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Three plates with fried pork belly, brochettes, and taro leaves in coconut milk.
A collection of dishes at Patok by Rach in Inwood.

40 Affordable Places to Eat in NYC

Restaurants that offer delicious meals for $20 and under around the five boroughs

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A collection of dishes at Patok by Rach in Inwood.

For many New Yorkers, rising prices mean that dining on a budget is more important than ever. Luckily, there are options throughout the five boroughs and beyond that don’t require spending an arm and a leg. Despite the pandemic and inflation, we have seen small, inexpensive, often immigrant-run restaurants continue to flourish. Here are 40 great dining destinations, including some old standbys as well as new favorites, where you can dine well for $20 or less — and sometimes, much less.

New to this edition: Patok by Rach, Pugsley Pizza, Mid-Atlantic Fish Store, El Catrin, Tamam, Hello! Bangladesh, Hamburger America, Relax, Benny’s Cuban Cafe, Moe’s Pastrami and Burger, Si n’shpi.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process.

Patok By Rach

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This nifty Filipino restaurant located in Inwood on the way to the Bronx mounts a limited menu in the fast-casual style, with plenty of comfy seating and a view of Broadway. The brochettes of Philippine barbecue are a good choice for snacking or an entire meal, the dish of coconut milk and taro leaves is an exciting choice for vegetarians (or, indeed, anyone), while the fried pork belly with three dipping sauces can’t be beat.

A handful of cigar-shaped fried items on a plate with dipping sauce.
Pork lumpia from Patok By Rach in Inwood.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Los Primos Resturant

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This Latin Caribbean diner is home to the most gorgeous steam table you’ve ever seen right next door to an expansive dining room. The menu offers classic breakfasts of green plantains, eggs, and longaniza, plus lumberjack pancakes and three-egg omelets, then moves on to lunches and dinners of well-seasoned rotisserie chicken, pork chops, kingfish or salmon, mofongo in several variations, meal-size soups like sancocho and mondongo, and pernil so good it might make you weep.

Two hands trim a pork roast with scissors.
Carving the pork roast at Los Primos.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Pugsley Pizza

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Located right off the campus of Fordham University, this may be the college hang you’ve always been dreaming of — with wood-clad walls carved with the initials of long-gone alums, great pizza hot from an oven you can watch while your pie is being made, and a welcoming ambiance so you won’t miss home so much. The chicken roll is fabled here.

A pizzamaker and his pizza.
Pizza delivered hot to your table by co-owner Sal Natale.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Myung Dong Noodle House

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A spacious multilevel palace of Korean food in downtown Fort Lee, New Jersey, Myung Dong specializes in two types of noodles. The first is the wheat noodle known as kalguksu, served in mildly flavored soups, of which the most engaging throws them into a broth with ground beef and dumplings. The second is naengmyeon, originating in North Korea and made from buckwheat or sweet potato and served cold with boiled egg and pickled vegetables: very refreshing. Most of the soon tofu combination options are under $20 while the noodles hover at the price.

An opaque white broth with thick white held aloft by chopsticks.
Kalguksu in soup with dumplings.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Mid Atlantic Fish Market

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While this may have once been a Korean seafood market, it now has Dominican flourishes. In addition to selling the freshest fish, it has a seafood prep counter and pleasant eating-in area. The fried fish sandwiches — pick porgy or flounder — are great and cheap, but why not consider the shrimp pastelitos, stuffed clams, or crab cakes?

An empanada with the end bit off so the shrimp filling shows.
Shrimp pastelito at Mid-Atlantic Fish Store
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Native Noodles

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One of the city’s few strictly Singaporean cafes is tucked away in a relatively quiet corner of Washington Heights, with a comfortable interior, and dishes handed through a window from the kitchen. Yes there are noodles galore, including laksa noodles and peanut satay noodles, but look to fritters, dumplings, and buns for smaller bites. The roti john sandwich is a unique delight, a hero of ground beef omelet with spicy ketchup and caramelized onions.

A big ass sandwich with egg and ground meat visible and ketchup in the background.
Roti John sandwich at Native Noodles.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This branch of a Grand Concourse restaurant is a bit grander, with a dining room a few steps up from the steam table where a dozen or so Ghanaian dishes are displayed. Pictures of the food over the counter assist in your selection, and don’t forget you can combine dishes on one plate. Get sauces of fish, mutton, or chicken — or pick a mixed meat sauce that contains all of them — then choose a starch ball like white yam fufu to go with it. As far as the goat pepper soup goes, it’s hot: watch out!

