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Where do the starving artists eat in Manhattan?

I'm a newly-minted college grad that starts working in the city tomorrow. I grew up in Westchester and have restaurant-loving parents who constantly took us into the city for eats. I've been to a lot of the "big" places (Union Sq Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Gotham B and B, Cafe Gray, the McNally empire etc.) so I like good food served in nice environments. Problem is, my parents cut me off and my meager salary won't allow me to eat out as well as I've become accustomed to.

Any suggestions for young/fun/tasty and, above all, affordable places to sit down and eat? I'll need a break from pizza/hot dogs/chinese every once in a while...

Also, cheap drinks are a definite plus (college partying is still very fresh in my mind)

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  1. Tons. How about a locale & taste preferences?

    1. Working on the UWS (around Lincoln Center).

      Living in the burbs for now (unforch) but hope to move into an apt soon. It will probably be Midtown/Murray Hill neighborhood or the LES.

      I'll eat pretty much anything that's thrown at me, so am very open to different cuisines. More into places with unique, fun atmospheres...

      1. The Lincoln Center area is a tough call. I don't know the area well, but the times I've looked for interesting stuff there it was pricey. Cheaper places were just not attractive. Murray Hill's a bit easier because you're near Little India. Other suggestions will probably flow, but let's start out with Kalyustan's upstairs service. Kalyustan market is one of the most famous places for Indian and other provisions on that strip (I think it's between 29th and 30th on Lex, east side of the street). Upstairs they have wonderful fast food. It's cheap and easy and very fulfilling. Their mujadara, for example, is among the best I've had. (This is not Indian food, although there may be some Indian dishes
        mixed in. The owners are Lebanese, I think.)Anyway, please do try it - you won't be disappointed.

        For Indian food that is both FAST and really GOOD, you don't have to go too far.

        5 West 31st Street
        (212) 967-2727

        And there's another location:

        138 West 46th Street
        (212) 398-4600

        These places are great, and I've had my opinion supported by more than one Indian colleague who's told me that the food here has
        exactly the sort of taste and feel they associate with home.

        There's a lot of REALLY good, REALLY cheap places in Chinatown I can recommend, though you said you wanted to get away from Chinese. The places I'm talking about require a bit more intimate knowledge of Chinese to take advantage of anyway, as the best fare is not necessarily obvious or in English.

        There are two shops called simply "The Hummus Place" that I'd recommend very highly. Somehow these folks have come up with a recipe that takes an old standard and makes it almost addictive. They have a "dinner" for, iirc, $8.75 that includes any hummus, soup or salad, pickles and a drink. It's very fulfilling and well-done. The east side shop is at 109 St. Marks, west side at 99 MacDougal. I believe they have one on Amsterdam avenue as well, so that may be more convenient to work. Check Citysearch.

        That's what comes to mind at the moment.

        BTW, none of these places have any atmosphere to speak of. For that, someone else will have to advise.

        Good luck, DGI

        3 Replies
        1. re: mulciber

          Also be sure to check this thread:

          The Hummus Place is great. The new UWS location is 305 Amsterdam Ave. between 74th and 75th Sts. And that's probably far cheaper than most of your other UWS options. (I hope my bosses' real estate deal to move our office to that area has fallen through. I don't want to go to the Upper Snooty Side! Yuck! Chow wasteland!


          I haven't been to the UWS location of Hummus Place, but based on the MacDougal St. location and especially the St. Mark's Pl. location, I'd say that the Hummus Place has some of the nicest atmosphere of any super-cheap restaurant in Manhattan. Nothing fancy, but pleasant, comfortable, relaxing, and simple. (Oh, and usually there are some *very* cute Israeli girls working there, if that matters to you.) :)

          Personally I think the combo special at $8.75 or $7.95 or whatever is not the best deal there, but then I don't love cucumbers, so Israeli salad doesn't do anything for me. (And if you REALLY want to save money, then no matter WHERE you go, skip the drinks and just go with water. Although the fresh lemonade at the Hummus Place is awfully tempting, admittedly.)

          I also second Kalustyan's upstairs cafe.

          And cswim06, I don't think you should count out all Chinese food unless you've had a lot of experience eating actual authentic stuff in Chinatown, as opposed to lame Americanized Chinese takeout. Search these boards for great tips on incredibly cheap places in Chinatown that'll blow you away. One great place is New Bai Wei. Three dishes over rice for $3. And the quality of the five-for-a-dollar dumplings at the new place, Prosperity Dumpling at 46 Eldridge St. btwn. Canal and Hester, is really great, and the people there are really friendly too. (Thanks to NYC Nosh for reporting on this.) I like their dumplings better than the ones at the very popular Dumpling House, further up Eldridge (NOTE: your mileage may vary). However, the place is severely lacking in atmosphere even compared to other dumpling joints.


          1. re: Ike

            Glad to see our love of Prosperity Dumpling is spreading. SUCH sweet people and fantastic food.


            NYCnosh* http://nycnosh.com

            1. re: Ike

              Just an FYI: last time I was at the St.Marks outpost of Hummus Pl. they told me they only do the combo special now until 4pm I believe. Won't stop me from going for dinner though!

          2. Around University place, you have a lot of restaurants and not too expensive because of the university students near by. You can go to El Cantinero on the second floor where at happy hour they have cheap drinks, the frozen margarita at 4$ is the best, and a buffet which is free. The downstairs restaurant is equally nice and not too expensive.

