Ever since I visited Japan for the first time a few years ago, I have been hooked on real Japanese food. I wanted more than just salmon teriyaki and California rolls. The problem is, most Japanese restaurants in NYC fall into one of two categories: wildly inauthentic, and extraordinarily delicious, but expensive. I, like most people, am not a millionaire, and often end up frequenting the former. Nevertheless, sometimes that kinda suspicious-looking sushi place on the corner just won’t cut it anymore.

Fortunately, it is getting increasingly easy to find authentic, affordable Japanese food in NYC, especially as more and more Japanese restaurant chains expand throughout the city. So for those of us who can’t afford a trip to Japan or blowing hundreds of dollars on a single meal, here are some of the best places to find quality Japanese food on a budget in New York City.


Ahh yes. The first thing that immediately comes to most of our minds when we think of Japanese food. Unfortunately, most people have had not-so-pleasant encounters with bad versions of this dish. I, for one, have suffered many a stomachache after giving in to the allure of sushi that was a little too cheap.

Additionally, many sushi joints tend to be a little heavy on the thick sauces and tempura crunch. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good spicy tuna crunch roll, but it isn’t the most authentic. Nevertheless, there are some places where you can get a delicious and affordable take on this ever-popular dish.


This no-frills hand roll bar is from the same people behind Sugarfish, the wildly popular sushi place from LA that has some of the best affordable omakase in NYC. The process here is fairly simple. Sit down, grab a piece of paper and pencil, and select a set menu, the cheapest of which gets you three hand rolls of your choice for only $13.

Location: Flatiron District


This restaurant specializes in Kyoto-style cuisine, especially Kyoto-style pressed sushi. Come here for their lunch special, where for only $12 you can get an entrée of the day, mini appetizer, miso soup, rice, and salad. Their dinner is more expensive, but even so, their menu tops out at $24. 

Locations: Cobble Hill, Long Island City


These places are great places to grab something authentic and affordable as they usually offer both Japanese takes on western pastries and some classic Japanese dishes as well.

Cafe Zaiya

This café offers a wide variety of inexpensive food items from Japanese-style baked goods, such as curry bread and mochi donuts, to prepared bento boxes to matcha soft serve. They have two locations, one of which is in the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya. This place is a great place to grab an affordable meal at any time of day.

Locations: Midtown East, Times Square, White Plains, Fort Lee, NJ


During the day, this place is a kissaten, the Japanese version of a western coffee shop, and it functions as a bar at night. During the day, they do some great takes on Japanese-style western food, a style of Japanese cuisine you don’t see that often here in America. My personal favorite here is their omurice, which is that Japanese omelet you’ve been seeing all over social media recently. Better yet, every dish here is under $15.

Location: East Village

Otafuku x Medetai

This place specializes in Japanese street food. Stop by for some takoyaki (balls of batter stuffed with octopus), okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes), or yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles). Or try all three for about twenty dollars. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, get their taiyaki. They are sweet fish-shaped cakes filled with creamy red bean paste or the more familiar filling of Nutella and banana.

Location: East Village

969 NYC Coffee

A café/mini mart located in Jackson Heights, this place is a great place to grab a quick bite. Go for their nigiri, or rice balls, that are shaped in a heart, and filled with a variety of fillings, from salmon to bacon and edamame. However, their standout dish is the sandwiches, which feature chicken cutlets or beef with vegetables and cheese between buns made of rice, all of which is wrapped in seaweed. Best of all, everything is either $8 or less. Additionally, the New York Times recently did a profile on this place, so you know their food is legit.

Location: Jackson Heights

Grocery Stores

Personally, I think these are the best ways to enjoy Japanese food on the cheap. In these stores, you can find a wide variety of Japanese food, all relatively inexpensive and of pretty good quality. And as an additional plus, you can pick up some packaged Japanese snacks or ingredients in case you want to try your hand at making Japanese food at home.


According to its website, this store is the oldest Japanese grocery store in the US, open since 1907. Today, it has two outposts, one near Grand Central and one near the 59th and Lexington subway station. The one near Grand Central is a little bigger, with a stand by Japanese import Omusubi Gonbei that's devoted just to rice balls. Grab some of their rice balls or some made to order ramen from the Brooklyn Ramen outposts in both their stores. 

Locations: Midtown East, Upper East Side

Sunrise Mart

Another mini chain of Japanese grocery stores, this store offers a huge selection of Japanese snacks, grocery items, and prepared foods. Their prepared food section includes everything from bento boxes to curry to rice balls to mochi. Their 41st street location is massive, with two levels, and the second floor provides a seating area for you to enjoy your delicious, freshly prepared Japanese food.

Locations: East Village, Soho, Midtown


Although these restaurants don't specify in a specific dish/type of dish, they are good place to get a delicious overview of Japanese cuisine. The sets at these places are the things to go for here, as you get an insane amount of high-quality, delicious food for pretty decent prices. 


A chain of restaurants that originally began in Japan, this Japanese import specialises in homestyle Japanese cooking. Their dinner can get a little expensive, so I would recommend sticking to coming here for lunch, when their lunch sets hover around $25. This price will get you a main dish, rice, miso soup, chawanmushi, or steamed egg custard, and pickles. Keep in mind, this is a non-tipping establishment, so gratuity is incorporated into the price. 

Locations: Times Square, Chelsea, Greenwich Village

Benton Cafe

This Financial District lunch spot offers ramen, sandwiches, pastries, bowls topped with raw fish, and rice balls. But their best deal is their bento box, where you can pick six of their hot dishes, meaning you can try all sorts of dishes, for around only $10.

Location: Midtown East, Financial District


This izakaya, or Japanese bar, may be tucked away in the basement of a nondescript office building in Midtown, but don’t be fooled. It offers some truly delicious food. Come here for lunch to try the set menus, which get you a substantial amount of food and top out at $23. The best deal here is the soba set menu, where for $12.50 you can get soba with a main dish, such as grilled fish or chirashi (raw fish over rice). Get here early though, as they only make 30 servings per day.

Location: Midtown East


The most affordable of the Japanese restaurants, especially the ramen places. In fact, some of the best ramen places in NYC are pretty affordable. These places started popping up everywhere in NYC a couple years ago, and for good reason—the Japanese really know their noodles.

Soba Ya

As the name suggests, this place specializes in soba noodles, a type of buckwheat noodle. Noodles here come with either a dipping sauce or in a broth. Get here early for the early bird special, which gets you assorted appetizers, tempura, a bowl of plain soba or udon noodles, inari (bean curd) sushi, and a scoop of ice cream, all for only $22.

Location: East Village

Naruto Ramen

This mini-chain of cash-only restaurants offers delicious and filling bowls of ramen and curry for around $10 per dish. Come here in the summer to try their tsukumen, or cold dipping noodles, or their special Naruto ramen.

Locations: Brooklyn, Upper West Side, Upper East Side

Mr. Taka Ramen

This ramen place is partly run by one of the chefs from Tokyo's top ramen restaurants, so you already know their food is going to be good. Everything here is $15 or less, and well worth it. Come here to try the yuzu shoyu ramen, a lighter ramen that is hard to find here in the US.

These restaurants are some of the best choices for anyone who wants to experience some high quality authentic Japanese food without ever leaving the city. Nevertheless, this list only offers a small glimpse into the dozens of Japanese food places in NYC's vibrant food scene. I hope this list will help you to go on your own Japanese food awakening, or, at the very least, find you a new place to try for dinner.