One of my absolute favorite things about New York is that you can eat food from around the world without ever leaving the five boroughs. Not just the typical Italian, Mexican, and Thai, but Burmese, Uzbek, Paraguayan and everything in between. In fact, there are entire blogs devoted to eating around the world from right here!
Exploring the food is one of the best things you can do when visiting NYC, so it KILLS me when I hear that people come and eat at The Olive Garden in Times Square (based on a true story). We’ve all been there…tired and hangry from a long day of touring, wandering into the nearest place we see to have a less-than-stellar meal. But I’m here to tell you that wherever you are in the city, there are really good global and local food options that you can sample on a budget of $5-15 per meal. No need for fancy restaurants or suburban chains – do NYC right by eating more like a local.
#1: Food Halls
An upgrade from the lowly food court, indoor food halls host top tier fast cash options that cover a range of cuisines. You can find everything from Vietnamese sandwiches to Korean tacos to Bolivian salteñas (in a subway station!). With a variety of options and prices, these are common hangouts with my friends because they are fun places to chill and we can all get something different. There are food halls all over the city, including near most major tourist attractions. My favorites are Chelsea Market (near the High Line), Hudson Eats (near the 9/11 Museum & Memorial), and Dekalb Market Hall (downtown Brooklyn). See the full list here.
#2: Outdoor Food Markets
If you come to NYC in the spring, summer, or fall, go to an outdoor food market. First and foremost, NYC is home to Smorgasburg, America’s largest weekly open-air food market located in Brooklyn on weekends. But there are other great outdoor spots to explore such as the Queens Night Market and and the Urbanspace markets (of which Broadway Bites is a personal fave) in Manhattan.
#3: Food Trucks
I. Love. Food trucks! There are excellent food trucks around the city year-round, serving favorites like bagels, tacos, and falafel. The options are nearly endless here (though halal carts tend to be the most common) and they tend to congregate where there are a lot of crowds, so keep a lookout as you walk around. My favorites? The Milk Truck for fancy grilled cheese, and Tacos Mi Mexico (great $3 tacos), though there are so many trucks in the city that I’ve barely scratched the surface.
#4: Farmers Markets
NYC has great options for eating local. There are farmers markets all over the city every day, year round. Farmers from the tri-state area come and sell their best veggies, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and homemade products like jams. The largest farmers market is the centrally-located Union Square Greenmarket, but you can check out the location and schedule of all the markets here. If the weather’s nice, why not pick up a few things and go for a picnic?
Sprinkled across New York you’ll find delis as standalone shops or inside of “bodegas” (corner stores), serving bagels, sandwiches, and salads to-go. NYC is known for its deli sandwiches, so skipping this experience would be missing out on one of the great things in the city! There are a few famous ones, notably Katz’s Deli, but you can find a bodega or two on nearly every block. Everyone’s favorite deli is the one within a two-block radius of their apartment that serves the best breakfast sandwich.
#6: Pizza by the Slice
What would New York be without pizza? One of the great things here is the numerous options to get pizza for $1-4 per slice. Hard to say a favorite because there are oh so many (though I do love a good Artichoke) Make sure to eat it with your hands!