            The cedar tavern just besides El Cantinero is good, has a good atmosphere and is not too expensive.

            If you want more upscale, without paying too much, you can go to Otto. They have quartinos of wine and small plates which cost not too much.

            1. tacos- tehuitzintga ....47th &10th
              burgers & beer- corner bistro....west 4th & 8th ave.?
              thai- Sripraphai...6413 39th ave..woodside qns
              fantastic sit down french- 360...360 van brundt..red hook brooklyn
              soup dumplings- joe's on mott...believe the hype
              gourmet (hate that word)malaysian...fatty crab...8th ave & horatio
              vietnamese- pho viet huong...mulberry off canal
              comfort- mama's...200 e 3rd
              panini- ino...21 bedford
              great cheap italian- supper....156 e 2nd

              good luck

              1. I think your best bets are Hell's Kitchen and the LES/EV area.

                In the former, try Q2 Thai - it's really cute, cheap and the food is tasty. Then again, you can just walk down 9th Ave and take your pick... There a trendy bars (either regular or of the wine persuasion) springing up there, too.

                In the latter, again, there are too many to list. But you can start at Café Deville, Café Mogador, 7A, Jules, Kasadela, etc. Some turn into night spots, but if not, take a stroll on St.Marks and you'll be all set.

                1 Reply
                1. re: piccola

                  If you're in Hells' Kitchen and are craving Thai, I would give Wondee Siam (the small one between 52nd adn 53rd on the East side of the street) a try. It's really great, and cheaper than Q2 (and I would argue much better).

                2. I totally feel ya - newly ex-student right here.

                  In addition to all those mentioned above (though I've never been to Kasadela, according to all that I've read here, it might not be very cheap if you have as hearty an appetite as mine), here are some more suggestions in the EV:

                  Klong (Thai) - surprisingly inexpensive, with good drink deals during happy hour
                  Cafe Orlin (looks exactly like Cafe Mogador, often get them confused cos they both have good brunch)
                  Dojo for when you're nearing penniless status
                  Cafe Zaiya for sandwiches and prepared food
                  Pommes Frites
                  Atlas Cafe
                  Brick Lane Curry House (for Sunday buffet - eat enough and you'll be full all day. Quite economical in the end)
                  B&H Dairy
                  Little Poland/Christine's/Veselka/Neptune/Teresa's (Polish/Ukrainian diners)
                  San Loco
                  Stage Diner
                  Rai Rai Ken/Menkui-Tei (or is it Menchanko Tei?) for a big bowl of ramen
                  Ssam - haven't been yet, but looks really good
                  Punjab grocery (Houston and 1st Ave) - cabbie joint for cheap ass Indian
                  Chickpea/Rainbow for falafel
                  Zen (on St. Mark's) for half-priced sushi, if you're really desperate for sushi

                  That's all I can think of off the top of my head for now.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: janethepain

                    You're right about Kasadela. I'm a nibbler with a girly appetite, so it's pretty cheap, but you can rack up the bill if you're into heartier meals.

                  2. Woorijip on 32nd btwn 5th and b'way. super cheap korean deli-style(prepacked) lunch spot. seating in the back. they always have new/different things, so you'll never get sick of it!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ratgirl

                      This is a solid rec, give it a shot - I love this place :)

                    2. When I used to live at UWS, I'd sometimes go to the cafe/steakhouse inside Fairway on 74th. Try to snag a table by the windows and people watch.

                      1. Super Burrito on 23rd and 6th is a hole in the wall, looks awful, but very good tortas for $5 each. Two would be a big meal.

                        Way downtown, there is an Indian place called Salaam Bombay. I haven't been in a couple years, but it used to be very good, and the deal was the lunch buffet. Time it right, and that could be two meals. I think it was $14 or something like that. Maybe search for more recent

                        All the Japanese noodle places in the East Village are cheap, but very rushed.

                        1. Stand in line at "the cart" in the evenings. Full meal for $5.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                            You mean the dosas guy on Washington Sq. South?

                            1. re: sing me a bar

                              No. The evening (not day) cart on 53rd and 6th Avenue, SW corner.

                          2. If you're near St. Marks you might as well try Kenka (sp?) It's almost directly across from Dojo. It's downstairs and you'll notice a cotton candy machine when you enter. Cheap? Yes. Great food? it's edible. So why do I recommend it? one dollar pints of Sapporo beer, all day every day. I currently am a college student and just moved from living next door. It was a great way to start out a weekend night.

                            1. Spend lots of time at the Whole Foods food bar.

                              1. I am in the exact same situation..If college partying is still fresh in your mind try The Cottage on 77th and Amsterdam, althought it is Chinese, it is really good and you get all you can drink wine with your entree (yes, it is out of the box, but you can't beat the deal)...also Wild Ginger in the Village is great for Thai food, Lenny's (lots of locations) for sandwiches..Becco in the Theater District has a $21.95 deal that gets three types of pasta and a caesar salad (the pasta is gourmet, the last time I was there I had beet and goat cheese ravioli).....Ottomanelli Brothers cafe on the Upper East side for Italian, it is really small but good traditional Italian and it is BYOB...Tavern on Jane is also good (corner of Jane Street and 8th Avenue..