Finding Food On the Cheap in New York

New York has a bit of reputation for impossible-to-get-into restaurants where a meal can run you as much as a night at a decent hotel. And it's true that a lot of the restaurants there aren't what you'd call cheap, but there are affordable options to be found. Below are some of my picks for cheap meals and snacks in New York City.

Pick up Fresh Produce in Union Square
Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday you'll find the GreenMarket in Union Square. Depending on the time of year, you can grab fresh fruits and vegetables, breads and cheeses, hard cider and more for reasonable prices. Pick up a few items and hop on the nearby subway for a picnic in Washington Square Park. If you're like me, picnics aren't so much blanketed, sun-kissed fine dining, but more wolfing down all the blueberries on the subway followed by eating a ripe peach against the fountains and getting juice all over your hands and face (as in the picture above). But hey, that's what dirty fountain water is for ;)

Try Cheap Asian Cuisine Around ChinaTown
If New-York-based (typically LA-filmed) sitcoms have taught me anything, it's that New Yorkers eat a lot of Chinese food. But stereotypes aside, there's some seriously good Asian cuisine in New York. You'll find a bunch of different options around ChinaTown. One of my favourites is grabbing a bahn mi (a savoury Vietnamese sandwhich) at Vicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches northeast of ChinaTown. Tender pork, finely shredded carrots, cilantro and a kick of jalepeno on a lightly toasted bun - how can you go wrong? They also offer vegetarian options. Oh, and the best part? It won't set you back more than five dollars.

Get Lunch at the Food Court at Grand Central
Grand Central famous for its iconic oyster bar, and if you can splurge, go for it, but there's also plenty of affordable, delicious options to be found in the food court. After you've eaten your pick among the many dining options, grab a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery. The red velvet was amazing and surprisingly light.

Two Words: Falafel Truck
In most parts of Manhattan, particularly as you get south of Union Square along Broadway, you'll see a bunch of food carts with pictures of falafel, souvlaki, and gyros along the side. The food runs you about six bucks, and from what I've tried, it's actually pretty decent. Great for recharging your batteries mid-shopping marathon.

Grab a Slice
Spend enough time in New York and you'll find more than one pizza place claiming to have "The Best Pizza in New York." Most pizza joints sell pizza by the (gigantic) slice for a couple of bucks. Choose the freshly-made pie you want and they'll heat it up for you in their giant pizza ovens. The crust comes out crunchy on the bottom and chewy in the middle, and the toppings are flavourful and fresh-tasting. Ben's Pizzeria in Greenwich Village and Anna Maria's in Williamsburg were both excellent.

Indulge in Artisanal Ice Cream
The Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Trucks have gotten very popular in New York. You can find their trucks and even a few store fronts all over NYC. I went to the truck on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg. All their ingredients are fresh and ethically sourced, and they make the ice cream from scratch. At 6 bucks for a small dish, it's not cheap for ice cream, but it's still an inexpensive indulgence.

These are just a few options that I explored, but I'm sure there are many more. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below!