Good food doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. From coast to coast, the United States is full of hidden gems serving up mouth-watering dishes at affordable prices. Whether you’re craving spicy tacos, savory sandwiches, or crispy fried chicken, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll share our top picks for the 20 best cheap eats in the United States. So grab your appetite and get ready to explore some of the most delicious and budget-friendly restaurants in the country.
The 20 Best Cheap Eats in the United States
1. Paseo – Seattle, Washington
Paseo, located in Seattle, Washington, is a must-visit restaurant for anyone looking for a delicious and affordable meal. This Caribbean-inspired sandwich shop has been around since 1994 and is known for its mouth-watering creations, including the famous Cuban Roast sandwich. Paseo’s sandwiches are made with fresh, high-quality ingredients and feature a unique blend of flavors that will leave your taste buds begging for more.
In addition to their sandwiches, Paseo also offers tasty sides like corn on the cob and black beans and rice. And if you’re looking for a sweet treat, be sure to try their delicious Caribbean-style bread pudding.
Paseo’s casual and laid-back atmosphere, combined with their delicious food and affordable prices, make it a popular spot among locals and tourists alike. So if you find yourself in Seattle, be sure to stop by Paseo and experience the flavors of the Caribbean right in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.
2. Gino’s East – Chicago, Illinois
When it comes to deep-dish pizza, few places do it better than Gino’s East in Chicago, Illinois. Since 1966, Gino’s East has been serving up their famous pies with a thick, flaky crust and generous amounts of toppings.
But it’s not just the pizza that draws in the crowds – Gino’s East is also known for their friendly service and fun atmosphere. The walls of the restaurant are covered in graffiti and messages from satisfied customers, giving the place a unique and lively vibe.
In addition to their classic deep-dish pizza, Gino’s East also offers other Chicago-style favorites like Italian beef sandwiches and hot dogs. And if you’re looking for a sweet treat, be sure to try their decadent chocolate cake.
With multiple locations throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, Gino’s East is a must-visit for anyone looking for a true taste of the Windy City’s culinary scene. So grab a fork and get ready to indulge in some of the best pizza you’ll ever have at Gino’s East.
3. The Varsity – Atlanta, Georgia
If you’re looking for a true taste of Atlanta, look no further than The Varsity. This iconic fast-food restaurant has been a staple in the city since 1928 and is known for its classic American fare, including hot dogs, burgers, and fries.
But The Varsity is more than just a place to grab a quick bite – it’s a cultural institution. The restaurant’s neon lights and retro decor harken back to a bygone era, and the friendly staff and energetic atmosphere make it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
One of the most popular items on the menu is The Varsity’s signature chili dogs, which are topped with their famous chili sauce and a heaping pile of onions. And if you’re looking for a sweet treat, be sure to try their homemade peach pie.
With multiple locations throughout Atlanta and the surrounding area, The Varsity is a must-visit for anyone looking for a taste of classic Southern cuisine. So grab a tray and get ready to experience one of the city’s most beloved restaurants at The Varsity.
4. The Crab Shack – Tybee Island, Georgia
Located on the picturesque Tybee Island in Georgia, The Crab Shack is a seafood lover’s paradise. This casual, waterfront restaurant has been serving up some of the freshest and most delicious seafood in the area since 1990.
One of the highlights of The Crab Shack is their famous Low Country Boil, which is a heaping platter of steamed shrimp, crab legs, corn on the cob, and potatoes, all seasoned to perfection. And if you’re in the mood for something a little different, try their crispy fried alligator bites or their savory seafood gumbo.
But it’s not just the food that makes The Crab Shack so special – it’s the atmosphere as well. The restaurant is situated right on the water, with views of the marsh and the nearby shrimp boats. And the outdoor seating area, complete with live music and a tiki bar, makes for a fun and festive dining experience.
Whether you’re a local or a visitor to Tybee Island, The Crab Shack is a must-visit for anyone looking for delicious seafood and a fun and lively atmosphere. So grab a bib and get ready to dive into some of the best seafood in the South at The Crab Shack.
5. Phil’s BBQ – San Diego, California
When it comes to barbecue in San Diego, few places do it better than Phil’s BBQ. This popular restaurant has been serving up some of the best slow-smoked meats in Southern California since 1998.
One of the standout dishes at Phil’s BBQ is their famous baby back ribs, which are coated in a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce and fall-off-the-bone tender. They also offer other barbecue classics like pulled pork, brisket, and chicken, all cooked to perfection and served with delicious sides like mac and cheese and sweet potato fries.
