New York’s best bites under $25

By Peter Meehan for British Airways High Life magazine

Photography by Ryan J Lane/Getty

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May 2016

You don’t have to empty your wallet for a decent fill in New York. Peter Meehan, editor and founder of ‘Lucky Peach’ magazine, rounds up the city’s best cheap eats, from US Southern comfort food to Japanese soba noodles.

The Commodore, Brooklyn

I’m recommending the Commodore here as a cheap eats option because it’s inexpensive, but I’d happily pay twice the price for Stephen Tanner’s killer cooking. Why? Because he makes the best fried chicken in America (I’m very serious about that!). Because his nachos are devastating (in a good way). Because of the greens and the patty melts and everything else. You can’t go wrong, except if you go too late. The Commodore is a hip bar in a hip neighbourhood, and if you’re old and wobbly like me, you want to get there at 17:00 when they open and then eat and be gone before all of the beautiful, young hip things descend and you’ve got to wait a half hour for a table.

Where? 366 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn +1 718 218 7632

Nearest subway: G to Metropolitan Avenue

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  • The Commodore, a Williamsburg hipster hangout that is home to the best fried chicken in all of America, according to Peter Meehan

    Ditch the diet

    With American comfort food classics such as fried chicken and cheese grits on the menu, this isn’t the place to come if you’re counting calories. Make sure you order the “hot fish”, a flaky, cayenne-rubbed catfish fillet sandwiched between a grilled sesame roll.

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Punjabi Grocery and Delhi, East Village

I have eaten more meals here, a sliver of a subterranean cabstand at the tail end of East 1st Street, than anywhere on earth other than my home. Why? Because it’s cheaper than anything else, it’s vegetarian (cheap meat can be fun to flirt with, but often a disappointment to eat) and I love their Sikh cooking. I wish I could take you there by the hand and show you it all, but start by ordering a samosa with chickpeas “and everything” – by which they mean with yogurt, tamarind sauce, a dusting of Asafoetida and a shower of sweet raw onions. Still less than $3 dollars with a decent tip.

Where? 114 East 1st Street; +1 212 533 3356

Nearest subway: F to 2nd Avenue

The opportunity to start the day with a respectable rendition of restorative chicken pho at a Mexican restaurant run by a Korean chef who’s best known for his Chinese cooking is too New York to pass by

Sobakoh, East Village

On the high end of the $25-per-person limit is this soba parlour in the East Village. I can’t think of a reason in the world why it doesn’t have a line all of the time, except that the kids are crazy for ramen and sleeping on this positively excellent noodle house. The soba is made fresh to order all day and it’s hard to go wrong by. I usually treat myself to the most expensive dish in the house, a $23 serving of sea urchin, salmon roe and shiso garnished cold ramen that has never faltered in the eight years I have been eating it.

Where? 309 East 5th Street; +1 212 254 2244

Nearest subway: F to 2nd Avenue

  • Great bowls of fire: spicy chicken chipotle soup at Great Jones Café

    Try it for yourself

    Great Jones Café doesn’t take bookings, so get there early to beat the crowds. Opening times: Monday to Saturday, 11:00-16:00 (lunch) and 17:00-01:00 (dinner).

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  • Mexican dining gets a hip makeover at Mission Cantina
  • Soba good: sea urchin, salmon roe and shiso garnished cold ramen at Sobakoh© @hungrynyc

    Order up

    Sobakoh’s handmade soba (buckwheat noodles) are prepared fresh to order, seven days week from 12:00-15:00 (lunch) and 17:30-10:45 (dinner).

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Mission Cantina, Lower East Side

One of my favourite cheap-ish breakfasts these days is the Vietnamese menu served from 09:00-11:00 daily at Mission Cantina. While New York isn’t a great town for Vietnamese cuisine, the opportunity to start the day with a respectable rendition of restorative chicken pho at a Mexican restaurant run by a Korean chef (Danny Bowien) who’s best known for his Chinese cooking is too New York to pass by.

Where? 172 Orchard Street; +1 212 254 2233

Nearest subway: F to 2nd Avenue

Great Jones Café, East Village

I feel bad that so many of my recommendations are downtown, but I moved to New York because that’s where I wanted to be – and the dream of downtown was well on its way to being ‘developed’ out of existence when I got here. Eventually, the city will be a matrix of juice bars, expensive gyms and glassy condominiums that no one lives in, but until then, we still have the Great Jones Café. It’s a Cajun place with a killer jukebox and a vibe that can’t be beaten. Get the chili with the works, or the hamburger. I’ve been ordering the side salad and their diner-style whipped-cream-topped pies since before I was able to legally drink. And on that front: order a Shaggy, the restaurant’s compulsively drinkable take on the Dark and Stormy, made with invigoratingly spicy ginger ale from South Carolina.

Where? 54 Great Jones Street; +1 212 674 9304

Nearest subways: 6 to Bleeker Street, or F to 2nd Avenue

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