America's Best Cheap Eats: 50 Meals for $10 or Less
Tourists and locals alike are always looking for a cheap and delicious bite. To that end, Cheapism.com compiled this list of inexpensive and well-reviewed restaurants in all 50 states. The restaurants were chosen after comparing reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Zomato, as well as guides and accolades from local newspapers and regional magazines. This is a mix of time-tested institutions and newer up-and-comers. Each offers up a mouth-watering meal option for $10 or less before tax and tip.
With two locations, Arctic Roadrunner is an Anchorage institution, and most reviewers agree the halibut burger ($8.95) is top-notch. The Old Seward Highway location has a fireplace to keep diners warm, and the walls are covered with photos of people who have helped make Alaska a place unlike anywhere else.
The Baja Sur dogfish shark taco ($4.50) at La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop in Phoenix (there's a second location in Glendale) is a mouthful to say but don't hesitate to order it. A reviewer on Yelp writes, "The special shark taco was unreal." The taco shop features eight or more kinds of salsa daily, from pecan to strawberry as well as the usual suspects.
City: Little Rock
Known for its sauces, including a special volcano sauce for spice lovers, the Whole Hog Cafe has some of the top-ranked barbecue and four locations in Little Rock. Pulled-pork plates start at just $8.49 at some locations and come with two sides and a dinner roll. One reviewer on Yelp writes, "The sauces made this place fun for us. Each bite could be re-invented with the sauce."
The Mile High City's growing Vietnamese population has spiced up the local restaurant scene. Pho 95 is a leading purveyor of pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup. The dish has drawn accolades review sites for its large bowls of brisket, seafood, chicken, and veggie soups, which start at $8.95.
City: New Haven
Known as the birthplace of the hamburger, Louis' Lunch (established in 1895) is famous for burgers served on toast. There is often a line, but everything on the short menu -- hamburger, cheeseburger, potato salad, homemade pie, and drinks -- is well within budget.
The Gusto Wood Fire Grill was founded by Nate Hybl, a former NFL quarterback. His restaurant offers a make-it-yourself menu with options for mixed greens, brown rice, or flatbread topped with a protein (starting at $9.45), plus a "gusto" consisting of veggies and fruit, a sauce, and garnish. One reviewer recommends following the restaurant on social media to learn about specials and buy-one-get-one deals.
Do not be intimidated by the long lines at this wildly popular Japanese noodle restaurant. Marukame Udon in Waikiki gets an average 4.5 stars on Yelp from more than 4,000 reviewers, and most say it is well worth the wait. Large bowls of udon soup start at less than $5.
City: Twin Falls
A hole-in-the-wall diner in southern Idaho, Buffalo Cafe is popular with both tourists and locals. Customers on Yelp describe the ambience as "divey" but say this breakfast-and-lunch spot is always busy, the staff is hardworking and friendly, and the food is excellent. Be sure to try the homemade jams that come with the toast and biscuits.
Yelp reviewers praise Branko's Sandwich Shop for great food and even better service. Customers like the tiny shop's "family feel," and DePaul University students who forget their wallets say the cash-only establishment has let them pay the next time they drop in. Most sandwiches are under $8.
Yats is friendly, cheap, and fast. Popular items at the New Orleans-style restaurant chain include gumbo and cheese etouffee, a spicy stew served with vegetables and seafood. The owners do not take credit cards, but several customers say they have been allowed to leave an IOU and pay later. Prices for individual dishes are $7.75 and $8.75.
Southern Living magazine has hailed the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn as the torchbearer of Kentucky burgoo stew, which combines smoked mutton, beef, and chicken in a vegetable base. Bowls of burgoo are just $5. Dinner plates of barbecued meats start at $9.55, and most sandwiches are less than $5.
Johnson's Boucaniere is famous for its seasonal gumbos; boudin sausages packed with pork, rice, and seasoning; and po' boy sandwiches on fresh, French bread. Most of the items on the menu are less than $8, and there is a 10 percent discount for local students, university staff, active military, and veterans. Georgians beware, however: There is a 10 percent charge for patrons wearing Atlanta Falcons gear.
Taco Escobarr more than does its part to add some culinary diversity to lobster-happy Maine. Eater Maine says it's one of the best spots for tacos in the state, calling out the wide variety of tortillas and fillings, with many options under $10. The burritos are also great, reviewers say.
El Sarape has earned accolades from both The Daily Meal and Travel + Leisure as one of the country's best, most authentic Mexican restaurants. The latter publication recommends staples including carnitas and enchiladas verde. Its lunch menu features numerous options under $10.
City: Ann Arbor
College towns usually have plenty of places to grab a cheap bite, but Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger stands out from the crowd as the oldest hamburger stand in Ann Arbor. Thrillist and GQ have praised its burgers, which come in thousands of combinations, some for less than $5.
The Jucy Lucy burger at Matt's Bar is a cheeseburger with an additional layer of cheese inside the patty. The restaurant claims to have invented this delicious fat bomb, and at $7.50 a hungry customer can't really go wrong (at least in the short run). Food historians should note that Matt's crosstown rival, the 5-8 Club, also claims to have created this culinary masterpiece. Its version, the Juicy Lucy, is distinguished by correct spelling.
Fat Mama's is a mashup of Mexican and Southern favorites -- po' boys are also on the menu -- but the hot tamales ($5 for six and $10 for a dozen) are the real draw here, reviewers say. Named the best in the state by Mississippi magazine, they come by the half-dozen and are worth the drive, reviewers say. The margaritas are also well-loved.
