This article first appeared on Geckos Tales.
On a recent trip to New York City, I made it my mission to try a momentous amount of what the city has to offer my stomach.
But, as anyone who has travelled to New York would know, it’s not the cheapest city in the world – and with so much other cool stuff to do, it isn’t ideal to spend hours every day sitting in upmarket restaurants. To save some serious coin and really get a feel for the city that never sleeps, I recommend grabbing a bite on the run in cheaper restaurants or take-away joints. Here are my top New York food picks for under $20 USD:
As New York is the home of the dollar slice, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to cheap, delicious pizza. Grab a slice of cheese or pepperoni as big as your head, fold it over and eat it on the run like a true local. Or if you want something equally iconic and a little heartier, try a slice from Artichoke Basille’s Pizza. With locations all over New York, you should be able to grab a piece no matter which borough you’re in. Go for the original artichoke slice – it’s cheesy, creamy, comfort food at its best.
A slice at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza for a cool $4.75 USD
Rich slices of tender pork, fresh spring onions (also known as scallions), piles of thin, straight noodles and a meaty tonkotsu broth – these are the flagship ingredients of a classic Kyushu ramen. And while NYC is a good 13-hour flight from Japan, they do a mighty fine rendition of this noodle soup all over the city. Normally you can customise your meal with chilli, fried garlic, eggs and seaweed. And if you want to tailor the thickness of the broth (read: how much pork ‘fatback’ is added) head to Zundo-Ya in the East Village. Pick up an Asahi or Kirin beer for $2 or a Sake cocktail for $5 during happy hour. Bargain!
A piping hot bowl of Motoaji Ramen at Zundo-Ya for $13 USD
If you overdid it on the pork front at ramen, you might be after something a little lighter and less meaty. Enter, the falafel. While a dry, bland falafel can be truly awful, a GREAT falafel is equally unforgettable, but for the right reasons. Delicate on the inside, crispy on the outside and full of flavour, Mamoun’s Falafel have been churning out these bad boys since 1977, and now have locations all over New York and New Jersey. I went to the Greenwich Village original (in the wee hours of the morning) and it was top shelf.
Mamoun’s Falafel sandwich for $3.50 USD
A greasy, cheesy burger is almost synonymous with a trip to the States. And in New York you certainly have your pick of the bunch. Whether you prefer something a little fancier, like the Chargrilled Burger at The Spotted Pig (which contains a thick, half-pound patty and generous amounts of blue cheese), or the classic Bistro Burger at Corner Bistro (complete with crispy American bacon) you’ll find a burger that will tickle any tastebuds. But if you’re in New York, it’s hard to go past Shake Shack. Originally a hot dog cart in Madison Square, before expanding to various locations around the city, Shake Shack is the epitome of New York’s fast food scene. While it’s now the city’s worst-kept culinary secret, it has a big following for a reason. Check it out.
The Shackburger at Shake Shack for $5.29 USD
You can hardly go to New York and not cram your stomach full of bagels, so if you’re going to put yourself into a carb coma, do it right and head to Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side. This place is an institution, with the same family having served New Yorkers all the best a traditional Jewish deli has to offer since 1914. Aside from bagels with a schmear and cured fish to go, you can buy all sorts of goodies to take home – anything from smoked fish, to pastries and dried fruits.
Russ & Daughters’ Belly Lox Bagel for $11 USD
Flushing, Queens. Home of the US Open, The Nanny and really delicious Chinese food. Jump on the subway and take the Flushing line about 45 minutes out of downtown, and when you get off you’ll think you’ve been transported to Asia. Street markets selling seafood and fresh produce, shopping malls full of pokey hawker style eateries – this place has it all. For the best fried pork dumplings you’ll ever have in your life, head to Yoz Shanghai in the Golden Shopping Mall. It’s very basic on the decor and service front, but the food is stellar.
10 pan fried pork dumplings for $4 USD at Yoz Shanghai
A really big sandwich
When you’re in New York, you have to make a stop at a proper deli for some cold cuts, pickles and a sandwich. And one particular deli has been serving up sandwiches since 1888, so you know they’re doing something right! No matter what time of day you go to Katz’s, it’s packed with hungry locals and tourists. Line up in front of one of the ‘cutters’ who will customise a sandwich for you based on your choice of meat and simple salad additions. The sandwiches are ENORMOUS, so I recommend sharing with a friend (or saving half for later). When you bite into your sandwich you’ll struggle not to re-enact the iconic scene from When Harry Met Sally. They’re that darn good!
Katz’s Delicatessen, Katz’s Original Recipe Salami Sandwich for $16.45 USD (or about 8 bucks each if you go halvies)