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Oct 9, 2013 10:00 AM

Foodies on a low budget trip

My boyfriend and I are going to NYC this week. He's never been before, and I'm feeling the pressure! We are foodies from Portland, OR, but don't have a ton of money to spend on this trip. We'd like to do one splurge meal, and keep the rest pretty low budget.

We get in late on Friday night, we'll be in New Jersey on Saturday with some family, and then back on Sunday. We're staying in Brooklyn with friends, so recommendations there are also welcome, but we'll be spending most of our days time in Manhattan.

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  1. You're planning pretty late in the game for a splurge meal this weekend. A lot of the notable restaurants will be fully booked, if you're talking about upscale, fine dining.

    I'm confused as to exactly what meals you will be able to plan in NYC given that you're in NJ on Sat with family and then back on Sunday (when?).

    Friday late dinner (how late do you get in?), Saturday breakfast/brunch, and then Sunday dinner free?

    Also some of the "usual suspects" for a splurgy meal don't serve Sunday dinner. When do you leave?

    How much were you thinking of spending on your splurge meal, per person, before tax, tip, wine/drinks? $125pp? $100pp? $75pp?

    Tasting menu or prix fixe or a la carte?

    What about the other meals, what's your budget on the everyday ones? $20pp? $40pp?

    Where in Brooklyn are you staying? You'll get more responses on the Outer Boroughs board, especially if you can target a specific neighborhood like Williamsburg, Park Slope, etc. Make sure you mention neighborhood in your subject line, that often gets more attention.

    Some of my favorite cheap eats:
    Mission Chinese - lunch is less crowded than dinner
    Zabb Elee
    Xian Famous Foods
    Crif Dogs
    Szechuan Gourmet
    Shake Shack
    53rd and 6th Halal cart
    Momofuku Ssam duck lunch special
    Lobster rolls at Luke's
    Vietnamese - banh mi in Chinatown, do a search! Or Num Pang perhaps?
    Pretzels at Sigmund
    Sandwiches - Defonte's, Lamazou, No 7 Sub, Parm (long lines for dinner, try lunch), Faicco's
    La Churreria - Spanish sandwiches, fresh churros and dark hot chocolate (Spanish style, so no cinnamon), good lunch specials too
    Great NY Noodletown

    Cheap Eats You Want to Brag About:

    Have you checked out this site?

    Here's something else I wrote for a 1st time visitor, you might find it useful.


    Where are you coming from? How long are you here? Fri-Sun? How many meals do you have available?

    We don't want to recommend food that you might do better at home, but we also may have some cuisines you can't find at home...

    I'd say we are pretty strong in a lot of different cuisines but not equally. Budget will makes big difference in where you can go.

    Are you willing to wait for a table at a no reservations restaurant? If so, for how long?

    What is your budget, per person, per meal, BEFORE tax, tip, wine/drinks/etc for your meals? It is much easier for us to help you if you give a pre-tax-and-tip figure.

    Feel free to break out your budget in terms of upscale/fancy meals (and number of them) and cheaper/everyday meals.

    Note that upscale/high end places tend to book about a month in advance. Most serve weekday lunch (but not weekend lunch), and serve dinner Monday through Saturday, and are usually closed Sundays, though there are a few exceptions to the "closed Sundays" rule (ex: Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Jean George).

    What else are you doing while you are here? Planning around sightseeing, shopping, Broadway shows, etc?

    Check out some "Only in NY" type foods while you're here: bagels and smoked salmon, pastrami on rye, pizza, hot dogs & papaya juice, black and white cookies, cheesecake, egg creams, pickles, halal carts.

    Russ & Daughters (takeout, busy on weekends), Katz's Deli (from When Harry Met Sally), Papaya King etc. (not gourmet but iconic), William Greenberg's black and whites, Junior's cheesecake, egg creams from Gem Spa or Ray's, Pickle Guys, the Halal Guys (53rd and 6th after sunset), are all iconic "NY" sorts of places that are worth a look.

    If you're interested in some of the places I listed above, you could do a LES food crawl.

    I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour but sub in Pickle Guys for Guss' Pickles and note that Economy Candy's address is incorrect:

    We also have some of the harder to find Chinese cuisines: Henan, Shaanxi (Xian Famous Foods) and Fuzhou in Manhattan, and many more in Queens and Brooklyn (Shangdong/Qingdao and Dongbei to name a few). scoopG's Chinatown list (dependent upon where you are coming from these may be exotic or not... most places don't have Henan or Xian style food though):

    You might also want to do a restaurant doing creative takes on Asian, like at Momofuku Ssam Bar, Wong, Fatty Cue, Takashi, RedFarm, Mission Chinese, Jungsik, Kin Shop, or Danji.

