HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


Top 3 cheap eats (not street food)

  • f

Going to NY for a week beginning of May. Would like suggestions for inexpensive ($25 or less pp/no drinks) late afternoon/early evening, preferably ethnic, sitdown restaurants. I currently have Cafe Katja and perhaps NY Noodletown on my list. Prefer south of Rockefeller Center.


Cafe Katja
79 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If that includes tax and tip you have lots of options. Does it?

    6 Replies
    1. re: JeremyEG

      I wasn't taking tax and tip into consideration, just the food. But if included, so much the better!

      1. re: FLnow

        You can do almost any Sichuan Place. I like Grand Sichuan in Chelsea. Also, Saravanaas for Southern Indian (wonderful). I had a really nice meal recently at BCD Tofu House in Korea Town. The BBQ might push you over the $25 but that's not what's best there anyway. Not sure if you consider Italian to be Ethnic but you could easily get a pie at any number of the new and him pizza places. Keste is my favorite so far but many like Motorino and Co. as well. $25 is a lot without drinks. Are you open to going to the outer boroughs? Many more ethnic options.

        81 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

        BCD Tofu House
        17 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

        349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

        1. re: JeremyEG

          Thanks for the suggestions thus far. How about Chinatown? I went to Amazing 66 two years ago and wasn't impressed. Liked a downstairs hole-in-the wall better (can't recall name now, but it's on Mott St.) Food is more important than atmosphere and trying to afford tourist spots. I'll leave the outer boroughs and LI to my friend who grew up in Queens and now lives on LI. Will likely get pizza on LI. Brooklyn, SI, and Bronx are not an option.

          Thanks again!

          1. re: FLnow

            One of my favorites is Mandoo Bar, a korean dumpling house (made in front of you) in midtown. So yummy!

            Mandoo Bar
            2 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

            1. re: foodsnob14

              I doubt I will be in that area. Right now, I know I'll be in the Rockefeller Center area, LES, Village, Chinatown, and UWS.

            2. re: FLnow

              I meant to say I'm trying to avoid tourist/very commercial spots.

      2. Pho @ Pho Bang. My fav place, tho there are plenty of other opinions. A bowl of Pho Tai is $7 so that leaves plenty left over to get the pork on shrimp chips or the amazing spring rolls. Love this place, too bad I moved.

        Pho Bang
        157 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

        1. Aroma Kitchen and Wine Bar does a prix fixe on Sundays for $25

          1. Momofuku ssam bar. Or the noodle bar.... although either might cut close to the price limit.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mjm1218

              Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions. More welcome. How about NY Noodle Town?

              1. re: FLnow

                i like it, and it certainly fits the cheap bill.

                last time i was there, 4 of us ate two of the roast meats over rice plates (5 bucks each for one roast pork and another soy sauce chicken, both excellent, dont ignore the scallion oil that comes with them) a singapore chow fun, and a combo noodle dish of some sort (the kind where the noodles come out somewhat hard but with the sauce/gravy the whole dish eventually kind of soggs out, in a good way?). 26 bucks before tip with a couple of cokes.

                its not light (the sing. chow fun is delighfully greazy) its not super clean (this was a week before they were shut down by the dept o' health - dont worry they fixed everything and are back at it ;) but it is good and cheap.

                depending on how the chinese food is where you come from id rank it as somewhere between a really good call and a must-go, but again it depends on what you can get where you are. (looking at your posting history - and handle - im guessing your from florida, in which case id be suprised if you could get something like it)

                another strong strong strong recommendation would be for ippudo ramen. especially if you are going on the early side, getting a table has rarely been a problem for me before 6/6:30 - the lines get crazy later in the evening. its heavily discussed on this board but i will say that the akamaru modern may be the best bowl of soup ive ever had in my life, like liquified pork in a bowl, and i could eat the soft boiled eggs they float in it forever (if youre an egg love id recommend getting an extra one in your soup). not cheap for ramen, but doable at your budget, even with a shared order of the pork buns or other appetizer.

            2. Manhattan Chinatown? For Cantonese, South China Garden (formerly Cantoon Garden, lots of threads under that name). The Yeah Shanghai at Mott on Bayard has quite good Shanghainese food. Old Sichuan on Bayard has good Sichuan food and some very good Shanghai-style dumplings. Much discussion of all on this board.

              South China Garden
              22 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

              Old Sichuan
              65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

              1 Reply
              1. re: buttertart

                Thanks very much, Tex and Buttertart. I will check all those out. I've been in FL for years now and have yet to find decent (authentic) Chinese food. I'll be flying to the city next Monday! Can't wait!

              2. If you like, or would like to try, Thai food, I would add Kuma Inn on the LES (www.kumainn.com). You will be as underwhelmed by the decor (second floor walk up) as you will be overwhelmed by the food. Check out the menu and see if it fits your contraints/criteria. Oh, btw, cash only, but BYO!!

