Yes, You Can Eat Out in NYC on a Budget

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

There are two foodie capitals of the world, and New York City is one of them (the other's in France near a giant tower you may have heard about once before). City cuisine is a veritable melting pot of scrumptious choices since NYC is the home of settlers from every nation. With endless options that are all just a few steps away from your front door, you could probably go out every morning, noon, and night of the week for two weeks and never eat at the same place twice. And let's face it, for most of us, getting together with friends usually focuses on food in some way: let's grab a cup of coffee/meet for drinks/have brunch/do lunch/get sushi. The temptation is real, and not only is that bad news for your waistline, but it can wreak havoc on your wallet. The good news is that there are loads of cheap eats available to you in NYC!

Here are some ways that you can nosh and save (money, not calories)!

There's no shame in group coupon deals

Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer great daily deals on everything ranging from calendars and boots to getaways and activities–and food, too! It pays to sign up (an account is free) and scroll down the page while you're on the train in the morning. Whether you're in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Long Island City, there are deals for you. Instead of having to sort through piles of other discounted deals, simply click on "food and drink" to score kebabs, pizza, coffee, or other tasty treats for a price much lower than what you'd usually pay. Some even offer cash back (up to 30% at some places) with enrolled cards.

Do more than drink at happy hour

There are loads of reasons to celebrate happy hour. You're probably finished with work for the day, and it's not just the drinks that are cheap–so are the eats! Some bars serve free food with the purchase of a drink. Other than the dollar slice, this is just the cheapest way to go. See what kind of happy hour deals are offered in your neighborhood or the neighborhood where you work and have a fun time exploring the free or low-budget deliciousness that is happy hour.

Early birds get the deals

You don't have to eat an early dinner like a cheap grandpa. That's not what we're going for here (although early-bird dinners are definite deals). Now, New Yorkers love brunches, but we're not talking about brunch here. In fact, the word brunch really just means pay a higher price. Going out with friends for breakfast or lunch is almost always cheaper than going out for dinner. Get up earlier for your coffee and bagel, or go to a later lunch to avoid the plague that brunch infests on your wallet. If you must have your brunch, then go for the bottomless kind where you get unlimited drinks when you order food–at least there's a freebie in there.

Dish on dumplings

Call them dim sum or know them as dumplings, whether you're in Chinatown, the East Village, Brooklyn, Queens–if you're in New York City, you'll find the east coast's best selection of dumpling deliciousness, and for cheap. You can order what's pretty much a platter of dumplings for less than a couple of dollars. Yummy, filling, and not bank-breaking–what's there not to love?

Go for the dollar slice

Have you ever wondered the reason why Italian-style restaurants in Alabama, Maine, Texas, and Oregon–and every state in between–heavily advertise "New York style pizza" on their signs and in their windows? If you've ever been to New York and tried a piece of pizza, then it's a no-brainer: New York makes the best pizza in the U.S., if not in the entire world (sorry, Italy). The city is ridden with places that sell single slices for a dollar or two. Order a water and two slices, and boom–you've got an entire meal for less than five buckaroos.

Head to the original food truck

It wasn't too long ago when the only food you'd find sold from a truck or stand in the city was a hot dog (or maybe some roasted nuts or popcorn). The hot dog truck sells dirty dogs, which are neither dirty nor cooked in dirty water–the water in which the dogs cook is seasoned with onion, vinegar, and spices, giving that frank the most delicious taste. Nathans, Sabrett's, the new hipster guy with the clever truck name–wherever you find these hot dog stands, you can usually get a dog with the works for $5 or less ($2 if you're a ketchup and mustard kind).

Skip the alcohol

Before you zero out this tab or window, let us clarify: we don't mean to skip drink specials, happy hour, or the occasional "meeting a friend for a drink" and keeping it to one (and just a drink, nothing more). What we are referring to is the high markup on alcohol in New York City!

The truth is that bars and restaurants across the country have a crazy markup on alcohol–around 200%— and since everything else in New York City, dining out (and drinking out) costs more, too.If you're out to eat–whether the place is white tablecloth or red checkerboard plastic–pass on the booze.

Grab a bagel

New York pizza, New York hot dogs–the only quintessentially NYC food item we haven't touched on is the bagel. Like the slice, bakeries, franchises, and restaurants the world over advertise "New York-style bagel" or "New York bagel and cream cheese." Diners who order this item outside of New York always have their hopes and dreams dashed at first bite. Whether it's the water or the organisms in the New York air that react with the yeast, nobody has been able to replicate the beauty of the NY bagel. If you want a bagel with schmear (cream cheese or other spreadable), you'll pay around $3 or so. Make it a hefty sandwich, and you might pay double, which is still incredibly cheap Big Apple-wise!