This may be news to you, but living in New York is kind of expensive. And while it may always be the land of $17 cocktails and unmentionable rents, the food scene isn’t all that bleak. The sheer number of restaurants in our proximity means at least a few of them have to be affordable, right? When you finally discover these gems, it can feel like winning the lottery — but we’re helping tip the scales by giving you this list of New York's best spots for cheap (and delicious!) eats.
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Between The Bread
A fast-casual Manhattan lunch destination, Between The Bread offers up a serious smorgasbord of noshing options. From stacked sandwiches ($9.95-$12.95), to fresh seasonal plates ($10.90-$13.25), soups ($5.95), and much more (bake shop, anyone?), BTB has got the gourmet goods in the (affordable lunch) bag.
Between The Bread, Multiple locations in Manhattan.
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This Korean BBQ spot in Midtown Manhattan serves up some seriously savory rice bowls for a steal. Build your own for $9-$12 starting with a rice base, protein, veggies and sides, and sauce; We love the kimchi fried rice bowl with pork belly, seaweed salad, and sweet chili sauce.
Bowllin', 27 Waverly Place (at Greene Street); 212-673-2727.
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Looking for cheap Lebanese food in the West Village? Manousheh has all your flakey, rolled flatbread needs covered. If you're in the market for something savory, grab the Zaatar for just $5 (made with baked flatbread rolled with thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds, and oil). Or, if you want something on the sweeter side, the Nutella and halava crepes (pictured right) pack some serious satisfaction (for just $6).
Manousheh, 193 Bleecker Street (at Macdougal Street); 347-971-5778.
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Hit up Cheese Grille on the LES for — you may have already guessed it — some cheesy grilled cheeses. Grab any one of their delectable, Balthazar pressed bread options complete with a soup or side of your choice for just $6-$9 (extra add ons an additional $1-$2). We're currently craving the Crispy Goat with chevre, gouda, applewood bacon, and avocado on multigrain.
Cheese Grille, 188 Allen Street (at Stanton Street); 212-460-9383.
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The East Village's Avenida Cantina is a bright and bustling Tex-Mex-style taqueria with chill vibes and even chiller drinks (we love the $8 frozen margaritas). The tacos normally range from $4-5, but if you stop by on Tuesday you'll be in for an even steeper steal: —we're talking a killer $2 taco-Tuesday situation.
Avenida Cantina, 25 Avenue B (at E. 2nd Street); 646-882-0593.
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If you're in the market for affordable vegan eats, hit up Toad Style. A cheap sandwich shop nestled in BK's Bushwick hood, this tiny spot dishes out scrumptious takeaway options for $11 or less. Try the King trumpet mushroom (pictured right) with grilled onion and cannellini bean meatballs, tomato-porcini ragu, all sandwiched between two slices of toasted garlic bread. Oh, and the lentil cheeseburger (with almond cheese) is also the bomb dot com.
Toad Style, 93 Ralph Avenue (at Putnam Avenue); 347-789-1589.
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Bed-Stuy Fish Fry
Classic soul food is the name of the game at this locally owned mini-chain. The whiting fish dinner ($10) is big enough for two, piled high with tender, flaky fish with a well-seasoned crust. Choose two sides from a list that includes collard greens with shredded ham hocks, candied yams, and black-eyed peas, among others.
Bed-Stuy Fish Fry, 801 Halsey Street (between Ralph and Howard avenues), #1, Brooklyn; 347-405-9820.
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Xi'an Famous Food
An NYC fast-casual chain serving up Northern Chinese-inspired noshes for cheap. From Liang Pi and spicy cumin lamb noodles, to stewed pork burgers and more — this savory spot has it all and is selling it for a song (i.e. everything is $10 and under).
Xian Famous Food, Multiple locations in Manhattan.
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In the market for a fast and fresh bite? Chirping Chicken is your spot. Serving up casual counter fare in a open setting with ample sidewalk seating, CC shells out whole birds and halves starting at just $9. Pro tip? Always ask for the pita bread side.
Chirping Chicken, Multiple locations in Manhattan.
