This week, JICUF staff Fernando shares his five favorite spots in NYC to get great food that's easy on the wallet. Enjoy!
As someone born and raised in NYC, I know how expensive this city can be, especially when it comes to food. Many places that offered cheap, affordable food have started to disappear as rent get higher and ingredients become more expensive. If you look carefully enough, though, and are willing to walk off the beaten path a bit, you will be surprised by the number of great restaurants that not only have delicious food, but are also available at a good price! Here are 5 of my favorite spots where you can get the most bang for your buck!
80 Henry Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
You can find pizza shops in practically every NYC neighborhood. Sure, you can find chains such as Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s but why eat from there when you can go to a number of pizza shops throughout the city that make everything from scratch.
Many guidebooks will probably suggest old establishments like Lombardi’s in the Lower East Side. Some of you might want to venture out deep into Brooklyn to try Roberta’s. For visitors who cross the Brooklyn Bridge, many decide to go to have Brooklyn style pizza at Grimaldi’s located right under the bridge. If you do decide to go to any of these places, though, be prepared for long wait times.
If you really want to try some great pizza before or after walking the Brooklyn Bridge, I would recommend going to Fascati, a low-key restaurant that has some of the best thin-crust pizza I’ve ever had.
There are two things I look for in a pizza; crust crispiness and thinness. Most pizza you find will be either one or the other. Fascati gives you both at a reasonable price of $2.75 per slice. If you’re with a group of 4 friends, I would recommend just ordering a whole pie for just $16.00 or $2.00 per slice. You won’t regret it!
For an even more authentic NY experience, try one of the drinks from the fountain. I suggest the purple grape drink. Refreshing!
El Chivito D’Oro
84-02 37th Ave., Queens, NY 11372
As some of you may already know, New York City is separated into five boroughs; Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Of all these boroughs, Queens is perhaps the most ethnically diverse of the five. A quick ride into Queens on the 7 train (also known as the International Express) can transport you to many parts of the world in just a few minutes. Immigrants from all over the world have settled into this part of the city and have brought with them their wonderful cuisine for all of us to enjoy!
One of my favorite spots to go is El Chivito D’Oro, located in Jackson Heights. If you like grilled meats, this is the place for you! An Uruguayan-style steakhouse that is a quick 20-minute ride on the 7 train, El Chivito D’Oro is a meat lover’s dream come true!
Skip the appetizers and simply order the Parillada Chivito D’Oro Para Dos.
This combo includes one big pile of juicy cuts of Beef Steak, Chicken, Ribs, Sausage, and Veal Steak, all for $32.00! For comparison, you can’t even get a steak for that much at most places in NY! Although the combo is intended for two people, it can easily feed four hungry mouths. Be sure to order enough sides for everyone to eat well. I recommend ordering a salad, white rice, pinto beans, and sweet fried plantains. Make sure you go hungry! You’ll leave this spot with a very full stomach!
427 7th Ave, New York, NY 10001
If you’ve ever been to New York City, you’ll easily realize that Midtown Manhattan has to be one of the busiest spots. Not only is it a major transportation hub for many NYC workers, the area around 34th Street is also home to many of Manhattan’s hotels as well as a few landmarks such as Madison Square Garden, the Macy’s flagship store, and Penn Station. You will also notice all of the street vendors, selling a variety of goods: peanuts, handbags, halal food, key chains, jewelry, etc.
As you walk amongst the thousands of tourists and New Yorkers on the narrow sidewalks, you might easily miss one of the best Greek gyro spots in town. Located right on 7th Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets, you’ll find Gyros II. (Don’t ask me where Gyros I is). If you’re not looking for it, you can easily mistake it for a regular storefront selling you NY souvenirs and t-shirts. Located in this exact location for over 35 years, Gyros II has the best gyro you’ll ever eat!
For those of you who don’t know, a gyro is a Greek delicacy consisting of a piece of soft pita bread topped with meat, vegetable and sauce. A gyro is something you can find on almost every corner in Midtown but Gyros II makes them like no one else!
As you enter, get in line on the right to order your gyro. You can order either chicken or lamb (I recommend lamb) but make sure you order it with everything on it. This will prompt the server to add a healthy serving of tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and of course, the delicious tzatziki (yogurt) sauce (I always ask for extra sauce - it’s that good!) Unlike most tzatziki sauces, Gyro II adds a hint of sugar and mint, complementing the spices found in the meats as well as the fresh vegetables. Finish it off with sprinkling of paprika powder.
Order a drink, take a seat and get ready for the best combo of bread, meat and yogurt sauce you’ve ever had! The gyro is big enough for two to share, but it’s so good you will want it all to yourself! Eat half and save the rest for dinner. For a little under $10, you’ll be a very satisfied (and very full) customer!
505 51st St, Brooklyn, NY 11220
It would be remiss for me not to include one of my favorite taco spots. When I was a child, my family and I would often travel to our favorite Mexican neighborhood after church on Sundays. We would take the train to the Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn to buy produce my mother needed to make food for the week. After buying our packs of tortillas, jalapeno peppers, and other Mexican goods, we would often make a quick stop at the taqueria, the taco shop.
Like many small mom-and-pop restaurants, taquerias have come and gone. More recently, the humble taco has become something of a trendy food with many creative chefs experimenting with different combinations of toppings and readily selling them to you for $8 each! Rico’s Tacos, however, serves some of the best tacos in the neighborhood and for a price you can’t find anywhere else in the city.
Although everything on the menu is delicious, I recommend you order yourself some taquitos (Spanish for small taco). Each taco is served on two soft corn tortillas topped with a meat of your choice, cilantro and onions, with sliced radish and lime wedges on the side. If you want a little bit of spice, every table has an assortment of salsas (pepper sauces) to add to your tacos. At $1.50 per taco, you can have a very satisfying meal for just $6. To wash it all down, I usually order either a Mexican soda or some sweetened hibiscus flower iced tea. Be sure to bring some cash since they don’t take credit cards.
764 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025
If you ever find yourself walking around the Latin neighborhood of Washington Heights, chances are you will walk by several restaurants with roasting chicken on display. Of the many rotisserie chicken places in NYC, El Malecon restaurant has been a staple in the Latino community for well over 30 years. This small outpost on the Upper West Side on 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue has barely changed since I ate there as a child, offering affordable Dominican staples to Sunday churchgoers leaving Mass from the nearby church.
If you plan on going for dinner or lunch, make sure to bring three or four of your friends and order the Pollo Entero (whole chicken) with a side of sweet fried plantains. Be sure to order an additional side of white rice and gandules (beans). It is also key to ask for extra mojo. This special mix of lime, salt, and Spanish herbs perfectly complements your meal, especially the crispy chicken skin. As a refreshment, order either a morir sonando (orange and milk shake) or a chinola (passion fruit) shake.
Although New York City can be an expensive place to be, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money to have great food and visit wonderful neighborhood. If you’re interested in learning more about NYC, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com! Better yet, apply for Global Link and I’d be happy to invite a group to one of these places! The application period opens on December 1st and closes on February 14th!
About Fernando: A native New Yorker, he loves going to restaurants, riding the city bus, and taking strolls through parks. He currently lives in the Bronx with his wife, Marilyn whom he met when they were college students at Columbia University. If you have any questions about living and getting around NYC, please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.