11 Cheap Eats Under $20 in NYC

Finding good value for food in New York City is not easy. You can always grab a slice, a sandwich or a salad at pretty much any of the new $1 pizza places, bodegas or delis along the streets but you are not necessarily getting good food or value. So after 11.5 years of living in Manhattan, I have a few recommendations. I think I know what I’m talking about since I eat out every single meal. It is cheaper than cooking if you know what you’re doing and certainly in my case; it’s better! Here are my top 11 cheap eats under $20 in New York City.

Luke’s Lobster
Lobster Rolls…East Village and multiple locations
Luke’s is the best lobster roll in Manhattan. It’s a little bit of Kennebunkport right here in New York. At $15 for a roll or 17 for a roll with chips and a soda, the value is unbeatable and the food is off the charts.

Joe’s Pizza
Pizza…West Village
The quintessential New York street slice. It is the best slice in the city. It is popular with celebrities and it is the late night favorite of many a drunken villager, NYPD and everyone in between. At $2.75 for a slice of heaven, you’ll find yourself there as much as I’ve been-some 2000 times!

Middle Eastern/Falafel…West Village and East Village
This village landmark on McDougall Street is packed at all times of the day. The $2.00 falafel is the best in town and the $5.00 shawarma is the best I’ve ever had. Add some hot sauce and you’re launched. For those prices go back for seconds. It is the best value in NYC.

Shake Shack
Burgers/Shakes…Madison Square Park and multiple locations
The only burger I’ve ever had that I like more than the west coast institution of In N Out burgers. The line may be a pain but the wait is worth it. Now with locations on the upper east and west plus at new Citi Field, you have some options. It may be a tourist favorite but for burger deliciousness at only $8.00, real New Yorkers wait for it too.

Macaroni and Cheese…East Village
Sarita’s macaroni and cheese is hidden on a side street in the east village but a venture eastward is well worth the trip. The $10 cheeseburger and buffalo chicken mac n cheese is as good as it gets. Add Tabasco and you’ll be loving life although nobody will want to talk to you with that breath but after S’Mac; you won’t care.

Murray’s Cheese
Sandwiches/Cheese/Antipasto…West Village
Unreal, delicious cheese sandwich concoctions of goodness. At only $8-$12, you can’t go wrong and if you can’t decide on what sandwich to get, grab an amazing antipasto mix from the olive bar. A village institution and be prepared to be satisfied.

Carl’s Cheesesteaks
Cheesesteaks…Murray Hill and other locations
Carl’s has better cheesesteaks than anywhere in Philadelphia. The $7 steaks are off the charts. With or without onions, the bread is perfect and the ambience is what it should be, nonexistent. It’s all about the food and it is open late after a night out in the Murray Hill bars.

Corner Bistro
Burgers…West Village
This NYC institution has been doing it right forever. At $6.75 for an enormous bacon cheeseburger that melts in your mouth while the grease drips down your hands, you will be shocked at what value you’re getting. It is also a local favorite where you never know what famous neighbors you may run into.

Creperie NYC
Crepes/Pressed Sandwiches…West Village and Lower East Side
Savory or sweet, you will be delighted by the value you get at this relatively new late night meeting place. I love the pressed Cuban sandwich but the crepes are awesome too. Everything is under $10 so try a few different things. You’ll be glad you did.

Second Avenue Deli
Jewish Deli…Murray Hill and multiple locations
It may not be on Second Avenue anymore which is still ridiculous but the $15 corned beef or pastrami sandwiches are still the best in the city. If meat isn’t your thing, have some matzo ball soup or potato pancakes. Whatever you get, don’t forget a Dr. Brown’s kosher soda on the side!

The Kati Roll Company
Indian…West Village and Midtown West
Kati Rolls are an awesome, safe, and cheap way to get your Indian fix at only $6-$8 for a delicious kati roll of chicken or beef tikka. It is always packed and is open until 4am. It only takes a minute to get it ready and the nan itself is worth a visit.

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  1. Awesome list! I love S’Mac…mmmm buffalo chicken!

  2. Shake Shack is good but I prefer Corner Bistro and Spotted Pig, not to mention Melons

  3. Great list, gives me new places to try!

  4. S’Mac rules!

  5. I go to the food trucks all the time around town, esp in Union Square area…great thing they copied from LA

  6. I love Murray’s…basically anywhere in the west village

  7. good list, thanks Lee

  8. Mamouns is amazing!

  9. I see you’re a little bias to the village but they do have some great food down there. Us people in the nosebleeds on the upper east side have some decent eats too!

  10. I love Joe’s Pizza!! I go there every evening and I still can’t get enough. I haven’t heard of many places from your list, but I’m gonna try them now! Thanks!

  11. “Carl’s has better cheesesteaks than anywhere in Philadelphia” been there and no it doesn’t. It does serve has great competition with some of the bests in philly which is a accomplishment in itself. I’ve been to jim’s, pat’s, geno’s, tony lukes and john’s roast pork multiple times. Jim’s is definitely better but it competes with the others.

  12. You should do an update of this post. When I was there in January I hit a couple of them. It was helpful.

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