Food & Drink

On the Upper East Side, a Food Haven for the Young and Broke

It’s no secret that a quick, cheap lunch in NYC is usually neither quick nor cheap. But lucky for you, we’re on a mission to find the most affordable lunch options in the city -- that actually taste good. We’re traveling all over New York in search of the the best lunchtime meal in several popular New York neighborhoods -- but it has to be under $5.

For most New York millennials, traveling above of 14th Street is something of a city-kid faux pas. In other words, the Upper East Side -- which contains some of the country’s most expensive zip codes (think $7 million walk-ups) -- is a less-than-typical hang-out for young folk. That being said, even in the land of Gracie Mansion and The Plaza Hotel you can find good cheap food. And in our opinion, the best of it comes from Ethyl’s.

Amongst townhouses and doorman-guarded high-rises, blocks from the 86th Street Q station, hangs the neon Ethyl’s sign, distinctly and charmingly out of place. In spite of its incongruous location, Ethyl’s is a haven for the young, broke, and hungry. Helmed by chef Paul Gerard, a member of the select group of native New Yorkers who can truly claim to have lived in Brooklyn before it was cool, the place has an unassuming 1970s vibe. A disco ball spins overhead, a corner stage is typically occupied by a DJ, and the red-and-black walls are lined with framed photos of rock legends and porn stars from days gone by.

Depending on the day (or the time of night), you might find go-go dancers strutting along the bar, a stand-up comedian performing, or a trivia game in full swing. There might be bubbles floating through the air, possibly live music, and there will definitely be an intriguing cast of characters seated on the bar stools.

At lunchtime, however, there should only be one thing on your mind: the fi-dollar burger. Yes fi, and no the price tag is not a sick prank -- the burger actually costs $5. The patty is thick, juicy, and topped with pickles and ketchup. It’d be irresponsible to encourage you to wash it down with a mid-workday beer, but psst! you should definitely wash it down with a $6 Budweiser. If you insist on a side order, a plate of fried pickles, or the crab Rangoon hot pockets should do the trick -- but trust us, the burger will be plenty.

Watch the video above to learn more about the iconic burger joint.

Sign up here for our daily NYC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun New York has to offer.

Eliza Dumais is a writer who grew up in Brooklyn after it was cool.