Cheap Eats in NYC

April 1, 2009 Updated: April 1, 2009

Gianluca Rottura is the owner of a wine store on Manhattan's Upper East Side and author of 'Wine Made Easy.'  (Gianluca Rottura)
Gianluca Rottura is the owner of a wine store on Manhattan's Upper East Side and author of 'Wine Made Easy.' (Gianluca Rottura)
People are always looking for a good deal and, with the economy tanking, restaurants are doing whatever they can to offer something affordable. Most expensive establishments are slashing prices, while others who have always offered lower priced meals are seeing their sales rise.

McDonald’s, Campbell’s Soup, pizzerias, and Chinese restaurants are all seeing jumps in their profits. New Yorkers suddenly seem at ease with spending $5 on two slices of pizza and calling it an evening as opposed to spending at least $50 on a bottle of wine in a restaurant to accompany their overpriced entrée. It’s actually becoming “cool” to look like you’re hurting financially. It allows people to feel like they are part of something.

Something ‘historic’

The current trend seems to be finding a restaurant, which offers inexpensive fare that excites your taste buds. New York City, especially Manhattan, is stuffed with places serving culinary delights from almost all countries of the world. In this city, a cheap eat is only a few steps away.

Greenwich Village has always been a favorite destination for tourists and city dwellers alike. On a Monday night at 2 a.m., there are still places open, serving food to street roamers.

Mamoun’s

A Village staple since the early 70s, Mamoun’s on 119 Bleeker Street serves some of the best falafel in the city. To sweeten the offering, they only charge $2.50 for a falafel sandwich. Yes, you read that right! Falafels are chickpea fritters stuffed into a pita pocket accompanied by tomatoes, lettuce, and a sauce named tahini, made from sesame seeds. Though since 2004 the quality has slipped somewhat, it still puts out a good product at an irresistible price.

Across the street and down the block from Mamoun’s is Yatagan at 104 Bleeker. As you walk by, the lamb roasting on a vertical spit in the open front window whispers sweet nothings into your ear. Its compelling smell and juicy look will draw you in. At $5.50, a Doner Kebab sandwich will leave you stuffed and with money to spare. It comes served in a pita with tomatoes, onions, and a yogurt sauce. I must warn you that you will most likely leave the place with at least one oil stain and your clothes smelling of grease. This is very greasy food.

Pizzeria Mezzaluna

A few blocks away at Pizzeria Mezzaluna at 146 West Houston, you can get a small, round, individual pizza, measuring roughly 7 inches in diameter. Since I was a boy, I never understood why pizzerias did not serve something like this. The size is perfect and the pizza is quite tasty. This is not, I repeat not, authentic Neapolitan pizza, but the flavors are right and the quality of the ingredients high. For $5, a simple Marghertita pizzetta is surely the way to go for a quick lunch.

Tacos el Idolo

Further West, parked on 6th Avenue between West 4th street and Washington place, is a huge lunch truck with the name Tacos el Idolo. Serving traditional Mexican food at low prices, they offer many options. I opted for two tacos with chorizo (Mexican sausage) at $2.50 each. The soft shell tacos come with cilantro and onions and are a steal.

At these prices, it would be a sin to not try the foods listed. Keep in mind, the restaurants noted also offer many other inexpensive, tasty options.

Gianluca Rottura is the owner of a wine store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and author of Wine Made Easy. His Web site is pizzaandcoffee.com.