Finding cheap, tasty food is always a struggle in New York City, especially on the Upper East Side. It often feels like most of your options fall into two categories: outrageously delicious and expensive, or kinda sketchy and mediocre. Fortunately, after living on the Upper East Side for over four years and lots of extensive "research," I have found that delicious and inexpensive places to eat on the Upper East Side do exist. Here are some of my personal favorite places to eat on the Upper East Side that won't break the bank. 

1. Xi'an Famous Foods

Like the name suggests, this mini-chain specializes in food from the Xian region of China. This means a lot of spicy, hand-pulled noodles and the Chinese version of burgers, which is stewed or sautéed meat sandwiched between two flatbread-like buns. I'd definitely recommend getting their stewed pork burger, which combines crispy (but never soggy) flatbread with juicy, tender pork belly. 

Their spicy cumin lamb noodles are also a must-try, combining chewy noodles with tender lamb that, be warned, is very spicy. Their noodles range from $6-12, and their burgers from $4-5, which is a bit more expensive than your average bowl of Chinese noodles, but pretty good for the Upper East Side. 

2. PQR

This pizza place specializes in pizza al taglio, which is traditionally made with bread dough. This makes the pizza much lighter and fluffier than the traditional New York slice. My favorite is the prosciutto, fig, burrata, and balsamic pizza. The rich cheese, crisp dough, smoky prosciutto, and sweet figs create a perfect combination of textures and flavors. One slice is $4-9, depending on the toppings, and one of their slices is enough for a meal. 

3. Marinara Pizza

This pizzeria combines two of my favorite things in restaurants: Instagrammable interiors and delicious food. Come here for their square slices, especially their MVP style slices, which are topped with vodka, tomato, and pesto sauces. The trio of sauces combined with a thin, crispy crust creates a unique slice that you'll be dreaming about for days. Their slices, which range from $3-6, are pretty filling, so 1-2 slices should be sufficient, depending on how hungry you are. 

4. Naruto Ramen

Perfect for a chilly day, this ramen place will make you feel like you've been transported right to Tokyo. Their broths are on the lighter side, and go really well with their dense, chewy noodles, ensuring that you won't feel too weighed down after your meal. Another plus is that they have great service, so this is a good option for when you want to grab a quick sit-down meal. Also, they have an open kitchen, so you get to see the chefs at work, which is something I always find to be pretty cool. One bowl of ramen ranges from about $9-11, but they serve pretty large portions. Bonus: if you come at lunch, you can get an appetizer and bowl of ramen for the same price as one bowl of ramen at any other time of day. 

5. Two Little Red Hens

This bakery has some of the best baked goods around. You should definitely try their red velvet and banana cupcakes, which manage to strike just the right frosting to cake ratio. The thick, sugary cream cheese frosting perfectly balances the dense, melt-in-your-mouth cake. Don't sleep on their other baked goods though, especially their chocolate crinkle cookie, which is crisp on the outside but soft, gooey and chocolatey on the inside. Plus they have mini cupcakes for about $1.50, perfect for sampling multiple flavors, and their cookies are only $1.50 each. 

6. Oaxaca Taqueria

This tiny taco shop is perfect for when you want to get a quick bite. Come here for their combo meal, where you can get any three tacos and a side of rice and beans for only $11.95. Although everything here is tasty, I especially like their special Korean taco, which combines tender, spicy pulled beef tenderloin with a crisp, sweet mango-pear slaw for an ideal mix of textures and flavors. 

7. Schaller’s Stube

From the owner of the butcher shop next door, this counter combines unique takes on sausages with classic German dishes—a throwback to when the area was mostly German. Of course, the classic wurst with crunchy sauerkraut and slightly spicy mustard is a must. This dish will make you feel exactly like you're in Berlin. And also, don't forget to pick up a soft German pretzel while you're here. Prices for sausages range from $8-15, while sides like pretzels are all $3.

8. Sashimi Express

This barebones sushi shop does not look like much, but it is actually one of my favorite secret places to get cheap, but high-quality sushi. For only $9.50, you can get three very filling and delicious rolls of your choice. Plus, if you are in the mood for something a little sweeter, they also serve bubble tea. 

9. Papaya King

One of the most iconic places to get hot dogs in NYC, this standing-only restaurant is a great place to grab a cheap and quick bite while people-watching. Their grilled hot dogs have a nice snap and go really well with the soft hot dog bun. They are incomparable to the ones you find on every street corner. With the $6.50 original combo, you get two hot dogs with sauerkraut, onions, or relish, and a 16 oz. drink (the perfect opportunity to get one of their tropical drinks).

10. Au Jus

This tiny hole-in-the-wall specializes in some of the most flavorful and tender roasted meats I've ever eaten. Come here for lunch, where for $7.95 you can get either a soup and sandwich with a drink, a sandwich special, or my favorite, a 1/4 roast chicken with fluffy sage raisin stuffing, and creamy, crunchy coleslaw. 

While the Upper East Side may not be the trendiest neighborhood on the NYC food scene, I hope you were able to get a feel for just how charming a cheap, on-the-go, and most importantly, tasty meal from my side of the city can be.