03/06/2012 05:00 pm ET Updated May 06, 2012

A Foodie Travel Guide To NYC: Where to Eat On Any Budget

Notorious as a hub for not only cultural activities but also foodie-ism gone rampant, the Big Apple's options are so vast, they could make even the most seasoned traveler run back to the airport. But fear not - we've come up with a handy guide on where to eat near all the big sights (plus some food-centric "sights" as well) that are perfect for your next big trip. Whether you're looking to splurge and paint the town "first class" or just sample some tasty grub on a "coach" budget, we've got you covered. "It's up to you. New York, New York."

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Before seeing a Broadway Show

First Class: Seafood lovers should skip over big-box options like Red Lobster and Bubba Gump in favor of Blue Fin in Times Square. Why? Three reasons: A) There's an ice bar where they make killer martinis. B) The food is consistently solid. C) You can get fresh-baked cookies to tote along to The Book of Mormon. Other strong options include Geoffrey Zakarian's Lambs Club inside the Chatwal Hotel, Julian Medina's Toloache and pasta house, Orso.

Coach: Not the least expensive choice in the 'hood, but the pasta menu at Becco is possibly one of the best deals in the city. All-you-can eat pasta (there are three nightly selections and you're not obligated to stick with just one) for $22.95 per person, it's a tough reservation to get so call ahead.

The Glass House Tavern is a more casual restaurant with crab cakes that rival some of the city's best. Or head to Qi Bangkok, a 42nd Street restaurant where you can get your hands on Thai creations by chef Pichet Ong for less than $20, in portions that are absolutely shareable. A word to the wise, get the prawns.

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Pig Out on Pizza

First Class: There's New York pizza, and then there's New York Neapolitan-style pizza. That is, Italian pizza imported and re-tooled for the New York masses. For a taste of Naples, head to newbie Hells Kitchen spot, Don Antonio by Starita, known for its deep-fried Montanara pies. Donatella Arpaia is as known for her guest spots on the Food Network as she is for her golden pizza oven at Donatella in Chelsea. Or head out to Roberta's in Brooklyn for a pizza experience unlike any other in the country.

Coach: Head to Keste in Greenwich Village for an affordable and well-made Neapolitan pie (but get there early to avoid a wait.) For that classic and cheapie NYC pizza experience, visit divey John's Pizzeria down in the Village. But it's Rubirosa that makes our hearts pump pizza sauce. The vodka pie is a must-order: classic vodka sauce atop a thin crust with melted mozzarella that blurs the line between cheese and sauce. 

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Tour Grand Central Station

First Class: Calling all fans of the movie Hugo, history buffs, and architecture freaks: a tour of Grand Central Station should be at the top of your to-do list. While you're at it, throw a bite at the train station into your itinerary. The Grand Central Oyster Bar is as not only historic, but offers a delicious dining experience. Throw back a few bivalves, indulge in a pan roast or clam chowder and relax at the seafood counter for a few.

Coach: A meal at the Oyster Bar will set you back a few clams, so either go for just a snack or mini-meal, or opt for something that won't break the bank. Head to the food court for some pretty excellent bites from a dozen vendors dishing out everything from barbecue to Mexican, cupcakes to donuts in fun, boozy flavors created by Top Chef Dessert's Zac Young at Flex Donuts. Joe makes an excellent cup of coffee and the market upstairs offers takeaways including Murray's Cheese, a citywide favorite curd purveyor.

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Take a Food Tour

First Class: The bevy of top-notch restaurants makes Manhattan a valid playing ground for star collecting. Hop from Eleven Madison Park for lunch (nothing beats the light flooded dining room in the afternoon) to "happy hour" at the lounge at Le Bernardin and off to Daniel for a tidy four-course meal. Our our editors' personal favorite, hit up the Ace Hotel and have a double dinner at both The John Dory Oyster Bar and The Breslin. Then sleep and start all over again.

Coach: There are tons of organized walking and bus tours from the infamous Sex and the City-themed to ones focused on a specific food (pizza), cuisine (Chinese), or neighborhood (Lower East Side). Rum & Blackbird, a tasting tour of Hell's Kitchen is a steal at $49. Foods of New York Tours is a good spot to start for a wide selection. Also check out Jeffrey Tastes 5 Boro Pizza Tour.

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Visit the Statue of Liberty

First Class: A visit to the Statue of Liberty is fun, but walking around with a foam crown on can really work up a hunger. Fortunately, there are a few pretty posh options in the neighborhood. Walk down Wall Street to grab a steak at Delmonico's, a steakhouse as well known for its gorgeous architecture as it is for its meat. Or check out Wall & Water in the Andaz Wall Street Hotel for a swanky bite. Head to the historic Fraunces Tavern, one of the first known restaurants in the city and one that recently re-opened after a fresh coat of paint. Danny Meyer and Floyd Cardoz's (Top Chef Masters) newest, North End Grill, is a brisk walk from where the ferry lets off but is worth it for some noteworthy American cuisine.

Coach: If you're looking to walk up toward's Battery Park and the World Trade Center but don't want to blow the bank with a meal at North End Grill you're in luck, there's a much less expensive place to get Mr. Meyer's food. Shake Shack may be even more well known than Union Square Hospitality's upscale spots and is sometimes even more satisfying. Get a Shackburger (with pickles), fries and a shake, then head a few blocks over to the World Trade Center Memorial.

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Eye the Art at a Museum

First Class: There are many art museums in upper Manhattan and a trip to one is a popular activity. Fortunately, museum food has also gotten pretty haute. Danny Meyer has a stronghold not only on the burger and downtown restaurant scenes but also in the museum dining world. A duo of restaurants, Untitled at the Whitney and The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, work as restaurants-cum-art exhibits and also serve excellent food. Also check out Má Pêche nearby for a unique spin on French/Vietnamese food from the Momofuku folks.

Coach: All of these museums have standard cafeteria style eatery's in addition to their high-end cousins but step outside for better bites. Parked right near the Metropolitan Museum you'll find a Sigmund's Pretzel Shop cart; 100 times better than you're standard dirty dog or stale salty pretzel. Right by the Natural History Museum is Gazala's Place, a Druze restaurant with affordable eats, as well as another Shake Shack. Just a hop skip and jump from MoMA you'll find the famous Carnegie Deli, a perfect place to procure towering meat sandwiches.

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Go to the top of the Empire State Building

First Class: The Empire State Building is a mind-blowing experience but back on the ground you may be at a loss for dining options (blame it on the elevation). Head over to The Cannibal to chow on meaty dishes and sample rare craft beers. Or try Artisanal for Terrence Brennan's cheesy take on a brasserie. There you can partake in a fondue for two or a cheese and wine paired flight. A few blocks up is Ai Fiori, a Michael White restaurant with an elegant atmosphere and brilliant Italian food. The two-course lunch runs $38 dollars, a relative steal for this level of food.

Coach: For bargain bites in this neighborhood, all you need to know is Koreatown. Grab a table at a Korean Barbecue restaurant like Madangsui on 35th Street or Kang Suh on 32nd, to cook your meat tableside and dig into some kimchi pancakes and bibimbap. BonChon offers fried chicken that's extremely crunchy and moist, and made either spicy or dipped in a sweet sauce. Dumplings can be had at the Mandoo Bar and sweets from Koryodang. Then down a few drinks at the rooftop of the La Quinta Inn which boasts views of the entire neighborhood, including the Empire State Building. Warning: don't have too much liquid, there's only one bathroom.

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Photo: kawanet/Flickr