10 tips for eating on a budget in NYC | GoProfe

It goes without saying that New York is regarded as one of the greatest cities on earth, but unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive. While part of the reason to visit the Big Apple is to live it up a little, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy your time there and still save money. Aside from lodging, one of the priciest parts of a typical stay in NYC is going out to eat. Follow our 10 local food tips and you’re sure to have some great meals without spending all of your money. 

Start the day off right with a filling breakfast

It might be convenient to eat at your hotel, but it isn’t likely to be cheap, so skip the buffet line, but don’t skip breakfast entirely. Among the cheapest and most classic of New York breakfast are the humble bagel and the BEC – a simple sandwich, stuffed with bacon, egg and cheese! The city’s best bagels typically cost between $1 and $4, depending on your choice of topping. As for the BEC, we’ve seen them sold for as little as $2.50, or, on the higher end, around $15. You’ll find bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches everywhere, and in all sorts of varieties, but we wouldn’t spend more than $4 if your want to keep things budget-friendly. 

Keep your meal simple by ordering a sandwich

Even if you know very little about food in New York, you’ve likely heard of the pastrami on rye sandwich from Katz Deli. Although that particular sandwich will set you back $20, New York is full of classic sandwiches priced around $10, and portion sizes are hefty. Choose from traditional options like an egg salad sandwich, the rueben, a tuna melt or roast beef, or go for something more exotic, like the ever-popular Vietnamese banh mi. 

Enjoy one of New York’s most Iconic Eats: the hotdog

The original street food, hotdogs are inextricably associated with Germany, BBQs, baseball games, Chicago and New York City. Nathan’s Famous, Gray’s Papaya Shake Shack and Crif Dogs are our NY recommendations for the best deals that don’t compromise on quality. Whether you go with one of our suggestions, opt for an infamous “dirty water dog” or try a gourmet dog from a high-class eatery, It’s a right of passage to eat a hotdog while in NYC.

Eat on the streets

New York has a long tradition of street food. The city embraced it’s local vendors even before it was trendy! From designer trucks, to pop-ups, to simple, single-person carts, there are enough options around to make sure you’ll never go hungry. The aforementioned hot dogs, along with soft pretzels and shawarma are pretty common offerings. To find the most unique local street food options, check out roaminghunger.com or nyctruckfood.com. On NYC Truck Food, you can search for venders by location or cuisine.
Indulge in a longstanding NYC tradition, the 99 cent slice
Although New York style pizza isn’t always so cheap, you can get a slice for 99¢, really! For reliable chain outposts that can be found all over NYC, visit 99¢ Fresh Pizza or Joey Pepperoni. Although addressing who makes the best dollar pizza is likely to ignite debate, if you’re really going for quality, we’d suggest $1 Pizza Slice on Lexington Ave or or Percy’s Pizza on Bleecker St.

BBQ in a Park

A great excuse for sharing good food, enjoying nice weather, and getting friends together for a social gathering, there really isn’t anything not to like about barbecuing. New York is full of public parks, many of which allow BBQs and even provide stationary grills for cooking. Taking advantage of this by picking up some groceries and doing your own cooking is a great way to save money and take part in one of America’s favorite pastimes. You can find a list of all of the parks that allow barbecuing by visiting New York City’s parks department website (https://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/barbecue). Unfortunately, BBQs are not allowed in NY’s iconic Central Park, but if you happen to be in New York over Memorial Day, Labor Day, or Independence Day, the city makes an exception and lets you bring in portable equipment for grilling. picnic-west-side.jpg

Eat at one of the 1,000s of Falafel joints in the city

Indulging in falafel is easily one of the best local options for budget-dining; they’re tasty, filling, and suitable for most people with special dietary needs. The perfect falafel is well seasoned, freshly prepared and is both tender and crispy. While the exact origins of falafel are debated, they began to appear in New York around the 1970s. Quality falafal in NYC will set you back anywhere from $3 – $7.50. On the more economic side, try it from Mamoun’s or King of Falafel & Shawarma, and for the best of the best, go to Taïm or Azuri Cafeé. Falafel are delicious on their own, but as many New Yorkers would agree, served in a pita sandwich, with extras like hummus, hot sauce, tahini and veggies, they’re even more enticing!

Make lunch your main meal of the day

Opting for lunch at a restaurant rather than dinner can save you big bucks in NYC; this is true whether you’re eating somewhere that’s reasonably priced to begin with or somewhere that’s known for its haute cuisine. Another advantage of eating at popular New York restaurants for lunch is that it’s easier to get a table during the day, since they typically aren’t as busy. Try the prix-fixe lunch somewhere like Michelin starred Gotham Bar & Grill ($35 for 3 courses), a Union Square classic that’s long been celebrated for it’s seasonally driven take on American fine dining.

Eat at Happy Hour

Happy Hour, which began as a pre-dinner drinking tradition, is now typically associated with discounts on drinks. Likely adopted during the Prohibition-era, when laws forced Americans to consume alcohol in secrecy, this American past time has been widely adopted by restaurants and bars as an effective marketing strategy. Typical Happy Hours last from 5 to 7, Monday thought Friday, although some run from 4 to 8, and on rarer occasions, bars offer late night happy hours, or all night happy hours on certain days. New York has some of the best happy hours in the country, so you should have no problem finding places that also offer discounted food, or even give you a bit of food for free when you order drinks. It’s fun to wander the streets and find Happy Hours spontaneously, but for a more planned approach, nyhappyhours.com boasts a directory of the (self proclaimed) best happy hours in New York City. By taking advantage of local Happy Hours and eating a little bit early, you can save a ton of money! 

Forget About Ordering Dinner Drinks, opt to BYOB 

Bring Your Own Beer policies, more commonly referred to with the acronym BYOB, encourage you to provide for yourself when it comes to the consumption of alcoholic drinks. As locals know all too well, the most expensive part of a dinner in New York can actually be the drinks! Although it’s not common practice, there are restaurants in New York that have a BYOB, or more accurately stated, a BYOD policy. Our top two recommendations? Gaia Italian Cafe (bring your own wine, no corkage fee), known for their simple comfort food, homemade pasta and cozy atmosphere, and Tartine (beer, wine and liquor allowed, no fees), New York’s take on French Bistro fare, complete with sidewalk seating. In case you are looking for something other than Italian or French cuisine, comprehensive lists of BYOB restaurants, and their corresponding policies, can be easily found through Googling. 
What’s Your #1 Tip for Saving Money on Food in NYC?
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