    My favorite unique places in NY serve Xian (Chinese) food, Issan (Thai) food, organic/local/sustainable Japanese BBQ, authentic Basque (Spanish) tapas, creative diner food, pretzels, hot dogs, halal food, steak, upscale rustic Italian, Italian subs, creative Italian-American, high end non-sushi Japanese (like kaiseki), creative desserts, molecular gastronomy, mixology/creative cocktails, and creative brunches (sometimes every day of the week).

    Some common tourist inquiries:

    Near MoMA:

    Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and Whitney and Guggenheim, ish):

    Near the American Museum of Natural History:

    Near Macy's/Herald Square:


    5th Avenue shopping:


    Notable food trucks/carts:

    Prix fixe lunch deals:

    Best breakfast/brunch in NYC:
    It is (IMO) at the Breslin, Locanda Verde, Shopsin's, Clinton St Baking Co., or Minetta Tavern.

    Best bagels in NYC:
    Summary: the freshest bagels are the best; bagels don't age well at all. Focus on the smoked salmon instead. Preferably at Russ & Daughters! Featured in shows such as No Reservations and Louie!

    I'm fond of red onion, capers, regular cream cheese, and tomato on mine. Try a few smoked salmons before you settle on one, they're surprisingly different (and lox is not the same as smoked salmon, because lox is salmon cured in salt brine, and most people actually prefer the more modern, Nova-style smoked salmon). You can get a mini-sized bagel sandwich at Russ & Daughters, too, if you wish. Takeout only.

    If you like the idea of RGR's self-guided LES tour above, check these out, too.

    Maybe scoopG's self guided Chinatown tour:

    A West Village food crawl

    East Village:

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      What a wealth of info! I was thinking some of our splurge options might not take rezzos. For example, I have no idea how pricey the Momofuku spots are, but I would love to try one, and I don't think they take reservations.

      I realize I need to clarify our schedule - we're back in Brooklyn Sunday morning, and don't head back to Portland until Wednesday morning. So we've got Saturday brunch, Sunday lunch/dinner, and then all day Monday and Tuesday to eat!

      1. re: annief

        Momofuku Ko takes reservations 10 days in advance including the current day for dinner and serves a tasting menu. It's $125pp for the dinner tasting and they look fully booked on their web site for the duration of your trip.

        Ma Peche takes reservations on their web site. Noodle Bar & Ssam Bar don't take them for parties of 2, only bigger groups doing large format meals.

        I would ballpark Momofuku Noodle to be about $25pp, Momofuku Ssam to be about $40-50pp, and Ma Peche to be $70pp.

        Momofuku Ssam is one of my favorites and if you go Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday night, you shouldn't have a long wait (if any wait at all).

        1. re: kathryn

          Momofuku Ssam is a favorite of mine, but since we don't live in NYC we always want to try new stuff....but I always want to go there. The flavors and combinations are so unusual, the atmosphere is fun (and loud, but with good music) and we loved every single bite. You should try it.

    2. Other than Chinese or pizza some cheap eats are:
      Katz's Pastrami sammich is big enough for two to share.
      The same for a nice DeFonte's sammich.
      Mamoun's for a cheap Middle Eastern feast.
      Nathan's Coney Island Hot dog on the boardwalk is amazing.
      Brennan and Carr's hot roast beef sammich, Brooklyn.

      1. For your splurge, consider lunch. Most high end places will do amazing things at a lower price point during lunch service.And fit your budget experimentations for dinner.

        Where are you in Brooklyn?

        5 Replies
        1. re: villainx

          We're staying just south of Prospect Park, but can travel anywhere, really!

          1. re: annief

            For a memorable breakfast near Prospect Park go to Tom's Luncheonette on Washington Ave.

          2. re: villainx

            Agree with perhaps opting for lunch at an upscale place if you want to experience that while you're here.

            Consider Tocqueville (phenomenal tasting menu during lunch for a tad more than $65pp), Marea, Jean Georges, Del Posto, Juni.

            On second thought... most upscale restaurants only do lunch on weekdays. However Tocqueville does offer lunch on Saturday, Marea does brunch (same as lunch menu) on Saturday and Sunday.

            1. re: zeeEats

              Also Bouley and JG. And Lincoln!

              1. re: zeeEats

                OP said above that they are here Friday through Tuesday, so they could potentially take advantage of two lunch prix fixes.

                I linked to this thread on prix fix lunches above:

            2. My favorite, non-specialty pizza is at:

              Luigi's pizza
              686 5th ave ( between 20th and 21st,street)
              Brooklyn 11215

              old school,real pizza that wont cost you 1000 dollars

              hopefully is close to where you are staying.