Eat a $5 Lunch in Downtown Manhattan | Tracy's New York Life | A New York City Lifestyle + Travel Blog Tracy's New York Life | Best Lifestyle, Culture, and Travel Blog in NYC

Eat a $5 Lunch in Downtown Manhattan

by Melissa Kravitz
Chinese takeout specials are a bargain and usually come with heaping plates plus an egg roll or soup.

While I prefer to pack a lunch for both nutritional and financial reasons, sleeping in, excessively hot weather, and a lack of clean Tupperware prevents me from doing so more often than not. NYC is home to endless fine-dining options for the foodies out there, but lack of money and enough time spent in various neighborhoods has led me to discover plenty of midday meals for $5. (And no, it’s not a Five-Dollar Footlong. Well, maybe sometimes.) 

There are far too many Chinese lunch specials to count, but be sure to drop into your local takeout joint. Most lunch specials range between $4.50-$6.50 and include plates heaping with fried rice, entrees, and perhaps an egg roll or soup. And, there’s usually plenty leftover for a late afternoon snack. Similarly, most local bodegas and delis offer lunch specials of sandwiches, wraps, melts, or salads. 

And of course, sharing lunch is never a bad idea. The city is overrun with lunch specials around the  $10 price point that definitely feed more than one.  Buddy up with a friend, co-worker, or coffee shop acquaintance and order a lunch special to split. Try Spice, Ghandi CafĂ© on Bleecker, or Benny's Burritos. Any of these will offer larger dishes perfect for sharing.

I've made the rounds by both neighborhood and ethnicity, so I never grow tired of consuming the same plate or ingredients. Here's what $5 can get you in Downtown Manhattan.
East Village
The Bean offers a daily $5 lunch special which includes a sandwich, a bag of chips or a banana, and a water bottle.  The sandwiches are pre-made but definitely filling enough for a meal.  Plus, the three downtown cafes provide free Wifi, oldies music, and a popular, comfortable workspace for freelancers.  

Down the street, Tompkins Square Bagels promotes its $5 lunch each day on an illustrated chalkboard, with special bagels with spreads and a bowl of soup.  On a hot summer day, the chilled vegetable soups with a buttered bagel are the perfect midday meal. 

Mamoun’s offers what I believe is the city’s best falafel sandwich at only $2.50.  You can supplement with another overstuffed pita or lentil soup. 

Mamoun's falafel – I think it's the best in the city.--via Mamoun's

Further down St. Mark’s, Dumpling Man has springy, fresh, flavorful sesame noodles with vegetables for only $3.50 and between 3-5pm you can stop by for $3 dumpling happy hour. 

On 14th St, BaoHaus makes up for its small size in enormous Taiwanese flavor.  The buns with all natural pork belly, ($3.50) or fried tofu ($2.99) are a refreshing and quick option

Similarly, a few slices from a $1 pizza joint can function as a decent lunch, but sometimes the splurge for the $2+ slice with veggies can be a better value and more filling (and healthy!) option. A $4.50 slice at Artichoke Basille’s pizza, oozing with cheese and greens is more than enough to satisfy your hunger. 

West Village
If cheese is your thing, the $3.99 special Murray's Melt at Murray’s Cheese Shop (Bleecker St) is perfectly melty and greasy, especially if supplemented with an apple or banana for the full meal.  

My favorite shopping break lunch is by far the TriBeCa Taco Truck. Freshly prepared burritos, tacos, and quesadillas with much more variant flavors than some popular chain restaurants allow you to choose proteins and sauces, from grilled cactus to the signature avocado crema. Locations will vary.

Cactus Tacos from the TriBeCa Taco Truck--via Yelp

If you prefer dining indoors, Chobani Soho offers sweet and savory yogurt creations starting at $3.50.  Cucumber, tomato, fresh fruit, and granola are just some of the options for this healthy, refreshing lunch!

Just on the edge of Chinatown, Bo Ky and its Health Inspection “A” rating serves generous and fresh portions of Chinese and Vietnamese dishes for under $5 at any hour of the day.

While the notorious $5 lunch truck in FiDi has recently upped its prices, there are still options to buy your lunch with a single bill. 

Finding a cheap sit-down lunch in FiDi is pretty much impossible, but tasty food stands and food trucks fill the void. 

Taqueria Nixtamalito at City Hall has gourmet tacos for a few bucks. Veronica’s Kitchen is a popular lunch stop for Caribbean food like jerk chicken and rice with beans. 

Veronica's Kitchen at work--via Yelp

When it comes to lunch in NYC, there are endless options, but when you set a budget and desire to stick to it, saving money and having delicious food is still very possible.

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