Cheap vegan eats in NYC’s Lower East Side and Downtown NYC
Is inflation cramping your style and preventing you from going out for lunch? New York City can be expensive and it’s even more challenging when looking for affordable vegan options. However, there are still great deals to be had if you know where to look. We’ve got you covered when it comes to good deals in one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world.
While you won’t be going to Chef Amanda Cohen’s Dirt Candy and indulging in vegan fine dining if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of menu items at affordable prices in the area for good food. While there aren’t any exclusively vegan restaurants on the list, it’s important to note that most vegan spots in these neighborhoods don’t open during the day, like Chef Shenarri Freeman’s Cadence (please order the Southern Fried Lasagne), Delice & Sarrasin or Superiority Burger. Spicy Moon, a fan favorite, does have an amazing lunch menu, but it doesn’t come in under $10 … though it’s close!
These are six of great spots in the Lower East Side and Downtown NYC where you can satisfy your hunger for $10 or less. Warning: they may become some of your favorite restaurants and give you good reason to spend more time in this diverse neighborhood.
6 of our top picks for cheap vegan food in NYC
Founded in 1992 by Mohammad Jamal, this pocket-sized spot has been a staple in Union Square ever since. How popular is this vegan-friendly NYC locale? Lunchtime often finds a line snaking out the door thanks to the recipes Mohammad learned from his grandmother growing up in Syria. You know you’re getting the real thing when you order any of their plant-based meals.
There are several vegan options including the namesake falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus and savory pies (spinach or za’atar) all under $8. Our go-to’s are the falafel (not surprisingly) and spinach pie.
To this day the restaurant is a family affair and you’ll often find Mohammed behind the counter with his wife or son. It’s one of the best places in the area for budget-friendly plant-based menu options. There’s no seating but you can grab your grub and head over to Union Square to enjoy your bounty. 26 E 17th St.
This well-hidden vegan-friendly great place in Alphabet City’s menu features a couple of vegan items for people who love a plant-based diet. For just $10, your choice of filling is enveloped in sushi rice and wrapped-up in nori seaweed for the perfect on-the-go lunch.
There are two vegan options on the menu and one vegetarian tofu option that can easily be made vegan. Simply ask for them to swap non-vegan mayo for the vegan version. We had the tofu onigirazu and our taste buds couldn’t have been happier (or fuller!). And if you’re a green tea lover, don’t miss their ceremonial grade matcha drinks!
Fun fact: the owners also own hair salons in NYC and Tokyo and opened this spot in an effort to “Spread some Japanese culture with love,” and we’re so happy they did. While seating is extremely limited, consider taking your onigirazo to 6BC Botanical Garden, a small neighborhood oasis across the street, to enjoy your meal. 627 E 6th St.
Yubu means “fried bean curd (tofu)” in Korean. And that’s exactly what you’ll find at this great spot which specializes in palm-sized pockets of tofu skin stuffed with sushi-style rice and other Korean-spiced toppings. Choose from spicy mushroom, bulgogi flavored mushroom or avocado at $3.50 a pop. Grab a few fun flavors to make a meal.
It has multiple locations. The East Village location is take-out only (sometimes there are a few outdoor seats in nice weather), while the SoHo location has indoor seating for about 14. If you’re at the East Village location, just head over to Tompkins Square Park for a place to eat with great people-watching! 86 E 7th St., 46 Grand St.
Established in 2013, Manousheh is a popular spot and a welcome addition to the neighborhood that expanded from a pop-up in Nolita to two locations in Manhattan (Bleeker St. near Washington Square Park & Grand St.).
It’s namesake, Manousheh, is a Lebanese flatbread with various toppings, most commonly Za’atar (a spice mixture of sumac, oregano and sesame seeds) mixed with olive oil. Here, you can also get this comfort food with hummus, falafel or Muhammara (a red pepper, pomegranate, walnut spread) ranging in price for $6 – $9.
In addition, they serve fatayer (a savory pie) stuffed with spinach, tomato, onions and lemon juice for $8. It’s definitely the right place to head for cheaper vegan eats in the city and an excellent spot for Lebanese food. 193 Bleecker Street; 403 Grand St.
First, what is a kati roll? Simply put, kati rolls are wraps made by enfolding a variety of fillings inside a roti (a type of Indian flatbread) and are a popular street food all over Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).
Nostalgic for the street food of her hometown, Payal Saha opened The Kati Roll Company in 2002 after moving to NYC from Kolkata. She had a feeling the hand-sized self contained rolls would be perfect for busy New Yorkers – and she was right.
With four NYC locations, including Greenwich Village/West Village, vegans can choose between the Aloo Masala Roll (mashed potato patty with tomatoes, peppers & spices) or the Chana Masala Roll (chickpeas with tomatoes). The best part? Each are under $7. 49 W. 39th St; 99 MacDougal St;. 229 E .53rd St.; 22 Maiden Ln.
View this post on Instagram
The oldest falafel restaurant in the city, Mamoun’s has been serving up authentic Middle Eastern food since 1971. Founded by Mamoun Charter who emigrated from Damascus, Syria, the business is run today by his four sons.
And while they have expanded with locations throughout the Northeast, you can still visit the OG spot in Greenwich Village where you can pick up a fully loaded falafel for only $5,99. Since they’re always busy you can be assured of a freshly made hot sandwich. And since that location is open until 2am, it’s the perfect place for a post bar crawl bite. 30 St. Marks Pl.; 119 Macdougal St.
So it’s true there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But, if you know about these excellent spots, you can get some of the best vegan food for $10 or less!