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A tiny Hell's Kitchen ramen haunt with reasonable prices and big bowls of flavor. Keep it simple with the Chicken Paitan topped with scallions, onions, nori, char siu, and kikurage for only $11. Or take things up a notch (i.e. one dollar) with the Miso Paitan: Wavy noodles, Koji Miso, ground pork, half boiled egg, scallions, bean sprouts, onions, and char siu. Or you could always customize your own damn bowl with an extensive toppings list — Nigori sake and an Asahi draft optional (but highly encouraged).
Totto Ramen, 366 W. 52nd Street (at 9th Avenue); 212-582-0052.
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Food truck turned restaurant Arepa Lady dishes out savory cornmeal cakes, empanadas, and chocolos in a cozy Queens location. With "Choclo Rules Everything Around Me" chalked into the blackboard walls, this restaurant brings major Latin American flavor for cheap — pick up an arepa de queso for $5 or a stuffed arepa for $7.50.
Arepa Lady, 77-02 Roosevelt Avenue (at 77th Street) in Queens; 347-730-6124.
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A tiny Vietnamese shop in Williamsburg serving up sandwiches, noodles, and even bubble teas for a steal. Stop by and grab a classic cold cut bánh mi for $6 and a honeydew bubble tea for $3.25 — all clocking in under for $10. The digs are low key, but the fare is majorly flavorful.
Nam Nam, 109 Montrose Avenue (at Manhattan Avenue) in Brooklyn; 718-302-9200.
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The new sandwich child of Melt Shop and Bark Hot Dogs, this Union Square outpost is spitting some serious gourmet sandy game. Recommended orders? Try the steak and salsa verde, zucchini and falafel, pork and pickles, or the chicken and chorizo — but honestly, the bomb list goes on (and all for just $11.95 and under). In the market for breakfast? Their sausage, egg, and cheese has you covered. Made with maple-ginger sausage, pimento and cheddar cheese, and a smattering of chile ketchup, this stunner comes served on a toasty brioche bun ($7.75). Call all your future sandwiches, made.
Make Sandwich, 135 4th Avenue (at E. 13th Street); 212-398-2602.
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Baba's in Park Slope dishes out piping hot batches of pierogi made with love from a decades old family recipe. These little Eastern European dumplings can be boiled or pan-fried and made savory or sweet (depending upon your pierogi-preference). Our favorite? The "Mac & Cheese" pan-fried with caramelized onions and a sour cream and chive dipping sauce.
Baba's Pierogies, 295 3rd Avenue (at Carroll Street) in Brooklyn; 718-222-0777.
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Purbird in Brooklyn is a chicken-slinging spot with healthy-fresh fare for affordable prices. Try any one of their sandwiches for under $10: E.g. the chicken burger served on a home made brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, and special sauce comes in at just $7. And if you're in the market for breakfast, try the Purbird breakfast sandy with two pan-fried eggs, turkey bacon, and avocado — it's finger-licking good.
Purbird, Multiple locations in Brooklyn.
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This throwback Harlem spot serves up affordable diner fare in a retro space with sizzling vibes. Order up the Hot Mess burger with a side of Jerk fries — and, of course, a shake (we'd recommend the red velvet cupcake).
Harlem Shake, 100 W. 124th Street (at Malcolm X Boulevard); 212-222-8300.
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Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle
This Chinatown eatery dishes out bowls and bowls of spicy-savory noodles for a cash-only song — and do NOT pass up on the handmade dumplings as well. The interior is nothing to write home about, but the flavor alone is epistolary-novel worthy. Try the lamb or beef brisket hand-pulled noodle soup. Fast, cheap, and insanely delicious.
Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle, 144 East Broadway (between Rutgers and Pike Street); 212-566-6933.
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Taqueria Diana is NYC Mexican food with cool California vibes. Located in the bustling East Village, as well as happening Hell's Kitchen, Diana dishes out tacos, burritos, nachos, and more — all for super low prices (just about everything comes in under $10). Try the "Al Pastor" taco for $3.22 or the delectable (and giant) "Carnitas" burrito for $9.19.
Taqueria Diana, Multiple locations in Manhattan.
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A food kiosk scattered across midtown Manhattan, illi Box is the street fare to-go spinoff of a Lebanese restaurant by the same name. So if you're on the run and in the market for an exquisite fast bite, the box has you covered. Try the falafel beiruti sandwich with pickled turnips, tomatoes, and tahini (for under $10, it's a savory steal).
ilili Box, Multiple locations in Manhattan.
