Oh the joy of eating a good meal.

I always said that a good meal can enrich your travel experience whilst a bad one can ruin your day. Even before coming to New York I started looking for my type of restaurants: small, cheap places that serve good food.

Unlike Italy or Spain you can’t look for places where the locals eat. Here it is a bit more complicated than that. Here people are a bit more different and the ethnics are to be considered when talking about food.

What I looked for in New York was diversity and a decent price. I wanted to pay no more than 30 USD for a meal and while this may seem low to some it may also seem very high for others.

While I do feel I exaggerated a bit, considering my recent appendectomy surgery, I managed to eat in some very interesting places including typical Japanese, Cuban, Mexican, Nepalese, Chinese or Israelian restaurants and dishes.

Also I enjoyed serving breakfast in two locations and ate pancakes pies in two more places so from the start you can see this will be a pretty long article.

Few things first:

  • I will not spend an enormous amount of time in reviewing each place. When reading my review you will understand why.
  • I will review all restaurants with one exception. My favorite restaurant from all of them, a place which I will review on a separate article.

I believe one of the beauties of New York is its diversity. I was accommodated in Hell’s Kitchen and there I noticed hundreds of little different restaurants, each with a different theme and from another place.

The places I will review on this post are:

  • Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop
  • Margon
  • Wafels and Dinges
  • Otto’s Tacos
  • Dhaulagiri Chicken
  • Yummy kitchen
  • Good enough to eat
  • Gray papaya
  • Two little red hens
  • Westway diner
  • Danish Dogs
  • Grotto Pizza
  • Fiedmans

Pretty decent list for 7 days in New York. I did eat 3 times in one place, the place I will review in a separate post but other than that each place got one shot.

I am open to food, to any kind of food and I am pretty curious. Whenever I reach a new place I try to sample the local cuisine and taste new things.

Before reaching New York I managed to pull a list of no less than 30 places who had (according to Trip Advisor or other sites) interesting cheap food. However due to time constraints I limited my visits to places available only in the Manhattan area.

So this being said I will now start listing them one by one, giving a bit of information about them, prices on what I ate, location, etc.

Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop

After a long day spent on changing planes, sitting in line at the border’s check, experiencing the train and walking down for quite a few streets before reaching my accommodation I found myself hungry.

Of course I went first to Times Square just like most tourists do and took some photos there watching the crowds around me but as time flew by I felt hunger more and more and I decided to go to a place that was somewhat close to my accommodation.

Situated in Gotham West Market at 600 11th Avenue it is not that far from Times Square. Just go in a straight line on 44th or 45th for 0.8 miles and you will reach this place.

It is not a standalone shop but it is situated inside a Market, other restaurants being available there as well.

Ivan’s famous ramen

As I looked over the menu I have decided to try the Tokyo Shoyu Ramen on which I added as I remember a topping of Toasted Nori.

I paid 15 USD for this ramen and took a seat at the counter waiting for it. Sitting there waiting a million ideas passed thru my head. I was finally in New York, a long dream of mine and I was looking forward to some heavy days exploring the city and attending shows.

I was talking to a friend on Messenger when the Ramen was brought and closed the phone and took a picture of it (like I always do for the articles) and took the first sip.

Now I have to be honest and confess. Not a bad ramen but not excellent. At least from my point of view I think this is a 3/5 star ramen. It could have been the soy, or the toasted nori but I did not fully enjoy this meal.

As a matter of fact I left about a quarter in my bowl not being able to finish it.

Unlike all my early reviews I will not grade the staff since on most of these places there was little interaction with the staff.

My note: 3/5 stars.

Margon

Cuban restaurant. Close to Times Square? Sign me in.

A little door leads you into this small, cramped place. You wait in line, see what is on today’s menu, order it, take your tray, pay and if you are lucky grab a seat at the table.

The staff is fun and I went on by their choice picking a ox stew with rice and a coke for 15 USD.

Yes the place is small, looking cheap and cramped. Yes, you take your food on plastic plates and on plastic trays.

Lunch at Margon

But the food is great. The meat was delicious and the sauce as well.