                Kuma Inn
                113 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

                3 Replies
                1. re: Upperwestsider

                  Now I'm (as a 20-yr NYC resident) glad for THIS tip - it had somehow escaped my notice. Always on the lookout for something approaching the late magnificent (if infelicitously named, in English) Poo Thai in JH.

                  1. re: buttertart

                    It's not really Thai food (you won't find a huge number of curries or pad thai for example) as we're used to seeing, more like Filipino-Thai tapas. The chef is of Filipino and Thai ancestry and wanted to dream up some items using ingredients from both.

                    If you want inexpensive but high quality Thai food in Manhatta, I'd go to Rhong Tiam. But order some of the more interesting dishes, like the Isaan dishes.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/491310 (note that this thread lists their old location, their new one is on 2nd Ave at 5th)

                    1. re: kathryn

                      It sounds interesting. Were you ever at Poo Thai? It was magic - not even Sri comes close.

                2. cong ly - pho for $5, $5.50, or $6 depending on size

                  naruto ramen - 8.50 for rame, 6.50 on mondays

                  cascabel taqueria

                  lang zhu home pulled noodles

                  1. You can get Chef April Bloomfield's legenday burger from The Spotted Pig- I recommend going at lunch. Also way under $25 for a burger is Danny Meyer's Shake Shack. I really like the ramen at Ippudo (priced in the low teens, leaving room for a beer). Folks have mentioned Chef David Chang's Ssam Bar and Noodle Bar- both great options, though its significantly easier to stay under budget at Noodle Bar. On the topic of celebrity chefs, Mario Batali's Otto serves sensibly portioned and well-crafted pasta dishes for $9, leaving you plently of cash to spend on either a beautiful italian wine from their list or some great appetizers or desserts. I don't like touristy spots either- therefore I recommend The Spotted Pig at brunch (burger is available all day) or a late lunch and Otto I recommend sitting at the bar. I 100% endorse the Motorino recommend, particularly the Williamsburg location.


                    Shake Shack
                    Madison Ave and E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010

                    Spotted Pig
                    314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

                    65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

                    349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: UnderemployedInNYC

                      Thanks for all the great suggestions! I do want to mention that I do not drink alcohol at all, though my friends will want beer. They also want a place that accepts credit cards.

                      1. re: FLnow

                        Many inexpensive, ethnic restaurants in NYC do not take credit cards to save on the merchant fees charged by Visa, Mastercard, etc. And if they do, they often take AMEX only. You'll keep your options more open if you don't require credit card acceptance in your search.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          i've found not taking amex more common in my experience

                          1. re: thew

                            Are you saying that you've found places that take all cards BUT amex?

                            My point was that the inexpensive places are either cash-only or cash + Amex but not other credit cards.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              yes. that is exactly what i'm saying

                              1. re: kathryn

                                I've noticed many online menus are clear to say "Cash Only" or no cards less than $30 (for example). That is nice for servers. I think it hurts the servers if someone gives an extra large tip on a credit card, then it is assumed all their tips are that good, and therefore taxed based on that average.

                                Once upon a time, tips were a compliment for good service, now they are essential for survival (and expected).

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  >My point was that the inexpensive places are either cash-only or cash + Amex but not other credit cards.

                                  Why is that? Amex is my main credit card so I have no complaints, but curious.

                                  1. re: uwsister

                                    For a long time, American Express was known for cutting its fees to restaurants if they accepted only American Express and no other credit cards.

                              2. re: kathryn

                                This is not my stance. I'm willing to carry enough cash to pay for a meal. But my friends are slaves to credit cards, so I'm noticing on the restaurant sites whether or not a restaurant takes them.

                          2. I'm back from my 8-day trip to NYC. I tried South China Garden (formerly Cantoon Gardens) and probably chose the wrong dish--shrimp and minced pork with lobster sauce. Pretty bland. One of my party had the same dish and one had crispy chicken, which only came with white rice...no veggies of any kind. A 4th person had sweet and sour shrimp, which were crispy and the sauce just right. Also, their "lunch special" prices had increased by more than a doller over what is on the Internet.

                            I also ate at Cafe Katja the same day. Due to the dinner I'd just had, I opted for appetizers. The cheese plate with strips of toasted rye on the side was wonderful, and the soft, warm, fresh-baked pretzel with 2 spreads was delectable. The owners are warm, hospitable and anxious to please. A little gem on Orchard St. with very reasonable prices.

                            On another day, I had the lobster roll at Mary's Fish Camp on Charles St., which was fresh and tasty. I also tried my friend's lobster knuckles with melted butter and the hot fudge sundae, both of which were divine.

                            The remainder of my dining experience for the week was on LI, in the Huntington area. A new addition, Strawberries, was overpriced for what we got. The food was okay but nothing special and the place was crowded and loud on a Sat. night. Every other place I ate had great food, though I don't recall all the names. Martino's was very good.

                            South China Garden
                            22 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

                            Mary's Fish Camp
                            64 Charles St, New York, NY 10014

                            Cafe Katja
                            79 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002