5 Under 5: Eat for $5 or Less Around Campus

Turns out that you don’t have to starve to save money!


Alex Tran

A sign outside of Matto Coffee. The small shop is featured on our list of 5 or Less Eats that aren’t pizza. (Staff Photo by Alex Tran)

Ria Mittal, Staff Writer

It’s hard to be a young college student in New York City for a lot of reasons. First on my list though, is the fact that food can be so damn expensive. None of us can afford to consistently drop around $10 per meal, and cooking every meal can be overwhelming while trying to focus on school. Lucky for us, there are a few hidden gems around campus that won’t break our banks or force us to starve. 

Taco Mahal

73 7th Ave. S


When you really think about it, a fusion between Indian and Mexican food is bound to be a success. They share many of the same flavors in the vein of coriander and cilantro, and if you look at naan bread long enough, you can imagine it being used much like a tortilla. That’s just what Taco Mahal does. Located just a block and a half behind Lipton Hall, this counter-serve spot exemplifies that successful fusion at a reasonable price point. Its roti tacos range from $4.50 to $5.25 and even include fish, lamb and vegan options. My favorite dish is their masala fries — served with queso fresco and chutney — for just $5.

Mamoun’s Falafel

119 MacDougal St. — 30 St. Marks Pl. 


We’ve all walked past Mamoun’s at some point in our NYU lives, whether drunk on St. Marks Place or rushing for a quick lunch between classes on MacDougal Street. Next time you walk by, consider walking in. It’s definitely worth the pit stop. With all their vegetarian sandwiches — falafel, hummus, baba ganouj and tabbouleh — priced at $4.50 in the store ($6.35 online) and their pastries all under $3, it’s actually quite the steal. They’re cash only, though, so maybe that crumpled up $5 bill that’s been in your back pocket since October can finally be put to good use. 

Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery 

137 E. Houston St.


If you want a kosher bite of New York history at a price you can actually afford, Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, aka Knishery, is the perfect spot. Whether sweet or savory, all of the Knishery’s knishes are priced at an average of about $4.75. Their sheer variety, from broccoli knishes to blueberry cheese knishes, is astounding. You could also opt for a bagel for $4.95 too, though I’d definitely recommend trying one of the actual knishes. Vegetarian friendly and right by Houston and 2nd, I’d say the walk is worth it. 

Matto Espresso

293 Mercer St.


You know that “$2 for everything” sign you pass by on the way to Cantor Film Center? This is it. You know that tiny little store with a line that always wraps around Mercer Street? This is also it. Matto sells literally everything — ice chai lattes, egg sandwiches, alfajores, zucchini bread — for just $2. It’s such a good deal for good quality food and beverages that braving the constantly long line doesn’t seem so bad. I’ve heard their omelet multigrain croissant and hot chocolate, in particular, are life-changing. They don’t have any dairy alternatives though. What you see is what you get. 

Little Atlas Cafe

6 W. 4th St.

(212) 253-5535

Right down West Fourth Street, right past the eyebrow-threading store, lies Little Atlas Cafe — home to some delicious smashed avocado toast. If avocados aren’t your thing, they also have toast topped with banana and honey, salmon and capers or cucumber and hummus for around $5. They also have a selection of omelets, sandwiches and vegan baked goods that end up costing around $5 with their handy 10% student discount.

A version of this article appears in the Monday, March 9, 2020 print edition. Email Ria Mittal at [email protected].