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For on point Greek grub, BZ Grill is the place to go! Though small in size, this restaurant delivers big portions with even bigger flavor. So although you won't be leaving hungry, you will be wondering how that delectable feast was under $20.
BZ Grill, 27-02 Astoria Blvd (between 27th and 28th Street); 718-932-7858
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Founded in 2009 by two brothers (Evan and Eddie Huang), Baohaus is the place in NYC for affordable authentic Chinese baos. Offering up all- natural and hormone free meats at unbeatable prices, this East Village spot will leave you filled up — without putting a hole in your pocket.
Baohaus, 238 East 14th Street( at 2nd Avenue); 646-669-8889.
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One of the oldest falafel joints in NYC, Mamoun's offers up Mediterranean fare through traditional preparation and incorporation of classic flavors. Family owned and operated, this historical spot is perfect for grabbing a quick, affordable, and trusted bite on-the-go — all options are made with serious OG TLC.
Mamoun's, 119 Macdougal Street, (at West 3rd Street).
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Ever in the mood for a taco, but also longing for that zesty taste of Paratha at the same time? Goa Taco fortunately found a way to satisfy both of these savory cravings. With an interesting take on Mexican-Indian fusion fare at an exceedingly low price, this spot is perfect for a quick and delicious bite.
Goa Taco, 79 Delancey Street (between Allen and Orchard Street); 347-276-5103.
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Sons Of Thunder
Son's of Thunder serves up East coast food with major West coast vibes. The dishes are made-to-order with quality ingredients for the freshest of bicoastal dining. With casual ambience and cheap eats, this spot is ideal for groups looking to score some delicious and hassle-free grub.
Son's of Thunder , 204 East 38th Street ( between 2nd and 3rd Avenues); 646-863-2212.
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Lolo's Seafood Shack
Who knew you'd find a New England seafood shack tinged with Caribbean vibes right smack in the middle of Harlem? Stop by Lolo's for a scrumptious smorgasbord of seafood, jerk wings, ribs, corn, and so much more. Their counter service keeps things casual and the back garden is the perfect spot for sharing affordable bites with friends.
Lolo's Seafood Shack, 330 W. 116th Street (at Frederick Douglass Boulevard); 646-649-3356.
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Pye Boat Noodle
Pye serves up delectable Thai street fare at a friendly price. With locations in both the Big Apple and Astoria, there's no reason not to stop by for one of their boat noodle dishes — especially when they're selling for under $11 a pop.
Pye Boat Noodle, Multiple locations in Manhattan and Astoria.
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This late night spot is cheap and insanely tasty. Made with naturally smoked pork and beef, the menu options range from the classic chili dog to the quirkier chihuahua (i.e. bacon wrapped with avocados and sou cream) and sour cheese dog (i.e. sour pickles and melty cheese). The best part? Each one clocks in at $5 to $6 dollars a bun.
Crif Dogs, 113 St. Marks Place (at Avenue A); 212-614-2728.
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The Meat Hook At Threes Brewing
This large Gowanus brewery has partnered up with former Williamsburg sandwich shop, The Meat Hook, for bar food bliss. Stop by for some delicious dishes in a casual setting with a casual price to match (snag any tasty item for less than $20 a pop).
Threes Brewing, 333 Douglass Street (at 4th Avenue) in Brooklyn; 718-522-2110.
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2nd City NYC
A casual Filipino joint tucked into the cozy streets of the West Village. 2nd City NYC is a bonafide delicious "cheap eats" destination — die hard foodies must stop by for the pork belly buns and the Plan-B Rito (both under $10).
2nd City NYC, 525 Hudson Street (between W. 10th Street and Charles Street); 917-639-3262.
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Only in our wildest dreams did we think we'd find an entire bar dedicated to mac and cheese. But Macbar has made those dreams an incredibly delicious reality. On top of the cheesy menu offerings (e.g. mac reuben, cheeseburger mac, mac quack, and more), the prices at this place can't be beat (ranging between $5.99 to $8.99).
Macbar, 54 Prince Street (at Lafayette Street); 212-226-0211.
