Where to Eat in New York for Under $15
$14 Chicken Rice at Made Nice
This isn't just any chicken rice—this is chicken rice with a pedigree. The team behind Eleven Madison Park (not only one of New York's best restaurants, but the world's) launched this counter service joint this spring, offering restaurant quality, beautifully-plated food at prices that ring in just a little over a big meal at Chipotle. For this far-above-average dish, pulled braised chicken mixes it up with marinated cherry tomatoes and scallions atop basmati rice, with whiffs of rosemary and lemon. Nothing on the menu is over $15—go nuts.
Made Nice, 8 W. 8th St.
$9 Pizza at Arcade Bakery
The quiet lobby of a classic Church Street office building just steps from the World Trade Center is a secret destination for some of the best croissants and breads money can buy in Manhattan, but even those who do make it through the revolving doors often miss out on one of the best reasons to sneak away during a Lower Manhattan workday—the pizza. Tasty little pies come with mozzarella, tomato and basil; you can add toppings like pepperoni for a little more. Save time and order online—it should be ready when you arrive.
Arcade Bakery, 220 Church St.; 212-227-7895
$9.40 Brisket Sandwich at Mighty Quinn's BBQ
Texas native Hugh Mangum's growing empire is one of the most legit BBQ joints New York has ever seen—while you could spend your day trucking out to the various wilds of Brooklyn to visit slightly newer BBQ hotspots, the reliability (and, increasingly, omnipresence) of this very good barbecue joint and its very good brisket (served in piles on a tray or as a sandwich) is almost miraculous, considering that just a decade or so ago, New York was one of the last places you'd send anyone to eat barbecue.
Mighty Quinn’s BBQ, Multiple locations
$3.50 Taco de Adobada from Los Tacos No. 1
New York has taken plenty of hits (often well-deserved) for its rather underwhelming taco situation, but the group of pals from the West Coast border region that launched this now-staple spot at Chelsea Market have done more than their share to get the city out of the taco dog house. There are all sorts of options here, but start with some marinated pork off the trompo. Doused in creamy salsa verde, served up on proper tortillas—it's like you're in Tijuana. Almost.
Tip: There's a second location in Midtown.
Los Tacos No. 1, 75 9th Ave.; 212-256-0343
$12.86 Beef Noodle Soup at Very Fresh Noodle
One of a few key recent additions that's reinforcing Chelsea Market's status as one of the best one-stops in the city for good and affordable meals, this hand-pulled noodle bar's interpretation of a Taiwanese everyday classic is elevated with the use of quality, slow-braised beef. The stall's signature noodles and a nuanced, flavorful broth will likely ruin you for the more basic renditions you're likely to encounter in the future. (Get it mild or spicy, both are great.)
Very Fresh Noodle, 425 W 15th St.
$6 Veggie Burger at Superiority Burger
Brooks Headley's version of the hippie holdover-gone-mainstream is not only one of the best in town, packed full of grains, cleverly-seasoned and evoking the real deal just a little bit more than you might be expecting, it's considered to be one of the best available, anywhere. To boot, it got there without leaning on the addition of weird flavors or fillers. This budget-friendly burger is topped with Muenster cheese, crispy lettuce, tomato and pickle and served on a squishy, sweet potato roll. No room in the bite-sized restaurant? Tompkins Square Park is just down the block.
Superiority Burger, 430 E. 9th St.; 212-256-1192
$9.69 Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods
Until a few short years ago nothing more than a humble stall shoved in the back of of a basement market hall in Flushing Queens, Jason Wang has grown his father's business into a mini-empire of sorts, mostly due to the shop's signature dish. Ever so slightly funky with lamb and exploding with flavor—besides cumin, expect lots of chili and tingle-inducing peppercorns—the terrific handmade noodles bring the whole thing back down to earth. (It's terrific in any weather, but particularly on a miserable winter day.) This staple from the city of Xi'an, all but unheard of in the United States up until now, has quickly become a New York cheap eats staple.
Note: Prices will vary by location.
Xi’an Famous Foods, Multiple locations