Make fun of avocado toast all you want, but the fact remains: Millennials are major foodies. They’re also a lot less cash-rich than older generations, but that doesn’t have to be a problem. There are affordable foodie finds in every state.
No matter what generation you’re a part of, it’s not hard to appreciate the rise of food trucks, the cultural diversification of the American palate and the growing focus on healthy eating — all factors that inspire chefs around the nation to cook more interesting dishes than ever. From longstanding local institutions to completely unexpected experiences, these foodie-friendly gems are always cooking up good deals.
Click through to see the current food trends these restaurants are embracing.
Alabama — Saw’s Soul Kitchen
Try: Pork n’ Greens, $10.99
A newer branch of the time-tested Saw’s BBQ, chefs Mike Wilson and Brandon Cain are more willing to get experimental at Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale. The chefs themselves recommend the signature Pork n’ Greens, which comes loaded with cheesy grits, greens, pulled pork and light, curly onion rings. See the best barbecue deals in every state.
Alaska — Brown Bag Sandwich Co.
Try: The Spicy Yeti, $10
A self-proclaimed “purveyor of fine healthy sandwiches” in Anchorage, Brown Bag keeps it simple with high-quality ingredients and hours that stretch deep into the night, keeping its doors open as late as 3 a.m. All sandwiches are just $10, and the Spicy Yeti’s pepper jack, jalapenos and three-pepper sauce will warm you up on those frigid Alaska evenings. Learn the most popular late-night takeout orders around the country.
Arizona — The Uprooted Kitchen
Try: Weekly rotating savory entrees are usually under $13
Here’s a trend you’ll notice developing: This family-run, plant-based eatery started its life as a local food truck before expanding to a restaurant. Part of the Barnone collective of creative makers, chefs and craftsman in Gilbert, Uprooted keeps things fresh by rotating the menu every week, with culinary creations like tempah patties on a naan bun and buckwheat crepes with beet green pesto and date puree. February is the cheapest time to visit Arizona — that’s when you should check out the Uprooted Kitchen.
Arkansas — Big Orange
Try: White truffle and pecorino burger, $13.75
With locations in Little Rock and Rogers, Big Orange’s motto of “burgers, salads, shakes” might not sound too exciting, until you realize that the white truffle and pecorino burger is topped with pecorino cheese, arugula, fig jam, white truffle and mayo on an all-natural beef, turkey or veggie patty. For even better deals, other burgers start at $8.00. Learn even more unique additions to spice up your own burger creations.
California — Mason’s Dumpling Shop
Try: Pan-fried pork dumplings, $9
L.A. foodies know that the best Chinese food is in the San Gabriel Valley, but SGV staple Mason’s Dumpling Shop arrived in a low-key strip mall in the super hip Highland Park neighborhood in early 2018. Save yourself the trip to the Valley to enjoy these critically acclaimed hand-made pockets with delicately laced edges, including deep-fried pork and pan-steamed xiao long bao soup style dumplings.
Colorado — Izakaya Ronin
Try: Chicken yakitori thighs with scallion, $4; sunomono cucumber and seafood salad, $8
Until Izakaya Ronin came along, you probably didn’t associate Denver with sushi. Chef Corey Baker’s seafood-meets-speakeasy concept with an experimental and rotating menu focuses on small plates typically ranging from $4 to $10, so you can take your palate on an adventure without over-drafting your debit card.
Connecticut — Ecco Rooftop Eatery and Bar
Try: Octopus small plate with butterbeans, shaved red onion and salsa verde, $13
Even hardcore foodies care about ambiance, which Bethel’s Ecco provides in spades. The food is farm-to-table and often prepped in a brick oven, while the airy rooftop space’s retractable glass makes for an al fresco dining vibe. Don’t forget to check out the craft cocktail menu while you’re there.
