Want wallet-friendly foods in Manhattan? Try an Asian food feast. Cheap ethnic eats abound in NYC's tangle of streets at Chinese hot spots such as Xi'an Famous Foods
, a hand-pulled, or handmade, noodle shop with locations in Chinatown and St. Mark's Place. Dive into a bowl of liang pi (cold skin) noodles, which -- fear not -- involve no skin, but rather slippery wheat noodles and chunks of wheat gluten, served in a cool, spicy oil and vinegar sauce. For an even bigger spice kick, try the "spicy and tingly beef hand-pulled noodles," a warm noodle concoction with chunks of beef in hot sauce spiced with Chinese pepper powder.
You'll feel penny-wise after chowing down on super-low-priced Lito's Empanadas
in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Colombian-born owners Lito and Eve Escalante fry up crispy-crusted empanadas in 10 different varieties. Menu highlights include the beef empanada, stuffed full of ground beef, olives, raisins, potatoes, tomatoes and onions, and the spicy chori-cheese empanada, filled with chorizo, cheese, potatoes, tomatoes and onions. Craving a sweet treat? Bite into the choco-banana empanada, a mix of Nutella hazelnut spread and banana. Pro-tip: Before planning to eat at the store's counter, consider placing a to-go order and chowing down in nearby Lincoln Park, adjacent to Lake Michigan.
You don’t have to shell out cash like a megastar to enjoy a good meal in Los Angeles. Head to Pink's Hot Dogs
, the hot dog stand of the stars -- really, celebs like Katie Couric, Betty White and Jay Leno have been photographed eating here -- for a cheap and quick meal. Located smack in the heart of Hollywood, Pink's serves up 15 varieties of hot dogs, including a bacon chili cheese dog, a Guadalajara dog with relish, onions, tomatoes and sour cream, and a NYC dog, served plain with red onions. Pink's has been selling hot dogs here since 1939, when the stand was really just a cart, making it an honest-to-goodness LA staple. Open past midnight, think of Pink's when you're craving a post-partying late-night snack.
San Francisco budget travelers, rejoice! Turns out, some of the city's best Thai food happens to be some of the city's cheapest food, period. Hungry tourists searching for a cost-friendly eating adventure should head to Lers Ros Thai
, blocks away from the San Francisco Civic Center, in the city's Little Saigon neighborhood. The menu's 150 items include Thai food fixtures such as pad Thai, pan-fried rice noodles with prawns, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts and lemon; shredded green papaya salad with spicy chilies, tomatoes and lime dressing, and kao ka moo -- that’s stewed pork spiced with cinnamon, cloves, fennel and peppercorns served with mustard greens, Chinese broccoli and a chili-vinegar dipping sauce. Check that your hotel room has a fridge; Lers Ros Thai's generous portions make for delicious leftovers.
Washington DC's Good Stuff Eatery
is a hip, budget-friendly burger joint popular with the Capitol Hill lunch crowd. Order one of the freshly made burgers, such as the Colletti's Smokehouse, a burger topped with applewood-smoked bacon, Vermont cheddar cheese, fried Vidalia onion rings and a chipotle barbecue sauce; and Uncle D's chili and cheddar burger, topped with spicy chili, cheddar sauce, green onions and sour cream. If for some odd reason, a salad sounds better than a beefy burger, Good Stuff has you covered: pick up a classic wedge salad, served with green and red onions, fried onions, crumbled bacon and blue cheese dressing.