3 days in the city - budget itinerary
As mentioned previously we are coming back to NYC for our 8th visit in 6 years in Feb. Times are harder and this time we are setting ourselves the challenge of eating well but on a budget for the 3 full days we are there.
Our daily budget for both of us (excluding tip) is a total of $100 per day. For that we need to get breakfast (planning on $15), lunch (planning on $25) and dinner (no more than $60). Some days we may switch lunch / dinner or have a larger/later breakfast and therefore not need lunch. So, we have come up with the following budget options:
Square Diner - general diner style breakfast - better out there?
Ess a Bagel - egg sandwich
Mexican - Pampano Taqueria / Taco Taco
Soup - Hale & Hearty (any other recs for good homemade soup?)
Burger - Shake Shack (any others?)
Treat - maybe Jean Georges if we can manage it $$ wise
BBQ - Blue Smoke/Dinosaur/Daisy May cart
Noodles - NY Noodletown/Republic
Pizza - we enjoyed John's last time - any better out there for a similar price?
Italian - Otto/Inoteca?
Is $100 realistic - and please please please educate me on better options than the above if you have any! We don't eat fish or seafood due to allergies and like places that are clean.... Oh and we're not bothered about alcohol either.
Do your figures also include tax (which is almost 9% now in NYC)?
For cheap breakfast eats, I would go to 'ino (truffled egg toast for only $9) or a bakery (Patisserie Claude) or a coffee shop (like Abraco or Grey Dog). For more diner style, Clinton Street Baking Company or Shopsin's is probably more than you want to spend but you can stay < $15pp if you order carefully. B&H Dairy or Veselka might be good, too.
Best breakfast and brunch in NY:
For cheap lunch options, checkout midtownlunch.com. I can't speak to cheap Mexican lunch options. In my opinion, NYC is not really a big homemade soup town (even Soup Nazi is gone and now is a corporate chain) where you can go somewhere and get a variety of creative, hearty, filling soups for not too much money. It's basically all chains catering to office workers. There are a few exceptions like Shopsin's or Eastern European soups in the East Village.
NB: for Shake Shack, be prepared to wait, and have a backup plan if the weather is bad and you're going to the Madison Square Park location (there's no cover). For a nicer upscale lunch, Eleven Madison Park is another option as they do a prix fixe that is quite affordable.
For dinner, if you want BBQ, consider Hill Country's deal on Mondays: all you can eat for $25. No idea if the timing will work for you. Their specialty is Texas style BBQ (no sauce) where fatty brisket is the thing to get. For noodles, if you want ramen, Hakata Ippudo is the place to go. For pizza, it depends what you're looking for: gas oven style, coal oven style, Naples style? A slice? A pie? IMO, John's is actually not as good as other places in town.
There are a few distinct styles of round pizza found in NYC: New York style (gas-oven), Neopolitan style, and a hybrid style of the two (usually coal oven). And Di Fara is kind of out there, Dom at Di Fara is definitely doing his own thing with the olive oil drizzle and multiple kinds of cheeses and lots of fresh basil. Then to throw another wrench into things, some places are known more for square pies (like Artichoke). Note that lot of famous places like John's of Bleecker, Grimaldi's, and Lombardi's are pies only. John's, Grimaldi's, and Lombardi's are famous, a bit touristy (and most likely suffer from inconsistent oven temperature and oversaucing), and I think some newcomers are kicking their butts lately.
My favorites in Manhattan are:
Co. aka "Company" (pies only, no takeout). Neopolitan-ish style with nouveau toppings, similar to Mozza in LA but less broad/puffy crust. 7-8 pies to chooses from. Very popular. Lunch and dinner. Lunch is much more chill than dinner. However, my last meal there was only OK, I think they are inconsistent.
Patsy's of East Harlem (117th street location only, pies and slices, there is a dining room and takeout area). Coal oven. A NY classic. Their toppings aren't that great but when the crust is good, it's heavenly.
Artichoke (I recommend the square slice only, takeout only). Tasty, they are from Staten Island, but I feel like they are kind of doing their own thing since the crust is VERY thick for NY pizza. DON'T get the artichoke slice or regular slice. Repeat: DON'T get the artichoke or regular slice. Please. And they have no seating or atmosphere to speak of. It's a slice joint, really.
Keste and Motorino seem to be vying for the Naples style crown now that Una Pizza Napoletana is gone. I haven't tried either, yet, but this is a VERY different style than John's of Bleecker and you may not like it.
My favorites outside Manhattan are Di Fara and Totonno's Coney Island but Di Fara is extraordinarily popular/chaotic/there is no line system/also no AC in the summer, and Totonno's just suffered from a fire and are in the process of fixing the place up. In Brooklyn, Lucali is quite highly (I haven't tried yet). Franny's is good but the crust is way too thin (though that bianca is great), and frankly the apps/pastas are better than the pies there. I wasn't impressed by newcomer Veloce either (too heavy/buttery).
Don't Leave NY Without Eating...
NYC for visitors:
I also highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour: