Yes you can eat for under $20 in NYC

The NYC dining scene thrives because of the diversity of food it offers. Whether it is Iranian, Ethiopian, Peruvian, Thai, Italian, Bengali...we have an array of ethnic cuisine that is celebrated and envied around the world. Luckily we can enjoy all these cuisines without having to break the bank. Gone are the days where eating French food meant that you needed to spend at least $100 or that a good sushi roll had to be at least $8. As our city continues to grow and diversify, not only are our food options increasing but we can access these foods on a budget. 

Below are my favorite places to dine for under $20. This list will continually be updated so stay tuned! 

Breakfast/Brunch

Bluestone Lane- Bluestone is what I wish all healthy food could be. Their avocado toast and grain bowls are not only good for you but absolutely delicious. Their West Village location is perfect for people watching.

Two Hands Restaurant- Two Hands has one of my favorite avocado toasts, which comes with all the fixings like pepitas, shallots, cilantro, sesame, chilli and lime at $12. You can get other Aussie fare here like smashed peas on toast which is $15 or build your own egg breakfast for $8. I find the prices fair especially in a place like Tribeca. Also the space is gorgeous. Brunch dates here are so much fun.

White Gold Butchers- The sandwiches at this place are drool worthy. Their chopped cheese, meatball parm and egg & cheese sandwiches which, all range from $5-$9 are the definition of breakfast goals. 

Absolute Bagels- These bagels are my favorite in the city. The smell of the bagels in the oven fills the street around 8am and a line forms on the weekends. The prices of the bagels depends on the toppings but you can expect to pay around $3-5. Lox will cost a bit more. 

12 Chairs- What if I told you that you can eat the best shakshuka in the city for $12? Well you would have to believe me because you can find it at 12 Chairs. If you're dining with a friend spoil yourselves by sharing the labne that changed my life for an extra $9. 

Hearth Restaurant- Hearth offers comfort Italian food for brunch which you're going to love. Instead of the typical pasta and pizza that most Italian brunch spots offer you can score a buttery meatball and polenta dish for $15. Their apple cider donut holes with cinnamon are also worth the $5.

Dimes- Dimes brings Japanese/Californian inspired brunch to NYC. Brunch dishes here are on the smaller side and range from $8-$13 but the food is good for breakfast. I enjoyed their selections of toasts that comes with a variety of toppings.

Bar Virage- I love the ambience of Bar Virage. Everything is laid back, the staff is friendly and of course the brunch selection is great. Their chicken shawarma is delicious and comes with fries ($13) and I love the runny eggs in their shakshuka ($14).

Cafe Mogador- This place is a bit on the higher end of your $20 budget but it's worth it for everything you get. For $18 you get your choice of egg dish, coffee, fresh orange juice, roasted potatoes and greens. The egg dishes are very popular and you can definitely expect to see a line on weekends.

Irving Farm- Irving Farm is perfect for a sit down breakfast or to grab something quick to go. You can select from their long list of pastries, hot sandwiches, platters, salads, bagels and much more. Their coffee, lattes and teas are equally delicious. 

Lunch

2nd City- This is the ultimate Filipino fast comfort food spot. Their fusion tacos, burritos, bowls, sandwiches are all under $10 with a few exceptions (like the poke bowl) and it's ridiculously delicious. Their Adobo-Rito ($7.95), a chicken burrito with kimchi fried rice will keep you full till dinner time and you will savor every bite.

Sushi Yasaka- Sushi Yasaka has the best combination of well priced and high quality sushi in the city. Luckily you can enjoy their delicious rolls, chirashi, bento boxes on their lunch menu which is priced from $11-$16. The prices are a steal given how good the sushi is.

Xi'an Famous Foods- Xi'an is one my favorite places to eat in the city. Their food is consistent, wallet friendly and literally spices up my day. I prefer getting their burger options (stewed lamb or pulled pork) which range from $4-6 or dumplings (spinach or lamb) that are around $8-$9 for lunch. I like to reserve their noodle dishes for dinner since they are on the heavier side. 

Tacombi- I love the tacos at Tacombi but I may be even fonder of the sauces. An order of their barbacoa and my favorite crispy fish tacos will set you back around $11. I also love the laid back vibe of this place and the taco truck inside the restaurant. It gives me California vibes right here in NYC! 

PC: @tastesbetterhere

PC: @tastesbetterhere

Peacefood Cafe- Although Peacefood caters to the vegans and vegetarians, meat lovers like myself can easily have lunch here any day. Their chickpea fries, 'un-chicken' tender and chili bowl will make you forget you're not eating meat. Lunch selections range from $8-$14. 

Parisi Bakery- If you wanted the perfect Italian sandwich with the ideal meat to cheese ratio on homemade bread then Parisi is your place. The sandwiches are enormous and ideal for sharing. The fan favorite is The Dennis and you can get it for around $11. They are cash only so have some in handy! 

PC: @onehungryjew

PC: @onehungryjew

Pokeworks- There are so many poke places in NYC now but I'm a fan of how much poke they put on the rice here. The lines can be frustrating but they have gotten much better (especially in Midtown during the lunch rush) and the Hawaiian bowl is very delicious ($12.95). 

Los Tacos No.1- These tacos may be the best in NYC and you can get them at a steal. The tacos all range around $3.50 and you will be tempted to order more than $20 worth. 

Beyond Sushi- Before you rush to judgement on vegetarian sushi please trust that this place knows what they are doing. The sushi actually tastes like real sushi. They also serve it with wasabi and soy sauce so you get the whole sushi experience...but with vegetables.  

Taim Falafel- Taim's sabich and falafel sandwiches are delicious. Their sabich is my favorite in the city. The menu changes often as they continue to do collaborations with famous chefs so you'll never get bored ordering from here. Prices range from $7-$12 depending on whether you want sandwiches or platters.

Dinner

Xi'ans Famous Foods- I love having the noodle dishes for dinner. The noodles are thick, full of flavor and very filling. The broth can be made as spicy as you like (or not) and you have a few options for which proteins you want. Prices range from $9.95-$13.

Keste Pizza & Vino- Keste offers consistently good pizza. The classic red/white personal pizzas range from $7-$20 so you'll have a lot of options to choose from. The special pizzas are usually $20+ but don't fret because their pies are all delicious regardless of price.

PC: @noleftovers

PC: @noleftovers

Jeepney- Jeepney is as real as it gets when it comes to Filipino fast food. The menu is meant to be shared tapas style so I recommend an order of the lumpia ($8), pancit ($13) and kare kare fried chicken ($19) for two people which will cost each person around $20.

PC: @kathryncrosby

PC: @kathryncrosby

Han Dynasty- Han Dynasty is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I love the quality, portion size and prices at this restaurant. The food here is meant to be shared family style and I recommend getting an order of their dan dan noodles which are only $6 along with one or two heavier meat/vegetable curry dish which ranges from $7-$10. 

Mighty Quinns- If you want quality barbecue then check out Mighty Quinns. If you get the half pound portion of meats ($9-$11) with some sides ($4-$8) you'll definitely be full and satisfied.

PC: @thedishelinguide

PC: @thedishelinguide

Motorino- If you are a pizza lover like me then you can usually finish a personal pie without a problem. At Motorino however, the pies are a bit bigger than usual with heavy toppings so it may be worth it to share one pie ($11-$19) and order antipasti instead. I love the meatball pie albeit it is rich but worth the calorie spend! 

PC: @jackie_mey

PC: @jackie_mey

Somtum Der- I had Somtum Der in Bangkok and fell in love with their salads. The salads are tangy, the dressing is sweet and tangy and best of all you can add spicy meats to it. Their noodles and meat dishes are equally delicious. This is definitely a place to share food so you can each expect to spend around $20 each for about 4 dishes. 

PC: somtumdernyc

PC: somtumdernyc

Awash- Some of the best Ethiopian food I've had thus far has been at Awash. Both their portions and price are generous. You can get any of the beef, chicken, vegetable or lamb platters from a $13-$15.50 price range. There have been times where I couldn't get through my individual platter because there was so much food. This is a go to for a cheap yet tasty dinner option. 

PC: foodiesmalls

PC: foodiesmalls

Sweet Chick- Southern comfort food for dinner is hands down the best. The chicken and waffle dishes which you can customize range from $17-$19. There are other great dishes like the fried chicken parmesan ($18) and chicken pot pie ($18) but they're known for their chicken and waffles and boy do they deliver. 

Foodie in Florence

I'm very excited to share with you the foods I ate in Florence because it is a foodie's paradise. Unlike Rome, I found Florence to have better options for example, bigger steaks (yes the Florentine steak), superior gelato and great wines. Below are some of my favorite dishes!

1. Carapina- I am willing to declare this as the best gelato in Italy. The peach and three cheese Italian gelato is unlike anything you will ever taste. 

2. Gucci Museo Caffé- You should definitely check out the Gucci Museo which holds decades worth of Gucci's signature travel luggage to his modern day gowns. However before you go up make sure to check out the museum's cafe. They have a delicious coffee shakerato, this delicious apple turnover with cream (pictured below) and it's all decked out in Gucci. 

3. Le Volpi e L'Uva - Wine, cheese and meat plates is what Le Volpi e L'Uva specializes in and they have excelled in their craft. We had delicious full bodied red wines, a generous selection of semi and soft cheeses, unlimited bread and a great tomato and olive side salad. I am drooling just thinking of this meal.

4. 4 Leoni- You HAVE to eat a proper Florentine steak when you're in Florence. It is rich, cooked more on the rare side and giant. The sides are also worthy of praise. We had some delicious tomato bean cake to pair with the steak which added a nice acidity to the meal. 

Florentine steak

Florentine steak

Tomato bean cake 

Tomato bean cake 

5. Mercato Centrale- Mercato Centrale is the best place to taste many foods in one place. It will remind you a lot of Chelsea Market but in my opinion Mercato Centrale offers more variety and has a better price. During the day time you only the first floor of the market is open and you'll find panini shops, pizza stalls and other lunch time vendors. At night they close the first floor and open the second floor where you can access bars, different restaurants than the day time shops and plethora of seating space. If I lived in Florence I could hang here with my friends A LOT. I was lucky enough to go to the market during the night and day and tried two different restaurants. The margarita pizza was from the evening and the risotto was from Nerbone during lunch time. The risotto is some of the best I've ever had in my life. The freshly grated parmesann cheese was also a great touch.

Risotto from Nerbone

Risotto from Nerbone

6. Golden View Open Bar- This cafe was right by our Florence apartment and we would frequently have breakfast there. I highly recommend getting the cappuccino there. They also have a nice selection of delicious pastries which are well portioned for a quick bite. 

7. Vivoli- Many people regard Vivoli as one of the best gelato places in Florence. While it is delicious and I think you should try it because you may think differently, I still think Carapina takes the prize on best gelato. 

8. Il Santo Bevitore- You'll eat plenty of authentic Tuscan food in Florence but if you're looking for modern Italian cuisine then this is your place. Il Santo Bevitore cooks traditional Italian food with a more modern flair- think oyster mushrooms and fried foie gras. Below is their duck confit which was a definite highlight of dinner!

9. Cantina del Gelato- On the Oltrarno side is the second best gelato place in Florence. Pictured below is salted caramel and pistachio gelato. Notice how generous the portion looks? That's not the zoom on my camera. For 2 euros you can get the same!  

10. Amblé- How I wish Amblé was in New York! This great cafe serves delicious coffee shakerato, sandwiches and pastries. They're what every Instagrammer dreams of. Side note: There is an amazing high end vintage shop next door to this place called Marie Antoinette Firenze.

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11. Carmen- On the night before leaving Florence I wanted to eat Italian food that was not too Italian. Does that make sense? Well Carmen serves up exactly what I had pictured in my head. Ravioli with porcini and sesame, smoked salmon and avocado crostini and gorgonzola with fig jam crostini was the craving that I didn't even know I had. The ravioli from Carmen is out of this world!

Ravioli with sesame and porcini (mushrooms)

Ravioli with sesame and porcini (mushrooms)

Gorgonzola cheese with fig jam on crostini

Gorgonzola cheese with fig jam on crostini

Smoked salmon with avocado on crostini

Smoked salmon with avocado on crostini

12. Ditta Artigianale- Ditta Artigianale has great coffee grounds, a more Americanized pastry and breakfast selection as well as smoothies! The decor is also very Brooklyn-esque. 

Stay fueled, my friends.

I did not want to like coffee. While others debated over where the best coffee grounds came from and how dark they like their brew, I would always much rather sip on good old fashioned tea. Then something called getting a job happened and by 2pm everyday since, my productivity levels would skyrocket down or worse...I'd almost fall asleep at my desk. I had no option but to turn to the dark side (literally) and so I gave in. Like most New Yorkers I am now a coffee drinker. I have come to appreciate and notice what good coffee tastes like and I can tell you that the free coffee at my job is intolerable compared to the variety of coffees out in the city.  Therefore, I frequently venture into the world of midtown in pursuit of quality coffee. Here are some  of the coffee gems I've found thus far. 

1. Culture Espresso- I loved the vibe of this place. You can sit at the communal table, or lounge in the sofas or people watch on the bar stools. The coffee is rich  and Culture also offers a good selection of pastries.

2. Hole in the Wall- Hole in the Wall is pretty much like a hole in the wall (or inside of the building). They offer yummy lattes, lunch options like soup and they have donuts from Dough! Although there is no seating available, it is the best spot to grab your afternoon cup of coffee and keep grinding (haha get it?). 

3.Gregory's Coffee- Gregory's has a couple of locations but I frequent the one on East 40th street which is on a quieter block, offers ample seating and of course great coffee. The macchiatos are delicious and their speciality brews are quite popular. 

Credit source- instagram: @w.hound 

Credit source- instagram: @w.hound 

4. Blue Bottle- Oh Blue Bottle is my favorite so of course I want to give it all the praise in the world. I will say their cappuccinos, lattes and drip coffees are delicious but, nothing will compare to their NOLA cold brew. I could drink that everyday if it didn't break my budget. Blue Bottle is the perfect place for Friday treat yoself.

Credit source- instagram: @motaso_taso

Credit source- instagram: @motaso_taso

Instagramable Cafes

Coffee fuels me through the day especially when my day starts with an early staff meeting. Although it is almost too easy to get your coffee and run sometimes, it is worth it to stick around in the coffee shop and take a breath. I've been trying to take more breaths recently and what I've noticed is how precious these coffee shops are. Precious enough to tempt to skip that meeting and read a book. Here are two favorite instagramable cafes.

1. Masion Kayser

Not only is it adorably Parisian but you can sample fresh baked sourdough bread, eat prosciutto sandwiches or pick up a cafe au lait.

2. Blue Bottle Coffee

Hands down the best coffee in NYC. Get the New Orleans cold brew and never look back at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Although their coffee is pricey ($4 for the NOLA cold brew), treating yourself once a week to it will make you a happier person.