New York (Budget) Foodie Guide

Last week my mom, sister and I went to New York. Prior to heading off, I had written a list about a mile long detailing all the most blogged about and Instragrammable cafe’s and restaurants in the city. I had enough places mapped out for double helpings of breakfast lunch and dinner on each day and was practically drooling getting on the plane. However, once actually in New York I first realized how big it actually is (and that downtown does not mean down the road but a two hour walk). This meant that some places I thought would be near tourist attractions weren’t actually that close and if you’ve been walking all day you just want somewhere close by to eat in. The second thing I realized was that food and drinks are ridiculously expensive. The prices mightn’t look too bad on the menu but once you add on tax and tips it adds up (and that’s before you add on a drink). We learned this lesson the first night when we went to a bar across from our hotel and while the food was delicious (we ordered three mini burger sliders each, two portions of chips and two beers) the total came bill came to over $120…We decided we were happier to save our dollars for some shopping and a (few) trips to Sephora. Luckily it’s not hard to find really decent diners, bagel shops, sandwich bars, pizza and Happy Hours, so that’s what we did.

*Disclaimer: This is not your typical “Healthy Eating Guide to X City” that other bloggers post. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily eat healthily at home but when it comes to holidays I tend to lose all self-control. On the plus side, I averaged about 20,000 steps per day walking around the city so I figured that somewhat balances out the pizza, pancakes and cocktails – at least over five days, any longer and my blood would be pure maple syrup.

Speaking of maple syrup…the diners in New York do the best pancakes! One of my favourite places we visited was Ellens Stardust Diner on Broadway. All of the staff are performers and sing Broadway songs while serving you your food. It might sound strange but it’s actually really cool and their voices area amazing! They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We went early enough for breakfast and got seats upstairs which have the best view so I’d recommend going early as we passed in the evening and there was a big queue outside. We opted for the pancakes (sharing two between three of us as the portion sizes are huge most places you go).

Another place we went to for pancakes was Applebee’s, again on Broadway. It’s an American chain restaurant that wouldn’t make it onto a list of Instagrammable restaurants but again, the pancakes were huge and really tasty, unlimited coffee was only $1 with breakfast, the staff were lovely and the total bill for three people was about $40 which was really good.

If pancakes aren’t your thing, then you have to try another New York staple of a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel. We just happened to stumble across this little deli called the Bread Factory one morning as were were walking down to Macy’s in a torrential shower of rain and needed cover. It was honestly the best bagel I’ve had and at only $12 for a bagel and cappuccino it’s very good value. My mom and sister were on a roll and went for the pancakes and waffles again which in fairness looked delicious.

If like me you’re obsessed with the show Cake Boss, then you have to go to Carlo’s bakery. While the original shop is located in Hoboken, they have a branch in Manhattan too. It’s located in the Port Authority Bus Terminal (this is where the bus to Woodbury Common outlet leaves from so you could grab a bit of breakfast here if you’re early). We stopped in as we were walking to the High Line (pretty sure we walked 22,000 steps that day so I don’t feel too bad about having cannolis for breakfast). It’s not cheap but the pastries are really good. Get there early and again, you won’t have to queue for too long.

Clearly breakfast was our main priority in New York but the huge portions really do set you up for the day! Also, eating out three times a day adds up. The nicest lunch we got was in a little sandwich shop called Teresa’s. It’s close to St. Patricks Cathedral and the Rockerfellar Centre, just off 5th Avenue. We came across it randomly but so glad we did! One half is a brick oven pizza place and the other half is a sandwich bar. I got the ‘Brooklyn Hero’ sandwich which at $8.95 was probably one of the nicest and best value sandwiches I’ve had (it’s filled with salami, mortadella, ham, cappicola, pepperoni, provolone, lettuce, tomatoes and roasted peppers). We ate at around 4pm and didn’t eat again until after our show at about 11pm – it was that monstrous of a sandwich. I’ve tried to re-create it at home, one of the defining features of it was that the only sauce/dressing they used in the sandwich was balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil drizzled on the bread – such a good idea and much healthier than butter or mayo.

Being a tourist is hard work (poor me, I know). Getting up early, walking the soles off your shoes, squeezing in the sites and spending all your money in Sephora can really drain your energy and your wallet so some nights all you want to do is sit in your hotel room and eat 99c pizza. I’m not even joking when I say that this was probably one of our favourite meals. There was a pizza place was just under our hotel (but they’re all over the city) and it was only $2.75 for two slices and a drink – like can you even go wrong with that? There was also always a queue so it had be good if the locals were having it. Pair it with some wine or beer and your sorted. Also, grab a slice of New York cheesecake for dessert – it’s so good.

Another sweet thing that I’d recommend is Doughnuttery in the Chelsea Market. I know there are doughnut shops popping up faster than Starbucks in Ireland at the moment but there’s nothing like this. They serve up mini ring doughnuts but you pick the type of flavoured sugar you want them dusted in. We went for the ‘Flower Power’ which was a mix of hibiscus, honey and rose petals and also the ‘Mulled Apple Cider’ which had fall spices, apple and orange zest. They were so good we ended up unashamedly eating the leftover sugar from the bag – don’t judge. (There are lots of other food stalls and cafes in the Chelsea Market as well as unique little shops and boutiques so it’s definitely worth a visit! It’s at the end of the High Line so if you’re walking that, do it in the morning and go into the market for lunch).

We went to see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway one of the nights and decided to wait until after the show to eat. It started at 8pm and didn’t finish until around 11pm so we didn’t want to walk too far for food. My sister had mentioned Shake Shack a few times and it happened to be near the theatre so we gave it a go (as did everyone else it seems as the queue was huge).  It’s a fast-food burger joint but the food is cooked to order and takes about 10 minutes so it’s a lot fresher than other fast food outlets. You can definitely taste the difference in quality as the burgers were delicious and don’t get me started on those buns.

On our last night we went to a place called The Meatball Shop that a friend of mine had recommended. They give you a  menu and a marker and you tick the type off meat you want, the sauce you want, and which side you want. I went for the classic spaghetti and meatballs with a spicy sauce and it did’nt disappoint. This is definitely how meatballs should be done! For dessert we split a cookie sandwich (two chocolate chunk cookies sandwiching a scoop of brown sugar ice cream). Although I noticed you could also get grown up milk and cookies, i.e. a White Russian and a cookie *yum.

Before going to New York, half of these places weren’t on my extensive list. I found that even if I had somewhere picked that by the time it came eating that either we mightn’t be in the area any more, we had stumbled across somewhere closer or had just realized that some of the places I had picked were a bit expensive…oops. The fact that we all agreed that we didn’t have a bad meal, even though we just stumbled into half the deli’s and cafes we ate in just reinforces the foodie paradise idea of New York that I had in my head. While we did pick what we considered to be ‘typical American’ foods, you could literally get any sort of cuisine you could think of just by walking out your hotel door (think Russian, Afghani, Jewish and Mexican to name just a few). My suggestion if you’re making a list is to research a few options in areas that you know you’ll be in and if you’re certain that there’s a place you want to eat in then make a reservation. If you’re happy to go with the flow then do like we did and make a list of a few specific foods and drinks you want to try while you’re there and chances on that you’ll stumble across your own little finds like we did.

P.s. Keep an eye out for Happy Hour deals 🙂