Chinatown Saves You $$

NYC is famous for a lot of things: delicious food, great museums, quality theatre, train delays…just to name a few. But most of all, it’s pretty notorious for being crazy expensive. I have unintentionally spent over $1000 in 7 days in the past when I was an inexperienced New Yorker. So, when money gets a little tight, here are some tips for getting tasty food (healthier than Dollar Pizza) that’s not going to break your bank.

Cooking is my #1 advice to you if you want to save money in the city. But I’m horrible at cooking, so I find every excuse to not have to be in my kitchen 80% of the time. I know most of you are thinking “but following a recipe is SO easy!” I know it’s easy, but it’s just not for me because I have absolutely no patience at all. So if you’re a lazy foodie like me, this post is for you.

When my bank account’s crying a little, my go-to place is always Chinatown. While the restaurants there are not fancy in aesthetics by any means, you get the most bang for your buck. When it comes to the Chinese food culture, presentation is never a priority. It’s always about the taste and the time it takes to get your food (usually under 5 minutes). Below are just a select few places I wanted to share, but there are a ton of other restaurants in the city around the same price range worth exploring at your own leisure.

Cha Chan Teng

45 Mott St
Growing up in Hong Kong, this restaurant definitely helps when I’m homesick. My parents even say this restaurant is better than Cha Chan Teng’s in Hong Kong. Cha Chan Teng’s are a typical Hong Kong style restaurant known for its affordable menus and fast eats. Think of a diner, but Hong Kong style. On average, it’s $6 for a full meal. is From rice, noodles, instant noodles (ramen), toast…they have everything you could ever imagine. Cash only.
♡: All Curry Rice Sets, Baked Pork Chop Rice (Tomato Sauce), Pineapple Bun with Butter, Butter & Condensed Milk Toast, Hong Kong Style French Toast, Ovaltine, Hong Kong Style Milk Tea.

Hot Food Vendor Cart

In the intersection between Canal Street and Centre Street
I have always loved “Cheung Fun,” which is Steamed Flat Rice Noodles. They drizzle a sweet soy sauce over it and you’re good to go. At the cart, they sell Fishballs/Curry Fishballs (fish cake but in the shape of a ball) you can get alongside your Rice Noodles, as well as other Hong Kong goodies. On average, I spend $3 for a meal here. If you’ve always been iffy about street food, I understand. I can’t force you to get food from there, but I can only tell you that I’ve been to this place a lot of times and never had a problem. Cash only.

Woorijip

12 W 32nd St
Woorijip is a casual, canteen-like restaurant serving both hot and cold food. Their food is pre-made, kept heated and pricing depends on the weight. From soups to fried calamari to kimbaps to noodles to Korean lunch boxes, they have food that feels like a warm hug.

Food Gallery 32

11 West 32nd St
Food Gallery 32 is hidden food court in the city. There is an variety of options for Korean meal sets. I believe a new savoury Chinese omelette/pancake place also just opened up. Not the most glamourous place, but it has quality food, and it sure is convenient for a fast bite if you’re on a time crunch.
♡: Kobeque, Spot Dessert Bar, Seoul (more Korean street food), Mama (Custard Delimanjoo).

Asian bakeries are also the way to go for something less heavy. The selection is vast because you have the option to choose between sweet and savory. It’s filling and incredibly cheap. The way the bread is made is different from what you normally have. The texture of the bread is fluffy, light and even sweet at times, so it’s never too much but it’s just enough to satisfy your hunger. Depending on which bakery you go to, it’s usually under $4.

Tous Les Jours Bakery

31 W 32nd St
Right in the midst of NYC’s Koreatown, this dainty French-Asian bakery offers bakery goods and beverages with ingredients from South Korea. Tous Les Jours is a little fancier compared to other bakeries.
♡: Cream Cheese Bread selection, Sausage Foliage Bread, Green Tea Chiffon Donut, Hot Mango Green Tea (sweetened) with Passion Fruit Popping Bobas.

Good Century Cafe

243 Grand Street
This is an authentic Chinese bakery in the heart of Chinatown. This is probably the dingiest looking of them all, but has a plethora of options you can choose from.
♡: Any of their Steamed Buns (pork & veggie is my favourite 菜肉包), Dim Sum goodies (shrimp dumplings “har gow’s” 蝦餃 is always my go-to), Egg Sandwich with your choice of protein (such as Spam/Ham/Sausage/Corned Beef). They use white bread – delicious!

Hong Kong Supermarket

157 Hester Street
Not a restaurant by any means but if you’re looking to save $$ on your groceries, this is where the party’s at! I can buy a week and a half’s worth of groceries for less than $50! They also have fresh veggies (my favourite is choy sum 菜心) & fresh meat. If you go downstairs, you’ll find yourself in instant noodle heaven!

If you’re not into Asian cuisine, maybe this is your time to test the waters and see if you like it. I understand sometimes things can look mushy and un-appetizing, but I can also promise you that how it looks has absolutely nothing to do with how it tastes. It’s such a shame if you don’t at least give it a try.

A ton of places also have Lunch Specials, so keep an eye out for those when you’re walking around the city too! Do you have any suggestions on how to eat on a budget around New York City? Let me know in the comment section below. I want to know your thoughts because I currently could use some advice myself (◕‿◕✿)

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