Top 5 cheap eats in Lower Manhattan – how to dine like a real New Yorker!

Today’s Blogger in the Spotlight (BITS) is Leslie of Downtown Traveler and she hails from New York City. Leslie writes for the Examiner under New York Destinations, but I just know her as the gorgeous chick on Twitter that has many, many fans.. and who can blame them? with such a warm smile and kind disposition it’s not surprising at all.

Without further ado.. here’s Leslie on her Top 5 Cheap Eats in Lower Manhattan!

If your knowledge of New York City comes from television, you may think our cuisine comes in two extremes: hot dog carts (Law and Order) or swanky bistros (Sex and the City). Fortunately for those of us without trust funds, New York City offers a variety of cheap and delicious eats—and you won’t have to resort to frankfurters or McDonalds.

sm bryant park

bryant park

Lower Manhattan is a Mecca for inexpensive dining. It’s possible to pay $1 to for a quick meal, although you may want to splurge on a classier restaurant. ($10 should cover it). Thai, Italian, Vietnamese, Indian, Venezuelan, Middle Eastern—you’ll find almost every type of cuisine here. Cheap restaurants are clustered in youthful downtown neighborhoods– the East Village, Chinatown and the Lower East Side—but options are plentiful throughout the borough.

Check out my list of Lower Manhattan’s top cheap eats. These are personal favorites, culled from long hours spent dining in New York’s finest budget restaurants. Bon Appétit!

1. 2 Bros Pizza

sm 2 bros

You can’t get any cheaper than this: $1 for a slice of New York style pizza (tax included). The 2 Bros chain has several locations in Manhattan but their East Village outpost has the most character. This tiny pizza parlor has a few seats in the back but is mostly a take out joint. The pizza tastes pretty good but the main draw is the price. 2 Bros attracts a diverse clientele: high school students, college kids, the homeless and young professionals looking for a quick nosh. It’s the most popular restaurant in the East Village, as judged by the piles of paper plates and pizza crusts scattered across St Marks Place.

2. Royale

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royale with cheese

Pulp Fiction fans will recall John Travolta’s ode to the “Royal with Cheese,” the French name for a McDonald’s cheeseburger. East Village restaurant Royale has adopted the name but—fortunately– not the fast food ambience. Head straight through the dark bar at the front of this Avenue C fixture and dine in the outdoor patio. Wooden tables, $3 beers and a youngish crowd contribute to Royale’s chill vibe.

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royale veggie burger

The menu is vegetarian friendly and includes a tasty homemade veggie burger, in addition to the standard hamburgers and sandwiches. Burgers are priced from $6.50 to $8.50. For a classic American meal, order a cheeseburger, an ice cold Miller High Life and a side of fries. Homer Simpson would be proud.

3. Brick Lane

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brick lane outside

Want a food bargain? Head to 6th Street in the East Village. Also known as “Curry Row,” this narrow block is crammed with Indian restaurants competing aggressively for your business. Hosts stand on the sidewalk shouting specials to anyone who will listen. Some offer live music and three course “fixed price” dinners for as little as $10.

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brick lane buffet

For a touch of class, head to the more upscale Brick Lane. Its daily lunch buffet costs $9.99 and includes fresh nan, tandoori chicken and all-you-can-eat salad, rice, entrees and dessert. There are always vegetarian offerings at the buffet.

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brick lane tandori

Brick Lane’s popularity has skyrocketed since its phaal curry challenge was featured on the TV show Man v Food. If you encounter a line, don’t worry. There are plenty of other Indian restaurants on the block to choose from.

4. Thailand Café

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It’s not hard to find a cheap Thai restaurant in Manhattan. There are hundreds if not thousands of restaurants serving pad thai, green curry and Singha beer on this 22.7 mile island. One of my favorites is Thailand Café, a small place with an authentic vibe and a ridiculously cheap lunch special. (They get bonus points for playing catchy Thai pop ballads).

The $6 lunch menu includes choice of appetizer and entrée. The green salad with warm Thai dressing and chicken appetizer are standouts, while the classic noodle and curry dishes don’t disappoint. There is never a wait for seating at Thailand Café, although service can be a tad slow. The best seats are near the windows, so grab a chair facing 2nd Avenue and soak up the New York City street life. If you are enticed by mojitos, don’t miss the happy hour. It starts at 4 pm and features a “buy one, get one free” drink special.

5. Ten Ren Tea Time

If your budget is tight, head to Chinatown for affordable pan-Asian fare. Local offerings include bánh mì sandwiches for $4, a pile of dumplings for $2 and kosher vegetarian meals for under $10. I generally avoid Mott Street, home to tourist-friendly Chinese restaurants and souvenir shops, because of the crowds. However, I make an exception for Ten Ren Tea Time. This modern Taiwanese shop sells dozens of varieties of bubble tea. A “regular” sized tea with tapioca pearls costs $3.

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leslie loves her bubble tea!

The top sellers include Jasmine green milk tea and passion fruit tea. I indulge my sweet tooth with the melon milk tea, which has chunks of undissolved sugar crystals. Mango green tea is another strong offering in the fruit syrup category.

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melon tea

Bubble tea shops are all the rage in Lower Manhattan and are now a common sight in the East Village. The tapioca pearls at Ten Ren Tea Time are a step above the competition. The balls are tender instead of chewy and seem to dissolve in your mouth. Another benefit: bubble tea is a great compliment to $1 pizza.

About this week’s Blogger in the Spotlight

Leslie Koch is a freelance writer and adventurous traveler based in New York City. In June 2008 she left a successful career at HBO to backpack around the world with her fiancé. They visited 17 countries on five continents in one year. Leslie can now say with absolute certainty that New York City has the best food in the entire world! For more info on offbeat and affordable destinations in New York City and around the world, check out Leslie’s blogs below or better yet, follow her on twitter!

Leslie writes for the examiner : NY Destinations

Her own travel blog : Downtown Traveler

Follow her on Twitter: leslietravel

Comments

  1. Cheap eats in the Big Apple! Great post, as I’ve always thought of the places as being uber expensive!

    Pizza for $1 and that Royale … I guess it’s not the place to diet.

    Biggest question I have is: Brick Lane Tandoori vs Malaysia Tandoori? Anyone? :)

  2. Brilliant! NYC is up there on my list before I hit my next milestone and this is going to come in handy. Hey, what about the infamous Green Papaya hot dog!? Is it going to be friendly on the pocket?

  3. @Dave- Most of our NYC cheap eats are comfort food– not the healthiest fare, I admit! But oh so tasty… ;)

  4. Eating this stuff is gonna make me a fatso! They’re all super tasty tho, good choices! :)

  5. Chicago is the same as far as a prevelance of Thai restaurants. It is good to know that one does not have to travel all the way to France and mange at a French Mcdonald’s to get a royale with cheese.

  6. NYC’s 21 club is offering its first group buying discount wth Zagat and dealon – http://www.dealon.com – choose NYC (we bought 4!)

  7. I agree with the hubby there. :) These are great budget options but not the healthiest choices! I am sure there are so many great places to eat in NYC and it’s good to have cheap options like this. All of these look tasty!

  8. USD1 for a slice of pizza!

  9. Good job leslie. I know exactly the person who’d find this post very useful! :)

  10. @minchow – Gray’s Papaya still serves super cheap hot dogs and has locations throughout Manhattan. I’ve never tried it– their outposts are beyond sketchy and to top it off, I’m a vegetarian! They haven’t started serving tofu hot dogs yet- cross your fingers :)

  11. my favorite is the Ten ren too, lol

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