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May 2, 2010 09:31 PM

Cheap-eats food itinerary for 4 days in Manhattan?

Hi all,

My gf and i are in Manhattan for 4 days. We're big foodies, but on a small budget. We especially like Middle Eastern, Italian, Indian, Latin American, but are open to anything fun and innovative. Not big on red meat.

Any must-eats, either new or stand-by institutions, that we should hit up for dinner/lunch?

We're trying to spend under 15$/person on average, not including drinks.

Thanks for any tips.

Edit: we're based around 5th ave and 40th, but are open to travelling (not stupidly far) around Manhattan for worthwhile finds.

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  1. Welcome to NYC! Fellow low spending food lover here.

    For cheap, good Italian I always recommend Chef Mario Batali's Otto at 5th Ave and 8th st.. The perfectly made and reasonably portioned pasta entrees go for only $9 (!!!), leaving enough cash for some tasty appetizers, a dessert or a beautiful italian wine from their pretty awesome list. I also always recommend sitting at the bar to avoid the uber-touristy crowd in the cavernous dining room.

    For under $15, you can also grab a bowl of ramen from Chef David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village. (Hitting a Momofuku restaurant is a must, and noodle bar is the most affordable for a legit meal)

    The truth is, midtown is expensive. And a lot of the random midtown places aren't really worth the midtown price. Get a metrocard and explore for the best cheap options.

    Momofuku Noodle Bar
    171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

    6 Replies
    1. re: UnderemployedInNYC

      HI UnderemployedInNYC...

      Great--thanks for those two. Will be sure to check them out...

      We're definitely willing to venture outside of midtown... once you're brainstorming, anything else come to mind? Turkish, South American, Arab, etc?

      I heard there's a decent hummus chain---Hummus Place--with a few locations around Manhattan. Any thoughts for or against?

      Also--we're pro-Deli and pro-cheesecake, but there seem to be too many options to wade through. Any tips, there? UndenmployedInNYC or others?

      Thanks for any more info! Much obliged.

      1. re: hummusfiend

        For hummus, check out Hummus Asli, on Kenmare and Lafayette - great little Israeli place with amazing pita and hummus.

        For South America, I'd recommend Caracas, on 7th st btwn 1st and A, although be prepared to wait for a table since it's almost always crowded. The menu there is mostly arepas, which are small but delicious and surprisingly filling.

        1. re: quandros

          NB: Caracas has two locations, nearly next door to each other. One is more takeout, the other is eat-in/table service. They straddle Luke's Lobster on both sides.

          For South American food, if you happen to be here on a weekend and are feeling adventurous, go to the Red Hook ballfields.

          Luke's Lobster
          93 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

        2. re: hummusfiend

          For deli, what are you looking for? Pastrami on rye? Matzo ball soup? A turkey sandwich? A lot of the classic NY Jewish Delis are kind of hit or miss dependent on what you get.

          Best cheesecake:

          1. re: hummusfiend

            Pro-deli... Touristy, yes, but you must go to Katz's on Houston, of When Harry Met Sally fake orgasmic fame. The pastrami really is killer. Just don't ask for mayo.

            I don't really know Hummus Place. But as far as cheap falaffel goes, I actually really like this new chain called Maoz. It's a bargain.

            If you're willing to wait a little, you can grab great japanese noodles at Ippuddo on 4th ave for under $15. The setting is a little loud and frenetic, so go when you're int he mood for a crowd. It's also right near Think Coffee, which serves up pretty great espresso drinks too.


            Think Coffee
            1 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012

          2. re: UnderemployedInNYC

            I love Otto but I've never successfully gotten in and out for $15. If you do go to Otto, agree that the bar is a great place to sit. Skip the pizzas in favor of the appetizers, pastas, gelato.

          3. I know you said no red meat, but for the best shawarma gyro, head to Azuri Cafe on 51st between 9th and 10th (closer to 10th). Authentic israeli shawarma -- and fantastic falafel too. Although I have almost always gotten the gyro, I have heard other people rave about the vegetarian dishes. Not much by way of atmosphere (and you may get yelled at by the sometimes ornery proprietor), but the food is great.

