You don’t need to spend a lot for a good meal. There are plenty of restaurants across the U.S. that serve delicious food that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
To determine the best cheap eats across America, GOBankingRates found the most highly rated inexpensive restaurant in each state’s largest city based on Yelp reviews. Now you’ll be able to find the best food without overspending.
Last updated: Sept. 26, 2019
Alabama — Falafel Café
- Falafel Pita Sandwich: $6.45
You might not immediately think of Middle Eastern food when you think of Southern cuisine, but Birmingham’s Falafel Café is the real deal. The casual dining spot is best known for its chicken shawarma, hummus and — of course — falafel. One Yelp reviewer said that his meal at Falafel Café was “the best food I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
Alaska — Arctic Roadrunner
- Alaskan Banquet: $5.25
Arctic Roadrunner in Anchorage is where the locals go for burgers. Open since 1964, the restaurant is truly “no frills” — burgers and sides are served on paper plates. But who cares about the plates when the food is this good? Go for the Alaskan Banquet — a quarter-pound patty topped with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and onion — for a sure-to-please cheap thrill.
Arizona — Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa
- Kiss Taco: $1.69
Chicken lovers should head to Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa, which serves Phoenix’s juiciest pollo asada and grilled chicken. The dishes are prepared in a Sinaloa-style marinade that features red chile and a variety of other flavorful spices, so the chicken packs a punch. You can get your chicken served pretty much any way you want — in a taco, burrito, tostada or salad. The popular Kiss Taco features melted cheese, sprinkled pork and the restaurant’s signature cheese chicken.
Arkansas — Three Fold Noodles and Dumplings
- Dumpling Bowl: $7.89
This cheap eatery has a simple, minimalist vibe, but the flavors served here are anything but. TripAdvisor ranks this trendy Chinese eatery as the No. 2 out of 42 “Quick Bites” restaurants in all of Little Rock, and one Yelp reviewer praised Three Fold for having “hands down some of the best dumplings I have ever had.” Other standout food items here include the taro chips, carrot slaw and bubble tea.
California — Corner Grille
- Roscoe Burger: $3.49
Yelp rated Corner Grille in the Los Angeles area the No. 1 burger spot in America in 2017 thanks to its flavorful Korean-inspired burgers. A basic Roscoe Burger costs only $2.99, but if you’re willing to spend a few bucks more, upgrade to the ultra-savory Kalbi Burger, which features Korean barbecue beef, pickled onions, shredded cabbage, spicy mayo and special sauce.
Colorado — Harley's: A Hot Dog Revolution
- New York Pastrami Dog: $7.95
Hot dog toppings don’t typically go beyond mustard, ketchup and relish, but at Harley’s, hot dog toppings are an art form. The casual Littleton eatery serves over a dozen signature dogs, plus a “build your own” option where you can choose your base dog and any mix of toppings you desire. Fans of spice can’t go wrong with the Death Vader, an “extremely spicy” brat covered in a cheddar blend, bacon and a homemade habañero ranch sauce.
For something a little different, try the New York Pastrami Dog, a 100% kosher beef dog topped with mustard and thinly sliced “bagel deli” pastrami on a toasted everything bun.
Connecticut — Shandal's Vegetarian Cafe
- 4 Items Food Plate: $8
Shandal’s Vegetarian Cafe in Bridgeport has a nearly five-star rating on Yelp and its “dishes fueled my soul,” according to one Yelp reviewer. The tiny Caribbean cafe serves up 100% vegan foods in accordance with the co-founder Shayenne Matthew’s Rastafari faith. With items like barbecue tofu, rice and beans, brown stew tofu and rasta pasta, even meat lovers can be drawn to the plant-based cuisine.
Delaware — El Diablo Burritos
- Build Your Own Chicken Burrito: $9.25
You might see a line out the door when you get to El Diablo Burritos in Wilmington and other locations — but the food is worth the wait. Fresh ingredients and inventive toppings, like the red pepper walnut sauce and pineapple habanero salsa, elevate El Diablo’s build-your-own meals from the typical fast-casual Mexican fare.
Florida — Maple Street Biscuit Company
- The Five: $9
Maple Street Biscuit Company has locations throughout Florida and has been cooking up comfort food with a modern twist since 2012. The restaurant’s popular The Five is sure to satisfy your brunch cravings. The sandwich features a flaky biscuit, all-natural fried chicken breast, pecan wood-smoked bacon and cheddar cheese, topped with sausage gravy.
