New York City is notoriously known for being expensive. While there is definitely no shortage of meals where you can blow an entire paycheck, you’ll also stumble across tons of affordable options in the nooks and crannies of the city.
Whether you’re looking for a quick bite at a hole in the wall, or craving a decadent dinner in New York City, I’ve got you covered. Being born and raised in New York City doesn’t just mean I’ve grown accustomed to random pigeon attacks. I’ve eaten my way across the city and discovered some incredible food throughout the years.
Italian / West Village / 21 Bedford St
Perfect for: Romantic date night
What to get: Crostini Porchetta, Crostini di Pulpo, Parpadelle Cinghiale (wild boar), Tortelli Prosciutto
Cotenna is a cozy restaurant tucked away on a picturesque street in the West Village serving a solid menu of ciccchetti (appetizers), pasta, salad, and charcuterie, coupled with an extensive wine list.
The intimate space features a tile bar and snug table seating. It gives off rustic vibes for those who prefer a low key experience with awesome food. The restaurant is pretty small, so be sure to make a reservation beforehand.
Pizza / Nolita / 235 Mulberry St
Perfect for: Casual lunch or dinner with friends
What to get: Tie Dye pie (vodka, tomato, pesto, fresh mozzarella)
While there’s usually a great debate over where to find the best slice of pizza in New York, most people can agree that Rubirosa makes one of the city’s best pies.
This is evidenced by the hefty wait times and rare reservations, but trust me…it’s worth it. The thin crust masterpiece is perfect – crisp enough to hold sauce and toppings without getting soggy but soft enough to give that wonderful chew that only Rubirosa can deliver.
Greek / Lower East Side / 130 Division St
Perfect for: Date night or casual dinner – so flexible!
What to get: Moussaka, Grilled Octopus, Grilled Loukaniko (sausage), Lamb Chops
Kiki’s easily became a favorite spot for me to grab dinner with friends or have a casual date night when I’m in the mood for incredible Greek food. The unassuming storefront features a single sign with red Chinese characters paying homage to its home in the outskirts of Chinatown.
Even with two dining rooms, each with its own bar, the wait can be 30+ minutes during dinner time on the weekends, so try to make it for an earlier dinner before 7pm to avoid a crowd.
Turkish / Upper East Side / 1431 3rd Ave
Perfect for: A satisfying meal after a day at the museums
What to get: Cold Meze Platter, Doner Kebab, Ahtapot Salatasi (grilled octopus)
If you find yourself on museum mile looking for a place to have lunch or dinner, be sure to check out Beyoglu. The Turkish Lavas bread that accompanies the Cold Meze Platter is so pillowy soft, I could easily make a whole meal of it. But the real MVP here is the Doner Kebab with its thinly sliced lamb and beef over a rich rice pilaf. The windows of the restaurant open up directly onto the sidewalk patio, allowing for much coveted al fresco dining in NYC.
Fried Chicken / Alphabet City / 94 Avenue C
Perfect for: Dinner with friends or solo-dining
What to get: Chicken Little, Tenders Plate, Mac and Cheese
This is where you go for consistently great fried chicken paired with rich comfort food sides. The meat is ridiculously juicy with crispy skin that isn’t dripping in oil.
I prefer the alphabet city location, which is a very small space with only a few tables, so keep it to a small group (no more than a party of four) or just dine solo. If there’s a wait, you can grab a beer next door at Alphabet City Beer Co until your name is called. For those who can make it before 7pm during the week, the happy hour offers HIGH VALUE with chicken and beer costing a mere $5.50.
Chinese / Chinatown / 21 Mott St
Perfect for: Satiating your dumpling craving
What to get: Steamed Tiny Buns with Pork (soup dumplings aka xiao long bao), Fried Tiny Buns with Pork (sheng jiang bao), Wontons Szechuan-style
Shanghai Asian Manor has been a staple in my Chinatown eating tours. It’s located on the far east end of Mott st. adjacent to Joe’s Shanghai, and has gotten arguably more popular than its neighbor.
Put yourself on the waitlist (there will always be a wait list) and wait patiently with the crowd of other hungry customers. If razor thin dumpling skins are what you’re into, these are not it but they’re still delicate, warm, and filled with flavorful soup, so you probably won’t want to share.
Chinese / Chinatown / 67 Mott St
Perfect for: Authentic Cantonese food complete with loud, laughing waiters
What to get: Roast pork and roast duck topped with a fried egg over white rice (ask for more fatty pieces of pork if you want the juicy bits)
Chinatown’s architectural facade is changing rapidly along with the faces of its inhabitants, but one thing I can count on is returning to the consistently delicious Cantonese food at Big Wong. The food, experience and even the design of the restaurant have not changed since my mother first brought me there over 20 years ago.
The interior is unremarkable but you’re not there for the ambiance or the service – you’re there for the roast pork, roast duck, suckling pig, and congee. It is the ultimate comfort food at a price that’s affordable (my go-to is the plate of roast pork, duck, and a fried egg over rice for roughly just $7).
What are some of your favorite affordable restaurants in the city? Let us know in the comments below!