Explore New York City

New York City on a Budget: Five Meals Under $20

It’s easy to find a great bite in NYC without breaking the bank.

Budget Eats in New York City

There are over 25,000 restaurants in the state of New York. Choosing a restaurant to eat in is often a daunting task with many possibilities. While New York has countless expensive five-star restaurant options, it also has an equal share of more affordable choices where you don’t have to sacrifice flavor. Whether you are in the mood for a bowl of ramen, slice of pizza or even vegetarian fare, New York has some of the best restaurants that serve delicious meals for under $20.

Joe’s Pizza

Joe’s Pizza has been a Greenwich institution since 1975 and has often been referred to as the best pizza in New York. Joe’s is best known for thin-crust pies and celebrity clientele, whose photos can be seen on the restaurant walls. We love Joe’s for the consistency in each slice. Each slice is as impressive as the last one. They serve the classic New York-style pizza with a tomato sauce with a tinge of sweetness, a crust that is perfectly crispy and chewy, and each slice has just the right amount of cheese. A full-size cheese pie is $20, while a slice of pizza is only $3. The owner, Joe Pozzuoli, still supervises the original location on Carmine Street. There are four other locations in New York, with another in Michigan. 

Pizza Fresh From the Oven | WhereTraveler
Pizza Fresh From the Oven (©Thomas Tucker)

Carnegie Diner & Café

The Carnegie Diner & Café is located just steps away from Carnegie Hall in Midtown Manhattan. We love the well-lit space and the overall happy vibe we get when we walk into the diner. It’s hard to ignore the beautiful aroma of pancakes, burgers and French fries that welcomes you when you walk through the door. The menu consists of classic American fare, so there is something for everyone. We love the all-day breakfast options with omelets, pancakes, waffles and French toast all priced under $20. Try the “Banana Nutella Strawberries” pancakes made with fresh bananas, strawberries and Nutella hazelnut spread. They are as wonderful to look at as they are to eat. Salads, sandwiches, burgers and pasta are also on the menu for under $20. We have yet to try something on the menu that we did not like. 

Banana Nutella Pancakes at Carnegie Diner & Café New York City | WhereTraveler
Banana Nutella Pancakes at Carnegie Diner & Café (Photo By @omgihtslinda)

Ippudo New York

It’s ramen season, and who doesn’t love eating a big bowl of comfort on a chilly New York day? Ippudo was first established in Japan in 1985 and now has over 100 locations throughout the country. The first restaurant outside of Japan opened in 2008 in New York and has become a popular ramen mainstay with locations on the Westside, East Village, and Fifth Avenue. Their popular Tonkatsu ramens are made with lots of love. The soup is cooked for 18 hours then aged for a whole day giving it a silky smooth texture. It is served in four different ways (classic, spicy, modern and miso) with vegetarian options as well. All Ramen bowls are priced at $20 or less.  

Spring Café

Spring Café is a newly opened Aspen-based restaurant located on West 4th and Mercer Street. Only 100% organic ingredients are used in its kitchen that solely cooks vegetarian food. At the forefront of each culinary creation are health and wellness, from non-toxic materials to build the restaurant to filtered water. The menu features a delightful mix of breakfast staples, salads, sandwiches and entrees. The restaurant’s beer and wine menu features a blend of biodynamic and organic wines along with a hyper-local beer program.

Breakfast at Spring Café Aspen consists of classic favorites like “Avocado Toast” or “Blueberry Pancakes” made with almond and brown rice flour. The “Power Play” menu features breakfast bowls, burritos and omelets. Try “Bianca’s Sandwich” made with eggs, tomato, onions, vegan cheese and avocado served on a sprouted bagel or gluten-free bagel. There is even a “Little Sprouts” menu for children with items such as the “Babycakes,” almond and brown rice flour pancakes served with organic maple syrup. All breakfast items are under $20. 

Juices at Spring Café New York City | WhereTraveler
Juices at Spring Café (©Melanie Dunea)

Ugly Donuts & Corn Dogs

If you have never tried a Korean Hot Dog, you are missing out on the crispy goodness you did not know you needed in your life. Sweet rice flour is used to create an extra crunchy coating on each corn dog, and they are filled with items such as sausage or cheese. The famous “Ugdog” from Ugly Donuts & Corn Dogs comes in the classic flavors with mozzarella cheese and has unique flavors like the “Premium Pizza” made with tomato sauce, basil pesto and garlic powder. All corn dogs are under six dollars. Don’t miss out on the “Ugnuts.” These twisted donuts are made with glutinous rice, making each donut chewy and crispy. Each donut is $1.99.