Guest Post | Manhattan | New York City | Road Trip Eats & Restaurants

Five for $5 in New York City

Today, please welcome a post from Kristen Trajan, who has meticulously scouted a few wallet-friendly NYC dining options to keep us full and on a budget.

I’ve been riding the poor train for years now, and while I’ve been known to hop off for a little Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I stay true to my cheap roots. I’m a great dinner date, but not a terribly adventurous grocery partner. (You’re talking to the girl who recently put a $1.29 package of pasta back on the shelf after realizing I could get it for $1.19 eight blocks away.)

But we don’t always have the luxury of—or energy for—making delicious dishes for less at home. And that’s why I’m giving you the highly coveted top 5 under $5.

Under $5, you say? In New York? Yes, my friends, ’tis true. I know just about every corner, park, and questionable hole-in-the-wall restaurant for recession-friendly deliciousness. But I’m starting with five classy spots. You know, where you can take that date you don’t really want to invest in. In no particular order, I give you the first five:

hummus, bite, new york

  1. Bite, hummus plate, $5
    This has become a lunch staple, and not just because I can monitor the line from my office window. Everything is reasonably priced and very tasty, but it’s the hummus plate that I keep going back to. For just $5, you get a dish of homemade hummus (bigger and much better than your grocery store Sabra) prepared with your choice of topping (mine is the cucumber and tomato salad, hold the egg) and two of the most scrumptiously warm homemade pitas I’ve ever had. Bonus: it’s actually kind of good for you.
  2. ‘wichcraft, lentil and parmesan soup + oatmeal cream cookie $4.95+tax
    ‘Wichcraft is delicious, but shelling out $9 for that grilled cheese can be painful. I’ve discovered a tastier alternative: ‘wichcraft’s lentil soup is unbelievably good and filling even for my big appetite. It even comes with two tasty bread/cheese stick thingies. (Note: if you’re a girl and not on a date, you can probably get the boys to throw in a few extra bread sticks.) Paired with an equally healthy oatmeal cream sandwich cookie, just $1, your tummy will be smiling for days.
  3. Shake Shack, Shackburger, $4.95 +tax
    Ok, we’ve all waited in the line. It’s painful, but when timed right, it’s oh so perfect. If you haven’t yet been, stop reading and head to the nearest outpost—maybe soon on the rooftop terrace of the upcoming Nolita outpost? A general rule: if you wait in line for more than 30 minutes, throw in a few extra bucks for the buttery fries. Seriously.
  4. Vanessa’s Dumplings, where $5 will buy you anything
    Once upon a time, Vanessa’s was filed under “questionable hole-in-the wall,” but the throngs of hungry customers patiently waiting outside reassured me that all was kosher. Today, the dingy joint has been completely renovated and, if you can get a table, is now a favorite Chinatown eatery. The entire menu is so cheap you wonder how they do it. (General Chinatown rule: don’t question, just eat.) My favorite is the veggie pancake, $1.25, and the pork and chive dumplings, 4 for $1. It’s so cheap you can convince yourself you’ve earned a Chinatown massage.
  5. Levain‘s infamous cookies, $3.50
    Ok, so this isn’t really a meal, but it could be. This delectable rock of butter, sugar, and goodness is a testament to the baking gods, and will have you covered for at least five hours.

If you have additions to the list, or if you actually took a date to one of the above eateries, we want to know!

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  1. thanks for these tips! i gotta check out bite.

    i love the taco trucks in jackson heights–$4 for two tacos and you’re good and full. or taqueria coatzingo, also in JH, for the same at a sitdown, with a fire roasted jalapeno and baby onions on the side. mmm.

    isn’t it lunch time yet?

  2. oh! and, while at $6 it isn’t quite a fit (unless we can adjust for the inflation of lunch costs in midtown?…) if you work anywhere close to 62nd and madison you HAVE to try the greek chicken platter from tony dragonsa’s cart on that corner. awesomeness.

  3. Sarah, I think I see a contribution from you in the near future – a Jackson Heights neighborhood guide, perhaps?

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