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Inflation hit restaurants hard, with menu prices rising 7.1% over the past 12 months. While that’s lower than previous increases, consumers are still feeling the squeeze at restaurants across Arizona. The easiest way to avoid those eyebrow-raising prices? Stay home. But for foodies and other fans of The Grand Canyon State’s dining scene, you might have to trade down to more affordable eateries. To take the guesswork out of searching for new, affordable restaurants, we’ve put together a list of the state’s best cheap eats.

Best Cheap Eats in Phoenix

Although Phoenix is Arizona’s most populous city, it isn’t the most expensive — not by a longshot. And so, the Valley of the Sun’s culinary scene benefits from a large, diverse population without those shocking big city prices. The Fry Bread House, an affordable James Beard Award-winning restaurant that easily made our list, is emblematic of what the city has to offer.

Phoenix skyline and cactusPhoto credit: Davel5957/istockphoto

Chino Bandido: Fusion Food at Its Best

  • Address: 310 W. Bell Rd.

  • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Phone: 602-375-3639

  • Website:

It’s not unusual to order a bowl with egg foo young, jerk chicken, and refried beans at Chino Bandito. That’s because this long-running Phoenix institution takes fusion to the extreme, combining Chinese, Mexican, and Jamaican cuisine. While the $10 rice bowls are the main attraction, the mastermind behind the operation, owner Eve Collins, also offers cheap sides and affordable $4 burritos and quesadillas. In other words, Chino Bandito’s is every college student and stoner’s dream: flavorful, cheap comfort food with a compelling twist.

The Beach House: Home of the $6 Burrito

  • Address: 501 E. Camelback Rd.

  • Hours: Monday – Thursday: 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday – Saturday: 10: 30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Phone: 602-277-0399

  • Website:

Even at counter-service and takeout spots, spending $10 or less on a meal these days feels impossible. First, you’re hit with those inflated menu prices, and then, you’re presented with that dreaded tipping screen. But The Beach House bucks both trends. At the cash-only taco and burrito stand in central Phoenix, you can eat a burrito with meat for just $6. And if you order three loaded tacos topped with beans, slaw, meat, cheese, and pico, you’ll pay the same — $6 for a complete meal. Sure, eating a taco with mango habanero sauce and pico de gallo might not be authentic. But it’s cheap, tasty, wholesome food — and that’s enough for us.

Los Reyes De La Torta: The Best Torta in the City

  • Address: 9230 N. 7 St.

  • Hours: Daily: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Phone: 602-870-2967

  • Website:

This North Phoenix spot lives up to its name, with The Infatuation crowning its torta as the best in the city. They’re also huge and (relatively) cheap, starting at $8 for a ham and cheese sandwich topped with tomato, avocado, caramelized onions, and jalapenos. But if that sounds boring, don’t worry: Los Reyes has 14 different types of torta in addition to a long list of tacos, burros, salads, burgers, and more. With ham, pork sirloin, breaded beef, and a sausage-chorizo omelet all packed into one cheesy, sauce-drenched sandwich, the $14 Del Rey torta is the fan favorite that keeps locals coming back for more.

Los Reyes De La Torta Phoenix, ArizonaPhoto credit: Arlene Z./Yelp

The Original Carolina's Mexican Food: Low Prices and Homemade Tortillas

  • Address: 4545 N. 7 Ave.

  • Hours: Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday: 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

  • Phone: 602-275-8231

  • Website:

With four locations across Arizona, Carolina’s Mexican Food isn’t exactly a Phoenix-specific restaurant. But whichever location you frequent, you’ll be surprised by this long-running chain’s fluffy homemade flour tortillas and cheap tacos, enchiladas, and tamales. For an economical meal, we recommend ordering one of Carolina’s burros, as they’re all $7 or less.

The Fry Bread House: A James Beard Award-Winning Legend

  • Address: 4545 N. 7 Ave.

  • Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Phone: 602-351-2345

  • Website:

This James Beard Award-winning restaurant takes a fixture of indigenous cuisine, fry bread, and makes unforgettable tacos, burritos, and stews at affordable prices. Cecelia Miller, a Tohono O’odham woman, started the now-famous Phoenix restaurant in a small, two-room building in a strip mall in 1992. Her goal? To provide indigenous people in Arizona a place where they could enjoy home cooking. Although Miller died in 2020, her restaurant — and its puffy, crispy, mouthwatering fry bread — continues her legacy.

The Fry Bread House in Phoenix, ArizonaPhoto credit: Austin B./Yelp

Stumpy’s Pizza & Subs: Big Pies, Low Prices

  • Address: 1331 E. Northern Ave.

  • Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Phone: 602-997-2727

  • Website:

Pizza is an affordable dining mainstay. But rather than settling for a mediocre pie from somewhere like Little Caesar’s, we encourage Phoenix residents (and visitors) to visit Stumpy’s. The family-owned restaurant sells 16-inch pizzas — enough to feed a family of four — for as low as $17.50, meaning that you can have an affordable meal for picky eaters for just a few bucks per person. Subs, which are similarly large and come with plenty of fixing, will set you back around $12.

The Joy Bus Diner: Eat (on the Cheap) for a Good Cause

  • Address: 3375 E. Shea Blvd

  • Hours: Thursday – Sunday: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

  • Phone: 602-595-5884

  • Website:

Not only does The Joy Bus Diner serve up farm-fresh, made-to-order meals, but it’s also a nonprofit that serves free meals to cancer patients across the Phoenix metropolitan area. The restaurant’s menu is in part tailored to people with cancer, focusing on easily digestible proteins like eggs and crafting healthy meals that have been approved by a naturopathic oncologist. Despite all the thought and premium ingredients that go into each dish, prices remain low, too, with most entrees hovering around $10.

Poppy Seed Pancake from the Joy Bus Diner in ArizonaPhoto credit: Yael R./Yelp

Super Cheap Eats in Mesa

With more than 40,000 students and 10 colleges in the Mesa area, cheap restaurants abound. Our favorites include a Vietnamese sandwich shop that sells banh mi-style subs for $6, a Mediterranean joint that offers free baklava with every meal, and a trendy (but affordable) empanada  spot in the city’s downtown Southside Heights neighborhood.

Mesa, ArizonaPhoto credit: DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

Green Corner: Bang for Your Buck Mediterranean Food

  • Address: 1010 W. Southern Ave #7

  • Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • Phone: 480-835-2313

  • Website:

Budget-conscious foodies can’t really go wrong with Green Corner’s mixed bag of Mediterranean fare. Either you order a plate — huge, filling platters that come with Greek salad, rice, and pita bread — or you go for a smaller but more affordable sandwich. Even the salads, which start at $4.99, will fill you up, reviewers say. Oh, and to sweeten the deal, Green Corner includes free baklava with every meal.

Republica Empanada: Savory and Sweet Empanadas

  • Address: 204 E. 1 Ave. 

  • Hours: Monday – Thursday: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Phone: 480-969-1343

  • Website:

You’ll have to be strategic if you want to eat at Republica Empanada without getting robbed, because the platters, while large, can cost you up to $18. The better option is to stick to the basics and order one (or a few) of the empanadas, which start at $4.75. While the most popular pastries are savory — bean and cheese and pernil (pork) are hits — Republica also has something for sweet tooths, offering eight different dessert empanadas.

Mekong Sandwiches: Banh Mi on a Budget 

Fans of Mekong rave that its banh mi-style sandwiches are among the best they’ve ever had. Reviewers insist that the bread is satisfyingly crunchy and crisp — a must for a good banh mi — and that the meat is tender. It helps that most of the Vietnamese subs, from sardine and steamed pork to ham and tofu, cost just $6.45. Budget-conscious diners also have the option to order a combo meal, adding a smoothie, flavored tea, or coffee for just a few extra bones.

