New York City has a reputation for being one of the most expensive dining destinations in the world. It’s easy to wander into high-end restaurants without realizing it and walk away with the idea that dining out in NYC is wallet busting.
And while it is true that New York is home to a lot of $500 set-menu restaurants and restaurants where a “nice” “simple” dinner with wine can top $100, the city is also home to starving artists, working-class folks, and un(der)paid interns trying to make it in the big city — and they can’t afford any of those fancy meals.
Heck, not many people can.
I mean who can drop $100 on dinner all the time? Not me! Not you! Not the majority of these people!
Because of that, New York City also has a variety of cheap eats, happy hours, and food deals that make it easy to eat in NYC on a budget. However, as a visitor, it’s often hard to know where to find those holes-in-the-wall and markets. This is definitely a place where you need to be in the know for a lot of this deals. There are thousands of restaurants in the city.How do you navigate them all?
You need someone on the inside. (That person is me!)
So, today, I am going to share my tips on how you can eat out in NYC on a budget and give you some of the knowledge I’ve accumulated by always eating out in the city:
Eating in NYC Tip #1: Hit the Oyster Happy Hours
During the week, you can find countless oyster happy hours, which are one of the most popular things to do (especially in the summer when you can sit outside). They start around 4pm and go until 6 or 7pm, and the oysters range from $1 to $1.50. Arrive early, as most restaurants fill up quickly and build up impossible wait times. My favorite (and the best) oyster happy hours in NYC are:
- Jeffrey’s Grocery (172 Waverly Place, West Village, +1 646-398-7630)
- The Dead Rabbit (30 Water St, +1 646-422-7906)
- Good Night Sonny (134 First Ave, +1 646-692-3254)
- Upstate Craft Beer & Oyster Bar (95 First Ave, +1 646-791-5400)
- The Mermaid Inn (96 Second Ave, East Village, +1 212-674-5870)
- John Dory Oyster House (1196 Broadway, +1 212-792-9000)
- Grand Central Oyster Bar (lower level, Grand Central Terminal, 89 East 42nd St, +1 212-490-6650)
- Zadie’s Oyster Room (413 East 12th St)
- Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar (Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave, +1 646-568-1223)
- The Ten Bells (247 Broome St, +1 212-228-4450)
Sagaponack Bar & Grill (4 West 22nd St, +1 212-229-2226)
- Greenpoint Fish &- Lobster Co. (114 Nassau Ave, Brooklyn, +1 718-349-0400)
- Brazen Fox (106 Third Ave, +1 212-353-1063)
- Littleneck (288 Third Ave, +1 718-522-1921)
- The Jeffrey (311 East 60th St, +1 212-355-2337)
- Atrium DUMBO (15 Main St, +1 718-858-1095)
- Catfish (1433 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, +1 347-305-3233)
Eating in NYC Tip #2: Bottomless Brunch
New York City runs on the bottomless brunch, where for around $35 you get unlimited drinks with your food. This is a weekend-only thing and a staple of the city’s social scene. There are countless bottomless brunches, so it would be impossible to include them all here, but below are some of the most affordable and best value bunches in the city:
- Agave (140 Seventh Ave S, +1 212-989-2100) – A two-hour bottomless brunch for $33.
- The Flying Cock (497 Third Ave, +1 212-689-6900) – Pay $19 for bottomless Bloody Marys, mimosas, or Bellinis for 90 minutes.
- Poco NYC (33 Avenue B at Third St, +1 212-228-4461) – Pay $35 for an entrée and 1.5 hours of bottomless mimosas, sangria, or Bloody Marys. Cash only.
- Pardon My French (103 Avenue B, +1 212-358-9683) – For $29.95, you get a meal and bottomless Bloody Marys or mimosas for 90 minutes.
- Mezetto (161 East Houston St, +1 212-933-4587) – It’s just $20 for 90 minutes of unlimited mimosas.
- Cuba (222 Thompson St, +1 212-420-7878) – For $18, you’ll get bottomless cocktails (including mojitos) for 90 minutes.