But what really sets Phil’s BBQ apart is their commitment to quality and customer service. From the friendly staff to the impeccable attention to detail in the cooking process, every aspect of the dining experience at Phil’s is designed to make you feel like a valued customer.
With multiple locations throughout San Diego and the surrounding area, Phil’s BBQ is a must-visit for anyone looking for authentic, delicious barbecue. So bring your appetite and get ready to indulge in some of the best smoked meats on the West Coast at Phil’s BBQ.
6. Taqueria del Sol – Atlanta, Georgia
If you’re in the mood for delicious, authentic Mexican cuisine in Atlanta, look no further than Taqueria del Sol. This popular restaurant has been serving up some of the best tacos, burritos, and other Mexican favorites in the city since 2000.
One of the standout dishes at Taqueria del Sol is their famous brisket tacos, which are filled with slow-cooked beef brisket, topped with fresh cilantro and onion, and served on soft, warm tortillas. They also offer a variety of other taco fillings, like fried chicken, fish, and carnitas, all bursting with flavor.
But Taqueria del Sol isn’t just about tacos – they also serve up delicious burritos, enchiladas, and salads, all made with the freshest ingredients and bold flavors that will transport your taste buds straight to Mexico.
With multiple locations throughout Atlanta and the surrounding area, Taqueria del Sol is a must-visit for anyone looking for authentic, delicious Mexican cuisine. So grab a margarita and get ready to savor some of the best tacos in the city at Taqueria del Sol.
7. Franklin Barbecue – Austin, Texas
When it comes to barbecue in Austin, Texas, Franklin Barbecue is a true icon. This renowned restaurant has been serving up some of the best brisket, ribs, and other smoked meats in the Lone Star State since 2009.
One of the standout dishes at Franklin Barbecue is their famous brisket, which is slow-smoked for up to 18 hours over post oak wood, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a smoky flavor that’s out of this world. They also offer other barbecue favorites like pork ribs, pulled pork, and smoked turkey, all cooked to perfection and served with classic sides like potato salad and coleslaw.
But be warned – the line at Franklin Barbecue can be long, with some customers waiting hours to get a taste of their delicious smoked meats. But trust us, it’s worth the wait.
With its humble beginnings as a food truck, Franklin Barbecue has become a must-visit destination for barbecue lovers from all over the world. So if you find yourself in Austin, Texas, make sure to stop by Franklin Barbecue for a taste of some of the best barbecue around.
8. Katz’s Delicatessen – New York City, New York
When it comes to classic deli sandwiches in New York City, Katz’s Delicatessen is an institution. This iconic restaurant has been serving up some of the best pastrami, corned beef, and other deli favorites in the city since 1888.
One of the standout dishes at Katz’s is their famous pastrami sandwich, which is piled high with tender, smoky pastrami and served on rye bread with mustard. They also offer other deli classics like corned beef, brisket, and matzo ball soup, all made with the highest quality ingredients and served in generous portions.
But Katz’s is more than just a restaurant – it’s a New York City landmark, steeped in history and tradition. From the nostalgic decor to the friendly and knowledgeable staff, every aspect of the Katz’s experience is designed to transport you back in time to the golden age of New York City delis.
With its prime location on the Lower East Side, Katz’s Delicatessen is a must-visit for anyone looking for a taste of classic New York City cuisine. So bring your appetite and get ready to savor some of the best deli sandwiches around at Katz’s.
9. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana – San Francisco, California
When it comes to pizza in San Francisco, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana is a true standout. This acclaimed restaurant offers a variety of pizza styles, each made with high-quality ingredients and cooked to perfection.
One of the highlights at Tony’s is their award-winning Margherita pizza, which features San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, and fresh basil on a perfectly crispy and chewy crust. They also offer other classic Neapolitan-style pizzas like the Napoletana, with anchovies, capers, and olives, and the Diavola, with spicy salami and chili flakes.
But Tony’s is more than just a one-trick pony – they also offer a variety of other Italian dishes like pasta, salads, and antipasti, all made with the same attention to quality and detail as their pizzas.
With its inviting atmosphere and knowledgeable staff, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana is a must-visit for anyone looking for delicious and authentic pizza in San Francisco. So if you find yourself in the city by the bay, make sure to stop by Tony’s and try one of their famous pies for yourself.
