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Poor college student seeks sub-9 dollar(after tax and tip) in NYU/Union square area.

Lunch and dinner. Preference for healthier foods; food trucks welcome. Please advise.

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  1. Dos Toros is a great, cheap Mexican spot. Burritos, quesadillas, and tacos. Next door is a good teriyaki joint also.

    1. I don't think you can get a table-service meal for that price, so here are some other options. I can personally vouch for only Num Pang & Dos Toros, but I think you'd be fine with anything on this list. Also consider the Whole Foods salad/hot food bar. Just don't put anything too heavy on your tray.


      There's also a Taiwanese food truck that's usually parked just south of the Cube, which has good hot & sour soup (and less good dumplings).

      1. Num Pang is the first place to spring to mind. No tip necessary.

        1. My son, a chowhound in similar circumstances, recommends the upstairs eating area at Whole Foods.

          1. If you have a fridge and a microwave, you might want to consider making a trip to Flushing. Buying a bunch of lunch specials from Hunan Kitchen ($4.75 each) and freezing them will give you some decently healthy and nutritious options and the quality will be better than the takeout places similarly priced in Manhattan. It's hard to find a better value in NYC for cooked food. Flushing in general is a value mecca when it comes to food. I've bought 5 or 6 lunch specials for extended consumption. Also, fruit and vegetables are very inexpensive in Flushing as well. You could buy several pounds of tasty leafy greens for under a $1 and cook them simply by steaming them in a microwave. When I had no money, this was the way to go.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Pookipichu

              OP could do just as well in Chinatown and not have to trek all the way to Flushing (which, by the way, is not in the NYU/Union Sq area)

              1. re: iluvcookies

                It's a suggestion, and yes I realize that Flushing is not in the NYU/Union Sq. area but the portions and quality of ingredients used are better in Flushing for less money than Chinatown. If he/she is really poor, inconvenience of a trip on the subway is outweighed by being able to get a good meal inexpensively.

                1. re: Pookipichu

                  Generally, Manhattan Chinatown is cheaper than Flushing Chinatown. The Manhattan Chinese folks are less wealthy and more elderly.

                  Quality-wise, Manhattan and Flushing Chinatowns cater to different Chinese groups, so ... perhaps what you view as better quality might be closer in line with your regional preference?

                  Not meant to nitpick too much. I love Flushing Chinatown too. But unless, say, someone specifically wanted Hunan food, which Flushing has better options, Manhattan Chinatown is just as good (if not cheaper).

                  1. re: villainx

                    I don't think you're nit-picking but I disagree that Chinatown offers better value. (Specifically addressing lunch) From my experience, the quality of meat used and the quality of cooking is generally inferior in Chinatown at the same price point. You can get $3 lunch box in Flushing that is same quality as $5 lunch box in Chinatown and $4.75 for something you'd pay $8-10. Hunan Kitchen lunch is pretty generic, e.g. you can get chicken with broccoli.

                    1. re: Pookipichu

                      That $3.00 lunch box in Flushing ends up costing $8.00 when you factor in a round trip subway ride; Chinatown is in reasonable walking distance from NYU area.
                      OP can go to Big Wong on Mott and for $6.00 get roast pork and soy sauce chicken over rice. Add a soda and a tip and for less than $10 he'll be quite full at a decent sit-down place.

                      1. re: iluvcookies

                        He/she can judge whether it makes sense to make the trip, I'm sure the college student can do the math.

                        I've eaten many times in Chinatown vs. Flushing, I'm adding my 2 cents about quality and value. I think it will all be helpful to the OP or is your point that I shouldn't have made a suggestion....

                        1. re: iluvcookies

                          That's partially my point, the BBQ meats are decent in Manhattan Chinatown, but less so in Flushing.

                          At the same time, there's no decent Taiwanese joint in Manhattan.

                          The restaurants are fairly culinarily distinct. So like I said it comes down to preference. But if one just wanted chicken and broccoli over rice .... get that at whichever nearby Chinese takeout.

              2. Most asian places will have lunch specials that won't set you back more than $9 for sure. Same with the food trucks circling the NYU area. Dinner is trickier but also totally doable if you do carry out.

                  1. Mamoun's. They have some options under $3, and many under $5. For a tasty/rich in nutrition/low in price option, I particularly recommend their lentil soup.

                    1. Be sure to check out the vendors at the Union Square farmers market. I have picked up great fresh fruits and just picked veggies, not to forget good artisan breads and wonderful cheeses. This time of year you can pick up all the making of a great caprese salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes, herbs, fresh mozz. All you need to add would be some good quality Olive oil. They usually have several vendors selling prepared food too, when I was there last they has one stall that was selling amazing focaccia.

                      1. M2M market has prepared foods and a decent array of Korean options for under $9. Grand Sichuan either on 7th Avenue or St. Mark's will have interesting lunch specials. Saigon Shack is ok for what it is, but you are better off taking the Lafayette shuttle to Chinatown.

