HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


Visiting NYC--need cheap rec's

Hi! I've searched a bit on the board but thought it would help to ask my question directly. I'm a professor coming on a research trip to NYC with a student. We're staying at the Affinia Hotel at 34th and Lexington. We'll be doing most of our research at the New York Public Library and a little at Columbia (for one day).

I'd like recommendations of relatively cheap places to eat since we will be using our travel budget, which is deflating rapidly due to cost of airline tix and lodging. I don't think she's been to NYC before so anything you would consider "quintessential" would be great. I'd love to take her for good bagels, cheap Asian food (like dumplings), decent Italian, but I'm also open to suggestion. We're certainly not opposed to subway rides and adventure, but I'm a bit nervous since this is the first time I've been responsible for a younger person in New York. Also, we're coming from Austin, if that helps give a sense of what kind of cuisine she's had (good south of the border and 'que).

I have to admit that I'd love to go to Perilla but am worried about our ability to get in and the expense.

Thanks for any help!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Szechuan Gourmet is very close to the 5th Ave. library. (39th St. between 5th and 6th Aves.) It's highly regarded by me and a number of others on the boards. Not everything on the menu is blazing hot - in fact about half of the dishes are mild. Very good food that's relatively cheap by NY standards.

    A recent thread -

    1. I'd definitely try and make it to Katz's Deli on Houston & Ludlow (Lower East Side).

      You can split a pastrami on rye, french fries or a knish and some Dr. Browns. Don't forget the pickles and NO mayo!


      1. for lunch go to grand central and sit at THE OYSTER BAR and share some oysters. by myself i get half a dozen, a bowl of manhattan clam chowder and a glass of wine or a draft beer and its about $25. a very ny experience. if you don't like oysters, for less money there is also a food court in grand central with lots of options -- i am thinking this is a good excuse to see grand central along with you lunch.

        just below your hotel on lex is the curry hill nabe. lots of inexpensive indian food options. i have not eaten around there in awhile, last time was the little deli upstairs in KALYUSTIANS grocery and another place was CHINESE MIRCH, an chinese-indian hybrid resturant. both were great. i am sure others will have curry hill recs.

        for bagels i know there is an ESS-A-BAGEL on 3rd ave in the 40's-50's somewhere, i dk what else good is any closer. my fav manhattan bagels are MURRAYS.

        even tho you are working i hope you find some time to enjoy your visit!

        1. I'm going to try and keep you in the same vicinity of the city so you can browse each of these places perhaps in one visit. You'll be mostly right along 1st Avenue, the East Village, with these recommendations. They are all very good, and best of all, you won't break the bank.

          Bagels: http://www.ess-a-bagel.com/

          Pizza: http://www.vinnyvincenz.com/

          Sweets: http://www.venierospastry.com/Merchan...

          Deli: http://www.katzdeli.com/

          1. On the block of 41st St. just in front of the library (41st St. between 5th Ave. and Madison Ave.) are a number of cheap Japanese places. The Yagura grocery store has a low cost lunch counter at the front of the store offering noodles and rice dishes.

            Pretty close to where you'll be staying is Manhattan's Koreatown. The main street of this area is 32nd St. Between 5th & 6th Aves., with other places scattered on the nearby blocks. Look around here for inexpensive lunch or dinner options. Many of the places here are open very late or even 24 hours.

            As someone above mentioned, you'll be staying just north of the so-called "Curry Hill" area of South Asian restaurants. There are a number of really cheap places aimed at cab drivers (many of whom come from that part of the world) that will give you a lot of steam table food cheap. Better are the area's many South Indian places, serving dosas, etc.. The best of these is Saravanna's on Lexington & 26th. A good northern Indian lunch place is Minar on 31st St. just west of 5th Ave.

            A block east on Third Ave. you' ll find some coffee shops and other places to have a decent breakfast. Also over there just north of 34th St. is the best Philly-style cheesteak place in NYC, Carl's (carryout only). On 34th St. just east of 3rd Ave. is one of NYC's best Turkish restaurants, Ali Baba. Not everything there is super cheap, but they do make some good mezze (appetizers, often combined to make a meal) and pide (Turkish style pizzas) at affordable prices. Right near where you'll be staying is the Lemongrass Grill Thai restaurant on 34th St., which looks good from the outside. It isn't - avoid it.

            Up by Columbia, the strip of Broadway between 110th St. and campus has a number of restaurants catering to students and other college types. There really isn't anything great here, but you should be able to find something inexpensive. For something a little more exotic there is an Ethiopian place on Amsterdam & 1221st that is OK.

            A great resource for scoping out places ahead of time, and getting some notion of prices (although not every place keeps their entries fully updated) is menupages.com.