Grilled Beef Banh-Mi from Mekong Sandwiches ArizonaPhoto credit: Victor H./Yelp

Tempe’s Thrifty Bites

Like Mesa, Tempe is a college town; it’s home to Arizona State University’s main campus. Both of our Tempe picks are just minutes from the college, making them obvious choices for broke college students who want a break from eating ramen and beans. That said, anyone on a budget will appreciate our selections that boast cheap eats that are far more interesting than some run-of-the-mill fast food chain.

Downtown Tempe ArizonaPhoto credit: JeffreyRasmussen/istockphoto

Curry Corner: A Favorite With Cash-Strapped Students

Located right next to Arizona State University’s campus, this casual curry joint is a favorite with cash-strapped college students. Curry Corner fully embraces the reputation, informing customers on its website that its motto is “inexpensive excellence.” Huge curries start at $12, and the menu is so vast that you’re bound to find something that you like. Guy Fieri, who visited this eatery back in 2006 for “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," recommends the tandoori chicken tikka and the goat karahi.

Haji-Baba: ‘One of the True Wonders’ of Tempe

Down the street from Curry Corner, you’ll find Haji-Baba in what looks like another forgettable beige strip mall. And, to be quite honest, this Middle Eastern grocery store and restaurant doesn’t look like much from the inside either. But the food … it’s some of the best in the city. The Phoenix New Times called the $7.99 lamb tongue sandwich “one of the true wonders of Tempe eating.” Other standouts are similarly affordable, with sandwiches being the most economical option on the menu. There’s even something for vegetarians: a $5.49 falafel sandwich.

Haji-Baba Tempe, ArizonaPhoto credit: Rochelle M./Yelp

Super Cheap Scottsdale Eateries

The jewel in the crown of Scottsdale’s affordable dining scene is a classic sandwich joint that’s been around since the late 1970s. But cheapskates don’t have to limit themselves to hoagies, as we also recommend a local Thai restaurant’s head-turning $11 lunch special that includes two sides.

Aerial View of Malls and Arizona Canal in Downtown Scottsdale, ArizonaPhoto credit: halbergman/istockphoto

Thai House: Nutritious, Fresh, and Affordable

  • Address: 15577 N. Hayden Rd. #105

  • Hours: Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Phone: 480-607-2214

  • Website:

While Thai House isn’t the cheapest location on our list, locals say that it offers a good bang for your buck given how fresh and nutritious the food is. And if you dine here on a weekday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., you can order the $10.95 lunch special, which comes with a main and two sides of your choice. Thai House also has locations in Scottsdale’s Shea neighborhood and Mesa, Arizona.

Casella's Italian Delicatessen: A No-Frills Hoagie Joint

Casella’s is a straightforward, old-school hoagie joint that will charm diners who don’t mind paying with cash and ordering from a whiteboard menu. The sandwiches might not be as cheap as when this eatery opened in 1977, but with offerings as low as $10, you can still fill up without breaking the bank. Highlights from this humble, family-owned restaurant include the $11.25 Italian hoagie, the $11.15 pizza hoagie, and the $11.15 meatball sandwich.

Casella's Italian Deli in Scottsdale, ArizonaPhoto credit: Heidi M./Yelp

Tucson's Budget-Friendly Delights

With two diners on our list, breakfast lovers will feel at home in Tucson, where old-school haunts serve homemade pies and huge pancakes. There’s plenty of cheap, savory fare, too, including another James Beard Award-winning eatery that won’t break the bank.

Downtown Tucson, ArizonaPhoto credit: DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

Bobo’s Restaurant: An Old-School Diner With Huge Portions

Leave it to an old-school diner like Bobo’s to serve breakfast classics like blueberry pancakes and fried eggs on the cheap. And as you might expect from an American diner, the portions are enormous, with the thick pancakes creeping over the edges of the plate. (Unless you’re famished, one is enough — trust us.) But the real draw, critics say, is Bobo’s collection of omelets, which start at $8.99.

Paco’s Mexican Food: An Affordable Hidden Gem

  • Address: 5563 E. Grant Rd.