Delaware — The Blue Hen
Try: Split a fried chicken bucket with a half bird and three biscuits, $20
In Rehoboth Beach, the hens might be blue, but the fried chicken is king. Blue Hen’s famous brined and battered fried chicken with honey hot sauce is usually on the pricier side, but Monday night bucket deals from 5 p.m. to closing time make it totally swingable on a budget.
Florida — Amara at Paraiso
Try: Ceviche with grilled sweet potato, avocado, crispy corn and smoked oil, $16
If Miami’s Amara at Paraiso sounds fancy, that’s because it is. James Beard Award-winning chef and owner Michael Schwartz offers vivid Latin American cuisine with fresh coastal ingredients right on the waterfront, and some dishes certainly do reach the $100 range. But scour the menu and you’ll find small and medium plates like calabaza-hominy stew and beef tartare for under $20, too.
Georgia — Snackboxe Bistro
Try: Deep-fried spare ribs with garlic and kaffir, $7
Lao family-style comfort food has made the trip from the street to the storefront at Snack Boxe Bistro in Atlanta. Fresh ingredients, a wealth of textures and bold flavors from sweet radish to lemongrass to sriracha honey sauce all come together to earn Snackboxe first place in Yelp’s 2017 “Best Bites” category.
Hawaii — Piggy Smalls
Try: Hawaiian prawns alla vodka in tomato and roasted shrimp sauce with shishito peppers, $19
The Pig & the Lady is a Hawaiian staple, but things get a little more eccentric at Honolulu spinoff Piggy Smalls. Creativity is king here, with experimental dishes and the signature playful style of chef Andrew Le, which extends to boozy slushies at the street-art-adorned bar. Add some fresh Breadshop bread for $3 extra.
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Idaho — Wild Root Cafe & Market
Try: Market melt with camembert and rhubarb compote on sourdough, $9
Lauded by The Daily Meal, Zagat, Edible Idaho and others, this cozy Boise diner combines hearty healthfulness with a sunny ambiance and convenient on-site market. The menu spans from Japanese ramen to Indian-style nachos to an avocado banh-mi with your choice of firm tofu or sriracha candied pork belly — truly, something for everyone.
Illinois — Baru
Try: Medium “healthy fried chicken” with pickled radish, $8
Finally, the Pan Asian grocery slash foodie heaven known as H Mart has come to Chicago’s West Loop and with the treasure trove of rare food buys comes a food court that is absolutely stacked. Put your sampling hat on as you hop from Baru to Izakaya Yume to SGD Tofu House and others.
Indiana — Crispy Bird
Try: Fried chicken sandwich with spicy aioli and pickles, $10
Recognized as a hot up-and-comer by Eater and Tasting Table in 2017, Indianapolis joint Crispy Bird serves what it calls “stereotype-busting fried chicken using a heritage breed of bird, raised using old-world farming and breeding methods.” If that’s not enough, plant-based sides, locally sourced veggies, homemade cultured butter and biscuits from scratch sweeten the deal.
Iowa — Cheese Bar
Try: Raclette melted over crispy confit potatoes with bacon and cornichons, $14
Can you sustain a restaurant on cheese? When you’ve got house-made charcuterie, a spectrum of grilled cheeses, mac and cheese baked in a cast iron skillet, cocktails, 18 wines and 30 beers, cider and mead on tap, the answer is “yes.” For more deals in Des Moines, check out Cheese Bar’s Bubbles and Bites from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Tuesday through Friday, featuring snacks and champagne for $5 each.
Serving it in a cast iron skillet is just one way to make mac and cheese look more eye-catching. Learn more impressive ways to serve these cheap foods.
Kansas — The Cozy Inn
Try: Cozy Burger Value Meal, $6.59
Every foodie worth his weight can appreciate a classically well-made burger, and that’s exactly what you’ll get in Salina, Kansas, at The Cozy Inn. A time capsule into 1922, this barstool diner used to serve sliders for a nickel; nowadays, those signature Cozy Burgers are still only $1.19 a pop. You can even nab six of them for just $7.14.
