Best Full-Meal Bargains in NYC

October 25, 2016
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by Zagat Staff

Presenting our best cheap eats in NYC with a price point of under $40 a person. 

Juliana's
Pizza · DUMBO · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.1

From “pizza legend” Patsy Grimaldi, this “old-school” joint turns out “premium” pies via a coal oven ( “it’s the char!” ) in “casual” digs beneath the Brooklyn Bridge; since it “looks like everyone knows” , don’t be surprised to see lines “down the block.”
Emily - Brooklyn
Pizza · Clinton Hill · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.1

This “vibrant” pizzeria duo serves “out-of-this-world” Neapolitan pies with “perfectly charred” crusts and “inventive” toppings – though some swear the “killer” (but limited-supply) burger is the real “showstopper” ; the Clinton Hill original specializes in rectangular pies, while the West Village outpost offers round too, but both spots are "tight" , so make a reservation or expect "absurdly long" waits.
Lucali
Carroll Gardens · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.0

It’s “hard to beat” the “ethereal” pizzas and “league-of-their-own” calzones that emerge from the brick oven at this cash-only Carroll Gardens joint; the BYO policy “makes it a great value” , but the trade-off is notoriously “insane waits.”
Hometown Bar-B-Que
Red Hook · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.7 · Service 3.7

A “destination-worthy” home to “honest” BBQ, this Red Hook “champ” supplies “terrific” Texas-style meats (think “melt-in-your-mouth” brisket and “caveman-sized” ribs) in a “converted garage” with a “roadhouse party vibe” ; “energetic” crowds line up for the counter service, but the “smoky” “excellence” “rewards the wait.”
SriPraPhai
Thai · Woodside · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.4 · Service 3.7

Worth the “trek," this Woodside “holy grail of Thai food” (with a Williamsburg branch) offers an “enormous choice” of “memorable” dishes at varied heat levels ( “make sure you really mean it if you ask for ‘very spicy’” ); although cash-only with “perfunctory” service and decor, it's affordable and “out-of-this-world.”
San Matteo Pizza Espresso Bar
Italian · East 80s · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.4 · Service 4.0

Bite into the “first-rate” , “real-deal” Neapolitan pies or “unusual” panuozzi (sandwiches) at these “popular” Upper Eastsiders, and “you’re in Italy” ; tables are “few” in the “tiny” , “basic” flagship, but the “expanded” East 80s outpost boasts a “lovely upstairs” space with a “fun vibe.”
Roberta's
Pizza · Bushwick · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.7 · Service 3.9

“Legendary" by now, this this “hipster-chic” Bushwick destination is a “real standout” thanks to “expertly crafted” pizzas (try the “out-of-this-world” bee sting) and “equally amazing” Italian dishes, enhanced by homegrown produce; perpetual “crowds” make for “massive” waits, but once you're in it's “loads of fun.”
Taci's Beyti
Middle Eastern · Sheepshead Bay · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 4.1

In a refreshingly “hipster-free corner of Brooklyn” , this long-standing Turk is a Sheepshead Bay “favorite” for “huge portions” of “delicious” classics, including “juicy” kebabs; the staff “couldn't be nicer” , ditto the prices, so never mind if the atmosphere is “nothing special.”
Chaiwali
Vegan · Harlem
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.5 · Service 4.0

“Not your average Indian cafe” , this “charming” Harlem kitchen presents “thoughtful” dishes (including vegan and gluten-free options) in an art-filled space so “magical” , you’ll “want their interior decorator” ; a “beautiful” garden and “reasonable prices” are other reasons to “love” it.
Momosan Ramen & Sake
Japanese · Murray Hill · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.3

An “authentic ramen” joint by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, this Murray Hill spot focuses on four types of “phenomenal” bowls – including Tokyo-style chicken and pork with spicy coconut curry – plus “top-notch” appetizers; communal seating creates a “nice buzz” , and set lunches and happy-hour specials bolster the “reasonable” cost.
Paulie Gee's
Greenpoint · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.0

The “crowds” prove the “hype” at this Greenpoint pizzeria where “seriously good” pies (especially the “addictive” Hellboy) are offered with “original” toppings varied enough “to please anyone” ; the “dimly lit” digs feel especially “inviting” when Paulie “drops by to say hello.”
Pizza Moto
Pizza · Red Hook · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.1

A mobile outfit plants brick-and-mortar roots at this Red Hook pizzeria near the BQE, a former bakery where “delicious” wood-fired pies in “original versions” emerge from a restored 19th-century oven; rustic accents and “earnest” service warm the space, as do custom cocktails from the bar.
Hibino
Cobble Hill · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 4.0

“Fresh-as-one-can-get” sushi vies for the spotlight with the “daily changing” obanzai (small plates) and “compelling” housemade tofu at these “unusual” , Kyoto-style Japanese eateries; “budget-friendly” tabs and “unobtrusive” service embellish the “subdued” mood.
Hibino LIC
Japanese · Long Island City · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 4.0

