10 food spots under $12

Check out these 10 restaurants that offer quick, flavorful meals for under $12.

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Ryan Kawahara, Manasa Gudavalli

Turns out, eating out in New York doesn’t have to be expensive. Check out these restaurants for delicious meals you can get on a tight budget. (Staff Photos by Ryan Kawahara and Manasa Gudavalli)

By Gabby Lozano, Dining Editor

It doesn’t take a math major to tell you that living in the Big Apple is pretty pricey, especially when it comes to food. But don’t let the high price tag of some restaurants fool you — the city’s restaurant scene stretches far and wide in terms of cuisine and affordability. On the one side you’ll find a donut covered in gold while on the other you’ll get a full plate of dumplings for under $5. 

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with the city’s vast food scene, but don’t worry. The Dining desk will point you in the right direction. Check out these 10 dining spots, both old and new, offering affordable, nourishing meals without sacrificing any of the flavor. All of these restaurants are located within a 10-minute walk from Washington Square Park and feature entrees for $12 or below. 

Ambo 

If you’re craving a bowl, but don’t want to resort to the mundane flavors of Chipotle or Cava, then I have the place for you. A few blocks north of the Washington Square Arch, you can find the latest dive serving everyday Indian food in bowl form. Customers can choose from a variety of sauces and toppings to create a custom bowl. Prices start at $11 per bowl, perfect for a quick lunch or dinner.

Bagel Bob’s 

While the winner for New York’s best bagel has yet to be settled, Bagel Bob’s has won for most affordable. The bagel shop rolls out dozens of homemade bagels everyday offering a plethora of spreads and sandwich fillings. For $5 to $8, Bagel Bob’s makes the perfect breakfast or lunch. Students can also earn a 10% discount if they present their NYU ID card.

Brooklyn Kolache 

You’ve heard of Tex-Mex, but have you heard of Tex-Czech? Located at the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal street, Brooklyn Kolache is a gourmet bakery specializing in sweet and savory pastries known as kolaches. The yeast filled pastry originates from the Czecholovakian community in central Texas. The bakery was founded in 2012 by Autumn Stanford, a Texas native who wanted to bring the pastry to the East Coast. The bakery has been operating in Bed-Stuy, but recently opened its second location in Greenwich village in June. Brooklyn Kolache offers a variety of pastries with sweet and savory fillings, such as the traditional poppy seed, or the modern bacon, egg and cheese combination. For under $7, you can grab a quick, mess-free breakfast, lunch or even afternoon snack. Students can also earn a 10% discount if they present their NYU ID card.

Joe’s Pizza has been attracting New Yorkers and celebrities since the shop’s opening in 1975. (Staff Photo by Ryan Kawahara) (Ryan Kawahara)

Joe’s Pizza

Would this list be complete if I didn’t include Joe’s Pizza? The delicate crust and warm, gooey cheese pull has been attracting New Yorkers and celebrities since the shop’s opening in 1975. Individual cheese slices go for $2.75 or $3.50 if you want additional toppings. Many students come to Joe’s on the weekends after a long night of drinking and dancing, but the pizza is just as good if you’re coming from class. 

Mamoun’s Falafel has locations in Greenwich Village and East Village. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli) (Manasa Gudavalli)

Mamoun’s Falafel 

Known for their affordable sandwiches, this infamous falafel has been serving the NYU community since it first opened in 1971. Mamoun’s Falafel, known by many as Mamoun’s, specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine, offering everything from falafel sandwiches to hummus and pita. For less than $5 you can get a falafel sandwich filled with hummus, falafel, tomatoes and lettuce packaged in warm pita bread. Although the restaurant only accepts cash, there are ATM machines located throughout MacDougal Street. 

NY Dosas is located at the southern end of Washington Square Park. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli) (Manasa Gudavalli)

NY Dosas

If you haven’t waited in line for the infamous dosa cart hidden among the trees at the southern end of Washington Square Park, then I highly suggest you do. New York Dosas is a personal favorite of mine and eating there is an experience like no other. In addition to serving flavorful food, you’ll also get a side of wit and comfort from the founder, Thiru Kumar. Also known as the Dosa Man, Kumar founded the cart in 2001 hoping to serve the NYU community with a healthy yet affordable meal. For $9 you can get a dosa — a type of thin flatbread made from a lentil and rice batter, filled with vegetables or potatoes with coconut chutney and a cup of lentil soup. Kumar accepts cash or Venmo. Make sure to follow him on Instagram or Twitter to see when he’ll be in the park. 

Saigon Shack

Most of the spots on this list make for a great meal to enjoy on the go, but Saigon Shack offers a lively dining experience without breaking the bank. As the name suggests, Saigon Shack serves Vietnamese cuisine with options ranging from pho (a noodle soup) to bánh mì, a meat and vegetable sandwich on a baguette. You can’t go wrong with either option, especially when both cost under $11. 

SIMÒ PIZZA

Eager for a taste of Italy without leaving campus? Here’s your chance. For $11 to $12 you can try a classic Neapolitan style pizza with high quality ingredients imported from the motherland. In addition to its amazing flavor and price, it only takes 90 seconds for your pizza to cook, making this the perfect meal for students running late to class. If pizza isn’t your kind of food, then you can try other items on the menu, such as the gnocchi with tomato sauce or tuna salad. Make sure to show your NYU ID to receive a 10% discount and bring your card since the restaurant doesn’t accept cash. 

The Kati Roll Company

Longing for the tastes and smells of her home, Payal Saha founded the restaurant in 2002 shortly after moving to the city from her hometown in Kolkata, India. The Kati Roll Company serves warm kati rolls, a popular street food in Kolkata. The rolls are filled with meats, vegetables, or a mixture of both wrapped in a paratha or roti, two kinds of Indian flatbread. All the fillings are made in-house, coated with a blend of 30 hand-ground spices and served warm, which makes for a great meal to enjoy on the go or in the park. The restaurant also offers students a 10% discount when they present their NYU ID. 

Top Thai 

I stumbled across this restaurant during my sophomore year, and one green curry later this became my go-to lunch spot before classes went remote. While you can dine here at any time of day, I highly recommend trying out their lunch special, which includes an entree and appetizer of your choice. This restaurant offers 10% off if you pay with cash.

Contact Gabby Lozano at [email protected]