Kentucky — Pho Ba Luu
Try: Lemongrass-marinated grilled pork vermicelli noodle bowl with bean sprout and crushed peanuts, $9
In the Bluegrass State, it’s not all about biscuits, gravy, greens and fried chicken. Pho Ba Luu brings an authentic Vietnamese dining experience to Louisville’s Butchertown district — so authentic that most of Vietnamese-American chef Jessica Mach’s recipes come straight from her mother. For foodies on a budget, almost everything on the menu is under $10.
Louisiana — Cafe Degas
Try: La caille rotie (quail) over local baby greens, fresh fruit, spiced pecans and goat cheese, $15
Cafe Degas’ cramped quarters, trickling fountain and drooping greenery just ooze New Orleans style. The extensive wine list and dinner menu, however, are straight out of the French countryside, bringing steamed moules, escargot, ratatouille and other French staples to the heart of the Big Easy.
Maine — Crotux Kitchen & Taphouse
Try: Nashville hot chicken and waffle sandwich with cornflake fried chicken and maple sriracha, $9
Bowling alley food is wrapped up in a certain nostalgia, but it’s a guilty pleasure that’s never been known as being particularly, well, good. At Kennebunk’s Garden Street Bowl, Crotux Kitchen & Taphouse aims to fix the latter problem with creative snacks like kimchi deviled eggs, pork belly and housemade tandoori chips alongside plenty of fancied-up booze and comfort food.
Maryland — Ekiben
Try: The Neighborhood Bird bun with curry fried chicken and spicy sambal mayo, $9
Ekiben brings fresh ingredients, steamed buns and small plates to the heart of Baltimore. The chic Asian fusion menu here spans the eastern side of the globe, including mouth-waterers like Taiwanese curry, Cantonese crispy catfish, Thai chicken meatballs, Korean braised pork and more.
Massachusetts — BISq
Try: Beef heart anticuchos with broccoli and rocoto aioli, $15
Inside the sleek, dim and wood-finished interior of Bergamot’s sibling restaurant, you’ll find a menu that’s not afraid to experiment with classic American comfort food while incorporating international influences. In 2016, chef Alex Saenz’s Cambridge establishment was dubbed “New and Noteworthy” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine and named among the top 100 wine restaurants in America.
Michigan — Fist of Curry
Try: Saag halloumi curry with griddled cheese, arugula, cilantro, diakon and lemon oil, $12
In a way, curry makes perfect sense for Michiganders. Detroit’s Fist of Curry isn’t just a clever play on words, it’s an affordable place to warm up in style with a menu that focuses squarely on curry offered in quirky styles, like Jamaican jerk with fatty brisket or Japanese kare with pork katsu.
Minnesota — Octo Fishbar
Try: Rock shrimp po’boy with green tomato remoulade and hot sauce, $12
The critics at Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine called Octo Fishbar one of the best new restaurants in the Twin Cities in 2017. Located in Lowertown’s Market House Collaborative, Tim McKee’s casual dining bar is known for its seafood towers, but will also cook meat that you buy from the Collaborative’s meat markets for a base price of $12.
Mississippi — Taylor Grocery & Restaurant
Try: Cajun pork chops over brown rice smothered in gumbo, $16.00
What looks like an antique shack in Taylor, Mississippi, is actual the site of a time-honored pilgrimage for foodies with a taste for down-home Southern food. From gumbo to country fried pork to catfish with hush puppies, everything goes well with a plate of fries smothered in melted cheese and Ro-Tel tomatoes.
Missouri — Pizza Head
Try: Two slices of vegan pepperoni pizza and a domestic pint for $9.95
What would a foodie road trip across America be without pizza? Pizza Head of St. Louis is proud to represent with a punk style (and live shows), New York-style pies, cheap beer and what the proprietors call “an unapologetic DIY attitude.” Get it by the slice starting at just $2.95, or split a whole pie for about $18 to $22.