A steam table with various stews, a woman behind the counter looking down from above.
The steam table at Papaye.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

El Catrin

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This new Guerreran Bronx bodega and carryout — the name means “the dandy,” a Day of the Dead figure smirking from the awning — offers all the usual antojitos like tacos, quesdillas, and picaditas, but also some less usual things like chicharrones preparados and some oddball snacks like pepinas locos: cucumber cups filled with nuts and candy.

Two flat ridged rounds of masa with toppings.
Tongue and campechano picaditas
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Jerk House

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Harlem has rarely seen a Jamaican steam-table restaurant with such a broad selection of island dishes. Sure, the jerk chicken is great, finished over a flame right before being served, but you’ll also find jerk pork, jerk ribs, and even jerk fried chicken. There’s also escovitch fish, curry chicken, and, perhaps best of all, curry goat. The restaurant is one of three locations.

A clear plastic container of chicken pieces in thick brown sauce.
Jerk House’s jerk chicken is some of the best in Harlem.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The pitas are puffy, freshly made, and served warm, and the falafels are some of the best in town, light and crunchier than usual — they won’t sit in your stomach like a stone, and neither are they are perfectly seasoned. For a larger meal than the falafel sandwich, pick the falafel platter, which contains a dozen elements, including the spicy green relish zhoug. Multiple forms of hummus and the eggplant-and-egg concoction sabich also available at this vegan spot that offers a cauliflower shawarma.

A round container with falafel, pickles, hummus, purple cabbage, etc., with puffy pita on the side.
The magnificent falafel platter at Tamam.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Bigoi Venezia

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There are still plenty of budget-friendly pasta mills around, a fad that peaked late in the last century and lingered thereafter. These places encouraged you to pick a pasta and match it with a sauce. In a similar but simpler vein, Bigoi Venezia takes a single pasta — freshly made Venetian bigoi, tube-shaped spaghetti — and offers a choice of a dozen or so treatments, some particular to Venice, some not. Turkey sauce or peas, ham, and cream are two top contenders.

A plate of spaghetti with an olive-dotted red sauce.
Bigoi with puttanesca sauce.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Hello! Bangladesh

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Step up the the gleaming steam table and load up your square ceramic plate with any combo of the two dozen dishes displayed. Pay special attention to the ones called chicken roast (smothered in onions), beef kala bhuna (a very dark curry), and the daily assortment of bhortas (mustard-oil-laced vegetable purees). Then sit in the sunny dining room and eat with your fingers.

Two square plates loaded with colorful food selections.
Typical plates of steam table selections.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Tengri Tagh

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The location may come as a surprise — a full-blown, sit-down Uyghur restaurant only a dumpling’s throw from Macy’s in Midtown — but all the Uyghur classics are here, from steaming plates of dumplings, a wide variety of noodles, a plethora of lamb, and the classic big tray chicken (da pan ji), a spicy stew of chicken and potatoes served with wide noodles.

A plastic container of chicken and potatoes flecked with red bell peppers, with white broad noodles on the side.
The fabled big tray chicken.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Amazing Grace Restaurant

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A successor to neighborhood mainstay Krystal’s, Amazing Grace took over the same Little Manila space, offering a similar mix of Filipino standards that go from barbecued brochettes (the pig ear is splendidly chewy), to set lunch and dinner plates, to the omnibus breakfasts known as silogs. The one featuring smoked milkfish is a favorite, also including garlic rice, fried eggs, eggplant, and a fresh salsa of onions and tomatoes.

In the foreground on a white plate, a whole fish head and all browned from smoking, with an array of dishes around it.
A milkfish silog breakfast.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Harry Sweets & Snacks

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This modest spot just south of the Queens County Farm Museum concentrates on Mumbai-style street snacks and is strictly vegetarian. One favorite is bun chole, a small round roll stuffed with chickpeas, potatoes, and onions sweetened with tamarind sauce, very much like Trinidadian doubles. The menu also offers samosa chaats, vegetable curries, milk-based sweets, and snacks combining fried lentils, nuts, chips, and crunchy noodles.

