How to eat in New York without breaking the bank
Six top tips to save you $$$$
I’ve often said that eating well is not simply a matter of knowing where to go but how to eat once you get there. And that’s particularly the case in New York where I’ve been this week.
Of course it’s possible - as in any great city - to eat fantastically well but at a price. Not only do you have to pay tax on the sum you see on the bill but you’re expected to leave what we in the UK would regard as a very large tip too. On many bills they’ll give you the option of paying different amounts starting with 20%. 25% as an option is not uncommon.
I suppose you don’t need to do that. If you’re a visitor you may never go to that restaurant again but since it’s the norm you - or at least I - tend to feel you should, though certainly not more than 20%. (I’d be interested to know what you think about this …)
So what do you do if you’re planning to go to New York and don’t want it to do too much damage to your wallet? Well on the strength of three days here (yes, cocky, I know!) I think I’ve come up with a plan …
Eat a substantial breakfast. That’s not exactly hard as helpings here are huge but it’s one of the more reasonably priced meals of the day, especially in a diner and should keep you going until the afternoon at least. Also if you’ve flown in from the UK your body is saying it’s lunchtime so you’re probably starving.
Have an early supper. Again not difficult as Americans eat early and restaurants open at around 5. And your body clock will be saying it’s 10pm so it’s not such a hardship. The only downside as you get used to the time zone is that you might be hungry again by bedtime so maybe it’s worth picking up a chocolate bar or a few pretzels
If hunger strikes between breakfast and supper think in terms of a coffee and a cookie which are about half the price of a sandwich or a salad. Yes, I know it’s not as healthy but you can always have something more wholesome later. Or not ….
Not substantial enough? If you can’t face skipping lunch or are not much of a breakfaster think in terms of the Big Apple’s iconic snacks. Bagel and lox (smoked salmon), a hot dog, tacos, soup and dumplings. Maybe not pizzas which are oddly expensive but then again they’re generally enough for four. One plus is that they’ll always parcel up any leftovers but you may not want them stinking out your hotel room. (Note in some places like Katz you can order a half sandwich which is just as well as a full size pastrami or corned beef sando is $26 these days
This is more radical but if your budget is tight consider making yourself a one dish, one drink rule. Forget about starters or sides unless one of you wants to order that as their dish.
Just to illustrate my point while oysters are comparatively reasonable at the Grand Central Oyster bar, chips aka french fries are $9.95. Plus 4.5% tax though that is sometimes included and 20% service which typically isn’t but is charged on top of the city taxes. In the case of the chips that brings the cost to $12.52 which at the current rate of exchange is £10.54. For chips! And that’s by no means an expensive restaurant.
A cocktail or a glass of wine can easily set you back $16-18 or $20-23 once you add tax and service. See what I mean?
As elsewhere two starters may be cheaper than a main but even starters can be spendy in New York so having learnt from experience just go for a dish and one glass of wine or a cocktail - or, cheaper still, a beer. Oh, OK, and maybe a pud but share …
A final non-food-related tip, take the subway. It’s safe and much cheaper and more efficient than taking a cab.
Although I’m heading back tomorrow I don’t think I’ll have surfaced sufficiently to do a Friday 5 this week but I’ll try and do a Saturday or Sunday 6 for paying subscribers to make up for it. If you want to know where and what I ended up eating why not sign up? It’ll save you more than the cost of the subscription!
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If you’ve been to NYC recently or are a regular visitor I’d love to have your moneysaving tips too!
Having just been to California, where the prices similarly knock you off your feet, this is fantastically useful Fiona!
Shameless plug for Hawsmoor, (I know your family connection. Full disclosure. )
My daughter and I were looking for a top NY steakhouse , Peter Luger, S&W, Morton’s all considered but we chose a newcomer in the upstart - what a treat, great cocktails, generous sommelier, great steak. Loved that it was a Yorkshire pudding not a popover or Dutch baby. Not cheap but totally worth it as a end of trip show stopper.
Taking my wife next month to Hawksmoor Manchester (daughter running marathon) and really looking forward to it