I spent a couple hours yesterday strolling down 8th ave looking for food under $5. I didn't bring any notes with me, but wasn't surprised to find a few of the places I went to are hound favorites.
Ba Xuyen- 8th nr. 43rd.
This is the only place I knew about starting out, and it didn't disappoint. One of the tastier Bahn Mi you'll find in the city, and at $3.75, a bargain. Filled with hipsters and locals alike, I can't wait to come back and work my way through the menu. Only eating half the sandwich I felt pretty full.
Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House- 48th, just east of 8th.
There's only 4 tables in this place, so expect to share a table if it's busy, which it was yesterday. $1 fort 4 fat pork and chive dumplings, or the same for yummy scallion pancakes. I met a nice woman who regularly brings her children there after school for a snack. "Good food and good price," she said.
Metro Cafe- 8th and 50th
When I asked the woman at Kain Feng Fu for another recommendation, she suggested this place just a couple blocks down for BBQ meats and really spicy Szechuan. I was already getting full so I stuck to a $1 chicken skewer, but while it was cooking I asked about the sizable non-english menu and got some ideas for next time. The szechuan dishes looked crimson red and spicy as hell, and most rang in at around $5. Can't vouch for it yet, but I'll be hitting it up first next time.
Street Cart- 55th and 8th
I couldn't pass up trying some street meat, so I stopped at the first one I found and ordered a beef skewer and an ear of corn ($1, $2). The beef was juicy short-rib meat and was seasoned with what tasted like five spice with extra star anise. The corn was sweet and smoky.
Quickly- 60th just west of 8th
No trip is complete without a cup of tea to wash it all down. $2.50 for a small passion fruit green tea. Hit the spot on a nice sunny day.
Two places I didn't get to try but am curious about are Wong Wong Noodle on 8th and 54th and a place offering home-style Fuzhou cooking on 53rd just east of 8th. Wong Wong has big bowls of Lan Zhou hand-pulled noodles for $4 a pop, and it was packed. I was sorry to have to save it for another day.