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Fish Market is the definition of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant — well it's not quite a restaurant, it's a bar with some tables in the back for grabbing your grub. Hidden inconspicuously on a street in Manhattan's southern seaport, Fish Market does not disappoint in the cheap, delicious eats department. Order just about anything off of "Mama's Menu" and prepare to be seriously wowed — the food is really that good.
Fish Market, 111 South Street (between Beekman Street and Peck Slip); 917-363-8101.
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Court Street Grocers
This isn't your average grocery. Court Street Grocers is a cool and casual breakfast and lunch destination in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens. Come here for the insane sandwiches (try the Turkey Durkee or Macho Woman) and stay for the gourmet grocery treats (Zapp's Cajun Dill chips and Boylan Creme Sodas).
Court Street Grocers, 485 Court Street (between Nelson and Huntington streets); 718-722-7229.
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Even in the land of cheap food, Vanessa's is a standout. Considering four of its oversized pork and chive dumplings run you $1.50, it's the perfect destination for when you're literally counting your pennies. An order of those plus a sesame pancake sandwich (starting at $2) is enough to fill you up. But the dumplings are great for sharing — bring a group and order a variety, from veggie to spicy wonton, and still run a bill less than dinner for one at many NYC restaurants.
Vanessa's, multiple locations.
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This cutie-patootie shop looks like a New England beachside clam shack, but seafood doesn’t have to be expensive. All the dishes but two are under $18, like a $14 lump crab roll. Add fries, wash it down with a cheap beer, and just pretend you're a Kennedy.
Littleneck, 288 3rd Avenue; (718) 522-1921
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Il Bambino Panini
Like many places in Astoria, Il Bambino is unpretentious and unbelievably delicious. Their concept is Italian food served Spanish tapas-style, which really means one million variations on bread and cheese. There are panini and crostini in every combo you can imagine, plus cheap beer, wine, and cocktails. Done.
Il Bambino Panini, 34-08 31st Avenue, Astoria; (718) 626-0087
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Not all casual pizza places were created equal. This place looks so normal from the outside that you might be wondering why there's constantly a line stretching along its West Village block. The difference is in the quality of the ingredients—the light, crisp crust, tangy sauce, and lush mozzarella.
Joe's Pizza, 7 Carmine Street (near Sixth Avenue); (212) 366-1182 and 150 E. 14th Street (between 4th Avenue and Irving Place); (212) 388-9474
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This tavern wants to honor the history of Brooklyn, which it accomplish with an old-timey saloon atmosphere and decor. To complement the look, you’ll get fancy bar food. They’re most famous for their turkey-leg sandwich, so you might want to start there.
Henry Public, 329 Henry Street (between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street); 718-852-8630.
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Put down the pad thai. It's not even on the menu at this East Village gem. Here, you’re getting a giant plate of pork, squid, crab, beef, accented with sweet chili lime juice or tamarind chili sauces, all for $11 or less. Not too shabby.
Zabb Elee, 75 Second Avenue (between 4th and 5th streets); 212-505-9533 and 71-28 Roosevelt Avenue (at 72nd Street), Queens; 718-426-7992.
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This restaurant may be the only stop from the Carbone-Torrisi food empire that you can actually afford (or at least feel less guilty about). The interior gives off the vibes of an Italian-American diner in the 50s, and the menu is filled with Staten Island sandwich favorites starting at just $11. We love the classic chicken parm, eggplant parm, and the house turkey.
Parm, multiple locations.
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Gaia Italian Café
There are a million places in the city to go for amazing pasta, but this café celebrates all the other things Italy does perfectly — like cured meats, mozzarella di bufala (imported weekly from the motherland), homemade cookies, and pastries stuffed with Nutella. If that’s not enough, there are $5 paninis stacked with ingredients like prosciutto, marscapone, taleggio, eggplant, pesto, and black pepper.
Gaia Italian Café, 251 East Houston Street (between Norfolk and Suffolk streets); 646-350-3977.
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Named for chef/owner Rob Newton’s grammy, Wilma Jean is an expert at southern comfort food; namely golden-brown, crunchy, finger-lickin’ fried chicken. Of course, like the best southern food, it’s all about the sides: go for the fried okra chips and cornbread served with salted molasses butter.
Wilma Jean, 345 Smith Street (at Carroll Street); 718-422-0444.
