14 Affordable Places To Impress An Out-Of-TownerAll the best places where you can eat with a tourist without having to spend an upsetting amount of money.
As a resident of New York City, people will constantly be making excuses to visit you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but entertaining out-of-towners can get pricey, and if you aren’t careful, you can wind up with a stack of unpaid ConEd bills. So here are some affordable spots where you can eat with some tourists. Since you and all of your friends probably have different definitions of "affordable," we found a range of places at various price points. Some of these spots are sit-down, others are takeout, and they're all cooler than Magnolia Bakery.
Tong has a brick-and-mortar location now, but we still prefer the cart at 37th Ave and 73rd St in Jackson Heights. Take some visiting friends here, and get a wreath of puffed puri that come stuffed with peas and potatoes and topped with onions and shaved egg yolk. Tong's Bangladeshi fuchka is the perfect walking-around food, so turn your afternoon into a restaurant tour and head down the street to grab some momos at Nepali Bhanchha Gar, or stop by Los Chuzos for a big stick of chorizo.
When people come to New York, they like to eat pizza. It's just one of those things the city is known for (along with hip hop, pigeons, and financial crises). There are many fine slice shops to choose from, but if want to have a fun night out in a dark, buzzy space, head to Rubirosa. Yes, there will be a wait, and it'll probably be at least two hours. But you can always get a drink at Sweet & Vicious or sniff some $90 candles at nearby boutique until your table is ready.
New York City has a lot of great Italian restaurants, and many of those restaurants are impossible to get into and prohibitively expensive. Instead of emailing Carbone every day for six months in the hopes of getting a reservation, go to Lil Frankie's instead. Think of it as a big clubhouse in the East Village for people who appreciate solid Italian food. It’s a fun, homey spot with straightforward pasta and pizza, and the spaghetti limone will never let you down. (Daddies, a place in the West Village from the same owner, is another good choice.)
Let's say you're walking around Central Park and you need to grab brunch after. Go to Barney Greengrass. At this Upper West Side staple that's been open since the early 20th century, your tourist friends can check "bagels" off their list, and you can eat some world-class nova in an unpretentious room that feels like an old-school diner. It's not too hard to get a table here, but keep in mind that this place is cash-only. An omelette with lox with run you around $21.
At the corner of Houston and Ludlow, there's a huge Jewish delicatessen with a big sign outside that says “Katz’s.” Your friends have probably heard of this place, and you probably know that this famous deli is always clogged with tourists. Even if you hate crowds, you still need to come here. The thick, steamy pastrami at Katz's is one of New York City's crown jewels. If you don't want to pay $26 for a sandwich, get a few hot dogs and some matzoh ball soup.
Royal Seafood gets crowded on weekends—but it doesn't draw huge lines like Jing Fong or House of Joy. So if you don't want to wait an hour for your har gow and rice rolls, come here. The dim sum is fantastic, and there are always fresh batches arriving from the kitchen (via a dumbwaiter). This place is a bit smaller than other dim sum parlors in the neighborhood, but there's still plenty of room, and if you arrive before 11am, you'll probably get seated right away. Be sure get the shu mai and chicken feet.
Corner Bistro has been around for decades, and some people will say that their burger is the best in NYC. We think it's in the top 20, but you can just go ahead and tell your out-of-towner friends that it’s number one. The burger costs around $14 (with cheese), and it consists of a huge puck of meat with a bit of iceberg lettuce and tomato tossed in for what we assume are mostly aesthetic reasons. Get a beer in a heavy glass mug to go along with your food, and feel free to loiter in this divey West Village tavern for several hours.
Hou Yi Hot Pot is a magical place. It’s all-you-can-eat, there's a scoop-it-yourself ice cream station, and the broth is some of the spiciest in the city. Yes, you'll pay a little over $40 per person for 100 minutes of hot pot, but keep in mind: The food is unlimited. If you don't want to sweat while you eat, go with one of the mild broths. The little room on the Lower East Side is casual and no-nonsense, and it will inevitably smell like meat and boiling chilis when you stop by. If you need something to do after dinner, check out a nearby bar.
There's nothing wrong with Joe's—but everyone's already been there. If you're looking for a downtown slice shop that your cousin from Connecticut will get excited about, the obvious answer is Scarr's. This little LES spot looks like it should be inside of a 1970s bowling alley, and it tends to be filled with the sort of people who stand in long lines outside of clothing stores in Soho and Nolita. The pizza is some of the best in the city, and there's always a crowd out front.
There will come a time in your life when out-of-towners ask you take them to the High Line and/or Chelsea Market. You'll oblige them because you’re a nice and accommodating person, and also because you can get food at Los Mariscos after. Tucked into the side of Chelsea Market, this counter-service spot (from the people behind Los Tacos No. 1) serves some of the best fish tacos in the city. The aguachile is also an essential order, and you can round things out with a Pacifico.
The burger at J.G. Melon is classic and straightforward. It comes with a toasted bun, a few pickles, some onions, and a patty that’s roughly one fistful of meat. This cash-only place on the Upper East Side has been around since the 1970s, and it’s the perfect spot to bring someone who wants an old-school experience. The tavern-like room is filled with checkered tablecloths and random decor that looks like it was picked up at an estate sale several decades ago, and the kitchen is open until 2:30am most nights.
As a resident of NYC, you’re also an unofficial tour guide. This means you should be able to pronounce “Houston”, you should have a story about seeing either Jon Stewart or Andy Cohen on the street, and you should also know where to get dumplings. If you’re around Manhattan's Chinatown, try Shu Jiao Fu Zhou. A plate of 10 dumplings will run you $4.50, and you can add on some great peanut noodles for an extra $3. Eat at a little table in the barebones space, or take your food to the park a block away.
Veselka is an East Village Ukrainian restaurant that’s been open since 1954. It looks like a big, bright old-timey diner, and there's a good chance you've seen it on TV. (This is a popular place to film shows and movies.) There's also a good chance you've eaten eggs here semi-drunk at 4am. Unfortunately, Veslelka is no longer open 24 hours, but you can still come by for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and eat some good borscht and pierogies.
If we had to choose a few restaurants to take a desert island, Khao Kang would be one of them. This counter-service spot in Elmhurst serves some of the city's top Thai food, and you can get a combo plate with three dishes for around $15. Options change daily, but they generally include things like braised five-spice pork belly, sweet moo tod, and jungle curry packed with fish and vegetables. The southern sour curry is a favorite of ours, and the person behind the counter will probably tell you that it's spicy. Believe that person.