Montana — Five on Black
Try: Build your own feijoada bowl, from $6.45 to $8.45
With locations in Missoula and Bozeman, Five on Black is Montana meets Brazil or, as the restaurateurs put it: “Take the titillating taste of Brazil and mix it with a scintillating slice of carnival. It’s happiness in a bowl.” Those bowls focus on healthy, fresh, gluten-free eating with ingredients like coconut roasted sweet potatoes and Brazilian feijoada stew with slow-cooked bacon, sausage, beef and black beans.
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Nebraska — Nite Owl
Try: Bulgogi burger with kimchi, fried egg, scallons, sambal aioli, bulgogi sauce and a side, $13
Omaha’s Nite Owl is vintage, vinyl-spinning lounge known more for its creative cocktails and on-tap slushies and sangria than its food. But don’t sleep on creative twists on pub classics like vegan aioli tater tots, Korean hoisin wings and banh mi sliders – you can grab them all till 2 a.m. every night.
Nevada — Le Pho
Try: Loaded pho with ribeye, flank, tendon, tripe and meatball, $12
Forget the chintzy all-you-can-eat buffets Vegas is known for. Speaking to Forbes in 2017, “Vegas” and “Wynn” editor-in-chief Andrea Bennett spilled the broth – the real local foodies prefer the low-key downtown experience at chef Khai Vu’s Le Pho. Bennett says, “I always order the DIY spring roll platter: You get to dip your own rice paper wrappers, then fill them with all the impeccably fresh ingredients.”
New Hampshire — The Covered Bridge Farm Table Restaurant & Bar
Try: Quinoa and sweet potato chili with black beans and gluten-free tortilla chips, $9
Formerly known as The Country Cow, The Covered Bridge Farm Table Restaurant & Bar has a long name, but good food. Served up in a modern-meets-rustic atmosphere, that food is what the chefs call “fresh fusion,” including Asian, French, Italian and Spanish selections in idyllic Campton, New Hampshire.
New Jersey — Cellar 335
Try: Crispy Duroc pork ribs in sesame, coconut and BBQ flavors, $14
When New Jersey Monthly called Cellar 335 one of the 25 best restaurants in the state in 2017, they wrote, “virtually every dish on the menu is both a hoot and a delight, from hot mini cheddar corn muffins topped with a melting pat of togarashi-spiced butter to tamarind-sauced Duroc pork ribs topped with toasted coconut.” Chef Jamie Knott serves it all up in a dark hipster cellar with a perfectly off-kilter Polynesian luau theme.
New Mexico — Church Street Cafe
Try: Old-fashioned chile rellenos dipped in egg batter and topped with green chile, $15.95
Dining in one of New Mexico’s oldest buildings, an adobe brick structure from the 1700s, would be cool enough by itself. Good thing the food is excellent at this Albuquerque gem, too; Fodor’s says, ” Buttery guacamole, with just a bit of bite, is the perfect appetizer to prep one’s palate for tender carne asada, redolent and sumptuously spiced.”
New York — Miznon
Try: Egg perfume with half-minute steak, sour cream, tomato and Lebanese cucumber in a pita, $11
Foodies will never starve in New York City, but Miznon offers a particularly unique culinary journey. In 2011, the first Miznon opening in Tel Aviv, with locations hitting Paris, Vienna and Melbourne before gracing the Big Apple in 2018. Now you don’t have to leave the country to try chef Eyal Shani’s famous Mediterranean-style street food.
North Carolina — Biscuit Head
Try: The Asheville Benedict biscuit with scallion cream cheese, tomatoes, poached eggs, hollandaise and roasted red peppers, $9
Here’s one that won’t surprise you: There are really good biscuits in North Carolina. With a few locations in colorful Asheville, Biscuit Head encourages you to “put some South in your mouth” — and that “South” comes in the form of just about any kind of biscuit you can imagine, from mimosa fried chicken biscuits to fried green tomato biscuits. And for an extra buck per biscuit, they’ve got you covered if you’re gluten-free, too.