“Fresh-as-one-can-get” sushi vies for the spotlight with the “daily changing” obanzai (small plates) and “compelling” housemade tofu at these “unusual” , Kyoto-style Japanese eateries; “budget-friendly” tabs and “unobtrusive” service embellish the “subdued” mood.
Katz's Delicatessen
Lower East Side · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.0 · Service 3.5

A “legendary” LES landmark since 1888 (with its first offshoot in Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market Hall), this “bucket lister” remains the “gold standard” for “sky-high” pastrami sandwiches and other “real-deal” Jewish deli eats; the “crowded, hectic” space is “nothing to talk about” , but for a “classic NYC” experience it still has many joining 'When Harry Met Sally' fans in shouting “yes, yes, yes!”
Rubirosa
Brunch · NoLita · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.0

“Amazing” thin-crust pizzas and “to-die-for” meatballs are the fortes of this “charming” NoLita Italian done up in “rustic-chic” style; “cozy” turns “tight” during prime times, and it can be “hard to get a table” , but “cool” vibes and “reasonable” tabs compensate.
Mu Ramen
Japanese · Long Island City · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.1

“Transcendent slurping” lures noodle enthusiasts to this LIC cash-only ramen shop serving “amazing” bowls and “innovative” Japanese apps; unsurprisingly, the “tight” quarters are “often jam-packed” , while the no-rezzie rule causes “daunting” waits.
Olea
Spanish · Fort Greene · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.3

“On the keeper list” in Fort Greene, this BAM-area “favorite” features “delightful” Med plates (including notably “wonderful tapas” ) set down in “cozy” , “colorful” digs by an “accommodating” crew; since “everyone in the neighborhood” knows about it, be ready for “bustling” crowds and “long waits” , especially for brunch.
Wheated
Ditmas Park · $
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.3

“Excellent” , “artisanal” pizzas – built on “perfect” sourdough crusts and named for Brooklyn neighborhoods – are “what set apart” this “warm” Ditmas Park hangout; small and “pleasant” with an “energetic” bar dispensing “great whiskeys” and cocktails, it’s a “nice option for the neighborhood.”
Fette Sau
Barbecue · Williamsburg · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 3.5

It's the “quintessential Williamsburg experience” to “join the hipsters” at this “serious foodie” “heaven” for “awesome” dry-rub, by-the-pound BBQ paired with “artisanal” beers and bourbons; no rezzies means “crazy lines” for “cafeteria-style” service in a “former garage” outfitted with “communal picnic tables” – but to most it's so “worth it.”
Ippudo NY
Greenwich Village · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.9 · Service 3.9

“Rich” , “category-defining” ramen and “incredible” pork buns make for “insanely packed” conditions (and “ridiculously long waits” ) at these Japanese joints; digs are “more spacious” in Midtown, while the Village original is “darker” with “interesting” Asian-inspired decor, but expect a “warm” , “shouted” greeting at both.
Don Antonio
Italian · West 50s · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 4.0

Fans ascend to “pie heaven” via the dozens of varieties built on “light, flaky” crusts (its flash-fried rendition is especially “scrumptious” ) at this “excellent” Midtown Neapolitan; the setting can be “cramped” and “hectic” , yet in the end those “tasty” wood-fired pizzas “overcome all.”
Pacificana
Chinese · Sunset Park · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.7 · Service 3.9

“Authentic and delicious” dim sum draws “throngs” to this huge, “you're-in–Hong Kong” Sunset Park banquet hall, where a well-priced Cantonese menu backs up what's on the “rolling carts” ; on weekends it's a “madhouse” packed with “big, multigenerational parties” , but “be patient” – it's “worth the wait.”
Luzzo's La Pizza Napoletana
Italian · East Village · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 3.9

Fans “thank the pizza gods” for these separately owned joints, where “superior” Neapolitan-style pies emerge from coal-fired ovens with enough “authenticity” to “make an Italian grandma proud” ; they're “no-frills” and often “jammed” , but the Brooklyn Heights locale has a back patio.
Lombardi's
Pizza · NoLita · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 3.7

This 1905-vintage NoLita pizza “shrine” , which claims to be America's first pizzeria, still draws throngs with its “real-deal” coal-fired pies; it doesn't take plastic or reservations, and you may have to “tussle with the tourists to get a table” , but it's a true “slice of NY” – even though it “doesn't do slices.”
Barney Greengrass
Brunch · West 80s · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.0 · Service 3.7

An “essential” UWS “institution” , this circa-1908 “temple to smoked fish” “still reigns” with its “fabulous fresh bagels” , “silky” nova and other “quintessential” Jewish deli fare; on weekends service turns more “brusque” and the “cramped” space gets “chaotic” , but “so what?” – it's “part of the charm.”
Posto Thin Crust
Pizza · Gramercy Park · $
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 4.0

The “thinnest” , “winningest” crust is the hallmark of this Gramercy pizzeria, a “local hot spot” cranking out “splendid” pies at “accessible prices” ; its “small” , “publike” digs are usually “packed and noisy” , so the to-go trade stays brisk.
Elias Corner
Seafood · Astoria · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.0 · Service 3.7

