cuban

When: Monday and Tuesday nights, all night at the bar

What: All tapas dishes and cocktails are half price

Location: 324 Bowery at 1st Street, East Village 

Wednesday

Vanessa’s Dumpling House 

Vanessa

Thought it was impossible to get dinner in Manhattan for less than $25? Well, at Vanessa’s Dumpling House they do you one better. At this no-frills dumpling house on the Lower East Side, you can fill up on an assortment of dumplings, soups, and Vietnamese sandwiches for less than $10 per person.

The flavors are incredible, and while the ambiance is nothing noteworthy, this is always a fantastic place to people watch. Try a sesame pancake with roasted beef and a bowl of roasted pork noodle soup, and you will probably have leftovers for the next day.

Cuisine: Asian Fusion

When: All the time

What: Almost all dishes are less than $7

Location: 118 Eldridge Street, Lower East Side 

Thursday

Taka Taka

Taka Taka

New York City is famous for its creative integration of cuisines that you would never think complement one another. Can’t decide between a taco or a California roll? Then visit the trendy Soho restaurant Taka Taka, where the bold, spicy flavors of Mexico are blended with the light and delicate flavors of Japan.

Sushi, (especially for those with large appetites) can quickly make for a really expensive meal, but Taka Taka makes the sushi eating experience not only unforgettable (think sushi rolls like the Kakashi – a shrimp and chile pigu roll with mango, cucumber, cheese and avocado), but affordable. 

Cuisine: Mexican Sushi and Japanese Tacos

When: Monday to Friday, 3-6pm

What: Three plates of sushi off of their conveyor belt for $12, and various drink specials

Location: 330 West Broadway (between Canal St & Grand St), Soho 

Friday

Panna II

New York

This little gem is the perfect start to any weekend. With its festive décor (think a ceiling covered in fake plants and Christmas lights that hang so low they almost touch your food), authentic Indian cuisine, and over-enthusiastic staff, there’s no better place to get you amped for the weekend than Panna II. Even better, its dishes are enormous, full of flavor, and its BYOB.

Try the butter or tandoori chicken, the pakoras, and definitely don’t leave without a traditional lassi. Oh, and make sure to ask for Panna II by name – the overzealous restaurant next door will try to steal your patronage, but it’s not nearly as fun. 

Cuisine: Indian

When: All the time

What: Almost all dishes are less than $15

Location: 93 1st Ave, at 6th street 

Saturday

Grimaldi’s Pizza

Grimaldi's

You can’t leave NYC without trying a famous slice, and there’s nowhere that makes them better than Grimaldi’s. Nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge, this famous pizzeria only sells two things – pizza and antipasto, and while the lines are always long, it is well worth the wait.

A large pizza comes with 8 enormous slices and is perfect for sharing, the vino is around $7 a glass, and the ambiance is about as authentic old-school pizzeria as you can get. A tip – if you don’t mind sitting at the bar, walk to the front of the line and they’ll seat you immediately. 

Cuisine: Pizza

When: All the time

What: All pizzas are less than  $20

Location: 1 Front St, Brooklyn 

Sunday

Cedric’s French Bistro-Bar

This cute French-style bistro hidden in Harlem is a breath of fresh air and is indicative of the changing neighborhood.  With décor that is the perfect replication of a quintessential Parisian bistro, and food that is simple yet flavorful, it is worth the trip up north.

Cedric’s menu offers an extensive array of authentic French dishes and cocktails that are artfully bended with its local roots. Take advantage of the early dinner prix-fix menu, which allows you to choose either an appetizer and main course, or main course and dessert. Dishes like traditional hanger steak or mussels will give you a little taste of Paris.

Cuisine: French

When: Everyday from 5-7pm

What: $25 prix fix 2-course dinner

Location: 185 St Nicholas Avenue (at 119th street), Harlem

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If you’re looking for itinerary ideas, check out the following multi-stop trip that includes New York. If this particular itinerary doesn’t fit your travel needs, then sign up for a free account on Indie to customize, price, and book your trip!

For more on travel to New York, check out the following articles and resources:

Are you a local New Yorker who has hidden gems to share? Comment below and tell our reader’s where to go on their next trip to the Big Apple.

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Photo credits: Anthony Jackson, Agozardpstyles, Maggie Hoffman, goodiesfirst, Instant Vantage, Randy Le’Moine Photography,

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