A flatbread stuffed with chickpeas and potatoes,
Bun choley at Harry.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Asian Taste 86

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Little Jakarta is a small neighborhood centered at Whitney Avenue and Broadway in Elmhurst, with groceries and small cafes (a modest number of both to be sure) radiating from that corner. The name doesn’t suggest an Indonesian cafe, but it is, and a very good one. It specializes in full-plate combinations that may contain rice, a coconut-laced composed salad, shrimp chips, and a satay or two, all halal.

A square plate with a pink flower design with rice and satays.
A combination plate at Asian Taste 86.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Hamburger America

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The fruition of a decade-long series of films, TV shows, podcasts, and professorships from hamburger scholar, George Motz, this new spot in Soho channels the lunch counters of the past. Specimen regional burgers — currently in a smash burger vein — are offered, along with things like egg creams, french fries, icebox pies, and lemonade. For hamburger deniers, there are PBJs and especially good and inexpensive egg salad sandwiches.

A sandwich cut in half to show egg salad inside.
The egg salad may be regarded as a hamburger alternative.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Terra Thai

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This tiny cafe just south of Tompkins Square specializes in the street food of Bangkok with a limited menu of full meals that will make deciding what to eat easier. The best dish on the menu is basil chicken, with ground poultry cooked down to a rich mixture served with rice, a poached egg, and boiled sweet potato. For vegetarians, there’s a very nice pad Thai.

A black plastic carryout tray with a green chicken stir fry on one side, and rice with a poached egg and sweet potato on the other.
Basil chicken at Terra Thai.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Relax Restaurant

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Relax is a great place to relax, tucked away on a side street in the northeastern part of Greenpoint, and made to look like a cottage in a fairy tale. The inexpensive menu features Polish soups like borscht and tripe, a complete list of pierogis and blintzes, and such belt busting main courses as pork schnitzel and the hunters’ stew called bigos. Wash everything down with Polish beers.

A breaded cutlet on a yellow plate with two scoops of gravy covered potatoes.
The pork schnitzel is served with two scoops of mashed potatoes and your choice of two salads.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Little Myanmar

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Little Myanmar is quite simply the best Burmese restaurant the city has yet to see. The interior is bare bones and not particularly comfortable — though your ability to see into the kitchen is an advantage and a pleasure. The 100-item menu covers the vast sweep of the national cuisine, from the salads called athokes (try the tea-leaf version) to noodle soups, stir fries, and curries.

A metal wok of dark red meat curry on the bottom right, with a plate of rice and cup of soup on the upper left.
Goat curry comes with a bowl of lentil soup at Little Myanmar.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Ankara #3

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This halal Turkish restaurant is successor to the long-closed Bereket, a late night favorite of clubgoers. Lots of salads, dips, and kebabs at bargain prices, but my preferred choice is a doner kebab in Turkish bread (other breads include pitas and flatbread wraps). Three rotating cylinders of meat are available: lamb, chicken, and veal, each with its own attractions. It’s one of the few Turkish kebab joints in town that still serves lamb instead of a lamb-beef amalgam.

A sandwich heavily stacked with meat and vegetables.
A lamb doner sandwich on Turkish bread.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

S Wan Cafe

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The Lower East Side is home to many Hong Kong-styles cafes serving the hybrid Chinese-English cuisine called cha chaan tengs. S Wan is a charming walk-down spot offering a full range of breakfasts designated by letters that might includes fried eggs, waffles smeared with peanut butter, Spam, toast with butter and honey, and pork chops, in addition to lots of noodle soups and stir fries.

Waffles, eggs, and a pork chop.
Typical breakfast at
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Beijing Dumpling

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Hearty working-class Chinese fare at favorable prices is the forte of this bare-bones shop conveniently located on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills near the Kew Gardens subway station. Noodles, dumplings, and soups make up most of the menu, with Sichuan dumplings and dan dan noodles available in memorably good renditions.

A plate of noodles on an orange tray and another of dumpling dabbed with chile sauce.
Sichuan classics from a northern Chinese perspective.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Bakhtar Afghan Wali Baba Grill

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This Jamaica Estates Afghan restaurant offers kebabs of chicken, beef, and lamb in various combinations — and little else. The lamb chops, in particular, are superb, often cut to order from the rib cage (you can hear the saw thrumming in the kitchen), smeared with a reddish spice rub, and grilled to complete succulence. A few curries are also available, though as the attendant said, “We don’t have vegetables.”

