How to Eat like a New Yorker on a College Budget
I really love food. I know people say this all the time but really, for me, it’s a passion. That is why I decided to go to New York City one weekend just to eat.
My friend, Lexi, said she wanted to get away from campus for a weekend but only had $100. As two poor college students, we decided to set a limit of $100 for the entire trip, transportation included. Leaving from Washington D.C., Chinatown bus tickets are $35 round trip (because one never drives to New York City). The goal was two lunches, dinner, breakfast, and one late night snack. With subway fare, that put each meal budget at just over $9.
With Lexi accompanying me, we stepped off the bus in the bustling streets of Chinatown, New York, hardly a word of English in sight. The cramped streets were flooded with people, lined with vendors and exotic foods.
The first stop I had to make was right in the heart of Chinatown on Mott Street. This tiny little dive restaurant, Hop Kee, has the largest steamed pork buns for only a dollar. Next, for something a little sweet, I got the best tea in Chinatown — bubble tea!
Crossing Canal Street, the exotic smells of Chinatown are drowned out by accordion playing and restaurant owners hollering at us in Italian and English to try their food. Ah, Little Italy. We chose a restaurant with a dinner special for eggplant parmesan with spaghetti and salad.
I sat outside in the sun enjoying the perfect day, sipping cheap chianti, attempting to imagine I was in Rome again. The meal was delicious with the freshest mozzarella and eggplant cooked to perfection. We continued to people-watch and as the sun began to set on Mulberry Street, we knew the city was only just starting to come alive.
With the sky risers and jumbotrons circling above us, we made our way to Times Square. There is just something magical about people coming together from all over the world coexisting in this one place.
Rounding about three in the morning, our next stop is essential to any visit to New York City. I stepped out of the city’s night into a bunch of drunkards shuffled in a long line bonding over the craving for cheesy goodness only New York pizza can fulfill.
As the sun came up and city lights began to disappear, Doughnut Plant was our next stop. Made famous by their peanut butter and jelly doughnut, this was the reason I came to New York. The peanut glaze and jam filling are both house made. The good folks at Doughnut Plant are breaking all kinds of expectations by having square doughnuts and a super-secret technique of getting gooey filling into every bite.
We made our way back to Chinatown for our last lunch. I knew Pho would be the best cure. There is no pretty way to eat this mixture of meat and clear noodles in beef broth but it hit the spot.
Lexi and I boarded the bus back to D.C., our stomachs satisfied and proud of keeping within the budget. A hundred bucks was totally worth the delicious adventure.