Hungry male seeks to eat the face off Manhattan for less than $10-15/meal
About me: 20-something from Nashville, in Manhattan for 1 week, based primarily in Chelsea, LES, East Village , metabolically advanced, adventurous palate, fiscally challenged, willing to make any necessary pilgrimages, hungry
About you: Under $15, ideally under $10. Arcane or obvious, simple or complex, cheesy or not-- I only ask that you are uniformly, transcendentally, hauntingly delicious. I expect, nay, DEMAND to be grief-stricken and melancholic upon my return to Nashville for want of your mouthfeel.
Can you help me hounds?
In the East Village, Puebla on 1st Ave at 3rd St offers authentic Mexican for about $7 a dish. Even for a big eater, two dishes would probably stuff you silly and meet your $15 cap. La Isla, a Dominican place on 14th St at B, has half a roasted chicken with rice and beans for $6.
Street meat! Some of the midtown lunchcarts are amazing! My faves: Little Morocco cart on NE corner of 7th & 39th. Chicken over rice $5. The chicken has this sweet cinnamon thing going on. They throw some french fries on top and then cover it white sauce and hot sauce. Killer! Try the Biryani Cart on the SE corner of 46th &6th. Supposed to be the best in the city. Just recently discovered the Trini-Paki Boys cart on the SE corner of 43rd & 6th. They do the same kind of chicken over rice thing, But they also have this side order called a 'double'. For a $1, the best snack in the city.
Go to Baoguette Cafe on St. Marks and get a Sloppy Bao and a Pork Chop & Egg Banh Mi for $14 bucks. It's not your average Banh Mi shop, and worth the extra money, in my opinion.
I wouldn't say that's the most filling meal you can get for $14 dollars, but if you're only here for a week, I assume you're looking to try as many places as possible. Better not get too stuffed. For comparison's sake, I've spent $30 at Shake Shack and left less satisfied. And Shake Shack is one of my favorite places in the city, so this is not meant to turn you away from it.
re: Bone Thug n Hominy
As a regular at Baoguette, I'd much sooner go to Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, if it were closer. And it's still a bit cheaper for sandwiches.
sushiman, you'll be within easy walking distance of Chinatown when you're in the East Village/Lower East Side. I strongly advise you to frequent that neighborhood and go to places like East Corner Wonton (but don't get anything with beef stew, because their overly large, way undercooked pieces are literally a risk for fatal choking!), Great NY Noodletown, and the cheap dumpling houses. There are also plenty of "rice [and soup] + 4 side dishes" places. I have no idea which ones are best, but I've had perfectly acceptable dinners at some, and they are quite cheap.
Some of my favorite cheap eats..
Prosperity dumpling on Eldridge just north of canal - pork and chive fried dumplings - 5 for $1. Get my vote for best dumplings in the city. if you continue walking south on Eldridge for a block or two, you'll get to Supertaste where you can get the spicy beef hand pulled noodle soup for less than $6.
Pizza - slices at Joes or the sicilian slice at Artichoke, or for something a little different, behind the met life building (grand central) on 45th between Lex and Vanderbilt is Naples 45 which has great pizza. There is a take out counter that sells slices, which are further discounted after 2pm.
Pork buns at Momofuku Milk Bar.
Arepas at Caracas Arepa Bar
Hot dogs at Crif Dogs
Pretty much anything at Cafe Zaiya (two locations, one in midtown and one near cooper sq).
Lasagna at Via Emilia
Burgers at Shake Shack (of Corner Bistro - but its very hit or miss there, the burger is far too often parcooked and reheated but if you get a fresh one, its great.)
Under $10-15 would definitely be considered "cheap eats" especially in the neighborhoods you just listed. You'll do the best with pizza, ethnic, street carts, hot dogs, etc. If you can get to the Outer Boroughs, your dollar will also go a whole lot farther.
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kathryn did all of your work but ill synthesize with my choices:
-merguez sandwich at moustache on bedford
-truffled egg toast at ino on bedford, (and quattro panino...get the mortadella and goat cheese)
-double shack burger at shake shack (and a concrete jungle custard)
-octopus balls at otofuku
-lemon bar at black hound bakery
-sicilian pizza at artichoke on 14th street (dont get any other pizza there)
-cheddar and watercress sandwich at freemans (weekend brunch only)