First time in New York | New York - LikeALocal Guide

First time in New York

By Traveller July 16, 2018
New York

First time in New York

(15 answers)
By Mizar Traveller July 16, 2018

Hello locals!

I'm travelling over next week and it's my first time in New York, and I was wondering... Do you have any tips or information I should know before travelling? People have been telling me that restaurants there are pricey, so I should stay away from there; are they really that expensive with the tips?

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15 answers

Also- NO on the Tip Jars.

At coffee places, pizzerias, take-out sandwich places, upscale delis, etc. there is a tip jar pandemic spreading across American cities at establishments that have simple, over-the-counter (but no waitstaff) service. Many of my friends from overseas are confused by this and let me say, in these cases- it is not required. You are free to ignore this shit, usually as it occurs in establishments with overpriced coffee/goods in the first place. Unless you're being waited on or driven around you really don't need to tip.

As for the cheapest and best method of getting around, you really can't beat the subway.

Depending on how much you move around (which sounds like quite a bit), you may want to consider getting an unlimited Metrocard for the week ($32). If you use it only twice a day, every day (there-and-back), you'll easily get your money's worth.

is a good resource for plotting your movements. Just plug in your destination and you'll be given the most efficient, direct route. You can even calibrate it for the exact minute you want to arrive.

Unless you find yourself in the wee hours of the morning at the tail end of an all-nighter, Ubers and Taxis are not the way to go. And during "rush hour" (7:30AM-10AM, 4PM-7:30PM) it can feel pretty stupid, sitting in the back of a cab that just doesn't move all that much.
Local July 16, 2018
Yes, we also have those types of jars! Thanks for the advice though! We will check the subway and the Metrocard ;)
If you’re staying on Broadway around Times Square, a few more local spots that I love.

Amy’s Bread on 9th Avenue near 47th street. Delicious home style baked goods.

Margon on 46th street between 7th and 6th Avenue, great Cuban sandwiches. Very low key kind of a dive.

Tri Tip Grill. Casual fast counter restaurant. Very tasty steak sandwiches. Frequented by a lot of office workers near Rockefeller center. It’s in the Lower level of Rockefeller plaza.

Also not necessarily cheap but great nighttime views of the city at Press Lounge on 11th and 48th street. Its on top of a kimpton hotel. You can always just go enjoy the view and have a seltzer. It’s worth it.

Happy to provide recommendations or give you my favorite spots near pretty much any block in Manhattan.
Local July 16, 2018
Thanks, Perry, I will have it in mind!
Thanks for all the suggestions. Looking for a nice dinner spot. Don't want to break the bank but would like a nice dinner.
Bienvenido a NYC. The following is only suggestions/guidelines

1. All restaurants and food trucks are rated by the NYC board of health and are required to post the rating in a conspicuous location usually located at the entrance with "A" being the best rating.

2.A tip is given for service not based on the quality of food. When you receive a check there may be a stated suggestion of a tip however this is not mandatory but is greatly appreciated. If a tip is mandatory it must be stated on the menu or at the entrance stating there is a service charge.

3. There are way too many cheap eat places in NYC to mention but as a general rule pizzerias whereby you order, receive and pay for the food at a counter then find a seat without tipping, the same goes for many small mexican/taco places in addition to chinese take out. Many locals working in midtown frequent food trucks and find a place to sit down and eat outside watching the people go by. Try to venture outside of midtown as one person mentioned 9th ave is a good option for Manhattan and consider outside of Manhattan as well for cheap eats and ethnic food. If you are looking for something specific or information you can message me. Enjoy your stay and good luck...buena suerte
Local July 16, 2018
Thank you so much, Steven! Definitely helpful! We will have it in mind and take a look at Street Food. After digging around at the Internet i've seen someone recommending a few places, like Halal Guys, so we must try it.
Again... Thank you! :D
If you want you have real home cooking and inexpensive food that’s in New York City.
Go to East Village and explore the small restaurants that serves authentic cuisines with super reasonable price.
Local July 16, 2018
Thanks Lika! I will check East Village for sure then!
Yes, some New York restaurants can be expensive (and we tip usually 20%). That's because so many are based on food from other countries. But there are plenty of options. NY American food is really burgers, pizza, fried chicken, "soul food" (from the American South). You can get a slice of pizza for around $3. As for seeing the city, I used to walk up Broadway, starting at Battery Park. Tour the Woolworth Building lobby. Lower Manhattan still has the old streets, and some great buildings. Check out the old churches and graveyards for a bit of peace. By all means, see the site of the World Trade Towers -- part of history. If you have a smart phone, download food apps. Yelp is good, Seamless, Zomato. New Yorkers may seem rude but they aren't really. Most people are happy to give directions and advice. Don't be afraid of the subway. Certain lines are newer than others. If you get stuck on the #1 train at "rush hour", it will be crowed. Explore. Enjoy. If you like art, there are great museums, but there are also galleries.
Local July 16, 2018
Davis, thank you so much for your comment, the information is really interesting and helpful! We have been looking at lower Manhattan, so we will have to visit it and I'm downloading Yelp.
Will have to look for art galleries too... My degree is Humanities, so I definitely enjoy art!

