Wondering where to find the best cheap eats near NYU? Like plenty of New Yorkers, you might find yourself on a budget from time to time and if you’re anything like me you like to get the most bang for your buck, especially when it comes to food. Having spent two years living in NYC on a strict student budget and refusing to compromise on quality, I’ve tasted a lot of mediocre tacos in order to root out the absolute best cheap and cheap-ish places to get quality food in the area.
Related Reading: New York’s Best-Rated Restaurant Will Shock You
Most of the restaurants on this list are located near NYU with a few additions located just a short walk from campus. All are either wallet-friendly or have great specials that you should definitely know about it, especially if you’re a fellow bobcat on a budget. These are my favorite go-to-spots for cheap eats near NYU.
Address: 114 Macdougal St.
This little Vietnamese sandwich spot is located on Macdougal St. right next to the NYU campus. It is one of the best places to go to when pressed for time but in need of quick, cheap eats. I recommend their S.S. Classic, a very filling ham bahn mi with house bacon and pâté for just $5. Most sandwiches are served with mayo, cucumber, cilantro, carrots, and daikon and if you prefer a spicy kick they can definitely accommodate. They’re quick here too (you can usually get out of there in 3 or 4 minutes) but do be aware that it’s cash only.
Address: 30 St Marks Place
This iconic local chain is one of my favorite spots in NYC and if you love Middle Eastern food as much as I do, you’ll go weak for it. I recommend getting a “half and half” plate with rice, chicken, and shawarma; that way you’ll get to try a little of everything. The plate also comes with some vegetables and pita bread—a filling meal for just $12.
Related Reading: Hometown Heroes: These Regional Sandwich Chains Should Go National
Inside Scoop: A friend of mine who shall remain nameless works for Mamoun’s and suggests going on Mondays when everything is “freshest.” If you prefer to eat your shawarma or falafel with rice and not just a salad, go to the one on St. Marks Place. I found out the hard way that the Macdougal location doesn’t have rice.
Address: 193 Bleecker St.
This place is my favorite when I need a quick snack in between classes. The best part is every weekday from 3-5 p.m. they have a “happy hour” with one of their signature Lebanese flatbreads (breakdown below) on sale for just $3.
- Monday: Za’atar (pictured), a warm, earthy blend of dried thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds mixed with oil on a crispy baked flatbread.
- Tuesday: Jibneh, a soft cow cheese, melted onto flatbread.
- Wednesday: Kishek, or dried yogurt re-hydrated, with tomato, onion, potato, and sesame seeds.
- Thursday: Half za’atar and half jibneh.
- Friday: Labneh (a traditional thick and creamy strained yogurt spread) or hummus on flatbread.
Address: 313 6th Ave. (at West 3rd)
When I first moved to New York all my international friends raved about this place, lauding it as real, authentic Western Chinese food. Xian serves dumplings, noodles, soups, and veggie sides but my favorite is the spicy pork burger with stewed pork belly meat ($5) that’s chopped and served with its own juices on a warm and crispy flatbread-like bun. The burger is so good that I always plan on ordering one but end up getting like three. They do a similar sandwich with stewed lamb meat in addition to the may other budget-friendly options under $10.
Address: 221 1st Ave.
Coming from Miami, Florida where all Hispanic food is relatively cheap, this was a rare find for me, especially in Manhattan. For around $14 you get an entree with two sides and a salad. I love the breaded chicken with white rice, fries, and generally substitute the salad for an order of fried plantains, one of my favorite Hispanic dishes. The bakery items are also reasonably priced and I recommend the pan de bono (a Colombian cheese bread) or the fried beef Colombian empanadas. Both clock in around $2.
Inside Scoop: I’ve found they give more food when you order to-go versus eating in the restaurant.
Address: 75 9th Ave. (located inside Chelsea Market)
Adding a dessert spot on this list because who doesn’t love brownies? These are the best I’ve ever had and what’s (pleasantly) surprising is how cheap they are, especially after 5 p.m. when all brownies that aren’t pre-packaged are just $1.50. The brownies are made fresh daily and range in flavors from the “Fat Witch Original” to “Red Velvet.” Something to remember is that the Red Velvet brownie sells out quick. I highly recommend their Fat Witch Original and their Caramel Witch brownies. If you are worried about them drying out, don’t fret—they’ll stay fresh for a few days, so feel free to stock up.
Address: 90 University Place
This cute little breakfast spot might have you fighting with other locals over the limited seating but the food more than makes up for it. I’d recommend getting “The Grey Dog’s Breakfast” ($14.95), which includes eggs any style, French toast or pancakes, and bacon, sausage, or avocado. The pancakes and French toast come with a raspberry paste that is to die for, and when it mixes with maple syrup…O.M.G.
I like this place because you don’t have to do the awkward small talk with a waiter, but rather fend for yourself ordering at the counter and finding a table. Snag your own silverware and napkins and food is brought to your table when ready. Bonus: you don’t have to wait for the check at the end because you’ve already paid!
111 Avenue A
To be honest, every time I think about this spot my mouth starts to water. I generally want everything on the menu and they have so many deals it’s downright ridiculous. Every weekday until 8 p.m. is happy hour. Sundays and Mondays all their taquitos and quesadillas are 30 percent off with $8 margaritas. Tuesday (a.k.a Loco Tuesday), all tapas are 30 percent off, and on Thursdays, they have Brasilian Night with food specials and frozen caipirinhas for just $8!
Header image courtesy of Mamoun's