There’s a good chance you occasionally find yourself in need of affordable food around NYU. Maybe you want something healthy after yoga in Washington Square Park, maybe you heckled a comedian at UCB and need some comfort food after being publicly humiliated, or maybe you just live or work around Greenwich Village. It may seem tempting to escape the new student tour groups by quickly heading inside a Chipotle or Just Salad, but fight the impulse to run away from the packs of nervous parents and carefully consider your options. Here are our go-to spots for casual food around NYU.
If you’re looking for a relatively healthy lunch option amidst the pizza and late-night falafel spots in Greenwich Village, then join the masses at By Chloe. Along with salads and smoothies, they serve some highly edible, non-cardboard vegan sandwiches and pastas. Seating is pretty limited, so take your kale caesar salad and vegan meatball sub a couple blocks north to Washington Square Park.
B&H Dairy is the kind of place you go if you want to feel like a New Yorker. Not an NYU student or a lived-here-for-three-years New Yorker, but a guy reading a newspaper in a diner in an ’80s cop movie New Yorker. This cash-only spot is mostly just one long counter, and you order from the guy who makes your food. The menu is extensive, but you can’t go wrong with one of the soups or giant sandwiches. Come here for a quick breakfast or lunch where you can pretend to be some OG East Villager before you head off to class or work.
NYU is surrounded by spots serving average falafel to people looking to soak up some of those 3am fireball shots from Off The Wagon. If you want above-average falafel in a more sober setting, then check out Taboonette. They serve great pitas and platters with things like chicken shawarma and lamb kebab. This is one of our favorite takeout spots in the area, though you can eat-in if you grab one of the 10 or so seats. They’re also open for breakfast, when they have a very good shakshuka.
If you want to eat Mexican sandwiches and drink tequila drinks and you don’t mind being surrounded by NYU students, then by all means go to Tortaria. The tortas are very good (served on rolls from Parisi Bakery) and the tequila list is long. Overall, the place works for brunch or an inexpensive dinner. Just be prepared because a guy from Zeta is definitely going to spill his drink on somebody.
Mimi Cheng’s feels like a tech start-up’s cafeteria: they care about high-quality ingredients, there’s a lot of Ikea furniture, and your order gets placed on an Ipad. It’s a little pricier than other dumpling places, but still pretty reasonable ($8 for six dumplings). We’d recommend a midday trip, when it won’t be as busy as it is at dinner.
Don’t let the name fool you, this is where you should be spending your money on burritos. Specifically, al pastor burritos that are exactly what you need after a particularly bad day/week/hour. This is a place that even your roommate from San Francisco will approve of.
We stand by Joe’s as the best slice in New York City. This place is essential for late nights, showing first-timers around, and hard evidence to use while you debate your friends who think Chicago pizza is better than NYC pizza. Just know that there’s almost no place to sit down. But that’s not important because it’s 3am and the lady who passed you the chili flakes is showing you pictures of her Corgi wearing a pizza costume.
Saigon Shack has a fair amount of seating, but it’s almost always blocked from view by the hoards of people waiting on their takeout pho and banh mi orders. Everything on the menu costs about $10, so find a way through the crowds out front and grab a seat inside. Saigon Shack stays open till 1am on weekends, so expect plenty of Macdougal Street bar spillover.
Manousheh is a doughy Lebanese flatbread topped with different meats and vegetables. Manousheh is also the name of a small takeout restaurant on the corner of Bleecker and Macdougal. They serve these flatbreads all day, with toppings like ground lamb and hummus. Keep it in mind for lunch on the go, or for an alternative to Artichoke’s after that Irish exit.
San Marzano is kind of like Santina or Bar Primi with training wheels. You can people watch in a cool neighborhood while eating pasta, but instead of Barolo, you’re drinking bottomless mimosas. This is a bright East Village Italian spot with a highly popular boozy brunch, and nothing on the menu is over $10. The pastas are made in house and the paninis are, well, paninis.
There are a lot of street food options around NYU - burrito bowls, Halal chicken and rice, and Thai noodles are a few. While those trucks have the benefit of being able to park in front of Stern everyday, Otafuku x Medetai serves Japanese street food that warrants a short walk to the East Village. The takoyaki (doughy balls stuffed with grilled octopus) and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) combo platter is one of the best $12 lunch orders around.
The Grey Dog
The Grey Dog is a casual cafe where you can have a salad or sandwich while reading lecture notes on your laptop. It’s open all day, which makes it a solid utility option for breakfast or lunch meetings. If you don’t want to deal with the seat-yourself (glare at people until they stand up) table policy, grab the brussels sprout salad or cheese steak wrap to-go.
If you’ve ever left Down The Hatch or McSorley’s after 2am, then you are probably familiar with Mamoun’s. And even if you haven’t, you should still acquaint yourself with the best $3.50 you can spend around NYU. The falafel and shawarma are both good options, and you can choose a platter rather than sandwich if you want more food.
You’ve probably passed Kiin Thai during your trips to the CVS on 8th street and not thought much of it. But, on top of the fact that it’s in the middle of the NYU area, Kiin Thai is actually worth trying. It’s an easy spot to have a catch-up dinner with a friend, and they have a lunch deal that comes with a main dish, spring rolls, salad, or soup (which won’t cost you more than $11). It’ll make you feel a little better about spending money on dinner, despite being down $25 after the deodorant and flosser picks.
The West Village location of this Australian coffee empire is the best Bluestone Lane spot to eat a full breakfast or lunch (of stuff like yogurt and granola or avocado toast). It’s always crowded on the weekends, but works well during the week when there are fewer people working on the social branding of their bacon and egg roll.
Peacefood is what would happen if By Chloe said f*ck it, because, yes, this is a vegan restaurant, but there are still plenty of unhealthy things to eat. They do focaccia sandwiches, pastries, and pizzas, but we like the chickpea fries, nachos, and vanilla cake the best. They also have lighter options if you’re looking to change up your lunch routine or if you need to reassess how often you mooch pizza during Gallatin events. Meet a friend here for dinner or grab something from their to-go counter.
Like the one in Nolita, Tacombi’s Bleecker street location feels a little like a charming street in Mexico: there are murals, string lights, and lots of people who are happy to be there. They open at 11am everyday of the week, so come here for breakfast tacos at brunch or a weeknight dinner to reunite with your friend who you haven’t seen since they started their air-freshener startup.
Despite being pretty nondescript looking, Village Taverna serves very solid traditional Greek food. They’ve been open forever, and do takeout as well as lunch and dinner where you can order lamb platters, moussaka, and a few things from the section of the menu dedicated to speciality cheeses. It’s a good place to have a casual weeknight dinner with your internship group from last summer. Try all six Greek cheeses while you try to remember that guy’s name from the marketing department.