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Fried dumplings and fried salt fish, $3.50
On East 222nd in Baychester, you’ll find a totally unassuming, authentic Jamaican spot doing Caribbean favorites like ackee & saltfish and ripe plantains. Though dumplings are in the restaurant name, you’ll find the the crispy, fried numbers (which come without fillings and are really more like fried dough balls) under “sides” on the menu. Still, at just $0.50 a pop, they’re more than enough reason to make a visit. An order of two dumplings with a huge chunk of fried saltfish for $2.50 is one of the most popular budget-friendly buys, not to mention a seriously filling meal. Be sure to opt for the raw pickled-peppered onions on top to cut through the saltiness and add an extra kick.
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Mini mac & cheese, $2.25-2.75
Landin is the Bronx’s answer to the East Village/Murray Hill favorite S’MAC -- except way cheaper. The savory baked mac & cheese dishes here come in mini sizes, so you can sample a recipe or two (or three or four or five) for just $2.25-$2.75, before you decide to opt for the bigger version, which is still crazy-affordable at around $6.00. The hot chicken with buffalo sauce, Mexican (with pepper jack, Muenster, chicken, pepper, and jalapeño) and bacon (mozzarella, Muenster, and bacon) are the running favorites for Melrose residents.
Taco Mexicocina, $4
Mexicocina is a charming and authentic Mexican spot with two locations in Mott Haven -- the first opened on Jackson Ave in 2008, and the second was added three years ago on 149th. Aside from space, the only other difference is the “c” vs “z” in the spelling of their names, which means you can score the super-cheap and filling Taco Mexicocina -- featuring a thick, handmade corn tortilla; chile chipotle; cheese; cilantro; and red onion -- for just $4 at either site. Plus, for just a dollar more, you can add in a generous helping of shrimp or fish.
Beef patty, $2.50
Wakefield, Baychester, Olinville, Eastchester, Williamsbridge, Laconia, Morrisania, Parkchester, Norwood, Fordham Manor
This Caribbean food franchise is the go-to for a Jamaican beef patty Uptown. Even though it's upped the price over the years, a single patty is still just $2.50. Most locations carry both chicken and beef options, but the spicy beef seasoned with garlic, scallion, and Scotch bonnet pepper is always a solid choice. Get yours early in the day when the filling is guaranteed to be piping-hot.
There are a couple solid cheap eats you can score from this no-frills takeout Trinidadian food chainlet, like the dahl pouri roti, pholourie with tamarind dipping sauce, or current roll. But if you’re not walking out without roti, then you better have ordered doubles. Doubles are a popular Trinidadian street food consisting of cooked chickpeas lightly seasoned with curry and sandwiched between two roti flatbreads, which are fried to puffy perfection. Just one of Ali’s doubles can make for a filling meal, but with prices as low as $1.65, there’s no reason not to stock up.
Summer rolls, $4.50
Once you get over the slight hurdle of communicating with the almost strictly Vietnamese-speaking waitstaff at this authentic Fordham Manor shop, you’ll never look at other summer rolls the same. Three rolls of thin rice paper come bulging with noodles, shrimp, and lettuce, making for one of the healthiest meals you can grab for under $5 in the Bronx.
Fried chickpeas with paprika, $4.10
The name of this Kingsbridge restaurant directly translates to “milk and honey,” which is fitting for a place with a menu full of simple yet satisfying food, like a plentiful chicken & waffles platter for $10.99 that comes drizzled with syrup, or BBQ pulled pork with a helping portion of mac & cheese for just $13. The best deal on the menu, though? The fried chickpeas seasoned with paprika, a crispy and spicy dish that’s an homage to the owners’ Dominican roots, and which will only cost you $4.10.
Since the Bronx has a huge Latino population, there are plenty of great places to get your hands on empanadas -- but the restaurant that Colombians in particular call home is the ultra-authentic La Masa, which offers traditional dishes like bandeja paisa -- a combination platter with everything from pork to chicharron to black pudding -- and over two dozen types of empanada, including both salty and sweet options, like chicharron or dulce de leche. Be sure to come back often, as it's always adding new varieties.
Brioche diplomate, $3.50
You’ll find the obligatory croissant and macaron offerings at the French-themed cafe, but the hidden cheap-eats gem is its version of the classic bread pudding, the $3.50 brioche diplomate, which is guaranteed to be more filling than the aforementioned options. Delivered fresh daily, the bread pudding is actually made with croissants, and often comes with a little added surprise, be it chocolate or raisins. It’s usually served toasted, and they'll happily top it with powdered sugar or caramel upon request.
