Holiday Gift Guide
Hotdog vendor walking his cart home in the middle of West Broadway. God, I love this city.

$100/5 Days/NYC/Tourist
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Unless you're an insider, it really is hard to know where to go for cheap food in NYC. When I first started this series I had hoped it would be all about finding cheap food in whatever neighborhood I was in, without being overly calculating and having mapped it out beforehand. It may sound naive, but I wanted simply to be able to walk into a place and be able to get good food at an affordable price- anywhere.

My conclusion is that it's just not possible. In the last few days I have walked in and out of several places totally empty-handed, because it was too expensive: a can of seltzer on the Upper West Side seems to be obsolete (what is up with all the fancypants newstands encased in glass?? A bottle of water for $2? Fuck you!); Korean fried chicken for $15 a plate; and I could not find a bottle of wine under $10 in Fort Greene to save my life.

Yesterday ended up being another day full of suprises and plan changes. When you're a visitor, you've gotta just roll with it and let others guide you.

Went out to lunch with the bride-to-be Ayagwa, and ended up at my favorite Midtown East lunch joint, Shih Lee. I wrote about it for Midtown Lunch a while back- it's the best. During lunch it's a pick-n-choose your meal kinda place with some seriously delicious Chinese food. I felt really nostalgic coming back here, as it was my #1 lunch of choice when I worked in this neighborhood.

Rice and two sides, and a can of seltzer (the one I've been looking for!) for $8.25. In this part of town, that's a steal. Took our lunches back to my old work to eat with the gang. Yamahomo made these chicken meatballs that were AWESOME!! Forgot to take a pic of that (sorry!) but here's my half-eaten Shih Lee lunch. It was a bit cold, but I still think it's the best General Tso's Chicken in town.

In another serendipitous turn of events, my friends Marc and Jen had invited me over for dinner. We were originally going to go out for Malaysian in Chinatown (which would have been cheap but may have blown my budget), but Marc got super sick and could not eat hard foods. Yikes!!! So to make life easiest, we planned on dinner at their place. Yay for $100/5 days!

Had some time to kill in Brooklyn so headed to Fort Greene where I wanted to go to BAM to see my friend Troy. I had remembered this bacon-infused bourbon I wanted to try at Smoke Joint, so headed there. The hardest thing about $100/5 days/Tourist is that you have little time, and often convenience will win over the said budget. I was in a part of town where I knew I wouldn't get to again, so I would have definitely had the cocktail. But alas, it was before 5pm, and thank god it was closed, or that would have definitely blown my budget, for real. Some things are just meant to be.

Walked into a popular wine shop, The Greene Grape, in the neighborhood to pick up a bottle to bring to dinner. There was absolutely nothing under $10, only a few under $15. No way, Jose. Sorry!

So just headed to Marc and Jen's neighborhood and walked in and out of liquor stores in Tribeca. I got a BV Pinot Noir for $6.99. Irony is that I found the cheapest stuff in the more run-down nondescript liqour shops. Forget the fancier wine shops, they are seriously too pricey. I guess we pay for the high-overhead and newly painted white walls?

Walked by the newish Bon Chon Korean fried chicken place on Chambers (it used to be called "BonBon" Chicken- so strange). I wanted to try it, but refrained... it's like $15 for a plate of it. Ugh.

Sara asked me yesterday if I've been starving during $100/5 days, and up until this point, I hadn't been. But the fact that I didn't get any fried chicken made me sad, which in turn made me really hungry. It's funny cause I know I was gonna blow all my cash on that bacon cocktail, but refused to get the chicken when I was actually hungry. Where is the logic in that???

Got to Marc and Jen's, where she prepared an amazing meal for us full of what she called "leftovers". Pot roast, souffle, miso soup and a bulgher wheat/feta concoction. We had gone to Whole Foods where she picked up some asparagus and an endive for an amazing salad with oranges and a kalamata olive dressing.

Thank you Marc and Jen for such a lovely dinner!!! It was great to see you both!

DAY 4 TOTAL (including tax & tip):

Shih Lee lunch - $8.25
Bottle of wine- $7.50

Day 1 Total: $31.48
Day 2 Total: $31
Day 3 Total: $15

Money left for last day: $6.77

Wow, I can't believe I made it to Day 5 with money to spare. Ayagwa and Tmonkey get married today!!!! Waaaaa!!!!!