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Top five for $25

What are your top five restaurants where you can get dinner for $25 or less?

I can think of plenty of mediocre places that I don’t think are worth the $25, but only a handful of good ones, and I’d like to expand my horizons. I’m looking for something better than Fanelli’s, Old Town, Coffee Shop, and Blue Moon Café. (Of course, others may disagree.) Also, it would be nice if it were actually possible to get a seat and not feel like you are eating on the 5 train at rush hour, but I realize at these prices you can’t have everything.

($25 should cover entrée, drink, tax, and tip. Places with seating only – no standing at counters or carts to consume the meal.)

Here are my top five:
1. Shake Shack
2. Café Gitane
3. Kuma Inn (LES pan-Asian, BYOB)
4. Nha Trang (Chinatown Vietnamese)
5. Inoteca (a stretch, since you would be limited to one panini and a glass of wine)

Burger Joint and Café Habana are too crowded to make my top five, although they serve excellent food.

Thanks for posting, can't wait to hear your recs!

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  1. How about Florent down in the meatpacking district? Steak frites might go over your $25 limit, but not by much. There are plenty of other cheaper options too.

    1. don't know if i can come up with 5, but
      1. palacinka, in soho (great crepes)
      2. hummus place (great hummus)

      ran out of places but more may come to mind.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cupcakeparade

        Royale on Ave C
        Sophies on 3rd and 40th
        Cafecito

        1. re: princeofpork

          sophie's is a chain - and the one you listed, on 3rd and 40th (i thought it was lexington anyway) is closed due to the steam explosion recently. i am not sure if they will be opening this location again.

      2. 1. Taisho (skewers and japanese style tapas)
        2. Max's (east village italian pasta; great when consistent)
        3. Kun Jip (best homestyle korean hands down in manhattan)
        4. Cafe Gigi (homey cafe, reminds me of college days BYOB)
        5. Esperanto (Ave. C trek; entrees are around $15; festive latin boho atmosphere)

        1 Reply
        1. re: khy201

          This would mean an entree of $11.00 to $12.00. Try a chinese restaurant like Wo Hops

        2. I'll cheat (ie, not necessarily the top, and not necessarily in this order)

          1. Szechuan Gourmet (E. 39th, 5th/6th)
          2. Sapporo East (1st Ave/10th)
          3. Spice Cove (E. 6th, 1st/2nd))
          4. Pongsri Thai (Chinatown - Bayard, Mulberry/Baxter)
          5. Luzzo's (1st Ave, 12th/13th) - cutting it close for $25 all-inclusive

          1 Reply
          1. re: racer x

            Thank you all for posting. Does anyone else on this board have any additional suggestions? It is amazing how difficult it is to find a good (sit down) dinner for one for $25 or less in Manhattan. And yet there seem to be no lack of mediocre options.

          2. No Order - the food is all to different for cross comparison
            1. Mole BYOB
            2. Cube 63 BYOB
            3. Barbone
            4. Royale
            5. Kuma Inn

            11 Replies
            1. re: oliver_selwyn

              I just went to Mole (open 3 months). Guacamole is made tableside and is very good (@ $9).

              1. re: financialdistrictresident

                OMG, I can't wait to try Mole. Thank you both. I love Mexican food. And it's brand new. Thank you thank you.

                1. re: KateC.

                  KateC, oliver_selwyn posted a review of Mole yesterday. I also posted a long list of restaurants under another recent < $25? post.

                  1. re: financialdistrictresident

                    OK, I am totally going to Mole this weekend. Toothpaste-style guacamole! Ha, Oliver, you are cracking me up. (Note for readers: His point was that Mole does NOT have toothpaste-style guacamole.) I'm a California transplant, and have been searching for that elusive "not expensive but good" Mexican. In fact, a less than satisfactory experience at Blockheads Tuesday night when friends cancelled dinner at Diner in Williamsburg is what prompted both of these posts about cheap eats in Manhattan. I am a regular at Barrio Chino, but CalJack, it had not occured to me to drink only ONE margarita -- sounds like a challenge, but I'll give it a try. :) Also, re Chinese, some of the better places can get quite expensive, so as a single person, you might be limited to only one chicken with vegetable dish, but I am not that familiar with Chinatown Chineese and I really appreciate these suggestions and I am looking forward to trying many of these. Also, Barbone sounds amazing too (if I can stick to just one dish). Also, re Williamsburg and its cheaper prices, CalJack, don't I know! (I have posted about that elsewhere and am currently being roasted for it). But, see, that's the whole problem: How do you find a place like that in Manhattan? Please keep posting your suggestions everyone. I'm going to try some of these places and let you know. Thank you!

                    1. re: KateC.

                      I finally managed to try Mole last night. Very good, loved the bartender and my waiter, great virgin margaritas, fun atmsophere made even more fun by the BYOB policy. Definitely worth a try. However, for those of you who have not yet been to Barrio Chino, I just have to say the food is a hair better at Barrio Chino. Order the guacamole, chicken enchiladas with green sauce, steak, and flan.

                      1. re: KateC.

                        Amen sister...love Barrio Chino and am dying to try Mole.

                      2. re: KateC.

                        Oh, and if anyone is trying Barrio Chino, go no later than 6:30 on any day or you will never get a seat.

                        1. re: KateC.

                          Have you tried La Esquina yet for great Mexican food? (definitely the best I've had in the city) I don't go to the fancy/expensive place downstairs but the cafe upstairs (walk in only).

                          1. re: jdream

                            No, I haven't. I'm very confused by the place. I am not interested in the takeout counter, and I have been turned away from some other doorway twice. Where is the entrance for the cafe upstairs? What are the prices like? Thanks!

                            1. re: KateC.

                              I'm unsure of street names. But if the main entrance/outdoor tables are on the northfacing block then the cafe entrance is to the right on the west facing block... or you can just ask someone who works there...

                              1. re: jdream

                                OK, I'll give it a shot. I went inside to the takeout counter and was turned away from another doorway inside there. Thanks!