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Best Cheap Eats in Central New York – Top 5

Just because you’re eating on a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t find some of the best dining experiences that Central New York has to offer.  I’ve compiled my list of the best cheap eats in and around Utica.

1-Best Downtown Cheap Eats:  Pizza Classic

Pizza Classic Utica
Eric Meier/TSM

I know you’ve heard the saying, you can’t throw a stone in Utica without hitting another pizzeria, but surprisingly, downtown is somewhat devoid of pizza.  There are thousands downtown office dwellers on Genesee Street and there is just one pizza place within walking distance and that’s Pizza Classic,  just south of Franklin Square.  The downtown location also makes it the pizzeria of choice for travelers staying downtown at the Hotel Utica or Radisson.  If you’ve not done so, check out downtown Cheap Eats destination.  Grab a slice or two with a soda or maybe some garlic knots and you’ve found downtown’s best Cheap Eats.  Check out the great food pictures posted at UpstateReview.com

2-Best Traditional Diner Cheap Eats:  Jeanette’s Luncheonette

Jeanette's Lunchette Utica
Eric Meier/TSM

Located in West Utica just off the Arterial at Lincoln and Noyes, Jeanette’s Luncheonette is the kind of neighborhood place you just don’t find anymore.  It is perhaps one of the smallest restaurants in Utica.  Just a block off the Arterial but barely room for a dozen diners inside.  If you are one of the lucky ones getting breakfast from Jeanette, grab a seat at the counter and get ready for a great, cheap breakfast along with conversation from the regulars that usually revolves around the politics of Utica.  Just make sure you’ve got time, cause Jeanette’s is not fast food.  Jeanette is your waitress, cook, busboy, dishwasher and cashier.

3-Best Cheap Eats for Hot Dogs-Voss

Voss milk bottle
via Facebook

A drive down Oriskany Boulevard in Yorkville on any day during the summer and you may have to swerve to avoid the mass of humanity standing in Voss’s asphalt parking lot.  The landmark building with the tall milk bottle on top serves up the best hot dogs and barbecue around as the long lines will testify.  The hot hogs arrive in perfectly grilled New England-style rolls.  Those initiated into the Voss experience know that when you order you’ll receive a small magnetic letter or number, the kind that stick to a small chalkboard that you might have used in kindergarten.  Wait for your letter to be called over the loud speaker and get ready for cheap eats bliss.  Dedicated fans have even created a fan appreciation page on Facebook.

4-Best Ethnic Cheap East:  Joel’s Spanish Food

Joel's Spanish Food Utica
Eric Meier/TSM

Wow, what can I say about Joel’s Spanish.  Utterly amazing.  The small restaurant in Utica’s Oneida Square neighborhood serves up the soul food of the Spanish Caribbean.  My hands-down favorite is the roast pork with beans and yellow rice-the pork is only available on Thursdays and Fridays.  But every day there are other great choices like roasted chicken and chicken or pork stew.  They also do a mouthwatering mofongo, a dish of mashed plantains mixed with garlic and pork cracklings.  You’ll want to carry out at Joel’s, because even though there are a few tables, the heat from the cooking makes the building unbearably hot.  With that being said, if I go too many weeks without Joel’s, severe withdrawal starts to set in. At $8 a for a large carry out of meat beans and rice, it’s an under $10 lunch that can’t be beat.

5-Best Ice Cream Cheap Eats:  Dave’s Diner

Dave's Diner Schuyler
Eric Meier/TSM

Dave’s Diner on Route 5 in Schuyler is known for their monster ice cream cones.  When you find a place where a baby-sized cone is the size of other shop’s larges and Dave’s large cone could feed Botswana, you know you’ve found someplace unique.  Lines can be very long on a summer night especially if they are holding one of their car shows.  While they feature lots of hard ice cream flavors, sundaes and just about anything you’d expect from an ice cream stand, the overwhelming choice of Dave’s customers seems to me to be the chocolate-vanilla soft serve twist cone.

So that’s my list.  But my stomach can only travel so far.  What are you top cheap eats in town?

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