Affordable may not be the first word to come to mind when thinking about eating out in New York City, home to some of the most exclusive — and expensive — restaurants in the world. But you can find some of the city’s best culinary value at affordable restaurants that won’t sacrifice on quality or atmosphere. In fact, depending on your own personal tastes and who you ask (ahem, real New Yorkers), the best restaurants in the city are usually the ones the travel guides won’t tell you about.
Budget Friendly Restaurants Worth Visiting in NYC
Like any major city, New York has more than its fair share of Chipotles and chain eateries. Resist the temptation and comfort of the known to visit one of these affordable and infinitely more interesting eateries instead (no offense, Chipotle).
You’d be hard pressed to find a native New Yorker who isn’t familiar with Veselka. It’s been around since the 1950s, serving up pierogis, borscht, and Ukrainian essentials in the East Village.
This restaurant is open 24 hours, so you can go for breakfast or to soak up the alcohol from a late night bar crawl. In fact, if you go after midnight on a weekend you’ll get to enjoy their special “You-Should-Be-Sleeping-But-Since-You’re-Not” late night menu, featuring everything from eggs and bacon to latkes from $12 to $15. And who knows? You just might spot a famous local while you’re there (just be sure to play it cool and don’t stare or — gasp — ask for a selfie).
• Located at 144 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Open for business since 1920, the Nom Wah Tea Parlor is as old school and authentic Chinatown (and New York City) as it gets. Go for the dim sum (ranging from $3 to $7) and stay for the tea, which includes classics like Oolong with Hydrangea, or the formidable sounding Anxi Tieguanyin/Iron Goddess of Mercy. The drink menu also includes a beer and wine selection to keep you hydrated and refreshed after a busy day of walking around the neighborhood and shopping.
• Located at 13 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013.
Full disclosure: As I’m a native of Brighton Beach on the southern tip of Brooklyn, Roll-N-Roaster was a staple of my upbringing and will always be the greasy burger and cheese drenched fries that all the others that came after will strive to live up to, ultimately falling far short of the glory. Unapologetically old fashioned and not a chain, Roll-N-Roaster requires a pilgrimage out to Sheapshead Bay — it’s just that good.
Forget Shake Shack and make your way to this 46-year-old Brooklyn icon and order a medium Roaster Beef ($5.95) with a side of cheez fries ($3.45). There are other things on the menu, but trust me on this one, this is why you’re going. They have limited domestic beer and wine selections on the menu, as well as Moet if you’re feeling classy. And it’s within a stone’s throw from the waterfront, so win-win.
• Located at 2901 Emmons Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235.
Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery
The only thing more quintessential New York than a slice of pizza is a potato knish. Still kicking since 1890, Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery is a true New York success story: It was founded by a Romanian immigrant whose enterprise was born from a humble street cart.
Fun fact: New York’s famous silver street food carts may be most known for selling hot dogs and salty pretzels, but they are also home to this affordable potato delight.
The Yonah menu starts with the basic potato classic but offers so much more, ranging from spinach and cheese medleys to sweet dessert-themed concoctions in the $5 range.
• Located at 137 E. Houston Street, New York, NY 10002.
Prince Street Pizza
No list of NYC dining options, no matter how short, would feel complete without allocating a slot to pizza. At Prince Street Pizza, a square or round slice will set you back anywhere from $2.95 to $3.50, arguably a steal by any standards, let alone New York City’s. Chances are you will have to wait in line, but the fresh ingredients and fiery pepperoni and fra diavolo sauce are worth it.
• Located at 27 Prince St A, New York, NY 10012.
Take a Walk
If the late great Anthony Bourdain taught us anything, it’s that the best places to eat are usually the ones located off the beaten path. Whether it’s a food truck selling fusion tacos or a 75-year-old bistro with no sign, the best way to get to know New York City and its iconic food spots is to walk around. Do a little exploring to find culinary gems of your own.