                        Skip Mamoun's and head to Taim for your falafel. It's not as cheap as Mamoun's, but then it doesn't taste as cheap as Mamoun's either.

                        Dosa cart in Washington Square Park is healthy and cheap. Bleecker now has an array of Indian snack options from Thelewala to Masala times that will be easy on your wallet. For something more substantial, the lunch buffet at Indian Taj is under $9 and a far better option than the more popular "Indian" restaurants on East 6th.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: JungMann

                          I strongly agree about Taim vs. Mamoun's. Mamoun's might be cheap but it's not worth even half the price. It wouldn't even be worth it at $1. It's like eating fried pencil shavings. Taim is real falafel and worth the price.

                        2. A lot of people have given great suggestions, and the lists are good. My favorite is Saigon Shack on Macdougal. You can get the $5 classic Bahn Mi or other meats for $7. When I was at NYU I ate there at least twice a week. Can sit down and get table service as well.

                          1. aside from falling down on the "healthier" standard (depending on what the comparison foods would be) just had some really excellent kati rolls at Masala Times and a very good Vada Pav next door at Bombay duck. Theres also thelewala and the Kati Roll Co around the block.

                            Edited to add: on more reflection JungMann has me covered with the cheap (but good) indian recommendations - seriously though that 2 block area around bleeker and mcdougal has no business having that many awesome cheap indian places when most of us are stuck with the same greasy, generic northern curry spots.

                            1. I am not sure if the Agata and Valentina on University carries prepared lunch boxes but the one on the UES does. Basically for $6.99 you get a protein, two vegetables and a starch. There is a lot of food there and you can get grilled fish as a choice.

                              1. All above suggestions are great- but also go to trader joes, they have lots of healthy snacks and fresh and frozen premade options, if you have access to a microwave on campus a frozen tamale meal and apple would be $3 vs the $9daily out of pocket.
                                Aka $6 for after school beer money :)

                                1. Would you like to join my poor nephew and friend on one of our dining excursions? I don't mind feeding a poor student.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: UES Mayor

                                    you will have the best time dining w/UES Mayor. Take him up on it. Promise it is an experience you won't forget!! His nephew is slightly older than college age and lovely.

                                      1. re: killazys

                                        email me at jkm@corcoran.com so we can continue this plan off this site. Will be fun to have you meet 2 young professional chefs who work at major restaurants.

                                    1. The NY Dosa truck on the S side of Washington Square Park has absolutely great dosas and similar in your price range.

                                      I like the Rainbow Felafel (I think 17th, W of Union Sq, S side) much better than Mamouns. Their soup is good, too. For other Felafel choices, search this Board.

                                      There are good middle eastern places in EV - the one that comes to mind (I think it has a branch further E and S) is on St. Marks Place across from the former theater 80 St. Marks (N side, E end of block)

                                      1. Galanga Thai, 149 W 4th St.

                                        My daughter ate there three or four times a week her first year at NYU. Nice folks. The food isn't amazing, but it's pretty good for the price.

                                        The other great bet -- and the food here is really good -- is the Dosa Cart in Washington Square Park.

                                        1. The dosa cart dude is fantastic and cheap. When I went up nyu I ate there all the time. Highly recommend it.

                                          1. I'm in the same situation and here are some of the places I've found:

                                            -Downtown Bakery: for some great burritos when you don't want Chipotle
                                            -Xe May: for Vietnamese style sandwiches that are plenty filling but not too heavy on the stomach
                                            -Xi'an Famous Foods: for ethnic Chinese handmade noodles and lamb sandwiches
                                            -Pommes Frites: for an unhealthy snack of Belgian style fries with a huge selection of sauces
                                            -Otafuku: for takoyaki (octopus balls) and other Japanese street food snacks
                                            -Panya: for a small cafe with some seating that serves Japanese-style baked goods and meals
                                            -Cafe Zaiya: for another small cafe like Panya
                                            -East Village Cheese: for some really cheap cheeses that you can pair with the Balthazar breads that they have in-store
                                            -'wichcraft: for fresh sandwiches

                                            1. Xi'an on Saint Marks is great for their sandwiches (which aren't really sandwiches) and noodles.
                                              Mighty Quinn has great barbecue that's just under $9.
                                              You can get a bowl of pho or a pork chop on rice at Sao Mai on 1st Ave for $7-9. Or splurge on their $10 lunch special.
                                              There's a happy hour at Sembrazo, 3 tacos al pastor will run you $7.50. They are small but very delicious. (13 st. and ave A)
                                              The Mexican food at Zaragoza Grocery on 1st Avenue is delicious, cheap, and there's a nice family atmosphere with a couple of tables (sometimes inhabited by drunks late at night).

                                              1. How healthy it is is debatable, but there is a food truck outside the Beth Israel clinic at Union Square that makes a killer sausage sandwich for $4. Everything is super fresh.