            1. I really don't think there's anyplace better in the entire country for inexpensive but still Chow worthy food than Manhattan Chinatown. A large portion of its residents are low paid illegal immigrants, hence there's the need for people to fill themselves up for as little as $2 to $3 per meal. Yet, food is so revered in Chinese society that even poorer people won't stand for bad food, so most of the stuff is quite tasty. Since you're coming from so far, it would be silly if you didn't learn the subway system and expand your options. As a Californian I can tell you that riding the subways is a snap, and soon you'll be on your way to gorging yourself on $10 a day (or more if you want).

              1. Thanks for all of these recommendations so far. They are incredibly helpful. It's good to get oriented toward the places we'll be spending most of our time. I'm not opposed to going on a trek for food, and I know the subway system fairly well. (I've been to Manhattan about a dozen times on my own, but always stayed with a friend on the lower east side who has since left.) However, on this trip, because I'll be trying to get as much work done as possible in the archives while I'm there, I'll be pretty limited by how far I can go for food, especially for breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks. (And who doesn't love a great snack in Manhattan?) So it's really helpful to get a sense of what's in the area close to the hotel and library, particularly since I've never really spent any substantial time in these areas when visiting previously.

                I also really appreciate the coffee suggestions. Good coffee is important, but I know that Starbucks has pushed a lot of independent places out of Manhattan. So it's good to get an insider's feel for this.

                Thanks again for all of these suggestions, and please keep them coming. It's a bit intimidating to go back to Manhattan without a local to be your guide.

                3 Replies
                1. re: hermance

                  I agree with someone who suggested 41st street Japanese eateries. Check out Cafe Zaya - it's like a miniature Japanese food court. Papa Beard's has pretty decent coffee there besides cream puffs.

                  My recent favorite place for lunch is Sugo e Basilico on 5th ave and 45th st. It's an Italian inspired sandwich/salad place, but they emphasize on fresh ingredients. Sandwiches are a bit expensive, but the trick is they're so big, that half portion more than satisfies me for lunch (half is around $5). My suggestion is go with half of what they have on "Create your Own" menu on piadina and go easy with toppings. They also have an espresso bar and serve pretty decent coffee.

                  On 45th st. between 5th and 6th, there is a great Lebanese place "Bread and Olive". You can get some of their pies or cheese breads for an inexpensive lunch. Meat entrees tend to be on an expensive side for lunch, but they're open pretty late - so you can get cheap dinner out of it.

                  Also re: coffee, there is a Colliseum book store (one of the last standing independing book stores in NY) right across the street from the library on 42nd st. - they sell coffee inside.

                  For dinner, check out Menchanko-tei on 45th between Lex and 3rd - you can have a satisfying meal under 10 bucks!

                  Lastly if so concerned about cost-saving, iirc, Affinia is a suite hotel, if you get a little kitchenette, you may be able to pack your lunch and have it in Bryant park behind the library...

                  1. re: welle

                    Bread and Olive is fantastic; I also like Kati Roll (on 46th or 47th)

                    1. re: welle

                      Coliseum Books has closed. Sob!

                      And Kati Roll company has moved from 46th Street to West 39th between 5th & 6th Ave.

                  2. For cheap eats near Columbia -

                    Taqueria La Fonda - Amsterdam and 107ish - get the big burrito for around $7. easily enough for 3 to share.

                    Sal and Carmine's - Broadway and 102ish - excellent slices of pizza. you will most likely be served by either sal or carmine.

                    Koronet's - Broadway and 111ish - while not exactly gourmet, ridiculously large slices of pizza for under $3 each. might be amusing for someone who has never been to New York.

                    Ollie's - Broadway and 115ish - get a pork bun. $1.35 for about 3/4 of a meal. but do not get anything else on the menu under any situation. seriously.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: qwertyu

                      The sticky rice in lotus leaf is pretty good at Ollie's, I also love their veggie dumplings even though I'm not a veggie. Though I haven't been to that branch of it.

                    2. Take the 6train subway down to Astor place and wander your way down St. Marks Place in the LES. No worries, the 6 is very safe, i've seen little kids on that train by themselves without any issues. Go to Yakitori Taisho on St. Mark's Place for some really authentic and decent priced japanese (no sushi, just yakitori and other dishes). There're plenty of cheap places to eat down there, I once found a place called the Raj Mahal, had my own 4 course personalized meal for $8.95, it was insane. Only problem is, to really find something you like, you're just gonna have to explore; trust me, there's plenty of just about everything down there, it's a safe and entertaining neighborhood, you just have to find it.

                      1. During the day you're up in my neighborhood, near Columbia (I take it you're referring to the main campus, near Broadway and 116th), there's little to speak of that's not surpassed elsewhere in the city. But for decent, inexpensive Italian, you might consider Max Soha; for very good Thai with a $7 lunch special, Thai Market; and for a bottomless cup of coffee amid perpetual grad students and St John the Divine visitors, the Hungarian Pastry Shop. Less for the food than the setting, the exterior of Tom's Restaurant was featured regularly on Seinfeld; if you've seen the show, you'll recognize it at once. You might also uncover some prospects on the Morningside Heights page of my blog: http://www.eatingintranslation.com/mo...

