There’s nothing wrong with fancy but sometimes cheap can’t be beat! When visiting NYC, it’s nice to take a break from the city’s expensive eateries and head to some more economical and affordable restaurants—many of which can rival their costly counterparts in terms of food and service. Our New York team chimed in on their top picks for dining on a budget (think $20 or less).
Desmond’s is a no-frills bar in Midtown East, where screen legend Veronica Lake was a waitress in the 1940s, is the type of place where one might expect to just pull a stool up to the long wooden bar, have a beer and bop to ‘90s rock selections on the jukebox. But, low and behold, in the back of this watering hole is a spacious dining room where patrons can choose from a menu of comfort foods—from grilled cheese and burgers to wing dings and chili. Daily lunch specials are in the $3 to $5 range—not too shabby.
“Desmond’s on Park Avenue is great for lunch (takeout or eat in) and will only set you back $10 or less. Good food, nice people.”—Daniel Finnegan, Senior Credit Manager
Hotel Saravana Bhavan
This international chain of restaurants—with locations in Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Kips Bay neighborhoods—boasts Indian vegetarian cuisine. The almost never-ending menu includes curries, rice dishes, a wide variety of naan and more.
“I opt for the Dosa, which is similar to a crepe or pancake, at this delicious South Indian restaurant on Lexington Avenue. The thin, crispy shell surrounds spiced potatoes and onions. It normally comes with three different chutneys and sambar—an onion lentil soup. My aunt from South India always takes me there and the food is authentic.”—Joni Sweet, Associate Editor
Kipsey’s Kitchen & Bar
This Kips Bay restaurant prides itself on offering patrons market-driven, home-style food made from scratch—think rotisserie chicken, schnitzel or homemade meatloaf, plus a side and soda for $8.95!
“This diner-style restaurant has well-made comfort food at affordable prices. I tried a lunch special, which comes with an entrée, side and soda. The portion sizes of the smoked brisket and fries were more than enough for a meal, so I also had a decent amount of leftovers.”—Lynn Rickert, Webmaster and Blog Editor
This cheese shop offers much more than the average cheddar, including artisanal sandwiches topped with Brie, Havarti and munster, plus a plethora of fancy fixins. A half sandwich will set you back no more than $7, while a whole is fewer than $11.
“All of the sandwiches sound delicious, but I usually stick with the Manou: buffalo chicken, sundried tomatoes and smoked Gouda on super crunchy bread.”—Lynn Rickert, Webmaster and Blog Editor
Who says you need to go to New England to enjoy savory fare from the sea? With several locations, including a coveted spot in The Plaza Food Hall, Luke’s Lobster is the perfect place for lobster, crab and shrimp rolls in the $8 to $18 range—plus a ton of hearty “extras,” like New England Clam Chowder and Cape Cod Chips.
“I love the warm lobster roll with butter—there’s just a swipe of mayo and that’s the beauty of it!”—Adeline Tafuri Jurecka, Senior Vice President of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships
The Meatball Shop
Carnivorous cravings are easily satisfied at this popular NYC eatery—where a tried-and-true classic gets a creative twist. With locations throughout Manhattan, including the Lower East Side, Chelsea, West Village and Upper East and West Sides, as well as a BK spot in Williamsburg, those in search of a meaty treat can opt for four meatballs of the beef, spicy pork, chicken and veggie varieties. Top it off with classic tomato, spicy meat, mushroom gravy, Parmesan or pesto sauce and a side of focaccia bread for a steal.
“It’s always high-quality food and there are always specials. It’s also a really cool concept: you pick the “ball” and the “bottom”—meaning bread, pastas, etc. Honestly, you can get a full-blown meal for $12.”—Maria Pavlovets, Senior Manager, Accounts & Special Events
Health-conscious folks will find plenty of budget-friendly options at this downtown Manhattan chain, where fresh, no-frills food that packs a flavorful punch is the name of the game.
“Westville has a great atmosphere plus hip, cheap and healthy food—like a protein with a side of veggies. You can also just get a plate of three of four seasonal vegetables. I personally love the green cauliflower, chicken in lemon, and Brussels sprouts. It’s simple, delicious and served quickly. Delivery is also great.—Sarabeth Brusati, Sales Marketing Assistant
When a filling snack will suffice, nothing beats dumplings—and this LES hidden gem is a place to eat until your heart’s content without breaking the bank, as most menu items max out at $3.
“When my cash-flow is low and my hunger’s in high-gear, I think: dumplings, dumplings. The Lower East Side’s Prosperity Dumpling (69 Clinton St., btw Stanton & Rivington sts., 212.228.0988; there’s another in Chinatown)—ironically named, I know—is a penny-pinchers paradise. A meager dollar will yield four plump, juicy suckers—steamed or fried, but I’m a fried kind of guy. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, and not the place to bring a date or your mother, but it does the trick.”—William Grant Frierson IV, Associate Editor