- Harry’s Italian Pizza Bar (2 Gold St, +1 212-747-0797) – For $28.95, get a meal and unlimited Bloody Marys and mimosas for two whole hours.
- Tio Pepe (168 West 4th St, +1 212-242-6480) – From from 12pm to 4pm, get 90 minutes of bottomless mimosas (including flavored ones), Bloody Marys, and margaritas for $14 (when you get a meal).
- The Malt House (206 Thompson St, +1 212-228-7713) – Spend $20 for two hours of unlimited cocktails.
- Blind Pig (233 East 14th St, +1 212-209-1573) – Spend $30 for two hours of mimosas or Bloody Marys.
- La Flaca (384 Grand St, +1 646-692-9259) – For $29, you get any menu item along with bottomless margaritas, sangrias, Bloody Marys, and more, for 90 minutes.
Eating in NYC Tip #3: Grab a Pizza Slice
NYC and pizza go together like white on rice. You can’t separate the two, and in my opinion, the New York slice is probably one of the best pizzas in the country (sorry, Chicago)! If you’re looking to eat on a budget, grabbing a slice is one of the best ways to save money in New York. Slices range from $1 to $4, though $2 is the max I’ll pay (unless it’s really good). Below is a list of my favorite dollar-slice joints (and a couple non-dollar slices just because they are that good):
- Percy’s Pizza (190 Bleecker St)
- Joe’s Pizza (150 East 14th St and other locations)
- 2 Bros (601 Sixth Ave)
- Ivana’s Pizzeria (2373 Arthur Ave, Bronx, +1 718-365-4322)
- 99 Cents Fresh Pizza (151 East 43rd St; 473 Lexington Ave; 201 East 34th St B)
- 9th Ave the Best Pizza (748 Ninth Ave)
- NY Fresh Pizza (787 Ninth Ave)
- Joey Pepperoni’s Pizza (381 Broadway; 493 Second Ave; 114 East Fordham Rd, Bronx)
- One Dollar Pizza (578 Ninth Ave, +1 212-967-3310)
- Vinny Vincenz Pizza (231 1st Ave, 212-674-0707)
Eating in NYC Tip #4: Munch on Dumplings
Chinese dumplings are also one of the best value meals in the city because you can get huge plates of dumplings for literally just a few dollars (and if you get them frozen for later, they are even cheaper). They’ll fill you up for lunch and you’ll still have leftovers for dinner. And, thanks to the city’s large Chinese immigrant population, the dumplings are incredibly authentic. This is the real deal here. Here’s a list of the best spots to get dumplings in NYC:
- Lan Zhou Handmade Noodle (40 Bowery St, +1 646-683-0939) – 9-11 dumplings for $3.
- Vanessa’s Dumpling House (220 East 14th St, Union Square, +1 212-529-1328) – 5-10 for just $2 or less.
- Noodle Q (2 East Broadway, +1 212-219-8223) – A big plate for $6.
- Tasty Dumpling (42 Mulberry St, +1 212-349-007, visit the website for other locations) – Five for $1.25.
- East Dumpling (46 Eldridge St, +1 212-219-2268) – 10 for $3.
- Tim Ho Wan (85 Fourth Ave, +1 212-228-2800) – $5 dishes.
- Shu Jiao Fu Zhou (118 Eldridge St, +1 212-625-2532) – 6 for $2.50.
- Jin Mei Dumpling (25B Henry St, +1 212-608-8962) – $2 for a big plate.
- Fried Dumpling (106 Mosco St, +1 212-693-1060) – Five for $1.25.
- New Sheng Wang Inc. (27 Eldridge St, +1 212-925-0805) – Large plate for $3.
- Spicy Village (68B Forsyth St) – 12 for about $6.
- Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House (4801 Eighth Ave, +1 718-437-3542) – 5 dumplings for $1.50.
- North Dumpling (27A Essex St, +1 646-421-8823) – 12 for $3.
- YOZ Shanghai (4128 Main St, +1 718-321-2663) – 12 for $4.50.