I didn’t expect it to be this good but I was in for a great surprise as I started eating.

The flavors, the spices, the mixed rice all made for a great meal before heading on to visit The Top of The Rock.

Yes, I can honestly admit that I would visit this place another time because of its great food. Plus I would love to taste and sample new Cuban dishes.

You can find this place at 136 W 46th St.

My note: 4/5 stars

Wafels and dinges

Best Belgian waffles. Or so it says on the kiosk where I bought 2 waffles on different days.

I ate both times on the location near Bryant Park(Corner of 6th Ave & 42nd Street) and first time I served a Fair Waffle with water priced at a total of 12 USD then the second time I ate a Elvis waffle priced at 13 SD.

Lighter strawberry waffle

As you can see from the pictures the waffles are big and the most important part is that they are great tasting.

I ate a lot of waffles during my travels (even in Belgium) and I must say these are by far better, at least to my taste.

While the Fair waffle is simple yet delicious the Elvis Waffle is something a bit strange. It contains bacon, peanut butter, bananas and honey so the taste was something new for me. It wasn’t the usual sweet taste you expect from a waffle but it was an interesting taste that I enjoyed.

Elvis waffle

I am aware the combination might seem strange to many but I was really looking for new things and decided to give it a try and I can’t say I am sorry I did.

The portion is big and I, even at my size, wouldn’t try eating two waffles. It is just too much.

So if you are in the mood for something sweet this is a great option and I think there are a few locations throughout Manhattan.

My note: 5/5 stars

Otto’s Tacos

After a long, hard day, on my way home I stopped on a little place situated at 705 9th Avenue that was full of people laughing and eating inside.

I ordered a single piece of tacos and some masa fries that cost me 7 USD. From what I saw on the menu the tacos are either 3 or 4 USD so for 10-12 USD you can get a decent sized meal that will keep you full for some hours.

Really loved the tacos here

I couldn’t eat more because of a large meal earlier on but I was curious about the tacos there so I thought I’d give it a try.

The place is as you’d expect it to be. A no fuss straight pay your order pick up your tray kind of place.

But the tacos…well I must tell you the tacos are delicious. I was ok with the masa fries and found them a nice distraction from the usual fries you get served everywhere but the tacos felt fresh and delicious,

It was Halloween night and many young people were out laughing, dressed up as pirates, zombies, pumpkins everywhere and I watched it for some time as I ate my meal.

The boys at the counter move fast and even if it is a long queue you will not be kept waiting for a long time.

All in all this is one of the places I regret not getting another chance to eat in.

My note 4/5 stars

Dhaulagiri Chicken

Small Nepalese place on 124 Lexington Avenue? Let’s try it. Especially if it rains and on that Sunday it rained for 24 hours.

I wanted to be more inside so I chose The Met, The Public Library and Grand Central as main points for that day and as the lunch drew near I walked for some distance and reached this place.

Delicious Bhutan dish

Just like the other places it is not big and it is not something luxurious. A few tables inside, I left my umbrella hanging on a chair and charged my phone as I was eating and chose something a bit different this time and more expensive also.

For my meal I chose Bhutan and vegetable Dhendo plus a cola. That took 27 USD out of my pocket and as I waiting for my meal I started talking more and more to somebody back home.

As to the taste I must confess I loved the Bhutan (if I remember right goat intestines) both the taste and how spicy it was.

Not so great vegetable dhendo

In regards to the Dhendo I must say it was an epic fail for me. Maybe I didn’t know how to eat it or maybe it had a way of mixing them but I did not enjoy it at all. More than half of my plate stayed there.

If I had to rate just the Bhutan I would give this place a 4/5 stars grade but since I also served some of the Dhendo…

My note is 3.5/5 stars.

Yummy kitchen

After walking on the Brooklyn Bridge I took the metro for a stop and looked for a place to eat in or close to China Town.

I must confess I am a big fan of Asian food be it Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese or Chinese and I always enjoyed eating a little on the more spicy side than usual when I visit a Chinese restaurant.

Situated on 38 Allen Street on the corner with Hester Street I must admit I stood there for 30 seconds or so looking at the big fried chickens hanging in the window before entering the place.