If you’re staying near Broadway, I assume you are in the midst of the most concentrated tourist area (Times Square/theatre district). Walk over a few blocks to 9th Ave and north between 46-53 St. That’s more residential and has many restaurants but better food and better value than the hordes of chain restaurants in Times Square.
Local July 16, 2018
Noted! I will look around 9th Ave and the 46-53 St. Thank you so much for your help. Also, would you mind if I keep in contact with you if I have any other questions about the city? As I said, we are preparing the final details, so we're pretty much ready, but just in case...
Yes, keep in touch!
After looking at your profile, I will add this: having spent some time in Barcelona and Madrid last summer, restaurants in Manhattan are about 30% higher than in Spain. Also, tipping 18-25% moves the cost higher.

If you intend to hang out in popular bars, trendy cocktails run $15 each on average.
Hitting happy hours are a help, but that will be for wines and beer.

You are most likely to hit the East Village and/or Williamsburg. Dinner here on average will add add up to $36-50, with glass of wine, an entree, shared appetizer, shared dessert.

Popular Shake Shack (the slightly upscale McDonald’s) will be about $15 for burger, fries and a soda.
Local July 16, 2018
Oops! I mean $36-50 per person!
Thank you so much for your help! I'm gonna look around for some places in 9th Ave and 46-53 St. to write down and have in advance. Would you mind if I keep in contact with you if I have any more questions in the future? As I said, I'm planning the last details of the trip because it's next week...
Eating in NYC is more expensive than most cities in the world and even most other US cities.

However, there is also a wide range of prices between restaurants even on the same street: fast food and inexpensive ethnic street food next door to pricey upscale restaurants. Most restaurants display menus outside the establishment, making it easier to make your choice.

As a guideline, a McDonald’s Big Mac Meal is $9+ in Manhattan, costlier than most other US cities. A lunch in an inexpensive sit down restaurant runs about $12-15 with tax and tip.

Dinner prices run a wide range, but with restaurants closely packed within Times Square, East Village, West Village, etc. it’s easy to walk the block and make a choice.

A few trendy restaurants are including tips in the cost of the food but in most restaurants, a 20% tip is appropriate and expected.

Subways are easy to navigate and it’s worth taking a subway or bus to get away from tourist areas for ethnic restaurants.
Local July 16, 2018
Thank you so much for your response! I read about the 20% tip being appropiate... Definitely more expensive than in Spain! I will check out the subway lines and more restaurants on less central areas! :)
I don't really have any travel tips since I live here, but finding really good meals at a good price is easy in NYC. Not sure where you're visiting or the types of food/places you like, but check out OpenTable (app or website), Yelp or Google "cheap eats nyc" will find no shortage of places to eat at a good price. You will also find great street food in NYC with a little research.
Local July 16, 2018
Our intention is to visit all around New York city as much as we can, but we have our hotel in Broadway, so we will be there at the end of the day. I will check out the apps, and definitely the street food. I didn't think about that one, since we don't really have street food here... Thanks for your help!
I've lived in NYC for 30 years, and can say that while accommodation is very expensive, you can eat well for not much money. In Manhattan, Chinatown, Curry Hill (Lexington Avenue between 25-28) and Koreatown (32nd street between 5th and 6th) are good spots. Also use an app like Yelp.