You won’t find esquites -- the bowl version of on-the-cob elotes -- at every Mexican restaurant Uptown, so the creamy, street-style boiled corn, made with a mix of mayo, cheese, and chili pepper, is a great reason to visit the original Estrellita Poblana, which has four sister locations throughout the borough. It’s an affordable and authentic snack (served in a 16oz cup) for less than $5.
Roast pork rules the crowd at this popular Latin American food truck, which you can usually find parked up in the South Bronx. Fortunately, if you’re eating on a budget, it also churns out fresh batches of pastelillos -- the fraternal twin of the empanada -- that come with your choice of chicken, beef, crab, or shrimp for just $1.50-2.50.
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1. The Dumplin Shop3852 Bronxwood Ave, Bronx
2. Landin Mac & Cheese701 Melrose Ave, Bronx, NY 10455, Bronx
3. Mexicocina503 Jackson Ave, Bronx
4. Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill1381 E Gun Hill Rd, Bronx
5. Ali's Roti Shop4220 White Plains Rd, Bronx
6. Com Tam Ninh Kieu2641 Jerome Ave, Bronx
7. Leche y Miel5761 Broadway, Bronx
8. La Masa1000 Morris Park Ave, Bronx
9. Mon Amour Coffee & Wine234 W 238th St, Bronx
10. Estrellita Poblana2231 Westchester Ave, Bronx
This perpetually packed spot in Baychester specializes in Jamaican food, specifically fried dumplings (they're listed under 'sides' on the menu). The entire menu -- serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- boasts authentic Caribbean flavors in chicken, goat, and shrimp dishes, but order the fish (especially the whiting) for the real deal. The shop is a basic counter-serve, and the dishes are served in disposable containers.
This petite mac & cheese shop is the Bronx's go-to cheesy indulgence. Meals are packed tight in casual styrofoam boxes, and best of all, Landin charges appropriate prices for its cheese-and-carb creations, each of which cost less than $10. The hot chicken with Buffalo sauce, Mexican (pepper jack, Muenster, chicken, pepper, and jalapeño), and bacon with mozzarella and Muenster are all must-orders.
This truly authentic Mexican restaurant in Mott Haven welcomes guests into its charming red-walled space with fragrant chile chipotle-filled tacos and burrito carnitas. Besides its original location on Jackson Avenue, Mexicocina has a second branch on 149th street that serves the same huge-portioned nachos and strong drinks.
This Jamaican chain has mastered the art of the beef patty (and all your other favorite Caribbean favorites like jerk chicken and fish, fried plantains, and bulla cakes), but the steamy pocket is really what's important here. Wrapped in pastry dough, the spicy beef patty is a solid to-go order that quite literally fits in the palm of your hand. The earlier you go, the better, since Golden Krust makes a large batch of patties every morning.
Although roti is the name of the game at this Trinidadian spot in Wakefield, you should definitely order doubles, a fried chickpea sandwich that's traditionally eaten at breakfast. The spot is small and basic, but the food is cheap, good, and authentic.
This hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese spot in Fordham Manor makes its dishes with broken rice grains and splintered noodles, which are known for two things: absorbing a heck of a lot of flavor and being dirt cheap. The menu is pho-based, and the pork chop (suon nuong) is so succulent that it willingly falls off the bone.
This Kingsbridge restaurant serves Latin comfort food with a touch of health-focused salads and juices. With its unassuming signage, off-white bare walls, and minimalist tables, Leche y Miel feels like the dining room of a friend's apartment, except the food is way, way better. Definitely go for popular dishes like churrasco steak with chimi sauce, BBQ pulled pork with mac & cheese, and shredded skirt steak.
This colorful spot in Morris Park is a go-to for authentic Colombian fare -- especially when it comes to empanadas. These handheld delights are stuffed to the crust with chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, sausage, vegetables, cheese (we could go on...). La Masa also serves noteworthy soups, salads, arepas, and patacon sandwiches.
This cozy French cafe in the Bronx serves espressos, flatbreads, and baked goods -- all made fresh and packed with flavorful ingredients. Repurposed wood tables, metal chairs, exposed brick, pendant lights, and decorative wall frames all contribute to the minimalist, industrial feel of the space. The staff is notably welcome and attentive, making Mon Amour a great neighborhood spot to relax and enjoy coffee or a glass of wine at the end of the day.
This joint in Parkchester has been expanding its brand of authentic Mexican food across the Bronx since 1999. Whether you're heading there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Estrellita Poblana serves a menu packed with tacos, burritos, chimichangas, tortas, and house specialities like corn truffle-stuffed chicken and sautéed skirt steak. The food is cheap and the space is cozy -- what's not to love?