Grilled fish so fresh it tastes like it was “caught an hour ago” is the specialty of this “no-frills” Astoria Greek with not much decor and “no menus” (just check out the “cold case” and point); though it only accepts cash and service is “so-so” , the tabs are sure “hard to beat.”
Wu Liang Ye
West 40s · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.2 · Service 3.5

“One of the best Chinese restaurants north of C-town” , this outfit just off Rock Center is known for “lip-tingling” , “real-deal” Sichuan cooking ( “bring tissues to deal with your runny nose” ); “bargain prices” outweigh the “glum” decor and “indifferent” service.
Nick's Pizza
Italian · East 90s · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 4.0

A “step above your everyday pizza place” , these “neighborhood joints” specialize in “charred” , thin-crust pies with “perfect sauce” and some “gourmet flair” ; true, the decor and service are strictly “no-frills” , but they fill the bill for “family” -friendly dining.
Clinton St. Baking Company
Breakfast · Lower East Side · $
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 3.9

“Bring War and Peace” to pass the time in the brunch line at this LES bakery/cafe, which repays “daunting” waits with homespun Americana “made with love” (especially those “divine pancakes” ); a recent expansion may relieve the daytime crowds, though insiders hint “dinner is just as good.”
Pure Thai Cookhouse
Thai · West 50s · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.2 · Service 3.7

“Taste the essence of Thailand” at this “hole-in-the-wall” Hell’s Kitchen Thai that “stands out” thanks to the “bold flavors” of its “excellent noodle dishes” and other “cheap” eats; the only downside is a “shoebox” space with “backless stools” that’s “always packed.”
The Lobster Place
Seafood · Chelsea · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.2 · Service 3.5

Part fish market, part raw bar, this Chelsea Market destination is “unbeatable” for its “fresh-out-of-the-ocean” seafood, including “top-grade” steamed lobsters, sushi and “freshly shucked” oysters; few seats at the marble bar mean many take it to go – or end up “sitting on the hallway floor” outside.
Ribalta
Italian · Greenwich Village · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.0

A “true Italian experience” , this “under-the-radar” Villager is “totally committed” to producing “authentic Neapolitan” pizza and other “high-quality” specialties from the Napoli region; run by a “helpful” crew, the “modern” , high-ceilinged space is at its most “vibrant” during “giant-screen soccer-watching.”
Momofuku Noodle Bar
Ramen · East Village · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 3.9

“Noodle bliss” awaits at this “lively” East Village American where “master” chef David Chang offers specialties like his “hallmark pork buns” and “complex” ramen bowls; “crammed” quarters and “long waits” detract, but the payoff is “awesome” eating “without breaking the bank.”
Bunker Vietnamese
Vietnamese · Bushwick · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor - · Service 4.0

A “delicious adventure” awaits at this relocated Bushwick Vietnamese, which turns out “high-quality” street-food staples in a “hipsterish” setting; the new space is larger than its former Ridgewood digs, with a grocery section too.
Russ & Daughters
Lower East Side · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.5 · Service 4.0

A “New York classic” dating to 1914, this “incomparable” LES “temple of noshes” is a “smoked fish heaven” known for “sublime salmon” and a “zillion varieties of herring” , plus “proper bagels” , sandwiches and sweets, all courtesy of a “knowledgeable” counter crew; “oy vey” is it “small” , “crowded” and “pricey” , but for “old-world Jewish” fare, there’s “no comparison.”
Jun-Men Ramen Bar
Japanese · Chelsea · $$
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.0

“Tasty” , “flavorful” ramen is the thing at this “super-tiny” Chelsea noodle shop, a “neighborhood asset” putting forth traditional (pork or spicy miso) and a couple of thoughtful creations (uni mushroom is a “treat” ); the “elegantly spare” space has an open kitchen dispensing steamed buns and other appetizers that “excel.”
Gino's
Italian · Bay Ridge · $$
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.1

A neighborhood “staple” since 1964, this ever- “crowded” Bay Ridge Italian serves up “generous portions” of “terrific” classics “just like mom makes” , in “casual” environs; “get ready to wait in line” at prime times, but the all-around “enjoyable” experience and “reasonable” tab ensure it's “well worth it.”
Runner & Stone
Gowanus · $
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.1

“Artisanal in all respects” , this “charming” Gowanus bakery/bistro is best known for its “heavenly” breads and “sublime” croissants, though it also offers “delicious” New American fare and cocktails; the “relaxed” space and “mindful” staff are other reasons to “just go.”
Norma's
Breakfast · West 50s · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.0

“Lavish” breakfasts and brunches are the specialty of this Midtown American in the Parker Meridien, where the “memorable” morning fare arrives in “large, easily shareable” portions; no kidding, the tabs are “out of this world” (e.g. that $2,000 frittata) and it’s a “bit of a tourist factory” , but it's still a “highly recommended” experience.