What kind of a meal can $5 buy you anywhere in the world? While it's no struggle to find expensive restaurants the world over, finding a great, delicious deal is often much harder — but worth the trouble. So we took a look at what $5 fetches in 11 cities around the world, and the results might surprise you.
Going in, we assumed that there may be cities in which $5 fetched less than half a french fry. But as it turns out, even some of the world's richest, priciest places can offer a great deal to the careful traveler.
Naturally, a lot of street food — from spicy, crisp falafels to marinated, juicy kebabs — made our list. But we were pleasantly astonished that there are some great sit-down joints at which you can score a delicious under-$5 meal, too.
Dubai is one of those cities in which it is easier to spend money than do practically anything else. The place is overflowing with incredibly lush restaurants like Al Mahara — a golden-hued establishment that features a gigantic aquarium in the dining room's center and requires semi-formal attire — that run about $300 a head and offer luxe menu items like Alaskan King Crab and Foie Gras Ravioli.
You might reasonably think that $5 buys about half a French fry in all of Dubai — but there are actually some great deals to be had in the city, too. Admittedly, these deals are for simpler tastes — and come without the aquarium, extended formal garden, or private beach you're sure to find at the ritziest spots.
A small, unassuming — but very well-reviewed — local Indian joint, Ravi Restaurant, for instance, offers a delicious chicken biryani or mutton kadai for 14 dirhams – the equivalent of $3.81.
Dining in the city of Jerusalem is generally considered comparable, in terms of price, to major cities in the United States. Entrees at a fairly upscale Modern Israeli restaurant like Angelica — considered one of the best restaurants in Israel — are in the $25 range.
There are some great deals in town, though, and we spoke with poet Jacob Newberry, who recently spent a year in Israel on a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing, to see what $5 can get the hungry traveler in Israel.
If you want a good, cheap sit-down restaurant, though? “I enjoyed a restaurant that specialized in soup — Hamarakia — which was awesome. It's vegetarian and a bowl of soup on its own us in the $5 range, although a full meal with bread and a drink costs more — but it’s super delish!”
$5 New York:
While the city has no shortage of establishments at which you can spend a month's salary on a dinner, there are some surprisingly inexpensive options in Gotham. At Prosperity Dumpling in the Lower East Side, for instance, one order of dumplings will cost you $1 — and you can take home 125 frozen ones for $24.
For $3.50, try one of the best tacos on the east coast at Taco Mix in East Harlem. Bo Ky in Nolita offers delicious $5.50 "Cambodian noodles," but don’t be fooled — they’re really Chinese. And for $5 exactly, Lam Zhou in Chinatown will sell you a delicious combination of noodles, beef broth, steak slices, and bok choy.
London is identified as the most expensive city in the world: the cost of living puts other famously pricey places like New York and Paris to shame.The exchange rate is also not kind to the American dollar: the British Pound Sterling is the equivalent of about $1.67.
So if you’re trying to eat on the cheap side while on a trip to the U.K., expect that five dollars won't go nearly as far as you might like. Lonely Planet notes that “A good meal for two with wine is usually around the £80 to £100 mark,” but acknowledges that you can find cheaper fare at some market stalls.
At the Lamb and Flag, a standard-fare London pub that Charles Dickens used to haunt, a normal lunch runs about ten quid for items like shepherd’s pie and hamburgers. This is quite reasonable in London, but given that it translates to about $17, eating out in the U.K. is hardly cheap on the wallet.
Even at Poppies Chip Shop in London (a classic take-away fried fish joint), just the chips — fries to the American ear — will run you about £3.29: we're just at the sides and already over $5.
While the City of Love is not known for its inexpensive dining options, there are some great choices for the thrifty diner: a bevy of Vietnamese places offer banh mi sandwiches, a gorgeous fusion of South Asian flavors and classic French cuisine: one version includes braised pork belly, shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, a spicy vinegar-based sauce, and fresh cilantro on perfect, crusty baguette. Saigon Sandwich, for instance, offers several banh mi options for a scant €3, or about $4.11
$5 Dublin, Ireland:
Dublin is not cheapest travel option in the world — but $5 can still score you some delicious eats. While you’ll probably pay $11-20 for an average meal, you can score a taste of chunky, hand-cut chips from the most famous chipper in the capital for less than half that: Leo Burdock's.
$5 Nizhnyi Novgorod, Russia:
To navigate what $5 will buy you in the third largest city in Russia, we asked Nizhnyi Novgorod native, travel writer, and Women's Travel Fest organizer Masha Vapnitchnaia what some of the most remarkable $5 items are in her hometown.
“$5 could buy you a full, three-course business lunch at Beerloga tavern, which offers different daily specials. One example on their menu: salad Olivier, chicken dumpling soup, and homemade mini meatloaf with buckwheat kasha, followed by tea.” Granted, the same restaurant’s regular dinners fall more into the $10-15 range.
$5 Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
One traditional item to try: a Cambodian Amok fish curry, scented with lemongrass, kefir lime leaves, and a thick coconut cream laced with galangal and turmeric on a bed of rice. Served at almost all restaurants in the capital, Masha recommends trying one of the small riverfront cafés for a great $5 deal.
$5 Tallinn, Estonia:
Tallinn, Estonia isn’t nearly as expensive as its neighbor across the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki, but you won’t be eating like a king for $5 here either. We checked with regular The Daily Meal contributor Abbey Kos, who recently visited Tallinn, for her favorite $5 recommendations.
There are some mid-range restaurants in Tallinn where you can find a small meal for the $5 range. A soup, cheese, or dumplings can run you about $5 at Hell Hunt, for instance.
One of the largest cities in the world, Mumbai offers dining options that range from the impossibly elegant — such as San-Qi at the Mumbai Four Seasons — to some of the most fantastically flavorful street food in the world. Shiv Sagar is famous for its pav bhaji — a delicious, tomato-based dish of fresh vegetables, served with warm bread.
None of the great options on the menu for Samrat — a vegetarian-only restaurant that receives great reviews, from paneer palak to malai kofta — are above $5.
$5 Buenos Aires:
While it’s not nearly as cheap as it used to be back in the day — something you’ll hear Argentinian expats complain about with some regularity — it’s also not as expensive as it was a year ago. Cheaper establishments like Club Eros won’t cost you more than $5 per menu item, including classic dishes like steak and fries.