Georgia — Home Grown
- Sloppy Joe: $11
East Atlanta’s Home Grown prides itself on serving locally grown produce and fresh ingredients at “super ridiculously low prices.” Standout dishes include the pimento cheese sandwich — homemade pimento cheese served on grilled Texas toast — the fried green tomatoes served with horseradish sauce, and their take on the classic sloppy Joe — made with peaches.
Hawaii — Marukame Udon
- Regular Curry Udon: $5.25
Get your slurp on at Honolulu’s Marukame, which specializes in Sanuki-style Udon noodles. Foodies can indulge in an order of vegetable, chicken or seafood tempura, but make sure to leave room for the curry Udon. One Yelp reviewer said they “could eat their curry Udon every day.”
Idaho — Tango's Subs and Empanadas
- Gaucho Empanada: $2.85
Tango’s has been bringing a taste of Argentina to Boise since 2006. The mom and pop restaurant aims to make its customers feel like family while serving its signature empanadas, the most popular of which is the Gaucho. This classic Argentine empanada is filled with ground beef, eggs, olives, onions, bell peppers and spices.
Illinois — Nini's Deli
- Chicken Empanada: $3.75
This Chicago neighborhood family restaurant blends Latin Caribbean and Mexican flavors in a way that’s inventive but unpretentious. Start your day with an El Cubanito sandwich — filled with eggs, cheese, beans, sweet plantains and an avocado — or a chicken empanada and a cafe con leche to find out why this restaurant has earned five out of five stars on both TripAdvisor and Yelp.
Indiana — Don Juan V's Sandwiches
- Asado Sandwich: $8.99
In Indianapolis, Don Juan V’s Peruvian-style sandwiches are “vastly under-priced for the offering,” said one Yelp reviewer. You can’t go wrong with the Peruvian pot roast Asado sandwich or the deep-fried pork Chicharrones sandwich — both under $9 — but make sure you leave room for the highly rated Yucas Fritas, a deep-fried Yucca root appetizer that costs only $4.50.
Iowa — Gazali's
- Gyro: $8.95
This Mediterranean restaurant located across the street from Drake University boasts the “best, freshest gyros” in Des Moines. In addition to its lamb gyros — which you can have prepared “classic” or “spicy” — other can’t-miss dishes include the hummus and chicken shawarma.
Kansas — My Tho
- Hiu Tieu Mi Bho Kho: $7.25
If you’re craving Vietnamese food in Wichita, My Tho is the place to go. Although the menu is limited, the quality of the cuisine will keep you satisfied. Try the Hiu Tieu Mi Bho Kho, a Vietnamese beef noodle soup, which one Yelp reviewer claims is the best Hu Tieu bowl in the U.S.
Kentucky — Yummy Pollo
- Quarter Dark Charcoal Chicken With Two Sides: $7.95
Louisville’s Yummy Pollo specializes in Peruvian-style charcoal-fired rotisserie chicken that’s “never fried, always yummy.” And the restaurant lives up to the name, with one Yelp reviewer saying that the chicken here will be “the best rotisserie chicken you’ve ever had.” The chicken is definitely the focal point at Yummy Pollo, but the sides are just as exceptional — especially the cilantro rice and yucca fries.
Louisiana — Verti Marte
- Parmesan Chicken Sandwich: $8.95
Verti Marte might look like a hole-in-the-wall grocery store, but it serves up the best po’boy sandwich in New Orleans’ French Quarter, according to TripSavvy. If you’re looking for something beyond a classic po’boy, try the Shrimp Philly, a sandwich stuffed with grilled shrimp, bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, Swiss cheese, American cheese and “wow sauce.” You also can’t go wrong with the classic Parmesan chicken.
Maine — The Local Press
- The Big “O”: $8.95
This tiny sandwich shop uses all-natural ingredients for its soups and paninis that are big on flavor — and small on prices. All the paninis served at this Portland eatery are less than $9. The orchard turkey panini — a favorite with customers — perfectly blends sweet and savory with its combination of oven gold turkey, bacon, gala apples, sharp cheddar and chipotle mayo. Or get The Big “O”: a roast beef panini topped with organic caramelized onions, organic baby spinach, Swiss cheese and horseradish mayo.
Maryland — Chaps Pit Beef
- Beef Pit Sandwich: $7.85
If you’re seeking Baltimore-style barbecue, Chaps Pit Beef is the place to go. The meat-heavy eatery has been featured on the Food Network and the Travel Channel, and the Zagat Guide referred to Chaps as “carnivore heaven.” Chaps is best known for its beef pit sandwich, but you can also dine on turkey, pork, barbecue chicken and ribs, as well as homestyle sides, including hand-cut fries, baked beans, green beans, coleslaw and potato salad.