The place is incredibly small as it has 2 tables which can accommodate about 6 persons and a round table where let’s say 6-7 more can squeeze in.

But the real beauty of this place comes from the people eating there. With 2 exceptions all the people that ate inside or that came to pick up food were Chinese.

So I knew I was in luck since I love this kind of places.

Great Chinese dishes

I ordered a hot and sour soup plus a portion of chicken with hot pepper and scallion on rice and added a cola for a grand total of 9 USD.

Yes, 9 USD. I think this was one of the cheapest places I ate in my holiday in New York but also one of the best ones.

The soup was hot and lovely, a thick mixture that needed a bit of time to cool off so I was able to chat with a friend during this time.

As soon as I finished eating the soup the chicken arrived and I was impressed. The portion is quite large. Even though I am a big individual I could see myself sharing it with another person.

The taste was absolutely delicious and even though I ate in many Chinese restaurants I must honestly say that this place is one of the best I aver ate in.

My note is 4/5 stars.

Good enough to eat

With a name like that I was curious to try something from the menu so when I reached 520 Columbus Avenue at 85th I chose a small table outside and enjoyed that beautiful day.

I chose a banana pancake and a cola and paid for them 18 USD.

The banana pancake is actually three large pancakes that come on a big plate with nuts, bananas and butter.

Syrup is also available and it mixes deliciously with the pancakes.

These are some really big pancakes

I started eating the pancakes while enjoying the sun, watching Columbus Avenue with its cars and people walking slowly up and down the road.

The pancakes are good, fluffy and big. The size is actually too big and I wasn’t able to finish it.

I don’t consider them to be among the top three pancakes I have ever eaten but they surely tasted good after a long day of walking.

What really adds to this place is the location. Quiet, small buildings, close to Central Park this is a place to get a nice meal before or after spending your time in this amazing place called Central Park.

My note is 3.5/5 stars

Two little red hens

That morning was a full one. I walked thru Central Park and took some amazing pictures of Belvedere Castle then headed on to Guggenheim to look at the Brancusi Collection.

Reading on the internet about a little place situated on 1652 Second Avenue at 86th Street I decided to give it a try and walk a bit since I really wanted to taste a piece of pie.

Now this place is not in a famous area so unless you are close to the Guggenheim you would probably not reach it but if you have some spare time this little place is amazing.

Even though the place is small like 3-4 tables and always full with people I stood for some time trying to decide from which pie I should eat.

Apple, apple crumb, pumpkin and pecan they all stood there waiting for me and after a long battle with myself I decided to go with the pumpkin pie and the apple crumb pie.

Memories of delicious pies

Pumpkin because it was Halloween and apple crumb pie …I don’t know it just sounded delicious that morning as it rolled on my tongue as I ordered it.

Now for both slices of pie I paid 9.25 USD and from the start I must tell you that those money were some of the best spent money on food on my trip.

The pumpkin pie was very good and I was happy I started with it and also lucky because the apple crumb pie is and was just amazing.

I can honestly say that this has got to be one of the best sweets I have ever eaten.

Even though the pumpkin pie was very good if I would have eaten the apple pie first I could have been disappointed not because of the quality of the pumpkin pie but because the other one is just amazing.

My note is 5/5 stars

Westway diner

I wasn’t going to leave New York without experiencing a real American breakfast so that is why I chose this place on 619 9th Avenue on a sunny morning.

This place is big. Well comparing to the other places I ate in, everything would be big but this is one large spot.

I guess it can accommodate over 100 persons and it is a constant coming and going as people start their day and get out as they finish making way for others to enjoy a breakfast before going on to their business.

Traditional breakfast

I chose the number one option for breakfast (two eggs and sausage) and a small coffee (which by the way is large) and paid 10.11 USD for it.

The food is good, it is not something amazing but it is good and filling. Watching many movies as a kid I was fascinated by this type of restaurant, the tables, the seats, the full place and the waiters running between tables.

I really enjoyed my time there and would consider it a good option to start the day.