10. The Fried Chicken Sandwich at Shake Shack – Nationwide
If you’re a fan of fried chicken sandwiches, you won’t want to miss Shake Shack’s take on this classic dish. Available at locations nationwide, Shake Shack’s fried chicken sandwich is a mouthwatering combination of crispy fried chicken, tangy pickles, and zesty buttermilk herb mayo, all served on a soft potato roll.
What sets Shake Shack’s fried chicken sandwich apart is the quality of the ingredients. The chicken is made with all-natural, antibiotic-free chicken breast that is brined and double-dipped in a seasoned flour mixture for maximum flavor and crunch. The pickles are crisp and tangy, providing the perfect contrast to the juicy chicken, while the buttermilk herb mayo adds a creamy and slightly tangy note.
But Shake Shack’s commitment to quality doesn’t stop there – they also use non-GMO potatoes to make their signature potato buns, and source their ingredients from a network of carefully selected local and regional suppliers.
So if you’re in the mood for a delicious and satisfying fried chicken sandwich, head to your nearest Shake Shack and give theirs a try. You won’t be disappointed.
11. The Biscuit at Biscuit Love – Nashville, Tennessee
When it comes to breakfast in Nashville, Biscuit Love is a must-visit destination – and their signature dish, The Biscuit, is not to be missed. This mouthwatering dish is a Southern classic, featuring a buttery, flaky biscuit topped with crispy fried chicken, aged cheddar, and sausage gravy.
But what makes The Biscuit truly special is the attention to detail that goes into every component of the dish. The biscuit itself is made from scratch every morning using a secret recipe that has been passed down through generations of the founder’s family. The chicken is brined in buttermilk and coated in a seasoned flour mixture before being fried to crispy perfection. The aged cheddar adds a sharp and savory note, while the rich and creamy sausage gravy ties everything together.
And while The Biscuit may be the star of the show, Biscuit Love offers a variety of other delicious breakfast dishes as well, including classic egg dishes, house-made granola, and creative takes on traditional Southern favorites like shrimp and grits.
With its warm and welcoming atmosphere and dedication to quality ingredients and preparation, Biscuit Love is a true Nashville gem, and The Biscuit is a dish that every visitor to Music City should try at least once.
12. Pizzeria Bianco – Phoenix, Arizona
If you’re in Phoenix and looking for the best pizza in town, look no further than Pizzeria Bianco. This award-winning pizzeria has been recognized as one of the top pizza spots in the United States by publications like The New York Times and Food & Wine magazine – and for good reason.
The key to Pizzeria Bianco’s success is their commitment to using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients. The pizza dough is made fresh every day using flour imported from Italy, and the toppings are sourced from local and regional producers. The wood-fired oven gives the pizzas a perfectly crisp crust and just the right amount of char.
One of the standout pizzas at Pizzeria Bianco is the Wiseguy, which features wood-roasted onion, house-smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage. But whether you opt for a classic Margherita or one of the more creative specialty pies, you can rest assured that you’ll be getting a pizza that is made with care and attention to detail.
In addition to pizza, Pizzeria Bianco also offers a selection of delicious salads, antipasti, and house-made desserts. With its cozy and welcoming atmosphere and dedication to quality ingredients and preparation, Pizzeria Bianco is a must-visit spot for any pizza lover in Phoenix.
13. Pappy’s Smokehouse – St. Louis, Missouri
When it comes to barbecue in St. Louis, Pappy’s Smokehouse is a must-visit destination. This beloved BBQ spot has earned a reputation as one of the best in the country, thanks to their mouthwatering meats and dedication to traditional barbecue techniques.
At Pappy’s, the meats are the stars of the show. Whether you’re in the mood for tender pulled pork, juicy brisket, or perfectly smoked ribs, you’re sure to find a dish that satisfies. All of the meats are seasoned with a special blend of spices and slow-smoked over apple and cherry wood for hours, resulting in a smoky and delicious flavor that is second to none.
But it’s not just the meats that make Pappy’s special – their selection of sides is equally impressive. From creamy coleslaw to tangy baked beans to crispy fries, every side dish is made from scratch and perfectly complements the smoky and savory meats.
With its casual and welcoming atmosphere and dedication to quality ingredients and preparation, Pappy’s Smokehouse is a must-visit spot for any barbecue lover in St. Louis. And with a menu full of delicious options, you’re sure to leave with a full and satisfied stomach.
14. In-N-Out Burger – West Coast
In-N-Out Burger is a West Coast institution that has been serving up delicious burgers and fries since 1948. Known for their commitment to quality ingredients and fresh, made-to-order food, In-N-Out has developed a cult following among fast food aficionados.
