New York City is one of my favorite places to visit for so many reasons. The food, the sights, and the culture energize me; this city is truly magical! So as you can imagine, I was thrilled to visit my best friend Brittney for a girls’ trip while Corey went to Denver for his friend’s birthday.
Though I love being a tourist in NYC, I’m all too aware of how expensive it can be. From lavish meals and taxi rides to accommodations and expensive cocktails, this city can be bad on your wallet. However, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t blow my entire budget, especially because we’re saving for upcoming trips and adventures. And, lo and behold, I didn’t! Here are five tips to save money on food and drinks in NYC.
1) Hit up happy hour in NYC.
Ladies and gents, happy hour is alive and well in NYC. Many restaurants and bars discount food and drinks during this time, saving you a great deal of money if you don’t mind having an early dinner. We visited Bibi, a small, intimate wine bar in East Village, for happy hour and noshed on a charcuterie and cheese plate while sipping on $6 glasses of wine. They also have select bottles of wine for $20 and a $10 wine and appetizer combo. Deals like this can be found across the city, but be sure to research the deal and neighborhood beforehand so you don’t have to trek across town to save a few dollars.
2) Brunch like all the New Yorkers do.
After a night of partying (or a day of traversing the city), brunch the next morning is always a good idea. Brunch in New York is a serious sport for locals and though it can get expensive, it doesn’t have to be. For Sunday brunch with my linesisters, we ate a pre-fixe meal with our choice of one mimosa or Bloody Mary, coffee or orange juice and one of three entrees. Though the food was decent, you can certainly find other places that offer inexpensive meals and drinks, too.
On Saturday, we took advantage of another brunch special: bottomless cocktails at Gallo Nero. For $20, we received generous pours of sparkling wine and orange juice (we recommend the mimosas over the bellinis), making the four mimosas I had totally worth it. Keep in mind, if you get bottomless drinks, many restaurants do impose a time limit for how long you can drink.
3) Eat at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn.
If you’re a foodie, put Smorgasburg on your list as a dining destination. On the weekends, nearly 100 food vendors gather in an open, outdoor space to feed locals and tourists alike. Expect to find all types of food here: we saw vendors serving Jamaican, Cuban, Vietnamese, Chinese and Indian food, and that was just the first row!
The only downside to this is that many vendors charge, on average, between $8-$12 for a dish. However, the portion size of this dish could easily be a meal, which makes tasting a lot of the other offerings nearly impossible. For the best experience, bring a group of about 4-6 friends, grab $25 in cash, work up a big appetite and go early. By sharing the dishes, you’ll be able to get a taste of everything without doing some serious damage to your wallet.
4) Buy local.
My friend stays in Greenpoint and within walking distance of her apartment, she has access to some amazing, delicious yet affordable restaurants. My pad thai entrée was $8.95, which is super reasonable for this dish. I ate two amazing donuts from Moe’s Doughs on Nassau Avenue, one a strawberry frosted doughnut with sprinkles and another, a powdered donut filled with cream, were $1.10 a piece! I also enjoyed a buttery lobster roll with fries (pictured above) for only $17 at Lobster Joint in Greenpoint.
I literally felt like I robbed the neighborhood because there were so many great deals. If you happen to stay in a borough and away from the touristy sections of NYC, make sure to walk around and see what your neighborhood has to offer.
5) Find restaurants with comparable pricing to restaurants at home.
Just because it’s New York City doesn’t mean I have to pay for a $40 or $50 meal to be comparable to something I can get in Atlanta for $20 or $30 dollars. For example, when my friend recommended Sweet Chick, a restaurant that offers American food with a Southern twist, to me, I immediately said yes to it because of the pricing. I would spend that same amount of money for some of the items on their menu like the $24 pork belly, the $22 shrimp and grits or the $17 chicken and waffle combination. It may take some digging to find an affordable restaurant, but it’s definitely possible!
What are your favorite ways to save money in NYC on food and drinks?