STA Travel Air Product Executive Tom Browne has recently returned from a 2 year long stint at the STA Travel store in New York (yes, yes, I know, I hate him too). So after spending plenty of time discovering the city that never sleeps he should have a nugget of wisdom or two to share when it comes to finding the cheapest and best quality grub in a city famous for it first class cuisine.
Here’s Toms Guide to where to head if you want decent food at budget prices in New York.
A few months ago, my girlfriend came to visit me while I was living in New York, the first morning of her visit we sat drinking cups of tea in the kitchen, discussing plans for the day. We decided to get a bagel and walk to the waterfront… At which point I asked her “What are you going to order when we get there?” to which, bemused, she responded “a smoked salmon bagel?”
NYC Food Lesson #1 there is no such thing as just a smoked salmon bagel. Lesson #2? Know your order before you get to the cashier. After much explanation – she got it down.
“Lemme gedda lightly toasted poppy seed, with regular cream cheese and nova lox, arugula, pepper and a squeeze a’lemon”
Ordering any food in New York has the potential to be pretty traumatic, however, get it right and you can dine like a king for less than the price of a Boots meal deal… Here are some of my suggestions for eating like a true New Yorker, on a budget, just don’t forget to tip!
Manhattan is home to some of the best food in the city.
Where Are The best Places to Eat in New York City?
The ‘bialy’ is the bagels lesser known cousin. Originally a Polish Jewish import that feels like a little NYC secret, bialys are like an English muffin/bagel hybrid stuffed full of caramelised onions and poppy seeds. Kossars in the heart of the Lower East Side is one of the few remaining bakeries that still bake bialys daily, and for under a buck, with butter and sprinkle of salt, I challenge you to find a better dollar vs. deliciousness breakfast item anywhere in New York.
Get it here: 367 Grand St, Manhattan, NY 10002
Mud Truck – Coffee
Man, I love the Mud Truck. It’s not technically ‘eats’ but $2.50 here will buy you the best damn cup of coffee in Manhattan. Order a regular cup of coffee, milk and sugar and be sure stop into STA Travel East Village to say ‘hi’ (tell them Tom sent you!)
Get it here: Astor Place, Manhattan, 10003
Veselka – Diner
The East Village has seen some serious changes over the years – it’s made the change to a neighbourhood overflowing with young glamorous hipsters and fashionable restaurants. One place, however, has remained constant throughout the neighbourhoods radical transformation; Veselka. A 24 hour a day, 7 day a week Ukranian diner serving an array of American and Eastern European dishes – from Pierogis to Pancakes.
Get it here: 144 2nd Ave, Manhattan, 10003.
Just one of the treats on offer at Veselka
Grays Papaya – Hot Dogs
Q ‘How can you can tell a real New Yorker?’
A ‘By their attachment to Grays Papaya’
The recession special – two dogs and a papaya drink for $5 – is as engrained in New York culture as break dancers on the Q Train and power walkers in Central Park. This NYC institution is the only place to get hot dogs in New York, so forget the ‘dirty water dogs’ you can find at street carts all around the city, and make the pilgrimage – it’s worth the extra $2.50 subway fare, I promise you!
Get it here: 2090 Broadway, Manhattan, NY 10023 / 402 6th Ave, Manhattan NY10011
Mamouns – Falafel
This tiny hole in the wall in the West Village is famous for killer hot sauce and ridiculously good value falafel sandwiches. At only 3 bucks a pop, Mamouns has been feeding hungry NYU kids for decades and is well worth the pit stop after late night drinks at the Comedy Cellar or White Horse Tavern.
Get it here: 119 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012
What’s NYC without a bagel? Murrays Bagels near Union Square is generally regarded as one of the finest, if not the finest place to get a Bagel in the city. With a tough exterior and soft fluffy centre, these breakfast breads are pretty damn opulent – just don’t dare to ask for it toasted. (Mine’s an Egg everything with Scallion cream cheese, by the way.)
Get it here: 500 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10011
Shake Shack – Burger Joint
California has In-N-Out, Texas has Whattaburger and New York has the ‘Shack. Originally opened as a tiny restaurant in Madison Square Park, a stone’s throw from the iconic Flatiron building, Shake Shack is now a global operation, with joints serving loyal customers awesome burgers, concretes, shakes and hot dogs from Brooklyn to Covent Garden. The ‘Shack Burger’ is a modern NYC classic – and the best bit? Add fries and a drink and you’ll still have change from $10.