  • Hours: Monday – Saturday: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

  • Phone: 520-733-5935

  • Website:

Paco’s Mexican Food is so cheap that it can compete with fast food chains, offering basic burritos as low as $3.15. And unlike Taco Bell, where every burrito seems to be filled with the same brown mush, this long-running establishment uses fresh, flavorful ingredients, according to locals. Some even go as far as to say that Paco’s is the best Mexican food in town, beating pricier spots like Guadalajara Original Grill and Mariscos Chihuahua.

El Guero Canelo: Award-Winning Sonoran Hot Dogs

  • Address: 5201 S. 12 Ave.

  • Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Sunday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Phone: 520-295-9005

  • Website:

Daniel Contreras, the man behind Arizona’s three El Guero Canelo restaurants, started his own bakery and tortilla factory to ensure his burritos and tacos were top-notch. However, El Guero Canelo is most famous for its $4.59 Sonoran hot dogs — bacon-wrapped franks tucked in between a bolillo, a Mexican variation on the baguette, which Contreras makes fresh at his bakeshop. The food is so good that it won Contreras an America’s Classics Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2018.

El Guero Canelo, Tucson, ArizonaPhoto credit: Dan B./Yelp

Bread and Butter: A No-Frills Greasy Spoon

Bread and Butter is a classic greasy spoon that serves everything you’d expect from a no-frills American diner. What makes this hole-in-the-wall joint stand out — besides the low prices — is its selection of homemade pies. Each day, the restaurant serves 10 to 15 different varieties by the slice, including classics like banana cream and more unusual varieties such as prickly pear meringue.

Selena’s Salvadorian: Pupusas for Penny Pinchers

  • Address: 2513 N. Campbell Ave.

  • Hours: Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Phone: 520-278-4090

  • Website:

Selena’s first made a name for itself as a mainstay of the local farmers market, selling pupusas jammed with cheese, beans, loroco buds, and chicharron (fried pork). Since then, owner Luis Gonzalez has expanded his El Salvadorian operation to a restaurant in the Samos neighborhood of Tucson, growing his menu to include a wider variety of Central American dishes. The restaurant is particularly popular among penny-pinching vegetarians and vegans thanks to an impressive lineup of plant-based pupusas and tamales, featuring jackfruit, refried beans, and spinach.

Selena's Salvadorian in Tucson, ArizonaPhoto credit: Mary O./Yelp

Tips for Enjoying Arizona's Culinary Scene on a Budget

If you want to eat out without overspending, you need to think of two criteria. To begin with, you need to know where to find cheap restaurants (that’s where our guide comes in handy). But it’s just as important to know how to keep your bill as low as possible once you sit down to eat. Follow these tips to keep from overspending.

Family Eating Pizza at Home Out of Pizza BoxPhoto credit: GMVozd/istockphoto

Sharing is Caring: How to Maximize Variety and Minimize Cost

Transform dining out into a social occasion by inviting friends. If you split the bill, you’ll be able to explore a wider array of dishes without paying extra.

Avoid the Drunchies: Order Water to Stretch Your Dollar

If you're on a tight budget, make the most of complimentary tap water. Feel like you have to order something? Order tea, coffee, sparkling water, or soda to avoid steep upcharges on alcohol. 

Timing, Timing, Timing: Eat Out at Lunch

Demand is highest at dinner, so restaurants generally charge more. Go for lunch instead, and you can save thanks to lower prices and mid-day specials like the $10.95 lunch at Thai House.

Cash Is King: Be Prepared for Old-School Eateries

Several of our top picks are hole-in-the-wall eateries that aren’t going to take a credit card. For spontaneous meals and late-night outings, always have a little cash with you. Otherwise, you might have to borrow cash or pay an ATM fee.

Loving couple looking happy eating tacos at a Mexican restaurantPhoto credit: andresr/istockphoto

The Bottom Line

If anything speaks to the quality of Arizona’s affordable dining scene, it’s the sheer breadth of this list. Sure, Mexican food and diners dominate, but The Grand Canyon state also impresses with two accessible James Beard Award-winning restaurants, both of which serve unique dishes that you’d struggle to find elsewhere. Of course, this list is far from exhaustive, which is why we encourage frugal foodies and curious Arizonans to explore the state’s vibrant food scene on their own.

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