Food in New York City: Eating At A Reasonable Price

Times Square with a row of buildings and a huge crowd: Food in New York post

My dad and I went to New York in April 2017. Obviously, we had to have something to eat, right? So this post is about the food in New York City: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

There were many misunderstandings and confusions over the existence of no-egg breakfasts and other customisations that Dad and I made, but that was part of the fun.

With misunderstandings of no-egg breakfasts and customisable food, an unexpected race and the price of the food, this post is perfect for anyone thinking of travelling to New York in the future. Watch out for those large pizzas!

Old New York had a bar, with a dozen eggs here and a dozen eggs there.

Eggs! I hate egg and my dad is allergic but New York struggles with the concept of an egg-free breakfast.

Most of our breakfast mornings started with us trying to find a place that would serve food without serving us some form of egg dish. Believe me my fellow Brits, finding an egg-free breakfast is a hard task, even the bread is dipped in egg. You have to specifically ask the server not to dip the bread in egg.

But the request is not as simple as you would think. If you ask them to not include egg on anything, they will repeat your order to you in a confused tone. It was as if the idea of not eating egg was completely alien to them.

No egg? What’s this talk? – why, I never.

So, just to make it clear, they love their egg in the US (or maybe it’s just New York).

We were there for a week and ended up having breakfast at Mcdonalds because we knew it was safe… kinda. As safe as a McDonalds can be. So most of our breakfasts were sausage baps.

Yes, it’s a bap, not a roll or cob or English muffin (UK joke).

I love baps, so I didn’t mind having a sausage bap breakfast. The city itself is interesting, we don’t need a foreign breakfast. Although, I have to be honest, it did get to a point where I thought I would never eat sausage again.

In fact, I’m glad British and American food are not worlds apart, less anxiety for me.

Around the middle of the holiday, we found Bread and Butter on  7th Avenue who are happy to serve toast and yoghurt. So, if you want a break from egg-related food, have a general dislike of egg, or are simply allergic, I recommend Bread and Butter if you visit New York.

There is also a place directly opposite, but the name escapes me… anyway, 7th Avenue, that’s your egg-free breakfast.

Customised food

Breakfast with no egg is not the only confusion you face if you customise your food. The whole idea of a customised meal seems to be confusing. I learned that you needed to say the exact foods you wanted to be removed and which you didn’t.

For example, if you want a chicken sandwich without the lettuce and mayo in the UK, then you would say you want a plain chicken sandwich. What you expect to return is a chicken sandwich which contains:

  • bread
  • chicken
  • maybe butter

Plain sandwich and not-so plain

In the US, a plain chicken sandwich is just the chicken on it’s own, so no bread. A bit weird if you ask me. Personally, I wasn’t served just the chicken but a server asked if I wanted the bread too or the chicken by itself and not in a jokey way.

After a lot of confusion, dad eventually told her to hold the salad and mayo. At last, she seemed to have got it.

Except, I got the salad and the mayo… ah well, I still ate it.

I am a really fussy eater, I pretty much customise my meals every single time. So, New York taught me to clearly state what I wanted to eat. Listing the “held” items one-by-one.

It was a good experience and aside from the chicken sandwich, the other servers managed to understand my order.

Reasonable Price

Dad and I managed to eat our food at a reasonable price. That’s including the portion amount by the way.

We did some research before travelling, knowing New York would be expensive due to its tourist population. So, we searched online and found places like: 

  • Bill’s Burger and Grill, 
  • Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine
  • Shakeshack

They weren’t the most extravagant meals but they were around the same as a decent UK family restaurant in quality which is good. But unlike a UK restaurant, we got the price of lunch for around $9-12 dollars—including tip—each. So that would be equivalent to around £5-7, not bad. 

Then you look at the portions and realise they are around a third bigger, maybe more than you would get in the UK. So you really get what you pay for. And the food tasted fine. Some of the places were jam-packed which was a good sign.

Then for dinner, we also did research beforehand and the average cost for dinner was $18-22 each, including the tip. That is roughly £13-17. This is definitely cheaper than most UK restaurants, where you average around £20 each. And again, the portions were bigger!

I think our biggest lunch, both in price and physically, was Dominos. You know it, of course, one of the famous and iconic pizza brands.

We ordered two regular-sized Pizzas, expecting like an 11-inch but what we got instead is something resembling a 20-inch pizza! Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish it all, but it was nice.

So, it’s true, the portions are larger in the US!

If you are on a budget, avoid the restaurants in museums and keep to little diners or fast-food restaurants. There are some really nice ones.

An Unexpected Race at Shakeshack

This still makes me laugh and probably will always make me laugh. In the US they have a fast-food restaurant that goes by the name Shakeshack. And, boy, is that place crowded. More so than McDonalds.

Dad and I went there a few times for lunch, they do the best curly chips (fries) that I have ever tried. But that’s not all, if you want to eat in, you have to race for it. What do I mean by that?

They obviously don’t expect you to run indoors but there’s this rule that if someone touches the table before you, it’s theirs. Something I realised after watching two or three tables get up and others touching the table practically as they stood. No wonder I couldn’t get a table at first.

Once I realised this, I never lost a table again. I actually found this quite fun and couldn’t wait to go back the next time…

I may be a tad competitive, but then I am an Aries!.

Last Dinner in New York

We took more spending money than we could actually use between us, so on our last night, we decided to go to Olive Garden as a farewell to a lovely trip.

Olive Garden was the most expensive place we visited throughout the whole trip. The grand total of the bill came to $100 with tip included. But it was a gorgeous meal, as you would expect at that price!

Each table is given a bowl of bottomless soup for free, and a basket of breadsticks. Those breadsticks, honestly I could have had them as my meal and be happy. They were delicious…

I now want breadsticks!

Anyway, I had a lasagna which was probably bigger than my head. I ate a quarter of it before I was defeated but it was just as lovely as the breadsticks.


While New York is definitely expensive, you can find some cheap, decent and nice restaurants or diners with a bit of research. It is good to be aware of differences in language and culture, including the definition of plain. If you ever visit Shakeshack be prepared for some fun as you race to claim a table.

It’s definitely worth the experience.

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