Get it here: 23rd street and Madison Ave, Manhattan, NY 10010
Grab a burger at Shake Shack.
Red Hook Food Carts
Red Hook; the infamous Brooklyn dock along the East River, and setting for ‘On The Waterfront’ is a long way from Manhattan, especially as no train lines run there (there is a ferry from Wall St) However, if you do decide to make the trip – and you should – your first stop should be the football (soccer) fields; home of some of New York’s cheapest and best Latin American food.
Served from the long standing food trucks that line the streets adjacent to the pitches, you can find anything from Aguas Frescas and Churros, to Papusas and Arepas and get a taste of New York not many who visit can say they’ve experienced.
Get it here: Clinton and Bay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Blue Collar – Burger Joint
Williamsburg’s best burger – Blue Collar sits in a funny spot on Havemeyer Street; 5 minutes’ walk from the Williamsburg Bridge. Loosely 1950s themed in decor, Blue Collar’s cheeseburger weighs in at around $5 – and a damn fine way to spend it too. The shakes, although a little expensive are also deeeeelicious!
Get it here: 160 Havemeyer St (between 3rd St & 2nd St), Brooklyn, NY 11211
Peter Pan’s – Doughnuts
If you can brave the wilds of the Brooklyn’s local ‘G Train’, then I promise you that the reward as you step out at Nassau Avenue will be well worth it. Peter Pan’s has been serving Greenpoint its fix of delicious fried dough for as long Polish residents have swarmed to this North Brooklyn neighbourhood, and with ‘nuts costing just a dollar, this is some serious grub for your cash. Make sure you keep an eye out for the egg sandwiches and frankly ludicrous donut-ice-cream-sandwiches available in summer months!
Get it here: 727 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn 11222.
Di Fara – Pizza
Ok, so technically this is not a cheap slice. In fact, you’re looking at $5 for taste of Dom Di Fara’s famous pizza, and the whole thing is more like $30. But think of it as an investment in your relationship with New York. The journey to Midwood, an hour from Manhattan on a good day, takes you past half of Brooklyn.
The wait, 45 minutes minimum if you’re first in line, is sure to throw up some characters as you stand on corner, just a couple of miles from Coney Island. And the pizza? Well, Di Fara is the best pizza in New York, and New York has the best pizza in the world. Think on that.
Get it here: 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230
The pizza in Di Fara is definitely worth the wait.
Pho Bang – Vietnamese
For the best damn bowl of Pho outside of Hanoi you have to check out Pho Bang, just off Flushing’s main strip in Queens. A long ride on the ‘7 Train’ will drop you off in Flushing, New York’s little Asia. Don’t expect too much fancy décor – just great, inexpensive and delicious food.
Get it here: 4107 Kissena Blvd Flushing, NY 11355
Xi’An Famous Foods – Noodles
Xi’An is probably Flushing’s most famous restaurant, it’s been on just about every show to come to New York – from Anthony Bourdain to our very own Jamie Oliver. What makes it special? Well, first, it’s hidden down a flight of stairs in a Flushing basement food mall that looks more like a sanitary inspector’s worst nightmare than a culinary hotbed.
Second? Its hand pulled noodles are unbelievably delicious, unique and incredibly cheap at $4 a pop. A trip to Flushing is definitely recommended, but if you don’t fancy the long ride – they also have outposts in the East Village, Brooklyn and Chinatown.
Get it here: Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main St Basement, Ste 36, Flushing, NY 11355
Seafood City, City Island
The Bronx gets a bad rep – and few visitors, but make the effort to take the long ‘6 Train’ ride along Pelham Bay Parkway and up to the very edge of the Borough and you’ll find City Island, home of the most ridiculous and awesome sea food in the city. Seafood City is not gourmet food by any means, but it’s brilliantly greasy and cheap (a pound of fried Shrimp is about $7) and you get some pretty incredible views of the City on the way there. Oh, and they serve Frozen Henny Coladas (google it). Daaaamn!
Get it here: 459 City Island Ave, Bronx, NY 10464