            We also like Queen of Sheba for ethiopian (10th Ave between 45th and 46th). Most of their vegetarian dishes are under $11, and they have plenty of chicken dishes too.

            For inexpensive and truly authentic mexican -- we LOVE Tulcingo del Valle on 10th between 46th and 47th. Their chicken mole is to die for.

            For Indian, try Dhaba or Chola.

            I know you didn't mention Japanese, but if you are in the east 40s around lunchtime and want a quick lunch you can grab and then bring to Bryant Park -- I highly recommend Cafe Zaiya on 41st between 5th and Madison.

            Although I LOVE the David Chang restaurants (the Noodle Bar, in particular), I do not care for his ramen. For fantastic ramen, try Ippudo on 4th Ave. between 9th and 10th streets. Much better than the ramen at Noodle Bar and comparably priced. You may eat up your whole $15 budget with a bowl of ramen, but I promise you it will be worth it.

            If you do go to Momofuku Noodle Bar, get the pork buns and the rice cakes and whatever seasonal vegetable is on the menu (I love their brussel sprouts). It is one of our favorite spots in town.

            Happy eating!

            232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

            Momofuku Noodle Bar
            171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

            Azuri Cafe
            465 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019

            Tulcingo del Valle
            665 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036

            Queen of Sheba
            650 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036

            Cafe Zaiya
            1073 6th Ave, New York, NY 10018

            65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

            2 Replies
            1. re: kiworan79

              For more Japanese option, Go-Go Curry in Midtown is also cheap and good.

              If you're interested in Korean, you could easily get out of Mandoo Bar, BCD Tofu, or Woorijip (buffet/takeout/cafeteria-style) under $15/person.

              My favorite Ethiopian in NYC is Zoma in Morningside Heights. You could probably do $20/person, maybe less.

              2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026

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

              12 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

              1. re: kiworan79

                It's been a while since I've been to either, but I preferred Queen of Sheba of Meskerm for Ethiopian, too.

                Queen of Sheba
                650 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036

              2. Don't overlook the goodness to be found on Manhattan pushcarts, the savior of the cheap foodie. The Hallo Berlin pushcart on 54th Street and 5th Avenue has fantastic sausages, cabbage, and fried potatoes. Also look for Moshe's Falafel on 46th and 6th for a great falafel sandwich. I would warn you that Hallo Berlin has had some erratic hours as of late and they only serve lunch, but it's well worth the trip.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MandalayVA

                  I'm also looking for good places in this price category, and Cafe Zaiya looks amazing! Keep the suggestions coming!

                  Cafe Zaiya
                  1073 6th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                2. Via, here are some ideas for you:
                  Gazala Place
                  Empanada Mama
                  Dafni Greek Taverna
                  Peasant (downstairs - split a pie and a couple of sides
                  )Xie Xie
                  Malatesta Trattoria
                  Barrio Chino


                  649 Washington St, New York, NY 10014

                  Barrio Chino
                  253 Broome St, New York, NY 10002

                  Gazala Place
                  709 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

                  Empanada Mama
                  763 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

                  45 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

                  325 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036

                  1. > We're trying to spend under 15$/person on average, not including drinks.

                    If you are in a restaurant with table service, does this include tax and tip? If you want to spend $15 including tax AND tip, your goal will be difficult unless you go to street carts, counter service, takeout options.

                    If you're only counting food, and not tax/tip, you'll definitely have an easier time of it.

                    Also, since you'll be based out of 5th and 40th, you're very close to two of the better Sichuan restaurants in the city: Lan Sheng and Szechuan Gourmet.


           is also a good resource for checking out what is nearby.

                    Don't leave NY without eating these foods (a few cheap eats located here

                    Pizza in NYC (typically pretty cheap

                    For even more cheap eats, try out some street food:

                    I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour:

                    Szechuan Gourmet
                    21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                    Lan Sheng
                    60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018