North Dakota — Vinyl Taco
Try: Smoked sweet-and-sour pork belly “Agridulce” taco with tobacco onions, red slaw and au jus, $4.49
You don’t have to go to Mexico for Mexican-style street food, cervezas and margaritas. And if you love rock n’ roll as much as Joan Jett, this music-themed space gives its cocktails named like “Rocket Man,” “Night Moves” and “Proud Mary.” The perfect accent to value-priced tacos that are just as freewheeling in their creativity as the bands themselves.
Ohio — Salt+
Try: Rabbit strudel, spiced carrot puree, carrot jam and sage salt plate, $12
Here’s the pitch for Salt+, straight from the horse’s mouth: “A restaurant specializing in composed small plates, killer cocktails and unique wines.” Chef Jill Vedaa and Jessica Parkison offer it all in Lakewood, Ohio, accenting their huge spectrum of tapas with a modern atmosphere that celebrates communal dining.
Oklahoma — The Cow Calf-Hay
Try: Farm House burger with spicy pork sausage, fried egg, melted cheese and all the fixings, $11
You won’t find any confit or kale here. The Cow Calf-Hay is all about doing one thing well, and that one thing is absolute indulgence. Shakes, cheese fries and fried pickles round out a menu that lasers in on over-the-top burgers grilled up with 100-percent Angus beef chuck and Land-O-Lakes American cheese.
Oregon — Danwei Canting
Try: Gong bao ji ding with chicken, ginger, scallions, black vinegar, wine, peanuts and seasonal pickles, $11
In China, the danwei canting (or “work unit restaurant”) was where workers would eat their meals up until the mid-1990s. Getting to Portland is a little easier, though, and Oregon Live recognized this “best-of-Beijing street food” restaurant from James Kyle and chef Kyo Koo as one of the city’s 10 hottest new restaurants in 2017.
Pennsylvania — Cheu Fishtown
Try: Pastrami bing bun with sauerkraut, Swiss and Thousand Island dressing, $8
Cheu actually includes two dives for foodies: Cheu Noodle Bar and Bing Bing Dim Sum. In the classically unpretentious Philly style, Asian dishes are served up in a nontraditional way that still manages to keep it real. Don’t miss $5 happy hour deals Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. and on the weekends from 3 to 5 p.m.
Rhode Island — Durk’s Bar-B-Q
Try: Brisket sandwich with onions, jalapenos and BBQ sauce on a potato roll, $10.50
You knew there’d be authentic barbecue on the list, but you probably didn’t expect it to be in Providence, Rhode Island. Nothing too crazy here — just dry-rub meat slow-cooking for 8 to 14 hours over local oak in an authentic hickory smoker the staff calls “Stella.” Okay, maybe the smoker having a name is actually a little crazy.
South Carolina — Uneeda Sicilian
Try: Sweet onion and rabe pizza by the slice, $5
In March 2018, Eater called Ben Rabin’s Uneeda Sicilian one of the hottest restaurants in Charleston. Uneeda revels in simplicity; all menu prices are even with taxes included an no change, and the entirety of the menu is pizza, a roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, a Caesar salad and Dixie pudding. The pizza, of course, is as old-school as it comes.
South Dakota — Firehouse Brewing Company
Try: Spontaneous Heating Gumbo with andouille sausage, shrimp, clams and chicken in creole sauce, $11.95
Rapid City’s Firehouse Brewing Company has a lot of history. The firehouse itself was built in 1915 and the company, founded in 1991, was the state’s very first brew pub. The brewery makes 40 unique beers annually and has nine on tap at any given time, but foodies will revel in pub food and comfort food staples cranked up to 11. The gumbo was once featured by Rachael Ray on the Food Network.
Tennessee — Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
Try: Hot chicken sandwich with coleslaw, Nashville comeback sauce, a kosher pickle and one side, $9
For Tennessee, hot chicken has to be the pick. While this distinctly Nashville dish has been taking the national foodie scene by storm in recent years, Hattie B’s gives you the opportunity to try the real thing in its natural habitat. Be warned: Heat levels range from no-heat “Southern” to burn-notice “Shut the Cluck Up.”
