It’s easy to view Hudson Yards as a shopping mall for the wealthy, with restaurant prices to match. But while you can easily blow $200 for dinner at Estiatorio Milos or TAK Room, there are places where you can eat well for $20 or less, or get a snack from a celebrity chef for as little as $3. Many of these establishments are located in obscure corners, along lanes that hold no further interest, but Eater has explored every passageway and plunged deep into every cul-de-sac, trudging miles in the process over hard-on-the-feet marble floors.
Sometimes, as at Citarella, blah steam tables and stale-looking pizzas were a disappointment, though the prefab sushi is worth trying. Elsewhere, we found a few near-bargains. In some cases, the eats were better than they needed to be, perhaps spurred to greatness by the effete surroundings. Anyway, should you happen to find yourself in the Shops at Hudson Yards, here are some good things to eat for $20 or less, in order of preference.
1. Sausage at Belcampo ($11): Skip the enticing $16 lamb burger available in the counter-service area of Belcampo as being not a good deal. Instead, grab a flame-grilled, nitrate-free kielbasa, which has a garlicky, peppery forcemeat and a nice snap when you bite into it. Served in a bun, toppings include mild sauerkraut and red piquillo peppers. A side of fries will set you back $4. Bare-bones seating is provided in that part of the restaurant, spilling out into the hallway.
2. Rice and beans at Peach Mart ($3): From the generous heart of Chang comes this budget tuck-in at Peach Mart, at the point in the mall that’s hardest to get to, but has the cheapest food. The beans are heavenly, slicked with chicken fat and scented with tasso ham, and you can also get them at Fuku (see below), but for 50 cents more. There’s plenty of comfortable seating clustered around the escalators, as a reward for trekking this far into the mall.
3. Quarter tortilla at Mercado Little Spain ($5): No, this isn’t the Mexican tortilla the city is more familiar with, but a crustless egg pie loaded with potatoes and onions, and it isn’t as easy to make as you might think. At the counter called Tortilla de Patatas, warm tortillas are sliced into quarters and served with a piece of bread. They’re creamy, eggy, and taste powerfully of onions, making a fortifying snack, while two portions make a full meal.
4. Cheesecake at William Greenberg ($6.50): Open since the 1940s, William Greenberg Desserts is one of the city’s most distinguished pastry shops, specializing in such New Yorkiana as black-and-white cookies, fruit tarts, and the cinnamon buns called schnecken. Their cream cheese cheesecake, a New York phenomenon if ever there were one, is spectacularly good, and a slice at this price would be a steal in any neighborhood.
5. Vada pav at Fuku ($4.50): This fast-food stall has several gems among its fried chicken selections, but head instead for the maverick vegetarian treat from Mumbai, vada pav. A giant, cumin-laced potato patty is fried with a crust perhaps a bit too thick, then deposited on a rich bun with fried garlic, slightly pickled cukes, and a scallion chutney, and you’ll be completely filled up if you finish it. There’s minimal seating in the interior; otherwise, seek out the tables and chairs that surround Citarella nearby.
6. Callos con garbanzos, morcilla, y chorizo at Spanish Diner ($16): This classic stew of old Madrid features lots of tripe, lots of chickpeas, and lesser amounts of chorizo and blood sausage, and make sure you ask for plenty of bread to go along with it. Spanish Diner in Mercado Little Spain is probably the best place so far in Hudson Yards to get a good meal in the $20 to $40 range, and the entrance from the outside of the complex — meaning you don’t have to go up multiple escalators in different locations — is an added bonus.
7. Roasted chicken sandwich at Bouchon Bakery ($10.95): Think of it as a downscale Per Se or TAK Room: Bouchon Bakery is the budget branch of a great American restaurant empire, and the pastries and sandwiches keep pace. This sandwich comes on an unusual Dutch crunch roll, made of rice flour and hence gluten free. The chicken is still moist, and paved with goat cheese and an artichoke aioli. Don’t dare eat it cold — have them warm it up for you.
8. Gazpacho clasico at Mercado Little Spain ($6): This cold Andalusian soup is one of three gazpacho style choices presented on ice at Mercado Little Spain’s Frutas & Verduras counter, which also offers a selection of raw fruits and vegetables for retail purchase. The soup is cold and creamy, and the counter attendant garnishes it with olive oil, sea salt, and chopped aromatics before tossing on two small breadsticks, which float like canoes on the placid surface of an orange lake.
9. Pour-over at Blue Bottle ($4): Of nearly a dozen places to get a quick cup of coffee in Hudson Yards, Blue Bottle should be your choice. It’s situated near the main entrance to the complex at the top of the escalator, and occupies a corner where tables and chairs flank big, sunny windows. You can sit there and dream you’re not in Hudson Yards. Via San Francisco-based Blue Bottle Coffee Company, the joe will satisfy nearly any connoisseur.
10. Chocolate pretzel at Lilac Chocolates (85 cents each): Though both milk chocolate and dark chocolate are available, my personal preference is for dark. But either of these crunchy, salty treats are richly satisfying, and you don’t have to eat more than two or three to feel pleasantly full.
Corn dog bites at Peach Mart ($4): Want something really trashy? The hot dog bites at Peach Mart are orbs the size of shooter marbles that get coated with a cornmeal breading and then deep-fried, making them like the cute offspring of a corn dog family.
Huevos rotos con chistorra at Spanish Diner ($17): Spanish Diner lists several breakfast on its bill of fare, of which the best I’ve tried is this one, which sports two long and piquant sausages, along with craggy and delicious french fries and two gloriously runny fried eggs.
Rainbow cake at William Greenberg Desserts ($8): This massive slab is an instant mood elevator with its dense vanilla cake and butter cream frosting. Eat one layer at a time.
Six churros at Mercado Little Spain ($5): The warm, crisp, sugar-dusted churros, hot out of the fat, are a real treat at the orange truck parked near the entrance to the food court. And a half dozen are about as many as you’d want to eat. Alas, chocolate is $4 extra, and probably worth it.