Massachusetts — Roast Beast
- Regular Roast Beef Sandwich: $7
Choose your own meaty adventure at Roast Beast in Boston, which lets you build your own roast beef, turkey and chicken sandwiches. Spice lovers can take the “Thermonuclear Challenge”: If you eat a sandwich topped with Roast Beast’s ultra-hot Thermonuclear Sauce in just five minutes, you’ll get a T-shirt and your photo taken for the restaurant’s Wall of Beasts.
Michigan — Ernie's Market
- Ernie’s “Monster” Sandwich: $9
Ernie’s Market has remained largely unchanged since it opened in 1955, but that’s part of its charm. That, and the fact that Ernie himself is usually there, greeting customers with a signature “Hey, baby!” Not sure what sandwich filling you’re craving? Get the best of everything with the “Monster” sandwich, which includes slices of all seven meats on the menu.
Minnesota — Matt's Bar
- Jucy Lucy: $7.75
If you’re going to Matt’s in Minneapolis, you have to get the Jucy Lucy burger — spelled incorrectly intentionally. The popular sandwich features two hamburger patties with a slice of cheese in the middle, and it’s been a signature of the neighborhood bar and grill since it opened in 1954.
Mississippi — The Pig & Pint
- Pork Belly Corn Dogs: $7.99
As the name suggests, The Pig & Pint in Jackson serves up mouthwatering barbecue pork that you can wash down with a cool craft beer. One Yelp reviewer said this modern indoor-outdoor barbecue joint is “Mississippi BBQ at its finest.” Outside of your typical barbecue fare, standout dishes include the fried bologna sandwich — a brioche bun topped with thick-cut housemade bologna, an over-easy fried egg, American cheese, Comeback dressing and house B&B pickles — and the pork belly corn dogs, which are served with seasonal beer mustard and smoked tomato-ginger jam.
Missouri — Vietnam Café
- Pho Bo: $8.75
Don’t be surprised to see a line out the door at Vietnam Café, Kansas City’s most popular Vietnamese restaurant. Once you get inside, be sure to order the spring roll appetizer and leave plenty of room for the pho — one Yelp reviewer said the noodle soup’s broth is “indescribable” and that “this place may legitimately have the best pho I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.”
Montana — Blue's BBQ
- Small Rib & Meat Plate: $8.50
The original Blue’s BBQ opened in Wyoming, but it relocated to Billings in 2004 — to a gas station, no less — and has remained a go-to for locals craving barbecue ever since. All of Blue’s recipes are made from scratch, the meats are handpicked and the portions are large. Go for the brisket sandwich or the rib and meat plate with a side of ranch pasta salad for a combo that will win over your taste buds.
Nebraska — Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob
- Falafel: $6.25
The flavor-filled menu at Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob in Omaha was inspired by its founders’ time abroad and love of European street food. The resulting fast-casual eatery blends flavors of India, Africa, Turkey and Egypt into its one-of-a-kind, build-your-own-meal menu. No matter what you choose as your main, you’re going to want to get an order of curry fries, the restaurant’s most popular side dish.
Nevada — Earl of Sandwich
- The Earl’s Club: $6.99
The Earl of Sandwich was actually founded by direct descendants of the inventor of the sandwich in 2004, and its original location at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas remains a popular eatery among locals and visitors alike. The Earl’s Club gives you a little bit of everything: It’s filled with turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and sandwich sauce.
New Hampshire — El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria
- Tostadas: $8
El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria brings authentic Mexican flavors to Manchester. Popular dishes include the Nachos El Rincon — crispy tortilla chips covered with refried pinto beans, melted cheese, jalapeños, cilantro, onions, guacamole and sour cream — and the Gorditas Zacatecanas — three handmade thick corn tortillas filled with your choice of fried pork rind, chicken, beef, pork, carnitas or chicken-chipotle mixed in green sauce, onion and cilantro. Also popular are the tostadas — two thin and crunchy corn tortillas with a spread of refried beans and your choice of chicken, beef, pork or chicken-chipotle, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and cheese.
New Jersey — The Green Chicpea
- Chicken Pita: $8.44
The Green Chicpea in Newark has been serving authentic Middle Eastern food in a fast-casual setting for over 20 years. In addition to its expertly made falafel and hummus, the Green Chicpea serves more than 18 authentic salads and original sauces — including a Dr. Pepper sauce — made from locally sourced ingredients.