My note 3.5/5 stars

Danish Dogs

On a corner of Central Station sits a small place called Danish Dogs. It is inside the station and you can pass next to it and it wouldn’t stand out in your eyes.

One of the things I wanted to try in New York was a hot dog. So being close to this place I said to give it a try.

I ordered the Great Dane and got a pretty big package for 7.62 USD.

A decent dog

The first thing I noticed is that the bun is not from one piece. It is two slices of bread so when you first pick your dog you have to be careful so that it doesn’t fall.

I consider this a small minus because I had no warning and I was expecting the bread to be in one piece, which would insure better handling.

Overall a decent hot dog, one to satisfy your curiosity but not one to make you come back to that place for more.

My note 3/5 stars

Grotto Pizza

On 69 New St near the Charging Bull and close to the ferry to Liberty Statue lies a small place. You go down the stairs then watch the counter, choose your pizza, pay and move in for the few tables that are available inside.

Being a fan of Sicily I couldn’t help but ordering a slice of Sicilian pizza and one of grandma pizza plus a coke.

That put 8 euro on the counter and I took my 2 slices and coke to a little bar and stool inside.

Pizza break near Wall Street

Since it was lunch time I spent my time there surrounded by kids who were enjoying their pizza also and as I descended back to the counter I started seeing adults coming in for a quick bite to eat before going back to work.

I was not overly impressed with the pizza. It was decent but in no way did it resemble the amazing taste from Italy.

If you are there, in the area and you just go out from the boat from Liberty Island yes, this is an ok place to grab a bite before moving forward but in no way is it worth travelling from across town for a bite to eat.

My note: 3/5 stars

Friedmans at the Edison

Last day in New York. Morning at the Fieldmans. Eggs with style at 15.24 USD. As I watched the window thinking back at the amazing week I had in New York jazz was pouring down from the speakers making it even harder for me to contemplate leaving.

This is a place with more style. Nicely dressed waiters, big space, a more up class setting, being situated on 228 W 47th a few meters away from Times Square and inside the Edison Hotel.

The food tasted good and I enjoyed that I was asked how I want the eggs and the complimentary bottle of water.

Another try at the famous american breakfast

However I did not feel such a difference from Westway in terms of quality. And I don’t mean this in a bad way for either place but it is really hard to mess some eggs and toast.

Frankly you can eat in either place your breakfast and be ok with it. For more complicated dishes I cannot really tell but if you’re looking for basics either will serve you well.

My note is 3.5/5 stars

So…this about covers almost all. Over 3300 words describing the things I tried and tested during my week trip in New York.

Before jumping to conclusions I would like to point a few points:

  • I gave you for all places an address but if you are curious and google them you will see that most of these restaurants have two or more locations throughout the city. So go ahead and pick one that is closer to you. I really don’t think the food will be different.
  • I did not rate the staff. Regardless of the restaurant chose I found the staff smiling, eager to help and pleasant. In terms of quality of service I was very satisfied with all places.
  • I am a big eater plus I always like to try new things so you could end up with less to pay depending on what you eat.
  • I never received a portion that is too small. I was perfectly ok with the sizes of the dishes and many times I felt stuffed.

 

And that about covers it. I did not bother to cover the simple hot dog at Gray Papaya. It was about 1.75 USD and you really get what you pay for.

What I loved about New York was the chance to explore authentic dishes from many parts of the world. New things, new tastes, new flavors. In the course of one week I went from Cuba to Nepal and from Israel to a traditional USA breakfast.

It is not mandatory to eat in every place I listed, I guess it is not mandatory to eat in any of them. But if you study some guides before going to New York, some sites about cheap and good eating or go onto Trip Advisor you will see some of the places I mentioned above.

What is fascinating about New York is the fact that food is available everywhere. On each corner of the street there are little kiosks, little vans that sell tens of things. And around lunch you see lines of people forming, paying and waiting for their food. Men in suits next to backpackers, women and men, all races waiting for a plate of curry or a hot dog.

So go ahead and try it.

New York will have something for you, regardless of your tastes.

As promised a separate article will follow for the restaurant I enjoyed most so stay tuned.