15 Best Cheap Eats in NYC Under $15

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Eating out in New York City is expensive. Scratch that, being in New York City is expensive. But don’t worry, it’s possible to explore NYC on a budget. You just have to apply creativity. 

When you’re in NYC, you won’t want to cook every meal in your accommodation. You can "travel" to dozens of countries through your palette, without ever having to leave the city. So much of the city’s identity is connected to the culinary scene. So, get out and about, exploring through your tastebuds. 

Plus, can you really say you’ve been to NYC if you haven't tried a dollar slice?

To help you make the most of your budget, we’ve created a list of the 15 best cheap eats in NYC under $15. Keep on reading, if you’re ready to eat your way around the city, without breaking the bank. 

Let’s kick things off with five meals under $15. These are some of the nicer (and healthier) dishes on our list. Sure, these are the most expensive meals on our list, but $15 is still a great deal, here in NYC. 

The Village Den

Queer Eye fans might immediately recognize this eatery. In 2018, celebrity chef and Fab Five member Antoni Porowski opened this fast-casual spot. The menu (although lacking Antoni’s signature guacamole), features a variety of healthy bowls, TV-dinners, and salads. 

Unfortunately, not everything on the menu falls under the $15 mark. But, you can easily find some dishes to fit your budget and lifestyle, especially if you follow a keto, Whole 30, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet. 

My Picks: Jerk Roasted Turkey Meatballs Bowl ($13.50) or Almond Ceasar Salad ($12).

Reservations are only open at this East Village staple for groups of six or more. So, if you’re going for a date night, be prepared to wait. Although there are unlimited dining options in The Village, locals line up for San Marzano. Why? $9 bowls of pasta. 

My Picks: Keep it under $10 and order any bowl of pasta ($9). At that price, you can add a draft beer ($4) or glass of sangria ($5) and still keep your meal under $15.

GETE Burgers is a sister restaurant of the popular UWS brunch spot, Good Enough to Eat. The delectable joint serves affordable American comfort classics in a relaxed space. Come here for roasted chicken, fries, burgers, and people watching from the sidewalk seating.

by CHLOE is a plant-based vegan restaurant that’s changing our perception of fast food. They make simple, nourishing meals that have both a positive impact on their customers and the environment. This trendy spot (which feels slightly more LA than NYC) is a great place to enjoy a budget-friendly healthy meal while snapping a few snaps for the ‘gram. 

My Picks: The Guac Burger ($10.95) or the Quinoa Taco Salad ($12.45).

Fuku is the counter-service brainchild of David Chang, the restauranteur behind Momofuku Noodle Bar. This spot features an Asian and American-influenced menu of fried chicken and sides. 

My Picks: Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich Meal ($11) or Chicken Finger Meal ($10.50).

If $15 wasn’t cheap enough, here are the $10 options.

Xi’an Famous Foods

After opening in 2005 in the basement of the Golden Mall in Flushing, Queens, Xi’an Famous Foods has become extremely popular throughout the city. This family-run eatery serves authentic Western Chinese cuisine. It’s been featured on a variety of cooking shows, including Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations

My Picks: Spicy & Sour Lamb Dumplings in Soup ($9.41) or Mount Qi Vegetables Hand-Ripped Noodles ($9.97).

California has IN-N-Out, Texas has Whataburger, and New York has Shake Shack. Not to brag, but we think the East Coast is the clear winner here. Erase the images of other fast food joints out of your head (sorry McDonalds and Wendy’s). Shake Shack serves all-natural burgers on a non-GMO potato bun. Even if you don’t care about that, here is the important thing: Shake Shack is delicious.

My Picks: Shack Burger ($5.80) + Fries ($3.09)

In the 1990s, Halal Guys started as a simple NYC hot dog cart. They quickly realized a demand for fast, delicious halal food, so they began serving platters of halal chicken and gyro over rice. Today, Halal Guys is a growing chain with locations around the world.

My Picks: Chicken Shawarma Sandwich ($6.49) or Lamb over Rice Special ($8.99)

Maybe you’ve tried chicken and waffles before. But have you ever had chicken in a waffle cone? I hadn’t either. Visit the Turnstyle Underground Market under Columbus Circle to get your hands on this taste sensation. You can pick from a variety of sauces including Peri Peri, Traditional BBQ, and Cinna-Maple.

My Picks: Any flavor of Chick’n’Cone ($8)

Before leaving the Turnstyle Market, check out another great option, the Bolivian Llama Party. This spot is best known for their salteñas (Bolivia’s traditional version of empanadas). Vegetarian, chicken, and beef varieties are all available under budget! 

My Picks: Any salteñas ($6.95)

Finally, we’ve reached the best of the budget eats… the places you go when rent is due.

Welcome to the $5 and under list. 

Los Tacos No. 1

Although it looks simple, this taco stand serves up some of the best Mexican cuisine in the city. The menu focuses on a few dishes, which helps keep the long lines moving. For $5, you can enjoy a taco, quesadilla, or chips and guac.

My Picks: Pollo Asado Taco ($3.95) or Carne Asada Quesidilla ($4.95)

We can’t talk about NYC eats without mentioning bagels. Try one for yourself to see if New York’s water really makes a difference (we think so but you could also argue that we are biased). H&H Bagels is just one of many delicious bagel shops around the city, but you might recognize it from the iconic 90s sitcom, Seinfeld.

My Picks: Any bagel + flavored cream cheese ($4.35) or any bagel + plain cream cheese ($3.30)

When in New York, you need to try a dollar slice. Honestly, it’s as much a part of the city as the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge. 2 Bros. Pizza is a classic no-frills dollar slice shop. Stop by and pick up a slice (or 2 or 3). 

My Picks: A dollar slice ($1)

Baohaus is an unassuming East Village spot for Taiwanese style steamed buns. If you find two quarters, you can try some of the upgraded bao options. Otherwise, you won’t be disappointed with the $5 Birdhaus Bao or Uncle Jessee Bao.

My Picks: Uncle Jessee Bao ($5) or Birdhaus Bao ($5)

Last but not least, we need to talk about the classic NYC hot dog. You know you want to try one, but where should you go? Order one from a hot dog cart or stop by Gray’s Papaya. This 24-hour eatery (with locations in Midtown and Uptown) serves $1 hot dogs. 

My Picks: Frank with Chili ($1.50) or the Local Special of one Frank and a Tropical Drink ($3.95)

Hungry yet? Well, now you know how to still enjoy NYC’s food scene, no matter what your budget is.