Eat on the cheap in Union Square

Tourists and locals alike are always on the prowl for affordable food in convenient locations. I often find myself meeting friends in Union Square, as it’s quite convenient for people coming from either end of Manhattan with the 4,5,6 and N, Q, R trains. The challenge has been finding restaurants that are cheap and have something for everyone. Sure, we could head to a noodle bar, Thai restaurant, or pizza spot… but what about the one friend who is averse to noodles, hates Thai, or is allergic to cheese? Here are some convenient local spots with a varied menu that will please any palette, without breaking the bank.

The Coffee Shop
29 Union Square West

This restaurant has been around for years (I remember going here as a little girl) and it’s still one of the most convenient, consistently yummy spots around. The upscale diner menu provides a wide variety of food—everything from burgers, salads, pasta and even a few raw bar items. It’s casual enough to bring the kids, but there’s still alcohol flowing and a trendy vibe to the lounge-like atmosphere, and it’s open 24-hours. There is an actual lounge beneath The Coffee Shop with a DJ, which is adjoined to the Ballroom that is available for events.

What’s cookin’ for cheap:
Burgers and sandwiches: $10-12
Salads: $9-15

Chat n Chew
10 E 16th St

If you can get past the classy title, this retro diner is a great spot for a quick sit-down meal before a movie.  There is nearly everything you can think of on the menu, but Chat n Chew is famous for homestyle mac and cheese and some seriously yummy fish tacos. Relatively inexpensive prices make this a great place for a casual date or catch up with friends. On the downside, the backroom is rather dark because it’s a few feet below street-level, but the cute décor makes up for it.

What’s cookin’ for cheap:
Burgers and sandwiches: $8-13
Salads: $9-14
Mac ‘n cheese: $11

Old Town Bar and Restaurant
45 East 18th Street

Old town is a famous neighborhood bar that has been featured in a few movies and TV shows, including The Devil’s Own, Sex and the City, and even the opening credits for Late Night with David Letterman in his NBC days. While things can get pretty rowdy at the downstairs bar during happy hour and weekends, head upstairs for a quieter meal inside one of the classic wooden booths. Service may be a bit slow, but you can’t go wrong with hot dogs and burgers, both once featured in the NY Times “Best of NYC.”

What’s cookin’ for cheap:
Famous frankfurters: $8
Burgers and sandwiches: $10-13


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