Texas — Be More Pacific
Try: Adobo marinated and braised chicken leg quarters, fingerling potatoes, boiled egg and green onion, $12.50
If a restaurant started out as a food truck, you know for sure that their food was special enough to ascend to greatness. Such is the case at Be More Pacific Filipino kitchen and bar in, now permanently located in Austin. Forget barbecue and Frito pie; Be More Pacific will load you up on adobo, tosilog, pancit bihon, halo halo and more.
Utah — Manoli’s
Try: Lamb burger with red pepper feta spread, garlic aioli, fennel slaw and a side salad, $16
Greek meets modern in Salt Lake City at Manoli’s. If a menu full of game hen, lamb, beehive cheddar, smoked feta and charred octopus doesn’t convince you, maybe all the good press from Zagat, Time, The Salt Lake Tribune and awards from Salt Lake Magazine will do the trick. Entrees can be pricey, but the lamb burger and small plates offer a hearty peek at the offerings without breaking the bank.
Vermont — Monarch & the Milkweed
Try: Vermont-sourced venison chili with kaffir-lime sour cream and butter-honey cornbread, $12
In 2017, Vermont’s Seven Day’s newspaper named Monach & the Milkweed the best new restaurant in the state, citing the Burlington pastry-shop-meets-fine-diner concept’s “dream team” of chefs and “buttery glazed cinnamon buns.” But don’t worry — Monarch & the Milkweed will fill your belly with more than just dessert.
Virginia — Mokomandy
Try: Two pecan-wood-smoked veal breast barbecue tacos with pickled cabbage and a molasses-sherry reduction, $10
Executive chef Daniel Wilcox Stevens sums up his Sterling restaurant as “a casual fine-dining establishment based upon the marriage of a Korean-American man to a Cajun woman and the food, family, and friends created along the way.” Like the marriage, the fusion on the menu just plain works.
Washington — Fremont Bowl
Try: Sake don bowl with salmon, umami soy sauce, fresh wasabit and yuzu kosho, $12
On the downside, you won’t be bowling at Fremont Bowl. On the upside, this Seattle spot offers generous donburi bowls at an affordable price from a team of chefs who admit to having what they call a “slight” food obsession. Bowling is good, but it’s hard to beat six veggie gyoza dumplings for $3.50.
West Virginia — Bluegrass Kitchen
Try: Mock “chicken and dumplings” in a veggie filled gravy, $16
Situated right next to the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston, the Bluegrass kitchen boasts farm-to-table comfort food through a modern lens, offering plenty of vegetarian options. The tin ceilings and exposed brick celebrate the building’s 1920s heritage while the full bar gives you plenty of options for an after dinner wind-down.
Wisconsin — The Tandem
Try: Gluten-free oxtails with white rice and veggies, $15
When you see the 100-year-old wood bar at Milwaukee’s Tandem, it’s easy to imagine the bicycle of its namesake passing by in 1918. Outside the bar, the food is a mix of seasonal fare and local standbys with a huge range of dishes, including oxtail hash, fried okra, housemade pickles and grape jelly meatballs.
Wyoming — Lotus
Try: The vegan, gluten-free Green Bowl with arugula, avocado, steamed broccoli, quinoa, pistachios and local clover sprouts in a creamy basil sauce, $15
Old-school Wyoming was known for cattle ranching; new-school Wyoming will soon be known for light organic fare at Lotus. In 2017, Vogue called Lotus “the first choice for those craving something on the healthy side without sacrificing taste” in Jackson Hole, praising owner Amy Young’s “eggs Benedict with citrus béarnaise that won’t put you into a food coma, and acai bowls so glorious they deserve an Instagram snap.”
If you’re looking for more high-end fare, click through to see which high-end restaurants are worth every penny.