First: This entire guide will be available as a PDF download, in large size and wallet-sized, for your convenience. Right click and download any PDFs, por favor!
Let me begin by cluing you in on the TRUTH about New Yorkers, as best described by Meg Cabot:
Well, you probably knew that.
But I mean, it’s REALLY not like Indiana. In the town where I’m from, you don’t walk anywhere….
In New York, you walk everywhere. Nobody has a car – or, if they do, they don’t use it, except for trips out of the city. That’s because traffic is unbelievable. Every street is clogged with taxis and delivery trucks and limos.
Plus, there’s nowhere you’d want to go that the subway can’t take you. And all that stuff about the subway being unsafe … it’s not true. You just have to stay alert, and not look too much like a stupid tourist with your head buried in a map, or whatever.
But even if you are – a tourist, I mean – people will stop and try to help you. It’s not true what they say about New Yorkers being mean. They aren’t. They’re just busy and impatient.
But if you’re genuinely lost, nine times out of ten a New Yorker will go out of his way to help you.
Especially if you’re a girl. And you’re polite.
— Missing You by Meg Cabot
There. That’s New York in a nutshell.
I’ve seen a few folks online worrying a bit about the cost of New York City and how they’ll manage at RWA this year. This guide is meant to help alleviate this fear. This is by no means a complete guide to every eating option in New York City. I don’t think that would fit on the internet, frankly. I’ve included super budget-friendly options, links to deals that might let you sample some of the best cuisine in the world at bargain prices, and some restaurant menu options – PDF menus included! – that are walkable from the RWA hotel. Shall we get started?
The conference hotel is located on 46th street. Head west and you will never run out of restaurant options, until you get to the river. I wouldn’t recommend drinking it.
The most important thing to know about New York is that You Will Walk A Lot. Be ready. Comfortable shoes are your friend.
If you have any apprehensions about going broke trying to find food, you can get breakfast for under $2, lunch for under $10, and dinner for anywhere from $10 to $100,000.00. Most restaurants have menus, AND most deliver! So if you discover a great food options, grab a menu and share it with friends. The trick is that you’ll have to walk away from the hotel to find food that isn’t affected by tourist markup. The hotel is in Times Square – this is the center of everything, including much of NYC’s tourism. Leave Times Square and the food gets cheaper. To do that, you’ll have to walk.
Now, let’s talk food!
Obvious statements are obvious: Room service is decadent. It’s also crazy expensive. Why not have food delivered, or go pick it up, and eat in your room at a much lower cost?
Unexpected Inexpensive Options
Carts are you friends – and there are several different kinds!
Coffee Carts are everywhere in the morning, and often have outstanding coffee. They’ll also have bagels, pastries, fruit, yogurt (some, anyway), teas and soft drinks. They’re the best breakfast deal in town. Some have specials: small coffee and a roll for $1.50. (I have no idea why so many New Yorkers eat a buttered roll for breakfast, but it’s very popular.)
Fruit Carts are also popular this time of year. If you see one, buy some fruit and bring it to your hotel room. Often it’s among the best fruit I’ve had, especially the berries.
Carts are always a good food option, especially on a tight budget. There’s carts that sell sandwiches, gyros, Middle Eastern and Italian food. Among my favorites: Moshe’s Falafel. Falafel is seasoned chickpeas shaped into balls and fried. It can be a little spicy, but my GOSH are they good.
Check out this list of the top 25 from Summer 2010 from New York magazine.
Another great reference web site is the amazing MidtownLunch.com. The site’s mantra: 1. An inexpensive (under $10), authentic, unique and interesting quick service lunch, preferably near where you work. 2. An adventure in urban lunching
Their map is amazing. Any cuisine you could think of? It’s in there.
New York has the delis where the sandwiches are piled high with 10” of pastrami – you’ve likely seen those before. But the local corner deli is also a treasure trove of easy to build lunch options, most around $10-$12 unless you go crazy.
Here is an example of a deli menu: Dali-Market.pdf (Right click and download.)
DALI MARKET is located south of the hotel, on 7th Avenue at 35th street – one block away from Macy’s, if that is a destination you’d like to explore.
The advantage to the Dali Market is as follows:
- It is brand new, and it is away from Times Square, and therefore a bit cheaper.
- It is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
- They deliver if you purchase more than $10 worth of food.
- They have EPIC OPTIONS for lunch.
- They have an ice cream bar. It’s delicious.
Have a look at some pics of the Dali Market, and many thanks to the owner for letting me take pictures of his new place.
They also have sandwiches and wraps ready made for lunch. Remember – New Yorkers eat, too, and don’t always like to spend a fortune on lunch!
My favorite lunch at any deli or lunch restaurant is the build-your-own-salad. You start with a bowl of greens, and you pick out toppings from a display, and a deli employee will build your salad for you. Your salad is then mixed and weighed to determine the cost. At Dali Market, for example, salads are $6.99 per pound. If you get chicken and tuna and other heavy things, it’ll be more expensive. Lighter vegetables will cost less.
Another salad-building enterprise you might find is the cost-per-toppings option: you start with a base of greens, and then select the toppings you want. Some are .50 or .75 for a scoop, and some, like chicken or fish, are more expensive. Then you select your dressing, the salad is mixed up for you, and the cost is totaled. Select a drink and you’ve got lunch. A very filling lunch, too. I often can’t finish one of the build-your-own salads.
