Eating out in college usually means eating on a budget. Every week, we’ll take a look at the best cheap eats around a different college—defining cheap eats as anything hovering under $5. Why $5? No particular reason—it’s an arbitrary value chosen for its easy convertibility into change and synergy with other “5’s”—a top 5 list published at 5 pm.
New York City presents unique challenges for student restaurant goers. High rents translate into magnified restaurant prices, making dining out on spare change especially difficult. For all the complaining (and shrill whining) about Morningside Heights, Columbia’s backyard hosts numerous student-friendly (and student-targeted) eateries. In fact, picking the best dishes under $5 was tough, what with all the famous(ly greasy) student food for sale.
5. Koronet Pizza—Jumbo Slice
$3.50—though prices seem to continue climbing—buys an elephantine piece of pizza, plastered in a hefty coating of cheese. Less than artisanal quality ingredients allow Koronet to sell such massive slices on the cheap. The end result, however, isn’t so much stomach wrenching as stomach ripping: this pie goes down hard. Prepare to sweat out the psychedelic yellow pizza oil for at least an hour after consumption.
4. Hamilton Deli—Egg Sandwich
Starting at $1.60 for one egg on a roll, Hamdel’s egg sandwich is highly customizable. I adore three eggs with American cheese on a hero ($3.10), a sumptuously gooey feast of cholesterol, gelatin, and day-old bread. Definitely the best egg sandwich in the neighborhood (as many a varsity athlete will attest), Hamdel’s breakfast sandwiches beat hunger cravings without breaking the bank.
3. Absolute Bagel—Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese
Although the line winds out the door (and sometimes around the block), Absolute Bagel is absolutely worth the wait. Any type of bagel with cream cheese clocks in at $1.95. And this isn’t a measly schmear of tangy goodness we’re talking about here, but rather an almost grotesque stratum of solid cream cheese wedged into the bagel. Look for whatever’s fresh out of the oven; nothing starts a day out right like devouring a steaming hot bagel oozing barely liquid cream cheese while wandering up Broadway.
2. Amir’s Falafel—Falafel Pita with Hummus
Once upon a time, Amir’s had a bad reputation as a dim, dirty hole-in-the-wall leftover from Columbia’s darker days. Following a recent renovation and rebranding, Amir’s now serves the sexiest falafel north of Jerusalem Restaurant (between 103rd and 104th streets on Broadway). Combined with a healthy dollop of lemony hummus in a not-too-terrible pita, a few nicely seasoned falafel balls cost just $4.50. Maybe you’ll miss Maoz’s unlimited salad bar, but you won’t miss the creepy corporate atmosphere and chaotic crowds.
1. Taqueria y Fonda—Quesadillas
Fine, I cheated—Taqueria’s quesadillas cost $5.25 with either cheese or meat. Still, handing over that extra quarter nets a platter of tortillas slathered with guacamole and sour cream and garnished with a salad’s worth of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. Try it al pastor, filled with pork and pineapple. Splurging merits celebration when it means adding 25 cents to the bill.