New Mexico — Pollito Con Papas
- Chicken Plate: $9.99
For authentic Peruvian-style chicken in Albuquerque, head to Pollito Con Papas. The chicken here is the star of the show, but the restaurant’s special aji sauce is what keeps locals coming back for more. For a one-of-a-kind chicken dish, try the chicken-stuffed potato: a baked potato stuffed with fried chicken and topped with lime-marinated onions and aji.
New York — Naya
- Beef Shawarma Roll: $8.96
Enjoy authentic Middle Eastern cuisine in a sleek, modern setting at New York City’s Naya. Build your own pita, bowl or salad, or choose from one of the classics, like the beef shawarma roll.
North Carolina — Viva Chicken
- 1/4 Chicken: $8.95
At Viva Chicken in Raleigh and other cities, the chicken is cooked fresh every hour in a hand-built, charcoal-fired oven imported from Lima, Peru, to provide guests with the most authentic Peruvian-style chicken possible. Its specialty is Pollo a la Brasa, so you can’t go wrong with an order of the 1/4 or 1/2 chicken served with two sides. The sweet potato fries and cilantro-infused rice are both side selections you won’t regret.
North Dakota — JL Beers
- Original Hamburger Stand Burger: $5.49
JL Beers’ slogan is “Great burgers sold here,” and the burgers do live up to the hype. The bar and grill is one of the Food Network’s top places to eat thanks to its Humpty Dumpty Burger, which is topped with a fried egg and cheese. If you prefer a straight-up juicy burger, go for the Original Hamburger Stand Burger, which is topped with pickles and special sauce.
Ohio — Momo Ghar
- Jhol Momo: $9.50
At Momo Ghar, it’s all about the momos: Himalayan dumplings filled with meat and vegetables served with the restaurant’s homemade spicy sauce. This hidden gem is actually located in Columbus’ Saraga International grocery store, but it’s worth seeking out.
Oklahoma — Empire Slice House
- Foghorn Leghorn Pizza Slice: $3.75
Combine pizza-by-the-slice with a lively beer garden and you get Empire Slice House in Oklahoma City — part bar, part restaurant, all delicious. The Foghorn Leghorn pizza is a crowd favorite, topped with sweet marinara sauce, roasted chicken, bacon, jalapeño and Sriracha drizzle.
Oregon — Pine State Biscuits
- The Reggie: $9
Three friends from North Carolina brought their love of flaky, buttery biscuits to Portland, which is how and why Pine State Biscuits was born. Whether you want a biscuit sandwich, biscuits and gravy or a build-your-own biscuit, you can find that here. But trust us and just go for The Reggie, a biscuit sandwich made with fried chicken, bacon and cheese, topped with gravy.
Pennsylvania — Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House
- Beef Brisket Noodle Soup: $8.50
Nan Zhou pulled noodles have over 160 years of history, and now thanks to Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, the Chinese delicacy can be enjoyed in Philadelphia. Satisfy your noodle craving with the beef brisket noodle soup, and step out of your culinary comfort zone with an order of the spicy pig ears.
Rhode Island — East Side Pockets
- Chicken Kabob Pocket: $7.41
East Side Pockets has been a mainstay in the heart of busy Thayer Street in Providence since 1997. The casual Mediterranean restaurant serves all the standards — falafel, gyros, wraps, baklava, grape leaves, salads, hummus and tzatziki — but it’s really all about the falafel here. The chicken kabob pocket wrap is served with all the toppings you could want: hot sauce, hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, pickles, tabouleh, tahini and yogurt cucumber sauce.
South Carolina — Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda
- Chicken Enchiladas: $4.99
As its name states, Real Mexico is the real deal. Its menu items at the Columbia restaurant are fresh and simple, plus, as one Yelp reviewer said, “the portions are generous and the prices are unbeatable.”
South Dakota — PepperJax Grill
- Signature Steak: $8.09
PepperJax Grill in Sioux Falls grills up fresh, high-quality ingredients right in front of you. Its classic steak sandwich is made with a “nice pepper flavor” and served with “soft bread, straight off the grill,” said one Yelp reviewer.
Tennessee — Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken
- 3 Piece Dark: $8.90
Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken is known for its one-of-a-kind family fried chicken recipe that dates back to the 1950s. Gus’s Fried Chicken has become a staple of the Memphis food scene and has earned recognition both on a local and national scale. What started as a single storefront has now expanded to dozens of locations around the U.S., but the recipe that made the restaurant famous remains the same.