The menu at In-N-Out is simple and straightforward, with just a few classic burger options to choose from. The most popular choice is the Double-Double, which features two juicy beef patties, two slices of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and the restaurant’s signature spread, all served on a toasted bun. The burgers are cooked to order and made with 100% pure beef, with no fillers, additives, or preservatives.
But it’s not just the burgers that keep customers coming back to In-N-Out – the fries are also a standout. Made from fresh potatoes and cut on-site, the fries are cooked until crispy and golden brown, and can be ordered “Animal Style” – topped with cheese, grilled onions, and the signature spread.
In addition to burgers and fries, In-N-Out also offers milkshakes, soft drinks, and a few other menu items. With its classic, retro-style decor and dedication to quality ingredients and preparation, In-N-Out Burger is a fast food favorite that is sure to satisfy.
15. Joe’s Pizza – New York City, New York
Joe’s Pizza is a New York City institution, serving up some of the best pizza in the city since 1975. With multiple locations throughout Manhattan, Joe’s is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
The pizza at Joe’s is a classic New York-style slice, with a thin, crispy crust and just the right amount of sauce and cheese. The cheese is a blend of mozzarella and grated Parmesan, giving it a unique flavor that sets it apart from other pizzerias.
One of the hallmarks of Joe’s Pizza is its commitment to quality ingredients and traditional preparation methods. The dough is made fresh daily, and the sauce is made from San Marzano tomatoes, known for their rich, sweet flavor. The pizza is baked in a brick oven, giving it a crispy crust and a slightly charred flavor that is characteristic of New York-style pizza.
In addition to its classic cheese pizza, Joe’s also offers a variety of toppings, including pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and peppers. And for those who prefer a thicker crust, Joe’s also offers a Sicilian-style pizza that is baked in a pan and features a thicker, doughier crust.
With its classic New York-style pizza and commitment to quality ingredients and preparation, Joe’s Pizza is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the best of the city’s food scene.
16. Squeeze Inn – Sacramento, California
The Squeeze Inn in Sacramento, California is a local institution known for its mouth-watering cheeseburgers. The restaurant’s signature dish is the “Squeeze with Cheese”, which features a juicy beef patty topped with a mountain of melted cheese that oozes out of the bun.
What sets the Squeeze Inn apart from other burger joints is its unique cooking method. The cheese is melted on the griddle and then formed into a crispy, caramelized crust that surrounds the patty. This creates a delicious contrast between the gooey melted cheese and the crispy outer layer.
In addition to the classic Squeeze with Cheese, the restaurant also offers a variety of other burgers and sandwiches, as well as sides like onion rings and fries. The portions are generous and the prices are affordable, making it a great spot for a casual lunch or dinner.
Despite its popularity, the Squeeze Inn has remained a local favorite for over 30 years. The restaurant has a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere and friendly staff, making it a great place to grab a bite with friends or family.
If you’re a burger lover in Sacramento, the Squeeze Inn is a must-visit spot that will not disappoint.
17. Home Slice Pizza – Austin, Texas
Home Slice Pizza in Austin, Texas is a beloved pizza joint known for its authentic New York-style slices. The restaurant was founded by a couple who missed the pizza from their hometown of New York City and set out to create an authentic pizzeria experience in Austin.
The pizzas at Home Slice are made with fresh, high-quality ingredients and cooked in a brick oven to perfection. The menu features a variety of classic and creative toppings, as well as gluten-free and vegan options. The slices are large and foldable, just like a true New York slice.
In addition to pizza, the restaurant also offers salads, sandwiches, and Italian desserts like cannoli and tiramisu. The vibe at Home Slice is casual and laid-back, with a funky decor and friendly staff. The outdoor seating area is perfect for enjoying a slice on a sunny day in Austin.
Home Slice is a popular spot among locals and tourists alike, and the lines can get long during peak hours. But the wait is worth it for the delicious, authentic pizza and lively atmosphere. If you’re in Austin and craving a taste of New York, Home Slice is the place to go.
18. The Original Pantry Cafe – Los Angeles, California
The Original Pantry Cafe in Los Angeles, California is a historic diner that has been serving up classic American comfort food since 1924. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has become a favorite spot among locals and tourists alike.
The menu at The Original Pantry Cafe features hearty breakfast dishes like pancakes, omelets, and biscuits and gravy, as well as lunch and dinner options like burgers, sandwiches, and steaks. The portions are large and the prices are affordable, making it a great spot for a filling meal any time of day.