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Amidst the bustle of the Essex Market, there is a tiny taco stand that you don’t want to miss. Brooklyn Taco serves up monstrous eats for $5, with a dozen different combinations and descriptions that will make your mouth water. Pork shoulder braised in a citrus and cola broth with pineapple salsa, cheese, and habenero sauce? Excuse us, we’ve drooled.
Brooklyn Taco, Essex Street Market, 120 Essex Street (between Rivington and Delancey streets); 646-820-8226.
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Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter
This Southern-style eatery has beloved proteins like pulled pork and catfish on the menu, but it’s really all about the chicken sandwich and all its varieties. For $11.50, you can try their fried chicken platter, which gets you multiple pieces, grits, and a biscuit. Mmmm, good.
Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter, 94 Avenue C (between East 6th and 7th streets); 212-228-2972.
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Black Seed Bagels
New Yorkers take their bagels seriously, so it takes a bold group to say they’re reinventing the wheel (of bread). These puppies are wood-fired and smaller than those inflated balls of dough you’ll get elsewhere. Stand in line for one of its signature sandwich combos and you’ll feel like you’re finally ahead of a food craze.
Black Seed Bagels, 170 Elizabeth Street (between Kenmare and Spring streets); 212-730-1950.
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When a taco or a burrito just seems like too much of a commitment, stop by this tiny spot on the Lower East Side and grab some taquitos. The little, rolled-up tacos are stuffed with meat and cheese and come three for just $6. Pop by while bar-hopping and eat as you stroll.
Taquitoria, 168 Ludlow Street (between East Houston and Stanton streets); 212-780-0121.
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It’s Williamsburg, so forgive this restaurant for doing a meta take on a dive bar. The wood paneling, red leather booths, and kitschy art is all about irony, but the the food is definitely not. A full meal of chicken and biscuits, with honey butter and hot sauce, will run you $10, and there ain’t nothing silly about that.
The Commodore, 366 Metropolitan Avenue (between Havemeyer Street and Marcy Avenue); 718-218-7632.
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Located on the waterfront in Cobble Hill, this outpost of the Portland phenomenon serves up Northern Thai food with wildly unique flavors. Thankfuly, there are long explanations written for each dish, so you know the amazing concepts behind the combinations. A fan favorite is the pork shoulder and pork belly curry, with ginger, palm sugar, Burmese curry powder, and more.
Pok Pok, 117 Columbia Street (at Kane Street), Brooklyn; 718-923-9322.
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A married couple opened this eatery inspired by their one true love: the egg sandwich. There are tons of egg dishes to choose from, obviously, but you can also customize your own egg and cheese. Have you ever considered dousing yours in a Meyer lemon citronette? Probably not. But, you should.
Egg Shop, 151 Elizabeth Street (between Kenmare and Broome streets); 646-666-0810.
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What's better than a salty carb? Nothing. Located right in Alphabet City (perfect for a post-happy hour snack), this bar has a full menu of sandwiches and salads, but you’re going to want to focus on the fresh-baked pretzels. There are incredible flavors like feta olive and truffle cheddar, in addition to a variety of dipping sauces.
Sigmund’s Bar, 29 Avenue B (between 2nd and 3rd streets); 646-410-0333.
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Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings
The sweet, sunny interior of this little restaurant is almost as adorable as the story behind it: It’s a family affair, with two sisters sharing their mom’s recipes for Taiwanese-Chinese cuisine. There's also a story on the menu behind every dumpling, and they run six for $8, despite being handmade daily, using organic meat.
Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings, 179 Second Avenue (between 11th and 12th streets); 212-533-0169.
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Competition may be stiff in Spanish Harlem, but one of its most beloved Mexican restaurants is El Aguila. Is it the gargantuan helpings of meat, beans, and rice? The taco al pastor special, two tacos for $2? The fact that it’s open 24 hours a day? You could try to figure it out, or you could roll home from 116th Street, stuffed beyond belief.
El Aguila, 137 East 116th Street (at Lexington Avenue); 212-410-2450.
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Dos Toros Taqueria
Big portions, for tiny price. burrito, taco, quesadilla, mere pennies to add guac, which is really important, great for quick meal, can of Tecate for less than $3.
Dos Toros, with locations in the West Village, Union Square, Upper East Side, Battery Park City, Williamsburg.
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