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How to Eat in NYC Without Breaking the Bank

This year the Romance Writers of America National Conference is in Manhattan and we all know New York City is notoriously expensive.  If you want to eat there without paying $25 bucks a plate or taking a chance on street meat, it can be a challenge.  Luckily, I have some insider tips to keep your food budget this conference season from shredding your wallet (so you can spend the money on books instead!).

Anything right on Times Square is going to be marked up.  A lot.  But if you are willing to walk just a couple blocks away from the tourist traps, you can find some good deals.  46th Street between 8th & 9th is known as Restaurant Row, but for my money your best bet (especially at lunch time) is going to be 9th Avenue. 

Hell’s Kitchen has a wide variety of restaurants and most of them will have lunch specials where you can get your entree and a beverage for under $15. Just wander up Ninth Avenue and take your pick. There are tons more than are marked on the map below, but I noted a few of my favorite options including Delta Grill (cajun), Southern Hospitality (BBQ – part owned by Justin Timberlake), Viv Thai (which I like eating at because the name is just so awesome!), Uncle Mario’s (brick oven pizza), Uncle Nick’s (greek) and Blockhead (a burrito place situated in a pleasant courtyard across from Motherburger where you can grab an inexpensive burger and a drink). 

Want a walk-up-to-the counter place?  If you don’t mind a long line, many New Yorkers will argue that Shake Shack has the best burgers in the city and if you’re looking for a familiar chain there are no less than three Chipotles within easy walking distance.  If you don’t mind walking a bit farther, the Pita Grill on 9th has a (semi-permanent) special where you can get a falafel pita for just $2.00 and add on sweet potato fries for only $1 more.

PRO TIP: If you’re walking in midtown, there will be a lot less foot traffic on 9th, so cut over on the first available street rather than fighting through the crowds north and south on 7th, 8th, and Broadway. 

Looking for a place to grab a drink to unwind?  Cielo (at the Mayfair hotel on 49th) has amazing chocolate martinis (and the pasta is pretty dang good too) and Valhalla is your spot for craft & artisan beers on tap.  Or you can keep an eye out for happy hour specials along ninth – including $5 margaritas at Green Rancho (next to Uncle Nick’s on the map).  Want some entertainment with your drink?  Try visiting some of the places along Restaurant Row.  Swing 46 has swing and jazz music every night for a modest cover.  Right down the street from Swing 46, Don’t Tell Mama is a piano bar (and cabaret). Or (for a bit more) grab tickets to hear the famous Birdland Jazz on 44th. (And all of these places offer food as well.)

seamless grubhubAnd finally, if your feet are aching and you don’t feel like going out at all, you have more options than just spendy room service.  Nearly every place in New York offers delivery and most will deliver to hotel rooms.  Grab an app for your phone like Grub Hub or Seamless and you can automatically see who will deliver in your area.  Though be warned, some of the delivery times can be long, so you might want to place your order early if you only have a short break for dinner.

Hopefully this will help you keep your budget focused on the books!  Good luck, travelers! 🙂

15 responses to “How to Eat in NYC Without Breaking the Bank”

  1. jbrayweber says:

    This is awesome, Vivi. Thanks for the tips. I will be using this for sure.

    Jenn!

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  2. Amanda Brice says:

    I am seriously really hungry now. Wish I was going!

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  3. Love it, Vivi. Some of these eateries I knew from previous trips, but many were new-to-me places that I must try! Great tip about gravitating to 9th Avenue and staying away from the busier streets. Can’t wait!

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  4. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Great info, Vivi! Thanks for doing the legwork.

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  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    Very valuable information for people who are going to RWA National – which unfortunately, this year, won’t include me. ;-(

    Have a great time, everyone! I’ll be with you Saturday night, watching the RITA/GH Awards Ceremony via the livestream.

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  6. Great info, Vivi – thanks! Wish I was able to go this time. 🙁 But hope you all have a great time!! And now I’m hungry. LOL

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  7. Sharon Wray says:

    Thank you so much for this, Vivi. I just printed it out and put it with my information to be packed!

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  8. Debbie says:

    What a great resource. I only wish I was going. I was lucky to tagalong with some other ladies who remain friends when I went to the last NYC conference or I might not have ever ventured out of the hotel. If I’d had a map of options, maybe, still I’m glad not to have ventured on my own. I’m never more introverted than when I’m out of my comfort zone.

    Maybe there’s a way to facilitate lone attendees to connect, a central meet & greet or a monitored message board at registration or something similar.

    I hope everyone who is attending has a fantastic experience.

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