The Best Restaurants In NYC For Broke College Students

By Rob Cramer on July 20 2020 in Travel

Times Square, New York City. Image credit: Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock
Times Square, New York City. Image credit: Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock
  • Shake Shack originated as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park.
  • Gray's Papaya has two locations that are open 24 hours.
  • Ichiran recently opened a location in Times Square.

New York is a must-visit destination for foodies, but it isn't cheap. New York can be very expensive, but you can have a very fun time if you budget your money. It can be incredibly challenging for broke students to find a good meal in this city. New York is filled with Michelin sushi restaurants, high-end steakhouse, and haute cuisine. What do you do if you cannot afford to eat at these places? What if you have only $40 a day to spend on food? What if you have even less? Thankfully, there are numerous eateries to enjoy that won't break the bank. It's possible for broke students to have a good meal for only a few dollars. 

1. M & P Biancamano

An italian submarine sandwich. Image credit: Darryl Brooks/Shutterstock

M & P Biancamano cares about quality and affordability. The family-owned Italian deli makes fresh mozzarella in house. For just $10 you can get an Italian hero sandwich packed full of mozzarella, salami, capicola, and peppers. You might not have to eat for the rest of the day.

2. Levain Bakery

Levain Bakery has several locations across New York. Image credit: Ryan DeBerardinis/Shutterstock

Broke students with a sweet tooth should head to Levain Bakery in Manhattan. The bakery is famous for its giant cookies, and you definitely get a bang for your buck. The cookies cost $4, which might seem like a lot. However, the cookies are massive, so they are definitely worth $4.

3. B&H Dairy

This Kosher deli serves tasty soups. Image credit: JeniFoto/Shutterstock

This Kosher deli in the East Village is one of the best places to enjoy a flavorful and affordable lunch. The soups and sandwiches here are so cheap that you might just go back for seconds. A bowl of matzo ball soup is just $5.50, and a cup of soup in only $5. The restaurant is vegetarian, but they do serve whitefish, salmon, and tuna melts.

4. Zabar's

Bagels are a New York delicacy. Image credit: chuckstock/Shutterstock

A trip to New York wouldn't be complete without a stop at a deli. Zabar's is a good choice with plenty of variety. Jewish favorites are available here for cheap. You can enjoy some lox with cream cheese on a bagel for a price that's wallet-friendly. 

5. Totonno's

A neon pizza sign. Image credit: Gregory James Van Raalte/Shutterstock

The best deals are often found outside of Manhattan, and that rings true when talking about Totonno's in Coney Island. This Brooklyn pizza joint is considered one of the best in the city, and the history of this spot is legendary. The pizzeria has been in the same spot and using the same recipes since 1924. Prices have obviously increased since the 20s, but you can still get a large pie for a little over $20. 

6. Ichiran

Ichiran is a popular ramen chain in the US and Japan alike. Image credit: YAO23/Shutterstock

Ichiran is an incredibly popular ramen chain from Japan, and now the famous restaurant has a location right in Times Square. The experience is much that same as it is in Japan. You fill out your order form and pass it to a waiter behind a screen. Customers are secluded from one another thanks to walls beside each seat. The classic tonkatsu ramen is less than $20. Broke students will cheer at the fact that tips are not accepted, as is the tradition in Japan.

7. Shake Shack

Shake Shack in Madison Square Park in New York City. Image credit: DW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock

Shake Shack is ubiquitous in New York, and there is even a location at JFK Airport. Sure, it's a bit more expensive than McDonald's, but the quality is far superior. There are Shake Shacks all over New York, but you should visit the Madison Square Park location if you want an authentic experience. The burger chain started off as a mere hot dog stand in Madison Square Park, and now has locations across the US. Budget-conscious students can eat heartily at Shake Shack for less than $20.  

8. Gray's Papaya

Gray's Papaya is a hot dog restaurant. Gray's Papaya is famous for its inexpensive, high-quality hot dogs. Image credit: ULU_BIRD/Shutterstock

Gray's Papaya is a New York institution. The famous hot dog restaurant even appeared on Seinfeld! There are two locations, one in Midtown and one in Uptown, and both are open 24 hours. Hot dogs are only $1 and are loaded up with ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, and onions. You can add cheese, chili, and relish for $0.50 each. The hot dog spot's famous name comes from the delicious tropical drinks that are served. Broke students can wash down their hot dogs with a coconut, papaya, pina colada, or banana drink. Drinks vary in price from $1.75 for a regular to $5.25 for a large. 

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