A platter or dark rice, small metal bowl of curry, and reddish lamb chops heaped on another plate of rice.
Goat curry and grilled lamb chops.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Halal Diner

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A few doors down from a mosque, this chandeliered restaurant occupies a lively corner location that was previously a diner. This place upholds diner principals, filling out its menu with Afghan kebab platters as well as Bangladeshi and Indian dishes, plus pizza and excellent hamburgers. The platter shown here features yogurt-marinated chicken and beef kofta with pulao rice, Afghan bread, and salad, with several sauces.

Two meat sticks on brownish rice.
Platter #33 at Halal Diner.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Taqueria Al Pastor

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Sure, there are dozens of great, old-fashioned, mainly Pueblan taquerias within the borders of Bushwick, but this place opened early in 2020 with a zingier demeanor, including a brightly painted minibus on its exterior. The lure is a humongous rotating trompo of pineapple-marinated pork al pastor, sliced and deposited on a rustic corn tortilla. Cactus, chicken, and carne asada fillings are also available.

A man in a blue shirt with a long knife bends over a twirling vertical spit of meat.
The al pastor spit twirls at Taqueria Al Pastor.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Pera Ždera (Peter Eater)

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This small storefront in the wilds of Glendale specializes in Balkan bar food, an apparent branch of a place in Subotica, Serbia. It concentrates on grilled meats and pastries, the former including the skinless sausages cevapi and the burger-like pljeskavica, which comes on a round bun that may be dressed with kaymak (thick sour cream) and ajvar (a red pepper paste) — plus the usual onions, tomatoes, and lettuce. Burger lovers: Don’t miss it.

A burger in a mottled and irregular bun with some angry looking red sauce visible on the bottom half of the bun, lettuce, too.
Pljeskavica from Pera Ždera.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Benny’s Cuban Cafe

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This relative newcomer to the Fresh Pond scene offers a revival of the Cuban cuisine that was common in the city 50 years ago, but now less so. There’s a Cuban sandwich, of course, along with bacalao fritters, fully sided vaca frita, and some very solid black beans and white rice. Also, it’s a very nice place to hang for a cub of Cuban coffee on Ridgewood’s most iconic street.

A pressed sandwich oozing cheese, ham, and pickles.
The perfect Cuban sandwich at Benny’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Ali's Trinbago Roti Shop

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This decades-old Trinidad and Tobago roti shop was closed for a time and recently renovated, and you probably won’t be able to tell the differences as the line snakes out the door at lunchtime. The list of roti is expansive, but I still prefer the bone-in goat, chicken, and conch.

A black plastic container of chicken curry with a folded flatbread on the side.
A chicken roti with the flatbread on the side.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Mama Kitchen

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Mama Kitchen is a kosher Israeli restaurant that far exceeds expectations (everything except the composed salads are cooked to order) at a lower price than you might expect. Entrees include a full plate of food plus another plate from a salad bar with over a dozen selections. The Ashkenazic schnitzels are superb, but there are Sephardic North African tagines, too, and there’s no better place in Bed-Stuy for a falafel sandwich.

A browned irregular chicken cutlet on a mottled green plate sitting atop rice, with some reddish steamed veggies on the side.
A perfectly breaded chicken schnitzel at Mama Kitchen.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

New Park Pizza

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Open since 1956, New Park is one of Queens’ most cherished pizzerias, as a pit stop on the way to the beach or a drop-in during Saturday errands along the commercial strip of Cross Bay Boulevard. The pizzas come out hot and fast and oozing cheese, and lines form to buy slices (the line inside moves faster). Don’t go expecting to find anything but pizza and calzones, and what a scene!

Guys in red shirts and baseball caps baking a cutting pizza.
The busy scene inside New Park Pizza.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Culpepper’s

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Culpepper’s, opened in 1998 by Winston Lewis, is one of the city’s very small collection of Barbadian (Bajan) restaurants. Since the pandemic, it’s takeout only so make a plan where you want to eat the excellent island food. Often identified as the national dish, the cou cou and flying fish consists of a cornmeal porridge shot with okra and said fish. Jerk specialties and pastries are also available.

