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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.

    http://underemployedinnyc.blogspot.com/

    -----
    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.

          http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2010/0...
          http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2009/0...

          Best cheesecake:
          http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2009/1...

          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.

            http://underemployedinnyc.blogspot.com/

            -----
            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!

            -----
            Chola
            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

            Ippudo
            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.

              -----
              Zoma
              2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026

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

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

                  www.thelunchbelle.com

                  -----
                  Malatesta
                  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

                  Ciano
                  45 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

                  Dafni
                  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.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/673788

                    Midtownlunch.com 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
                    )http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/610739

                    Pizza in NYC (typically pretty cheap
                    )http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6928...

                    For even more cheap eats, try out some street food:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/701278

                    I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/493333

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

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

                    1. hummusfiend, if your handle is any indication, you must try the hummus at Azuri Cafe on 51st and 10th. It is hands down the best hummus in NYC -- quite possibly the US. Other places in NYC do decent falafel, but Azuri is the place to go for hummus. I also highly recommend the small falafel platter and fried cauliflower, but be sure to get a side of hummus by itself.

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

                      1. I like Hummus Place -- my favorite is the one with fava beans on it. I also really like Maoz falafel (they have the best "toppings" available). I like Meskerem for Ethiopian but Zoma is better, though further off the beaten path. For cart food, I am totally loving the doubles at the Trini-Paki Boys cart (43rd just off 6th Ave). I'll second the recs for Empanada Mama and Malatesta. Besides carts (definitely check out midtownlunch as Kathryn said), you could also walk along 9th Ave for some variety and relatively inexpensive places.

                        -----
                        Zoma
                        2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026

                        Malatesta
                        649 Washington St, New York, NY 10014

                        Meskerem
                        468 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036

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

                        1. Wow. I'm stunned. Thank you all for your deliciously thorough responses. Two down so far--Hummus Asli and Empanada Mama. Both good finds--neither was 'mind-blasting,' so to speak, but solid, enjoyable eats we can't get at home.

                          Looking forward to trying more of everyone's suggestions.

                          While i scan through, any particularly stand-out spots amongst the same price-range contenders, but specifically for vegetarian (not vegan, just low meat-content) menu items?

                          We're likely going to need to balance our binging with some (hopefully innovative / memorable) ligher, veggie-based fare (some earlier suggestions, like Azuri Cafe, Hummus Asli, ethiopian, etc,. are great starts).

                          (Also, just curious, is there anything to eat *north* of Central Park? Is there a 'Spanish Harlem' cuisine to speak of?)

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

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

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: hummusfiend

                            oh gosh-u r exhausting-why come to nyc and have such a low budget for food!!

                            1. re: hummusfiend

                              North of Central Park, there's cheese slices from Patsy's East Harlem. Do NOT go to any of the other "Patsy's." Further south, try some veggie Southern Indian from Saravanaas or Chennai Gardens.

                              -----
                              Saravanaas
                              81 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                              Chennai Garden
                              129 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016

                                1. re: UnderemployedInNYC

                                  I gotta disagree with the H&H rec. If you want bagels, go to Murray's.

                                2. re: hummusfiend

                                  there are great tacos on E 116th st, but not too vegetarian friendly. A good, but not to-die-for mexican place uptown is El Paso Taqueria, which has more variety including veggie options.

                                  for lower on the island, there is excellent, I would say world-class Indian (especially South Indian, harder to find in other parts of the US [not knowing where you are here from]) in the 20s and Lex/3rd, specifically 26th-28th and LEx. I would especially recommend Saravana Bhavan and Tamil Nadu Bhavan. If you just want to take out a sandwich or salad, there is a counter upstairs at Kalustyan's (also worth the visit just to browse or get spices/nuts/dried fruits/etc to take home).

                                  to be honest, this is a well-worn topic and some more aggressive searching on chowhound will get more than asking for cheap good food on the entire island of Manhattan.

                                  -----
                                  Kalustyan's
                                  123 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                  El Paso Taqueria
                                  237 E 116th St, New York, NY 10029

                                  1. re: hummusfiend

                                    Zoma is north of the park and the best ethiopian in the city, IMHO.

                                    also, the Patsy's in East Harlem is worth it for the experience alone. (the pizza is not bad, tho better can be had elsewhere) Almost unchanged from when I lived in East Harlem 20 years ago.

                                    also good up there is a lechoneria (roast pork place) on 117th btw 2nd and 3rd. I can't remember the name. Not a good veggie option, tho.

                                    -----
                                    Zoma
                                    2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026

                                  2. Thanks, all. You're all being incredibly helpful.

                                    In case you're interested, today we checked out Motorino pizza neapolitana in EV, which was excellent... had the margarita and the daily special, which was 'ramp' (as in the vegetable). Delectable crust and tastefully understated toppings. Nice middle ground between an actual italian slice, and the hyper-dressed american variety, inspired mainly by the former.

                                    We then hit up Katz's for the standard experience. Split a pastrami, round knish and full sour pickle. While im a Canadian, and devotee of Montreal smoked meat, i must say this was really quite good. Chatted with the guy manning the knish counter for a bit and was informed that virtually the entire staff is Dominican, which he seemed to find amusing.

                                    Speaking of knishes, i was informed by someone else today that Yonah's Knish Bakery, also on E Houston, is pretty solid.

                                    There's a 5-yr old knish thread here that seems to suggest Yonah's is no longer the go-to knish joint. We're knish fans so if anyone has thoughts there, feel free to chime in.

                                    Thinking of checking out Zoma and/or a noodle bar next.

                                    -----
                                    Zoma
                                    2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026

                                    Motorino
                                    349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: hummusfiend

                                      Avoid Yonah. In Manhattan, Katz's knish is as good as any, and not as good as it should be, though you can hit Zabar's for one. Best in NYC (not high praise, but best here) is Knish Nosh in Queens. I've determined that in order to experience the knish of yore I'll have to learn how to cook.

                                        1. re: addictedtolunch

                                          I'm with addictedtolunch on this -- skip the knishes.

                                        2. re: hummusfiend

                                          haven't been by in a while but i always enjoy stopping by otafuku on E.9th street between 2nd and 3rd aves. they sell okonamiyaki and takoyaki (spelling is not my strong suit). veggie friendly japanese street food.
                                          i find it filling and cheap.