Cheap Eats: The Downtown Edition

“I was talking to my wife about the Cheap Eats in this week’s New York magazine,” emailed Peter, “and we noted how underrepresented our neighborhood is. It’s basically Terroir and a couple of Brookfield Place eateries.” That’d be Black Seed Bagels, Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque, and Umami Burger. “I guess the food down by us is a bit pricier given the demographics. We all love a cheap, tasty bite to eat though, don’t we? Anyway, I’m not sure how daunting of a task it would be, but I think it would be awesome if you put together a quick survey of ‘cheap’ eats for Tribeca/FiDi.”

Reading Rob Patronite’s and Robin Raisfeld’s “101 Best (New) Cheap Eats” was indeed a bit depressing for the downtown reader. (No disrespect to the Robs, who surely know their stuff.) Sweetgreen also made the list, it should be noted; and while I love Terroir, except for the Sunday meatball dinner deal, I wouldn’t call it cheap…. So here are the other restaurants below Canal I’d put on a Cheap Eats list. This is subjective stuff, and there are broad categories of cheap food—burgers, banh mi, fried chicken, anything from a cart or truck…—that I don’t eat enough to be qualified to judge. That’s where you come in: Please add your own favorites in the comments. And include specific dishes whenever possible!

The trend in sandwiches has been toward anything-goes innovation—and heaven knows I’d kill to have Saltie, Meat Hook Sandwich, or (and!) No. 7 Sub in the area. But if you want a classic Italian sandwich, you can find no better option than Pisillo Italian Panini on Nassau (between Ann and Fulton). They’re subs, not pressed, made with Italian ingredients—and they’re huge. Seriously, I’m content with half of one. Splurge for the fancier bread, and don’t be afraid to ignore the menu and build your own. Note: Pisillo is on Seamless if you’re too much an Amanda Culpepper to venture into FiDi.

If you haven’t been to Arcade Bakery yet, you’re missing out on the best bread and pastries in Manhattan. But have you gone for lunch? There are usually three sandwiches—including a vegetarian one—and they’re excellent. Or try a pizza, baked to order in about 10 minutes. (Ask them to cook it a little less than normal if you want to reheat it at dinnertime.) The bakery is in a newly reopened hallway at 220 Church, between Worth and Thomas; don’t look for a sign (although there is a small one now), just follow your nose.

Some readers will undoubtedly contest that Mulberry & Vine isn’t cheap—but I will happily pay a few bucks more for food that’s both good and well-sourced. If M&V emphasizes healthfulness a bit more than I would (I’d put cheese in more of the dishes, and I usually sprinkle salt wantonly), I absolutely love the variety. And the freshness! Yesterday, I stopped by for lunch around 11:45 a.m., and the cold case was only half stocked; co-owner Michelle explained that the kitchen was still busy making new food after being closed for the long weekend.

After exploring the menu, I’ve landed on my standard order: the Classic Forever falafel sandwich with extra pickles and babaganoush instead of hummus. (No, that’s not what’s pictured above, but you try taking a photo of a falafel pita.) It never fails to satisfy. In winter, I’ll also order soup; in summer, I head across the street to Sun in Bloom for the quinoa tabbouleh, made with abundant dill and mint. And if it’s a really hot day, you have to try Nish Nush’s frozen lemonana, made with fresh mint.

I’m not a juice fan, and I have a grudge against chain restaurants, so I never thought I’d like Juice Press as much as I do—but its salads are creative and filling. (I pray the Murray Street outpost will have them.) One day, when Adam and I bought salads to eat over at the Citigroup plaza, we spent much of the time trying to figure out what made the Spicy Miso Crunch Salad so good: The ingredients included black sesame seeds, spicy cremini mushrooms, dehydrated onions, and sesame ginger miso dressing. It was complex and interesting in a way that other salad joints don’t even attempt. That said, I try not to look at Juice Press’s refrigerated case—is there really a market for raw, cold oatmeal? Do you eat it or spread it on your face? (Pictured above: The Mesclun, Adzuki, and Guac Salad.)

If we order in, 90% of the time we do it from Sole di Capri (formerly known as Capri Caffé). It’s a hole-in-the-wall in the best sense, with a staff that’s often quirky but still feels invested in the place. My personal favorites are the Linguine Grotto Verde “with citrus and herbs marinated mixed olives, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and dusted parmigiano reggiano” and the Tagliatelle Ale Acchiuge “sautéed with anchovies, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, peperoncino, walnuts and then sprinkled with aged pecorino cheese.” The restaurant, somewhat maddeningly, has interesting specials that are posted on a sandwich board and nowhere else, so your choices are to walk by and take a photo for later reference or to call and ask. If ever there was a reason to be on social media….

Seriously, what would you recommend?

Update: Comments have been turned off due to spam. To have them turned back on, email



  1. Recommend The Snack Shack on Pier 25 near minature golf.Very good inexpensive burgers, veggie burgers, chicken, hot dogs, fries etc with a million dollar view of the Hudson and marina.

  2. I know you hate chains, but the Hummus and Pita Company on Chambers is fantastic…you get a huge platter of food (I usually get 3 meals out if it) for $10. This is what I get: tons of spiced, grilled chicken breast, rice pilaf, 3 falafel balls, hummus, olives, red cabbage salad, chick pea salad, feta cheese, tahini dressing and a pita bread. Also the pizzas at Granddaisy are about $3.50 and very satisfying. Another staple is the “whatever on rice” at Excellent Dumpling House for $4.25…not a lunch special, available anytime. I get chicken and broccoli. And Cornerstone? Maybe not the healthiest option but when you want fried chicken (skinless!)…

  3. South’s on Church also has some good eats for cheap

  4. Pakistani Tea House
    Takahachi Bakery
    Dirty Bird

  5. It’s kinda goofy to show that pic from Nish Nush and say what it isn’t, rather than saying what it is. I recognized it instantly. It’s the falafel trio platter, which comes with nine falafel pieces (3 flavors x 3), hummus, white and red cabbage, olives, pickles, Israeli salad, tahini and shug. It’s a great deal at $11 and enough for two.

    The other notable misses (there are many) include Tasty Dumpling on Mulberry St., which I first learned about from a blurb quoting Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group fame: he likes the place. For $1.25 you get 5 lightly fried pork and chive dumplings (better than steamed) that are surprisingly tasty (as the name suggests). Take them out since the seating and tables are rag-tag and eat them across the street in Colombus Park while they’re still hot.

    Ben’s on Spring and Thompson has the best slices around, for my money. Plus it’s virtually unchanged after all these years.

  6. Pisillo really saved me when we were in the process of moving (and made me almost sorry we were leaving). Excellent subs with good ingredients–and one was plenty for the two of us. Miss it!

  7. Walker’s has yummy food for a good price. Great Chili!

  8. We love that we were included on this. And yes we are a bit more expensive but as noted, it’s paramount to us to source our ingredients well. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. And it gives us yet another reason to hang out at the farmer’s markets!

  9. Salad bar at Whole Foods
    Dirty Bird (though not as cheap as it should be)

  10. Sophie’s Cuisine on Chambers, great for lunch and you can take the rest and eat it for dinner (very generous portions)

    I also really like the Hummus and Pita Co – better than Nish Nush, actually.

  11. Yet again, Tribeca Citizen is the ‘go to’ for what’s new in the neighborhood. Thank you for telling us about Arcade Bakery! One would never know it was there, but for your specific directions. I hope they get a sign soon, I want them to stay in business.