Five bucks barely buys anything anymore, especially a decent lunch, and okay, so maybe these are $5.25 and under, but it's pretty close. You could spend your beloved Lincoln on a deli buffet, or you could get sneeze-guard-free fare at these choice spots, starting at just $1.
Dollar Slice at Percy's Pizza ($1)
Both Serious Eats and the New York Post have called Percy's the best dollar slice in the city, and with real-deal Italians putting out pies you'd pay five times more for, we don't argue that.
Percy's Pizza, 190 Bleecker Street (between Avenue of the Americas and Downing Street); no website.
Maoz Sandwich at Maoz ($5.25)
Falafel feels like it’s cheating, because it’s right up there with other fried goodies, but it’s vegan — and good for you, and completely satisfying. It confuses us. But Maoz makes it easy, stuffing its pita pockets with crazy-fresh veggies and some of the finest falafel this side of Nile.
Maoz, 38 Union Square East (between East 16th and East 17th streets); 212-260-1988
Salted Pretzel at Sigmund's Pretzels ($3)
This salt-and-carb-fueled snack that shouldn’t but easily can step in for lunch. Sure, you could always grab a stale old twist of dough from a street cart, but Sigmund’s tops theirs with feta and olive or truffled cheddar. Hard decision.
Sigmund’s Pretzels, 29 Avenue B (between Eassigmundnyc.comt 2nd and East 3rd streets); 646-40-0333.
Banh Mi Pate Cha at Banh Mi Saigon ($4.25)
Pillowy bread with just the right kind of crumb, the classic combination of ham and pate — Banh Mi Saigon was one of the first shops to bring the famous sandwich to our fair city. And, we imagine, it tastes just as perfect now as it did then.
Banh Mi Saigon, 198 Grand Street (between Mulberry and Mott Streets); 212-941-1541.
Photos: Courtesy of Matthew Zuras, Via Maoz, Via Sigmunds, Via Banh Mi
This is our usual neighborhood, spending-wise, but with about a zillion restaurants on every avenue, we often face the tyranny of choice. But it’s time to fight tyranny with a revolution — of noodles, to start.
Stewed Pork Hand-Ripped Noodles at Xi'An Famous Foods ($6)
Another Xi’an plate for bigger bellies, the ripped noodles — made right in front of you — are all amazing, but we’re partial to the unctuous scraps of sauced pork that layer this pile of handcrafted, starchy goodness.
Xi’an Famous Foods, 81 St. Mark's Place (between 1st and 2nd avenues); 212-786-2068
Mortadella sandwich at Parisi Bakery ($7-9)
We’re giving you a range on this sandwich price because there’s no menu to speak of at this Little Italy institution. Just follow the lead of the legions of sammich-hungry habitués, and expect a legendary sandwich that will last for several meals.
Parisi Bakery, 198 Mott Street (between Kenmare and Spring streets); 212-226-6378
MOB at Maimonide of Brooklyn ($8)
Hipster philosopher-hotelier Cyril Aouizerate’s strange new spot is far too complex to explain here, except to say that it’s vegan and backed by some pretty famous chefs. The signature MOBs — shaped like the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge — are full of eggplant tagine, a vegan-take on Margherita pizza, and more.
Maimonide of Brooklyn, 525 Atlantic Avenue (between 3rd and 4th avenues); 718-797-2555.
Duet noodle soup at Noodle Village ($6.95)
Between the dozens of bowls of scrumptious, steaming noodle soup that the Village puts out every day is the subtle dance of the Duet: a fishy broth surrounding a mop of egg noodles, which hold shrimpy dumplings and lick-your-lips crispy fish skin.
Noodle Village, 13 Mott Street (between Worth and Mosco streets); 212-233-0788; no website.
Photos: Courtesy Lunch Studios, Courtesy of Matthew Zuras, Courtesy Xi'an, Via Parm
Are you a smoker? You should quit, because you could score one of these epic sammies for less than a price of a pack of coffin nails. (Also, you know, the health risks.)
Turkey Hero at Parm ($12)
The Torrisi Italian Specialties spinoff is still packed every day since opening late last year, so expect a wait for this pile of house-roasted turkey stuffed into a classic hero. It might sound like your average deli fare, but it is not, dear reader. It is not.
Parm, 248 Mulberry Street (between Prince and Spring streets); 212-993-7189
Kobe 1/2 lb. burger at Zaitzeff ($10.75)
Served on a puffy English-muffin-style bun is a half-pound of the most beautiful Japanese Wagyu beef that will last you not only through lunch and dinner, but probably the next day.
Zaitzeff, 711 2nd Avenue (between East 38th and East 39th streets); 212-867-3471.
Smoked Meat Sandwich at Mile End Delicatessen ($12)
These Jewish Quebecois expats know their smoked meats. And while the small Brooklyn shop has expanded with bagels and a whole dinner menu, their take on the holy trinity of brisket, mustard, and rye still makes devout pastrami pilgrims weep.
Mile End Delicatessen, 97 Hoyt Street (between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street); 718-852-7510.
Lobster Roll at Luke's Lobster ($15)
You might blanch at the price at first, but Luke’s is one the best lobster roll bargains in town. It helps that the sea bug is shipped straight from Maine, spending its final earthly moments on a buttery New England-style roll.
Luke’s Lobster, 93 E 7th Street (between 1st Avenue and Avenue A); 212-387-8487.
Photos: Courtesy of Lunch Studios, Courtesy of Parm, Courtesy of Zaitzeff, Courtesy of Daniel Krieger, Via Luke's Lobster
Where can you go to get a 5-star meal for under $50? Very few places, unless you’ve done your homework. Luckily, you can think of us as culinary Cliff Notes.
Ciano ($20.12 for 3 courses) Mangia! That’s about the only Italian word we know besides “Miu Miu,” plenty of which will be on display here. Just try not to spill a 3-cheese raviolo or Tahitian vanilla panna cotta on your own.
Ciano, 45 East 22nd Street (between 5th and Park avenues); 212-982-8422.
SHO Shaun Hergatt ($27 for 2 courses)
Part of the charm of SHO is just trying to find it — but once inside it’s no speakeasy. Think of this as the spot to talk with your boss over your long-overdue promotion, and woo her with beet carpaccio and crispy branzino in the intensely chic dining room.
SHO Shaun Hergatt, 40 Broad Street, #2 (between Beaver and New streets); 212-809-3993
Tocqueville ($29 for 3 courses)
Being close to the Union Square Greenmarket means a frequently rotating menu of the best local fare, transformed into French-flavored dishes like carrot curry soup, herbed tagliatelle, and blood orange sorbet.
Tocqueville, 1 East 15th Street (between 5th Avenue and University Place); 212-647-1515
City Harvest menu at Le Bernadin ($45 for 3 courses)
Finally, you’ll be able to say you’ve had a 3-course meal in a 3-Michelin-starred restaurant — for under fifty bucks. Even better: Part of the price of your Eric Ripert-crafted hamachi tartare and black forest cake benefits the hungry through City Harvest.
Le Bernardin, 155 West 51st Street (between 6th and 7th avenues); 212-554-1515.
Photos: Via Ciano, Via Sho, Via Tocqueville, Courtesy of Shimmon and Tanner