Caracas is kind of synonymous with the East Village. It's a staple. A tried-and-true spot to pick up an inexpensive bite without sacrificing any flavor. Born out of Venezuela, the arepa (naturally gluten-free) is essentially a corn cake that gets stuffed with everything from avocado and cheese to shredded beef, fish and pork.
To put another way: it's simply a vehicle for slamming tasty, slow-cooked things into your gullet in the same way a tortilla or pita is. Caracas is long-standing in a notoriously tough part of town to keep a restaurant open for a reason: it's good, cheap and fun.
Helmed by the team behind Eleven Madison Park and The Nomad comes a fast casual restaurant that one can only hope sets the bar for the fast casual trend. Unassuming from the outside, Made Nice could easily be confused for just another office lunch spot. But in fact, it turns out fresh, high-quality items including a salmon rosti with a soft-boiled egg and dill-caper relish, or a watermelon-quinoa salad, topped with feta, chili and lime. Though it's sometimes tough to find a spot, turnover is fairly quick. Those on a budget could go for brunch, lunch AND dinner without breaking the bank, as meals range from $11-$15 and dessert will only set you back $6.
Aptly named for their bite-sized morsels of doughy goodness, Tasty Dumpling has amassed a steady flow of regulars. A hole in the wall joint of epic proportions, don't expect to find pristine conditions or top notch service inside.
But we're in Chinatown - chances are you came for the cheap eats, not for the Michelin stars. The thing to order here are the fried pork and chive dumplings, which pack a good meat to dumpling ratio for a nominal fee ($1.25 for 5 of these bad boys).
Unlike some of the other spots around, you'll also find a few tables, so you can sit back and relax instead of scarfing down your goods on the go.
Though not technically a restaurant, no list on value eats would be complete without takeaway standby, George and Costas Souvlaki King. This street cart in Astoria has been a secret of locals for decades, but now thanks to the power of the Internet, New Yorkers the city over have caught on to its fame. Fare here is simple: grilled lamb souvlaki or chicken on a stick, on a platter or in a pita, each option served with a heaping portion of fries. Top it all off with cucumber, tomato, onion and tzatziki, and you've got yourself a well-rounded meal that could go toe-to-toe with any takeaway in town.
Celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongrichten has a culinary empire that spans the globe, but his eponymous restaurant connected to the Upper West Side's Trump Hotel remains a gold standard for the chef's subtly Asian-inflected, French haute cuisine. While dinner will set you back a pretty penny, lunch is far more reasonable: a 2-course meal is just $48, with additional courses for $24, which makes Jean Georges the most affordable three star Michelin experience you can have in the city.
What will you get? Expect stalwart service and expense account-worthy cuisine while taking in the views of Central Park West and Columbus Circle from the dining room's floor-to-ceiling windows. And remember those three stars? Without interruption, Jean-Georges has held them since it opened its doors in 1997.
Usually prix-fixe dinners can be a tad annoying, if for no other reason than their exorbitant costs. But at Contra in the Lower East Side, the prix-fixe is a welcomed surprise: a seasonally-focused, 6-course menu for just $74. Not too hungry? Save even more by partaking in the 3-course menu at the bar.
An unassuming exterior and quiet interior make room for the food to shine, which it does on nearly every iteration of the menu that's been rolled out since Contra opened up shop in 2013. The beauty of Contra lies in the notion that it's possible to create beautifully elaborate and innovative meals at a fraction of the cost without losing any clarity, vision or brilliance.
From their onsite gardening internships to their podcasts recorded at the Heritage Radio Network, pizza doesn't get any cooler than at Roberta's. But lest that dissuade you from trekking out to Bushwick for a nibble, let us ease your fears: while this hipster haven continually makes headlines with head-turning stories like the time they unrolled a weed-tasting menu, their drug-free food more than lives up its own hype. Wood tables and outdoor seating lend an air of casualness to the atmosphere here, and their wood-burning oven is prominently displayed. As for the pizzas? Carlo Mirarchi's pies feature produce grown onsite, and have cemented themselves as a must-eat on any New York pizza tour.
You generally won't find many street carts on "best of" lists, but the rice noodle rolls on Elizabeth at Hester deserve time in the spotlight. Interestingly, there are two carts directly opposite one another -" both delicious, both viable options.
English is an afterthought here, so don't go armed with questions. Here's all you need to know: you want the minced pork roll, add the egg, and slather on the Sriracha and soy.
Don't even think about skipping the cilantro and onion, or traveling more than a block before popping open your Styrofoam box of yum. These gelatinous beauties lose their luster by the minute, so order and eat. Also, take note that the times listed are approximates - the rice carts don't play by traditional time rules, making them even more desirable to foodie fiends.