Since New York City has more college students than any other city in the United States, knowing where to find quick and affordable food options in Manhattan is a must. Despite being known for an expensive standard of living, there are still hole in the wall or cheap restaurants that are just as delicious. So, put down the McDonald’s and eat a broad range of critically celebrated cuisines for a bargain price.
Rise and Shine! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and a New York bagel is waiting. Adored by Zagat, Insider and nearly every ‘Best Bagel’ Guide for NYC, Absolute Bagels, a barebones minimalist joint down the street from Columbia University, has been churning out perfectly boiled bagels for decades. While bagel joints are traditional run by Jewish families, a Thai chef Samak Thongkrieng has mad Absolute Bagels an institution. Thongkrieng bakes sixteen bagel varieties daily, including a unique egg bagel, with a remarkable array of cream chesses, Tofutti, deli meats, salads, and silky smoked fish. While there are seemingly endless ways to customize one’s order, a bagel with cream cheese only sets the customer back $1.95. So, hop on the 1 train and get to 112th street to have your order greeted with a smile as Thongkrieng and his family might offer the nicest service in all of New York. Come early in the morning to get the freshest bagels possible.
This is New York, so not getting a slice is out of the question. Any statement of which joint offers the best slice in Manhattan is a controversial one destined to lead to a heated argument with Joe’s classic original slice or Prince Street’s spicy square have been satisfying customers for years. So, picking a slice shop that opened less than a year ago as the best in Manhattan might seem ridiculous, but Sauce Pizzeria makes the choice easy. Sauce Pizzeria is a counter serve spot with one location in the East Village and another on the Lower East Side from the same owner of the Italian restaurant Sauce. In a short period of time, Sauce has established itself as an elite Manhattan slice with critics loving it including the Barstool Pizza Reviews which gave the the joint a remarkable 9.1 and featured camera man Frankie to declaring “this is the best slice of pizza I’ve ever had and I own a pizza place.”
Some of Sauces slice feature wild toppings from an incredible Upside-Down louse to a unique Al-Pastor pie, yet perhaps the best cheese slice in Manhattan will only set customers back $3.00. For college students out late at night Sauce is open until midnight on weekdays and closes at 4 am on Friday and Saturday. So, hurry to Sauce now before it gets even more popular and brag about eating there ‘before it was cool’.
Kwik Meal Cart
Halal carts or ‘street meat’ have come to dominate NYC, especially in Midtown where hungry white-collar workers dine on chicken and rice during their lunch breaks. With competing carts on every Midtown corner, Kwik Meal Cart sets itself apart as Bangladeshi born chef Mohammad Rahman used to work at the Russian Tea Room and treats his gleaming silver cart like a mini-restaurant. Chef Rahman chats up customers while serving his famous marinated lamb seasoned with cumin and green papaya doused in delicious yogurt-y white sauce either in a Kati roll for $5.00, a pita for $7.00, or on a plate with basmati rice salad for $9.00. Rahman also serves perfectly seasoned thigh meat rubbed in a spice mixture and freshly grilled in kati roll for $3.50, a pita for $5.00, or a platter for $7.00. While the white sauce at many carts tastes like bland mayonnaise, Rahman’s sauce is a blend of Cucumber, Greek Yogurt, Sour Cream, and Cottage cheese. Open until 4 am daily, Kwik Meal Cart can satisfy hungry stomachs late into the night. If the modest street cart is empty, look around as Rahman might be taking a quick smoke break before he gets back to serving up orders.
Chinatown has some of the best cheap eats in the city and Shu Jiao Fu Zhou is a bite sized joint that serves the best Chinese style steamed dumplings in Manhattan. Yes, they only serve steamed dumplings and not fried so grow up because for $2.00 customers can get six beautiful orbs of deliciousness and ten for only $3. Get the 04 Pork and Chive Dumplings. Also, the 05 wheat noodles with peanut butter sauce is a delicious is stunning and one of the best noodle dishes in Manhattan for Smuckers lovers. Of course, there are dumpling joints all around Chinatown, especially the more famous Vanessa’s which is right next door to Shu Jiao Fu Zhou. Yet Shu Jiao Fu Zhou out classes other nearby joints and especially Vanessa’s, which by comparison serves bland dumplings. Come to Shu Jiao Fu Zhou, grab some Sriracha, and feast for a low price
Pedestrians on 8th and 37th walk past Acaurio Café without realizing it, since the Dominican restaurant is tucked inside of a Hell’s Kitchen freight entrance. Owner Rodolfo Perez, a former factory worker who immigrated from the Dominican Republic in his early twenties, keeps the prices low for working class residents and treats his customers like family, often letting them pay next time if they forget their wallets. While paying rent is a priority, Perez focuses on keeping the food cheap, giving customers quality, and providing an environment for families. The line is out the door for plates of food that include protein, rice, and beans go from $5.00 to $8.00 depending on whether customers order pernil, stewed chicken, ground beef, fried chicken, fried catfish, goat meat, Oxtail, Shrimp and other mouthwatering Dominican specialties. The Pollo Guisado (stewed chicken) is incredible and comes with rice and beans for only $5.00. With a well-earned reputation as one of New York’s best hidden kitchens Acaurio Café will continue to serve families and working people Dominican home style cooking at an affordable price.
It’s New York, Get Out There!
New York City is massive and there is a seemingly endless amount of bite-sized joints that serve cheap lunches or late-night meals beyond these five places. So in between classes, exams, and internships explore the city and find mouthwatering restaurants from a broad range of cuisines.