If you are outside of Manhattan, many options-- Flushing and Forest HIlls in Queens have many many inexpensive spots.
Local July 16, 2018
Thanks! We're gonna stay in Brodway, so we're pretty much in the centre of Manhattan, from what I can see... I will look around in Yelp!
A fun (and inexpensive) thing to try: NYC Ferry ( it costs the same as a subway ($2.75) and will get you from Manhattan to multiple points in Brooklyn and Long Island City.

You could take a subway to Brooklyn, for example, do a bit of walking around, then take the boat back. Really very nice to see the city from the water, in particular at sunset.

And honestly, you can eat really well for $15-$20 per person maximum if you don't mind eating Chinese or Indian or Korean... choose one restaurant for a fancy meal with cocktails, then eat other meals (which will be as tasty) for much less.

Have fun.
Thank you so much; this is so helpful! I will definitely check these webs out. And I didn't know about the ferry, it will be fun to try it out!
As far as restaurants and their prices go, it's all dependent on the neighborhood. Almost all of them (but not the ones on Madison and Park Avenues for sure!) have specials and/or happy hours. So, first, if you're staying in Midtown: do not have breakfast at your hotel: google Joe coffee, or Mud, or any other independent coffee company - or simply go to a coffee shop (on 8th Avenue try Cosmic Diner) - not Starbucks (there are one or two "Special Starbucks," but: why?! - and be aware of the menus. Most are online. As for dinner: a walk around your desired neighborhood can give you an idea. It's not all expensive. But, is in New York: consider that part of the deal. So, if you really stay frugal, maybe you can survive decently on $50 per day for all three meals. But, really, consider $50 per person your minimum classy dinner price - without wine!
Local December 27, 2019
Well, restaurants range in price. Location is a big factor. A hot dog at Times Square may cost twice as much as one a few blocks away.
Lots of Asian restaurants have good lunch specials. (Lunch is almost always cheaper than dinner everywhere.) I often make lunch my main meal.
Counter restaurants and food trucks will often have tip jars. Whether you tip is really up to you. Be careful at steam table restaurants, where you pay by the amount of food you pile on your plate. They can be surprisingly expensive, and most aren't that good. Look for ones that are crowded -- that means the food is fresher, and probably better.
Most restaurants post their menu outside. If they don't, then they are probably expensive. Some restaurants around Times Square have pre show meals at a discount. Worth checking out.
If you drink alcohol, know that the cost of any drink can vary widely, even in the same neighborhood. "Happy Hour" -- when drinks are cheaper, varies from place to place.
You can find good food at reasonable prices. Look for the locals, not wearing suits, and don't flower the other tourists.
Local December 10, 2018
Another way to keep costs down is to figure out the free entrance times for museums. There are many free things to do in NYC (walk on the highline, visit Central Park) and as noted by others, many ways to get a good meal without breaking the bank. Exploring different neighborhoods will give you plenty to do without spending a ton of money. There are some good websites that rate "cheap eats" restaurants (usually ethnic foods are cheap and good bets). Stay away from eating in Times Square or right next to other tourist spots; usually the worst food for the highest prices. You can also get food in market halls like Chelsea market, which while not cheap, affords many options and price points with a pleasant place to stroll around and check out the variety of offerings. For fun cheap gifts to take home, you can go to Economy Candy on the lower East Side or Century 21 (a discount department store). Do not buy NYC tourist items in any shops in midtown meant for tourists. You will definitely not get a good value there.
Local December 9, 2018
Many servers at restaurants depend on tips as part of their salary. It’s custom to tip 10 to 20%. No tip is insulting. If you want to eat out but keep costs low, there are many landmark eateries that are not service restaurants to experience. Katz ‘s Deli, Nathan’s on Coney Island, Gray’s Papaya, Pizza from anywhere, Habana Outpost (brooklyn)... the list goes on. Just google top quick food places in NYC.
Local August 6, 2018
For inexpensive entertainment, Summer Stage is going on throughout Manhattan and the other boroughs:

There are music, dance and theater performances, most are free.

Also, if you are a museum-goer, check out the museum website for which days are free (also which day they are closed, differs from museum to museum).
Local July 16, 2018