One of the standout dishes at The Original Pantry Cafe is the massive stack of pancakes, which are fluffy, buttery, and served with plenty of syrup and butter. Another must-try dish is the corned beef hash, which is made in-house and cooked to perfection.
The interior of The Original Pantry Cafe is charmingly retro, with red vinyl booths and a counter that runs the length of the restaurant. The staff is friendly and efficient, and the atmosphere is always lively and bustling.
Despite its popularity and longevity, The Original Pantry Cafe has managed to maintain its down-to-earth charm and commitment to serving delicious, no-frills comfort food. If you’re in Los Angeles and looking for a classic diner experience, The Original Pantry Cafe is the place to be.
19. Pepe’s Tacos – Los Angeles, California
Pepe’s Tacos is a beloved food truck in Los Angeles, California that has been serving up authentic Mexican street food for over a decade. The bright green truck is a familiar sight to locals, and visitors come from all over to sample their delicious tacos.
The menu at Pepe’s Tacos is simple and focused on traditional flavors. Their tacos come with your choice of meat, including classics like carne asada, al pastor, and carnitas, and are topped with fresh cilantro and onions. They also serve burritos, quesadillas, and tortas, all made with the same high-quality ingredients and attention to detail.
What sets Pepe’s Tacos apart from other food trucks is their commitment to using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Their meat is always cooked to order, and their salsas and guacamole are made in-house daily. Everything is served on fresh, homemade tortillas that are grilled to perfection.
The atmosphere at Pepe’s Tacos is lively and friendly, with customers chatting and laughing as they enjoy their food. The staff is warm and welcoming, always happy to make recommendations and answer questions.
If you’re looking for authentic Mexican street food in Los Angeles, look no further than Pepe’s Tacos. With their delicious tacos, friendly service, and commitment to using fresh, high-quality ingredients, it’s no wonder they’ve become a local favorite.
20. Faidley’s Seafood – Baltimore, Maryland
Faidley’s Seafood is a Baltimore institution that has been serving up some of the best seafood in the city since 1886. Located in the historic Lexington Market, Faidley’s is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves seafood.
The menu at Faidley’s is focused on fresh seafood, including their famous jumbo lump crab cakes, which are made from 100% fresh Maryland blue crab meat. They also serve a variety of other seafood dishes, including shrimp salad, crab soup, and oysters on the half shell. All of their seafood is sourced locally and is of the highest quality.
One of the things that sets Faidley’s apart from other seafood restaurants is the way they prepare their dishes. They use a time-honored recipe for their crab cakes that has been passed down for generations, and they never skimp on the crab meat. Their other dishes are prepared with the same level of care and attention to detail, ensuring that every bite is full of flavor.
The atmosphere at Faidley’s is casual and welcoming, with friendly staff and communal seating. It’s the perfect spot to grab a quick lunch or to sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal with friends and family.
If you’re looking for some of the best seafood in Baltimore, look no further than Faidley’s Seafood. With their commitment to quality, their time-honored recipes, and their friendly atmosphere, it’s no wonder they’ve been a Baltimore institution for over a century.
What makes these restaurants special?
Each of the restaurants on our list offers something unique, whether it’s the atmosphere, the flavor, or the history behind the dish. Here are a few highlights:
- Paseo in Seattle is known for its Caribbean-inspired sandwiches, including the famous Cuban Roast.
- Gino’s East in Chicago is a classic deep-dish pizza joint that’s been around since 1966.
- The Varsity in Atlanta is a fast-food joint that’s been serving up hot dogs and burgers since 1928.
- The Crab Shack in Tybee Island is a seafood restaurant that’s been around for over 20 years and offers stunning waterfront views.
- Phil’s BBQ in San Diego is a family-owned joint that’s been serving up award-winning BBQ since 1998.
Q: Are these restaurants all budget-friendly?
A: Yes, each of the restaurants on our list offers delicious food at affordable prices.
Q: Can I find vegetarian or vegan options at these restaurants?
A: Yes, many of the restaurants on our list offer vegetarian and vegan options.
Q: Are these restaurants located in major cities only?
A: No, our list includes restaurants from all over the United States, including smaller towns and cities.
From classic pizza joints to hole-in-the-wall taco stands, the United States is full of amazing restaurants that won’t break the bank. Whether you’re a foodie on a budget or just looking for a delicious meal, these 20 cheap eats are sure to satisfy. So next time you’re on the hunt for a tasty bite, consider checking out one of our top picks for the best cheap eats in the United States.