Eating + Drinking

Where Michael Musto Eats: 10 Tasty Manhattan Lunches

The writer and iconic New Yorker considers himself cheap—but he still wants a nice bite.

Photo by Lauren P/Yelp

If you don’t happen to have an expense account or you’re just plain cheap like I am, you don’t have to sit home and eat garni as a main course. There are places in Manhattan where you can actually get a full lunch that’s reasonably affordable and quite tasty, too. Here are some of the choicest deals in town.


This unpretentious Indian eatery’s upper level has perfectly wonderful combo platters, but the lower level is where it offers an amazing $11 buffet, with various meat dishes, veggie specialties, naan, rice, and salad—and it’s all you can eat. (And I can eat a LOT.) 113 Lexington Avenue (between East 27th and 28th Streets)

All praise unpretentious Indian cuisine! / Photo courtesy of Matt L./Yelp


Manna is a long-running salad bar establishment where the soul food and Caribbean specialties are truly out of the ordinary. I help myself to delectable jerk chicken, collard greens, candied yams, and banana pudding—and end up spending less than 10 bucks! Three locations in Harlem

Di Di Dumpling

This hole-in-the-wall serves a wonderful combo of five pot stickers (pork, beef, chicken, or veggie; steamed or grilled), plus soup or lo mein for all of $6.25. I can highly recommend the grilled chicken variety, and the lo mein is better than the hot-and-sour soup. But word is out on this place and it’s tiny, so get there around noon to beat the crush for the very spare counter seating. 38 Lexington Avenue (between East 23rd and 24th Streets)

No need to noodle too hard on this: the food here is delicious! / Photo by Izzy Madover


An NYC treasure, this Koreatown staple has a salad bar filled with all sorts of authentically good stuff, plus prepacked meals that involve items like barbecued beef, chicken cutlets, squid, eel, kimchi, rice, tofu, and clear soup. I’ve never spent more than $8 here, and I never leave hungry. 12 West 32nd Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)

From the Koreatown treasure Woorijip / Photo courtesy of Joey R./Yelp

Hollywood Diner

Diners might be on the wane, but this one seems to be thriving, with good food, a friendly staff, and outdoor seating on nice days. And the prices won’t require you to be a Hollywood star to afford them. I get the sardine sandwich on toasted rye, with cole slaw and pickle, for only $7.95, but there are also cheap burgers ($6.75), and all-day breakfast thingies (Belgian waffles for $7.95). 574 Sixth Avenue (between West 16th and 17th Streets)

Cloister Café

This East Village delight has lovely outdoor seating adorned with well-placed foliage. What’s more, the burgers come with a topping and fries and are not only delicious, they’re only $7.95. Warning: The place is not always open for lunch, so call in advance. Also, it has a hookah bar, so if you don’t find that particular aroma appetizing, steer clear. But if you’re looking for some romantic noshing in the sun, this is your garden. 238 East 9th Street (between Second and Third Avenues)

The other Cloisters is also verdant and lovely. / Photo courtesy of Nisita K./Yelp

Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food

This has to be the most inexpensive lunch special in town—or maybe anywhere. You get roast pork or chicken “on a small rice with vegetable or noodles” for only $4 (that’s up from $3, but still.) It’s quite tangy, too, but the problem is that the minuscule place—which attracts lines of hungry visitors snaking out onto the sidewalk—has no seating. But don’t bring your food to the bakery next door, then buy a coffee and try to sit down to your meal. I tried that and it didn’t go well! Just bring the stuff home—or lean over the mailbox on the corner, like I shamelessly do. 79 Chrystie Street (between Hester and Grand Streets)

Everybody Wah Fung tonight. / Photo courtesy of Jason C./Yelp

Z Deli & Pizza

This extremely casual deli has seating, but before you relax there, go to the back and grab either very reasonably priced pizza or an assortment of other hot stuff it will put into a container for you. I always get some strips of fried fish, mashed potatoes, coffee, and two almond cookies, and it usually comes out to 6 or 7 bucks. What kind of fish? I have no idea and don’t care! That may sound a little scary, but it’s actually good. 803 Eighth Avenue (between West 48th and 49th Streets)

Vezzo Thin Crust Pizza

This is a lively neighborhood restaurant offering outdoor seating, and the pizza is extraordinary, with many varieties of exquisite toppings. What’s more, the lunch special makes it all accessible. You can get a slice and trimmings, but I usually order half a meatball sandwich, plus a delicious salad and cranberry juice for a mere $9. 178 Lexington Avenue (between East 30th and 31st Streets)

Nice slice, bruh. / Photo by Izzy Madover

The Gem Saloon

A popular boîte with an alfresco dining option, Gem has a fab $9 lunch special, which includes a Cajun salmon sandwich, arugula, tomato, and scallion rémoulade, all served with fries, soup, or salad, or a grilled chicken sandwich, onion roll, tomato, melted baby Swiss, and kale slaw served with fries, soup, or salad. You get the idea. It’s a gem, all right. 375 Third Avenue (between East 27th and 28th Streets)

The Gem Saloon’s lunch special is a real… gem. / Photo courtesy of Jen O./Yelp

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