Texas — Roostar Vietnamese Grill
- Grilled Pork Bahn Mi: $5.95
Roostar brings the energy and flavors of the Vietnamese street food scene to Houston. All of the bahn mi sandwiches are made-to-order, and, as one Yelp reviewer put it, “unlike any other.”
Utah — Don Pollo Mexican Grill
- Tamale Burrito: $8.45
Don Pollo Mexican Grill serves 100% natural grilled chicken, has daily specials and a wide variety of taco options. For a filling meal on the cheap, go for the tamale burrito — it’s huge and “crazy good,” according to a Yelp review.
Vermont — Handy's Lunch
- Big Daddy Breakfast: $9.95
Handy’s Lunch has been serving Burlington locals for over 60 years, and no matter who you are, you’re treated like family when you walk in the door. You won’t leave hungry if you go for the Big Daddy Breakfast or the Texas chili dog with a side of fries.
Virginia — Carib Shack
- Granny’s Curry Chicken Bowl: $7.99
Yes, Carib Shack is located in a strip mall in Virginia Beach, but its unassuming exterior doesn’t say anything about the quality of the food inside. The coconut rice, jerk pork and rum cake are all highlights, and Granny’s curry chicken bowl simply can’t be missed. “The curry chicken is so flavorful, I could eat it all day,” said one reviewer on Yelp.
Washington — Paseo Caribbean Food
- Onion Obsession: $9.95
If you’re looking for fresh Caribbean food made from local and sustainable ingredients, look no further than Seattle’s Paseo Caribbean Food. The casual eatery is best known for its Caribbean Roast sandwich, a toasted baguette filled with roasted pulled pork shoulder, aioli, cilantro, romaine, jalapeños and caramelized onions. But vegetarians and meat lovers alike will want to try the Onion Obsession sandwich made with organic tofu.
West Virginia — Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill
- Brisket Sandwich: $9
Owner Adrian “Bay” Wright started selling barbecue ribs and pulled pork on the side of the road in Charleston, West Virginia, without any intention of turning his passion for barbecue into a full-blown restaurant. But the demand kept increasing, and Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill was born. Wright now owns two restaurants and two food trucks, and he’s been featured on the Food Network and by Zagat. This is a can’t-miss spot if you love barbecue and the brisket sandwich is a can’t-miss dish. “The brisket was the best I’ve ever tasted: perfectly smoked and super tender,” said one Yelp reviewer.
Wisconsin — Oscar's Pub & Grill
- The Big O: $7.25
It’s all about the burger at Oscar’s Pub & Grill, which serves all of its giant 8-ounce burgers with a side of homemade French fries. You better come hungry if you plan to order the popular Big O burger: It’s an 8-ounce premium black Angus burger topped with chipotle jack, smoked Gouda, hickory bacon, chorizo, fried onions and jalapeños, served with a side of house guacamole.
Wyoming — Luxury Diner
- Luxury Breakfast: $8.55
This charming Cheyenne diner is located in the luxury dining car of an old trolley, hence the name. The restaurant is most popular for its breakfast and brunch but also serves up a good burger. Head there for breakfast and go with the classic Luxury Breakfast, which includes two eggs; your choice of “luxury potatoes,” hash browns or grits; toast or a biscuit; and your choice of choice of bacon, ham, sausage links, sausage patties, German sausage, Italian sausage, Polish sausage, chorizo or pork chops — all for less than $9.
The Cheapest Eats in America
When we think of cheap eats, we normally think of fast food and drive-thrus. But there are plenty of restaurants where you can get a freshly prepared, tasty meal for under $10. Whether you’re looking for cheap food in your own state or a travel destination, a little Yelping can go a long way.
More From GoBankingRates
- 20 Ways To Save Money Fast
- How To Save Money on All Your Monthly Expenses and Bills
- Best 401(k) Companies of 2019-2020
- Best Brokers of 2019-2020
Amen Oyiboke-Osifo contributed to the reporting for this article.
Photos are for illustrative purposes only. As a result, some of the images may not reflect the specific food items listed in this article.
Methodology: GOBankingRates identified the best cheap eat in every state by choosing the biggest city in every state and using Yelp.com to identify a restaurant and a popular food item from the restaurant’s menu. In order to find the best cheap restaurant in each state’s biggest city, GOBankingRates filtered Yelp results by 1 dollar sign ($) and highest rated, and then chose the top establishment that serves food. Coffee, doughnuts and dessert were excluded from the search. Once a restaurant was chosen, GOBankingRates highlighted a popular food item to try that is $10 or less.
About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.