To say the economy has seen better days would be optimistic. Expense account dinners are but a sweet, sweet memory. Luckily, you don’t have to settle for fast food for fabulously cheap eats. Especially in New York, where good food doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve scoured the boroughs and compiled a top ten list of my favorite “Ten Buck Bites.”
590 Madison Ave., (at 56h Street)
Average price: $4-$8
This midtown lunch newcomer is imported straight from Italy. And so is the homemade mozzarella— made from buffalo milk and shaped by hand. Though I’m not a big fan on eating the on-the-run, Obika’s take-out menu is far too tempting. Did I mention everything’s under ten dollars? Order anything with mozzarella, especially the salted croissant stuffed with prosciutto or the ciabatta sandwich with basil and tomato. And for breakfast, there’s fresh buffalo yogurt with maple syrup or sweet bread with ricotta with nutella, both equally compelling.
UWS Shake Shack
366 Columbus Ave., (nr. 77th Street)
Average Price: Burger & Fries $8
The hands-down, best burger in town has just moved to a slightly saner location on the Upper West Side. Who wouldn’t wait in line for a $4.75 Shack burger (pictured above,) $3.75 cheese fries, and a thick, creamy black & white milkshake? Did I mention the custard? Come Mondays, there’s pumpkin spice flavored custard and Wednesday syrup-spiked pancake.
22 Waverly Place, (btwn. 11th & Perry Sts.)
Average Price: $6
are falafel joints all over New York City, but this Israeli-owned
falafel bar takes this ethnic standard to the next level, which
accounts for the long lines at lunchtime. Yes, all three kinds of
falafel (pictured right) are excellent. Especially the parsley-cilantro-mint
variety. But the real draw is the “sabich” sandwich — a warm pita
stuffed with a hard boiled egg, lightly fried eggplant, hummus, tahini,
salad and amba sauce made from mangoes. A tip — order the homemade
fries and stuff them into the sabich. Just trust me on this one.
12 West 32nd Street, (btwn. 5th Ave. & Broadway)
Price: Average $6
Manhattan’s best lunchtime cafeteria lies in Koreatown And if you know
how to navigate the buffet, it could also be the cheapest. Our
favorite dish here is the kimbap, a Korean vegetable sushi roll. Then
again, the stir-fried squid stew and the traditional bibimbop – rice
bowl with vegetables, meat and egg – are also terrific. For breakfast,
I like the pumpkin porridge studded with red beans – an exotic
alternative to oatmeal.
28 Greenwich Ave., (btwn. W 10th & Charles Sts.)
Average Price: $8.90 for a paratha and lassi
So tiny and assuming, it would be a shame to miss this Indian
restaurant (pictured right.) Once inside, immediately order one of the homemade
parathas – grilled flatbreads stuffed with a variety of fillings. I’m
partial to paratha with a spicy paneer filling. Take it to go or sit
at the bar and chat with the owner, who’s often on the premises. And
don’t leave without getting a lassi, a cold yogurt drink. The tangy
mango and the more exotic cardamom are both good calls.
40-28 Main Street
For the ultimate in cheap eats, take the 7 train to the last stop –
Flushing’s Chinatown. A Cantonese feast awaits you. You could grab 75
cent peking duck tucked into a freshly baked bun from the take-out
window, but Corner 28’s buffet is something to see. Start with the
sticky rice and plunge into sautéed or roast pork, stir-fried eggplant
and homemade rice noodles. That’s just for starters.
Artichoke Basille’s Pizzeria & Brewery
328 East 14th St., (btwn 1st & 2nd Aves.)
Average Price: $2.75-$3.75 for a slice
It’s not often a serious contender comes along where pizza is concerned. The East Village just got an excellent new slice, courtesy of Artichoke’s. The best card they’re holding is a terrifically thick Sicilian pie with fresh basil. That, and the signature artichoke pizza topped with what tastes pretty much like artichoke dip. But there’s more to this parlor than just pizza. Try the cauliflower fritters and flattened meatballs on a stick.
315 5th Ave., (btwn. 2nd & 3rd Sts.)
Average Price: $8.75 for a sandwich or salad, tax included.
Hear vegetarian and people still often think tasteless tofu, fake meat
and kelp juice. No At ‘Snice, a funky Park Slope eatery. Keep your
eye on the blackboard. There are also few, worthy year-round
sandwiches, like the cauliflower wrap stuffed with curried cauliflower,
brown rice, and chickpeas with a side of mango chutney. The
Philly-style seitan wrap does indeed taste somewhat like a Philly
Cheese steak, only healthier. Ditto the vegan riff of a Cuban reuben.
There’s even a West Village outpost.
128 E 28th St., at Lexington Ave.
Price: $6 buffet
This tiny, Indian eatery in Curry Hill seems perpetually packed for
good reason. Dosas, samosas, and fresh-baked naans to name a few.
Not to mention their lunchtime buffet. There’s spicy and creamy
curries, salads, basmati rice, and a great Mulligatany soup. Try the
potato fritters with sweet spicy sauce. Last stop, the kheer (rice
pudding) with coconut chutney.
86 East 7th Street, (btwn. 1st & 2nd Aves)
Average Price: $8 for food and a cup of coffee
This standing room only spot is known for its stellar coffee, ground in
house and brewed to order. No need for a spoon. We found a much more
satisfying utensil. Instead, stir with their saffron shortbread. This
is not just your average coffee shop. Come summer, there’s
mini-zucchini boats stuffed with pistachio, basil, pesto, and quinoa.
As the temperature drops, a frittata or grilled cheese sandwich are
both tasty options. For breakfast, there’s a terrific olive oil cake.