There are also create-your-own pasta options at different delis, as well as food-by-the-pound hot and cold bars with noodle, chicken, beef, fish, and vegetarian options.
In addition to small local delis and lunch places, there are also local and national chains that specialize in lunches. From bagels to sandwiches, wraps to pasta meals, there are likely several outposts of different NYC chains for you to explore. Here’s a sample, and some names you might recognize:
- Au Bon Pain- Bread! More bread! And some soups, salads, and desserts, too.
- Hale & Hearty – Soups, breads, and salads. The soups are amazing!
- Bread Factory – Guess what they have?
- Cafe del Sol
- Pret a Mange – PretSummerMenu.pdf
- Burger King
There’s also major restaurant chains in Times Square, like Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesdays, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Planet Hollywood, etc. If you’re dying to go to these places, have at it – but they are crowded, often costly, and not always the best option for food, especially when two blocks to the west there is every possible food type you can think of, and often for lower cost.
There is no shortage of places to try some of the best food in the world, and if you’re coming to NYC with an unlimited food budget, you can have some fun, provided you (a) make reservations and (b) invite me!
But if you’re looking to try some amazing food on a budget, there are great options for you, too.
First, explore the Prix Fixe menus for lunch and dinner. Some of the most popular dinner spots have a prix fixe menu. Prix fixe means “fixed price,” and refers to a menu of several courses, often a limited version of the full menu, served at a fixed (and often outstanding) price.
If you want to treat yourself, some of the best restaurants have 3 course lunches for $25-30. Here are a few options:
Zagats always has a list published in the hard copy of their restaurant guide – though you have to pay for access online.
There is also a Trip Advisor prix fixe dinner list as well, though dinner is almost always more expensive than lunch.
I strongly suggest that if you’re venturing out to eat, you make a reservation, particularly if you are with a large party!
Want to make your reservations online? Make Open Table your new best friend and favorite bookmark.
And of course, there is always Yelp, which as a website and as an app can help you find deals, food within 5 feet of your current location, and help you make reservations. Definitely worth downloading to your phone before you leave!
Unique New York Eating Experiences
As I noted, the Marriott Marquis is located in Times Square, which, if you’ve seen it on tv, is exactly as crazy, vibrant, loud and lit-up as you thought. It’s also got a pedestrian mall – a section of the street is now closed to traffic, and tables and chairs are set up so you can relax and sit down… in the middle of Manhattan, literally. This is a good opportunity to grab a take-out lunch and do something truly unique: eat in the middle of Times Square.
There’s also many, MANY parks in New York City, some only a small walk from the hotel. Three blocks south of the hotel, and one block to the east at Sixth and 42nd is one of my favorite of the NYC Parks, Bryant Park. Bryant Park is beautiful, has many tables and chairs, free WIFI, summer concerts, and is located right next to the New York Public Library, which is worth your visit anyway.
And if you want to walk north up 7th Avenue for 14 blocks, there’s Central Park, which is huge and magical and amazing and worth exploring – and easy to get to. If you exit the hotel and walk north, you will run right into it.
46th Street: Restaurant Row
Now, let’s talk about specific places to eat. 46th Street is known as “Restaurant Row” because, well, there’s a place to eat every 2 feet. The farther you go, the more there is. When you get to 9th Avenue, I hope you’re hungry because there’s more food there, too.
I took a walk around 46th and 9th Avenue and collected menus for you, so you could see how much different food items are, what the specials are, and how much you can budget for dinner. I haven’t eaten at all of these places, but they cater to tourists and locals for both lunch and dinner, and there’s a huge variety of cuisine represented.
Please note: this is just a sampling of restaurants I found in the two-block radius of the hotel. One block north or south on 9th avenue yields a whole new buffet of options – literally. Don’t be afraid to explore. Most restaurants have a menu posted outside for you to look at.
Each menu has been scanned to PDF, so please right click and download whatever you like to see what the prices and food items are like.
Sandwiches and salads, fresh-made bread – and excellent daily specials!
672 Ninth Avenue
NB: Prix fixe dinner menu included
330 W 46th
342 W 46th Street
Daisy May’s BBQ
623 11th Avenue at 46th Street
NB: I have postcards good for a free beer or soda with any plate special. Find me at RWA and I’ll give you one!
Kabab & Grill Restaurant:
Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi food
150 W 36th Street
Farmer’s Rotisserie A La Brasa
Meat, meat and more meat, with Latin American specialities
673 9th Avenue
Lunch Special Menu & Dinner Menu Included Below
Spanish food & tapas
NB: Lunch and dinner prix fixe included in this menu
338 W 46th Street
Mediterranean Turkish Food
358 W 46th
Oyishi Japanese Restaurant
Japanese food – and sushi!
374 W 46th Street
Yum Yum 3
Thai and Vietnamese Cuisine
658 9th Avenue at 46th
Vegetarian Asian cuisine
663 Ninth Avenue at 46th
And of course, I have a map of everything plotted out. It’s open to anyone so if you have a place to add, please feel free!
View RWA 2011 Food Options in a larger map
But wait, there’s more! Patience Smith of the Harlequin New York office also created a very awesome restaurant guide divided by cuisine and price level – available here as a PDF. Thank you Patience! RestaurantList.pdf
Hopefully, knowing where some restaurants are and how much they cost will help you feel more at home when you arrive in Manhattan. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments. Welcome to New York City!