                        Max Soha
                        1274 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10027

                        Thai Market
                        960 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025

                        Hungarian Pastry Shop
                        1030 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025

                        Tom's Restaurant
                        2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025

                        1. Great asian food: Saigon Grill in Union Square and Upper West Side and Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown (the soup dumplings are a MUST). Frank's in the East Village is good, reasonably priced italian. So is L'il Frankie's, same neighborhood. Check menupages.com for all the menues. At 55th btwn 5th and 6th is a cute french place at which you can eat for a reasonable price (try the crepes, or the soup combos) and the bread is incredible: bonne soupe (and you can walk there).

                          1. Also, Indian Cafe on Broadway and 108 was good last time I went there. Oddly enough, there's also this dive bar (you can sit outside so youngsters can do) with really good food on 96th and Amsterdam. It's called Dive Bar, but the menu is varied and good! Check it out on Menupages.

                            1. As a Californian that went to school in lower Manhattan good cheap eats was pretty crucial to my survival. Some suggestions by type. All of these places I've been to and found to be great and kept me fed for less than $10 bucks a person (generally).
                              Here are a couple of resources: www.menupages.com; this website provides the menus of many of the restaurants in Manhattan.

                              Below 14th Street but totally worth going.

                              == Middle Eastern ==
                              Hummus Place (east village and greenwich locations, never tried upper west side) http://www.hummusplace.com/#
                              plates are filling and are under 6 bucks. advantage - they take credit cards

                              Mamoun's Falafel
                              for $2 bucks (at least a couple year's ago) there's a great falafel sandwich. great for a snack on the run. down the street from hummus place on macDougal, between bleeker and 4th.

                              great, cheap turkish kebab place, open late, half a block from katz's deli.

                              == Pizza ==
                              Una Pizza Napoletana http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...
                              This place is serious. They stay open till they run out of dough and they only offer two types of pizza by the pie not by the slice. Go early to avoid waiting. only open from 5 pm Thurs - Sat. Sundays, open at noon.

                              Pizza by the pie. Go for tradition, though better pizzas can be had. On Spring St. Features a thicker crust than many places. If you can make it across the Brooklyn Bridge there's also Grimaldis a good place also for tradition. I'm not a fan of the overly cheesy Ray's pizzas.

                              == Bagel/Bread ==
                              Ess-A-Bagel (upper and lower east side locations
                              )My favorite bagel. Go in and ask for anything warm. It's got great texture and flavor.

                              H & H (not below 14th!)
                              Upper westside. Smaller than Ess-A-Bagels with softer crust.

                              Amy's Bread
                              Multiple locations. In village, chelsea, Upper Westside
                              I love their savory twists, particularly black olive.

                              The Chocolate Bar on 8th Ave
                              Kind of pricey, but iced hot chocolate is good.

                              Jacques Torres
                              Has a location on Hudson.

                              == Cheesecake ==
                              Opposite of Lafayette and Spring.

                              Cafe Habana
                              In Nolita. I go for the Mexican style grilled corn. Though Austin might have comparable grilled corn. There are other great dishes
                              they're cuban/mex place that's pretty good.

                              Menchanko Tei (multiple locations one near midtown and one on 6th below 14th somewhere
                              )Japanese Ramen -- this is a far cry from instant noodles.

                              Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
                              and the dumpling place across the street with delicious Shanghainese soupy dumplings. (Sadly, I can't recall the name)

                              1. hello the bings from roll and dough on 135 W. 3rd St., New York, NY 10012
                                nr. Sixth Ave. are really tasty and pretty cheap as well as portable and the banh mi from saigon banh mi at 138 Mott St., New York, NY 10002 nr. Grand St.
                                212-941-1541 are yum too.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: rekha

                                  Roll and Dough never caught on, and they're out of business. Unfortunately, the original operation, xxx in Flushing, is "closed for renovation" with no apparent prospect of re-opening soon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eatingin...

                                2. If you are looking for quintessential New York food and don't mind eating outside and standing up, you should try the food carts, especially the "Halal food carts". As there are many of these around and this is not my expertise, I leave it to others to make specific suggestions for locations in walking distance of the library.

                                  1. The 'wichcraft kiosks in Bryant Park have good sandwiches but will probably run $9/lunch. I'd go with their great cupcakes or ice cream instead, if you want a snack. They have coffee, too.

                                    I second the recommendation of Cafe Zaiya. They have good bento boxes that I can never finish.

                                    You'll probably want to look on Google for the Midtown Lunch blog for easy, tasty, and convenient lunches.