City: Kansas City
"One of the best breakfast options Kansas City has to offer," one Yelp review said of Succotash Restaurant. It has a lively atmosphere, plenty of vegan options, and is packed on the weekends. Favorites include the Kitchen Sink Scramble ($9), wild blueberry pancakes ($8.50), and biscuits with mushroom gravy ($3 to $5).
Excess is the name of the game around Las Vegas -- and usually comes with a price tag to match. Though, bargains can be found here, too. Those looking for a hearty breakfast on a budget can head to the Green Valley Ranch. It is off the Strip, but the award-winning Feast Buffet ($8.99 for breakfast with a free club membership) is a local favorite.
City: Asbury Park
While the Garden State is famous for its pizza and steak joints, here is a tip of the hat to a relative newbie. MOGO Korean Fusion Tacos serves up tacos, burritos, and bowls with six choices of protein (starting at $4 and $9). Reviewers praise its Korean barbecue and kimchi fried rice. One happy customer on Yelp says the tacos are filled with a lot of meat and just enough kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage).
Although it may look more like a liquor store than an eatery from the outside, the Frontier Restaurant is a classic Western diner near the campus of the University of New Mexico. Customers like the unlimited coffee and sweet rolls topped with butter. Some fans say the green chile dishes -- including burgers, eggs, burritos, and enchiladas -- are the best in the state.
City: New York
Nathan's is a 101-year-old hot dog shop that's hit it big, with franchise locations across the country. The company's hot dogs and other foods can also be found in grocery stores nationwide. Wait with the crowds at the original in Coney Island to grab a plain hot dog, or a dog covered in cheese, chili, or both, for under $5.
Price's Chicken Coop is a "landmark for fried chicken," according to one TripAdvisor reviewer. The Food Network and other list-makers agree. A quarter-chicken dinner costs $6.75, and a chicken sandwich is just $3.65. But come prepared -- it's cash only.
JL Beers has six locations in North Dakota, including three in Fargo. Choose from a long list of imported and domestic beers and one of the tasty burgers (starting at $5). Loaded fries with beer cheese sauce, bacon, jalapeños, and jalapeño cheddar seasoning are $5.49.
City: Oklahoma City
At the Empire Slice House, a single slice costs $3.75, and specialty pies start at $20. The $9 lunch special comes with one of the daily slices, a half salad, and a drink. Some reviewers say this is the best pizza in the city, especially for fans of New York-style pie, which has a thinner crust and less sauce than other varieties.
In Providence's College Hill neighborhood, East Side Pockets is known for its friendly service and delicious and inexpensive kebabs. For vegetarians, a reviewer says the "falafel is delicious on its own" or in a wrap. Wraps start at $6.02 and plate dinners, which come with a salad, rice, and bread, are $8.10.
The Persimmon Cafe shares its space with a laundromat, but no one seems to mind: Yelp reviewers give it 4.5 stars. Getting a quick bite or frozen custard while doing laundry is a perk, according to some customers; others visit just for the food. Aside from the crab panini, everything on the menu -- soups, sandwiches, cookies, and sides -- is $8 or less.
It is hard to miss the Purple Pie Place, 20 miles south of Mount Rushmore. As the name suggests, the restaurant dispenses pies and other treats in a building painted several shades of purple. Sure, there are fine-looking chicken pot pies, but the sweet pies are the real reason to go: raspberry rhubarb jalapeno, peanut butter, blackberry, and more. A slice is just $4.39.
Close to Centennial Park and Vanderbilt University, Cori's DogHouse features an expansive menu. More than 30 different signature hot dogs are offered, distinguished by region of inspiration, and all are well under $10. Opened in 2009, Cori's has quickly become a local favorite.
Torchy's Tacos has mastered the Tex-Mex taco. With locations scattered around Texas, including the original store in Austin, customers can choose from the taco of the month or more than 10 staples ($3.50 to $5.50). A reviewer writes on TripAdvisor, "Extremely delicious, large tacos. Definitely a good bang for your buck."
City: Salt Lake City
Bruges Waffles Frites serves waffles and fries, of course, but also delicious waffle sandwiches under $10. To try the waffle sandwich club or the turkey-bacon-avocado sandwich, track down the mobile Bruges Waffle Bus or visit the storefronts in Salt Lake City and Orem.
Piroshky Piroshky, a Russian bakery with three locations in Seattle, is "simply superb!" according to a Yelp review, one of thousands awarding the spot high ratings. Popular items include the eponymous buns) filled with meat or veggies ($4.20 to $5.40), sweet cream cheese vatrushka (pastry), and apple cinnamon rolls ($4.50).
Pies & Pints has local beers on tap and makes some of the best pizza in town. Ten-inch pies start at $9 and many beers are $5. Reviews of the service are mixed, but patrons are enthusiastic about the food, calling it the best pizza in town and one of the best places to eat in Charleston.
The primary draw at the Lakefront Brewery is the beer tour, but the food is highly rated. The eclectic menu includes what a Yelp reviewer calls the "best fried cheese curds in the land" ($9); two Bavarian pretzels ($9); and a flight of three sausages (starting at $10). The weekend brewery tour is $11 and comes with four drink tokens and a pint glass to take home.
The Bread Basket offers a bread-of-the-month club and sells fresh baked goods daily. Try one of the breakfast pastries ($1.69 to $2) or a sandwich for lunch ($5.59 to $7). On TripAdvisor, one reviewer says the bakery is "very much worth finding if you are just passing through; all the locals are already there."