New York may have a well-deserved reputation for high-end dining palaces that garner acclaim worldwide, but eating on a budget is easy, with some guidance from a local psychiatrist.
So, you are all set for the APA annual meeting in New York next month. But with the cost of getting there, staying, and just being in New York City, you don’t expect to have much cash left over. This article is for you.
New York has amazing food and some of the best restaurants in the world. Sure, a meal at one of the most famous of these will cost you about the same as an average mortgage payment in much of the country. But don’t fret. You do not have to be rich to eat richly here.
Below is a quirky and personal list of my favorite bargain dining spots. Remember, when you are in New York, there is no shame in being poor—only eating poorly.
My advice for the diner on a budget? Look to the streets! It’s the best place to people watch, of course, but don’t miss the vast array of food trucks that now dot the city—and appear to be multiplying rapidly. You will find some of the best authentic and delicious food anywhere on the planet at these colorful vehicles. The trucks can be found throughout the city, but are concentrated in midtown, where discerning office workers take their lunch breaks.
Calexico is one of New York’s many food trucks and serves up the best Mexican fare around (and often much better than the fare at Mexican restaurants), but this is the best one. There are two locations: Prince and Wooster streets in SoHo and 1030 Broadway in General Worth Square near the famous Flatiron Building.
At Daisy Mae’s BBQ, be sure to order the chunky Texas chili at any of these three chili carts, with locations at East 50th Street near Sixth Avenue, Broadway and West 39th Street, and 40 Wall Street.
Luke’s Lobster is pure seafood perfection. You can find the truck near Times Square, and the owners also operate a hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the Upper West Side. The seafood is fresh, and it is the best lobster roll you will find south of Bangor, Maine.
Moshe’s Falafel stand sits at West 54th Street and Sixth Avenue. I assure you that this is the best falafel you will ever eat. And the long lines, even when it is not prime time, attest to New Yorkers’ devotion to Moshe’s.
Waffle and Dinges truck can be identified by its mustard yellow hue. The waffles qualify as incredible. Think sundae and make sure to get yours with ice cream, fresh fruit, and hot fudge.
And for some tasty treats not prepared on wheels, where you can go in and sit down to eat for very reasonable sums of money, here are a few of my favorites.
The Burger Joint is tucked inside the first floor of the elegant Parker Meridien Hotel at 119 West 56th Street and is just what the name implies—a burger joint designed to resemble a roadside hamburger place. The food is as delicious and affordable as it is incongruous.
Mamoun’t Falafel Restaurant, located at 119 MacDougal Street, offers up Middle-Eastern treats that are simple, cheap, and utterly delicious.
Rice and Beans is a no-frills Brazilian restaurant serving dishes native to that South American land at unbeatable prices. The fish is fresh, the beef tender, and the atmosphere cramped but very warm and inviting.
Massawa is a fabulous place to try excellent and authentic Ethiopian cuisine. Utensils are not to be seen, since you eat these amazing dishes with your hands, by tearing off pieces of Ethiopian bread and dipping in to scoop up the food. It’s great for sharing. Find it at 1239 Amsterdam Avenue at 121st Street.
Xi’an has several locations throughout the city and is a great place for authentic Chinese noodles dishes, soups, and dumplings. It’s always fresh and delicious.
And for something in between food trucks and sit-down dining, stop by Mario Batali’s Eatily at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street where the selection of Italian foods will have your jaw dropping. You can get many of the delights to carry out or enjoy outside, and some purveyors that have small seating areas in the complex.
David McDowell, M.D., is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Medical Center and is in private practice in New York.
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