A corner storefront in shades of bright yellow and blue.
Culpepper’s bright blue awning.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Moe's Pastrami & Burger

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This descendant of David’s Brisket House in Bed-Stuy serves an expanded menu that also includes burgers, but stick with the three forms of brisket on a roll or on rye: pastrami, corned beef, and baked brisket, with the latter preferred, especially when doused with gravy. Sandwiches available in three sizes, which is an economic (and probably health-wise) boon.

A sandwich cut in half with gravy dribbling out.
The medium size brisket on rye with gravy is probably plenty of meat.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Dog Day Afternoon

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Specializing in Chicago-style hot dogs, Dog Day Afternoon is named after an Al Pacino movie about a bank robbery that was partly shot on the same block of Windsor Terrace. The hot dog boasts a couple of small innovations (New York style pickles, for example, and sweet miniature plum tomatoes), but otherwise the genre remains intact. Get a free bag of chips with every red hot, and the jambalaya’s not bad, either.

A hand holds two Chicago hot dogs, adorned with tomato, pickle, and sport peppers on a seeded bun.
Chicago dogs from Dog Day Afternoon.
Nat Belkov/Eater NY

New Asha

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Located a short bus ride straight uphill from the Staten Island Ferry, New Asha, founded in 1999, is a funky sort of place with excellent Sri Lankan food. A glass case displays heavy tubular fritters that are good for snacks, but why not sit and chow down on halal meats like mutton or jackfruit curries, poured over rice and served with yellow dal and a chopped vegetable salad.

The front of a storefront with a green awning that with the words “New Asha Srilankan Restaurant” in all capital yellow letters
New Asha is a Staten Island mainstay.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Al Aqsa Bakery & Restaurant

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At lower prices and with more of a lunch counter atmosphere, Al Aqsa specializes in pita or laffa sandwiches, tucked or rolled, respectively, and filled with chicken shawarma, falafel, or lamb shish kebab, slathered with a strong toum, a garlicky white sauce. Kufta, bread dips, lahmacun in several variations, and even schnitzels round out the menu.

You can see shreds of meat inside a flatbread tube dabbed with white sauce.
The mixed shawarma laffa at Al Aqsa.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Lahori Chilli

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This 24-hour West Midwood Pakistani cafe with a chile-pepper logo has it all, from snacks like samosas and stuffed breads that are great for rapid snacking to full meals that include meat and vegetarian dishes served with rice, bread, or both. Go for the ground meat kebabs, which absorb lots of smoke in the clay oven, or haleem, a delicious porridge of lamb, wheat, and lentils. The steam table offers many vegan dishes.

A steam table with bright yellow, orange, and brown dishes in metal tubs, with two headless figures standing behind.
Cast your eye on the steam table at Lahori.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Si n'shpi

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Occupying a former pizzeria in Midwood/Mapleton, and a rather grandly decorated one at that, Si n’shpi offers a Balkan menu of stuffed dough, beans and dried meat, and skinless sausages, plus the dish of stuffed veal called Skenderbeg that features a cutlet rolled around cream cheese and smoked beef. The pizzas remain on the menu, and they are quite good in themselves.

A rolled cutlet and dish of beans nd meat.
Typical Albanian dishes from Si n’shpi.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Roll N Roaster

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Open since the early 1970s, Roll N Roaster is the anchor of Sheepshead Bay’s restaurant row facing the bay. It specializes in roast beef sandwiches on kaiser rolls, the meat rich, moist, and deliciously rimmed with fat. Dip it in meat juices (small extra charge), or eat it plain. And don’t neglect the hot dogs, onion rings, clam strips, and turkey sandwiches, but ignore the imprecation to put “cheez” on everything.

A round roast beef sandwich on a small paper plate.
The iconic roast beef sandwich.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Little Georgia

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A stone’s throw from the beach, Little Georgia, is a convenience store in front and a bakery in back. It can get pretty crowded on weekends as patrons line up for multiple forms of khachapuri — often hot out of the oven — along with roast chicken, stout smoky sausages, and other beach-friendly tidbits. Lamb or chicken shawarma sandwiches of mind-boggling volume are a sideline.