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Photograph: Courtesy Saloniki Saloniki

The 15 best cheap eats in Boston

Eat for cheap and fill up without putting a dent in your wallet

By Eric Grossman and Time Out Boston Staff

Yes, Boston is a notoriously expensive place to live and dine. But there are a few spots where you can get a cheap, tasty meal. The best cheap eats in Boston offer satisfying fare that’s actually delicious. Here are some of our favorites that clock in at around $10 or less. In addition to the top spots listed here, you can usually find cheap eats at the best Mediterranean restaurants, best Thai restaurants, and best Indian restaurants in Boston. When you’re up for a splurge and money is no object, try one of Boston’s best fine dining restaurants.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

Best cheap eats in Boston

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Charlene McBride

1. The $9 hot sour noodle soup at Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe

Restaurants Chinese Downtown

Gene’s is cash-only, but you won’t need much for a good meal. Join students and nearby office workers for hand-pulled noodles, spicy soups, and the namesake beef flatbread sandwiches. The choices of regional Xi’an noodle dishes will leave you fully satisfied for not much more than a tenner, and you can't beat Gene’s Hot Sour Noodle Soup: a bowl of chewy, hand-pulled noodles in hot spicy sour soup with bean sprouts, carrots, cilantro and pork.

El Pelon
Photograph: Courtesy El Pelon

2. The $9 caramelos at El Pelón Taqueria

Restaurants Mexican Fenway/Kenmore

This Fenway mainstay gets packed before Red Sox games with fans craving a quick, cheap, pre-game bite (or getting a giant burrito to take into Fenway Park). The interior is small and cheerful, and the food is filling and flavorful. Head to the Tacos de la Casa menu and get the Caramelos. You’ll get two tacos stuffed with grilled steak and topped with melted Jack cheese, hot sauce, salsa fresca and guacamole.

Galleria Umberto
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/dewmike

3. The $2 slice at Galleria Umberto

Restaurants Pizza North End

Regulars line up at this old-school North End takeout joint as early as 10:30am. They know not to risk missing out on delectable, super-cheap Sicilian slices. Even diners waiting for a table at nearby restaurants have been known to grab a slice while they wait, so Galleria Umberto usually sells out. It’s cash only, but at these prices you can throw in a giant arancini and still have no problems.

Anna's Taqueria
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Angela S.

4. The $8 al pastor burrito at Anna’s Taqueria

Restaurants Mexican Beacon Hill

Anna’s has been a go-to for those seeking home-style Mexican and a cheap meal since 1995. For a filling meal on a budget, nothing beats the Al Pastor burrito will curb your hunger with marinated pork cooked on a rotisserie with pineapple and onion. Top it off with sour cream and guac and you're set for the day.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Voravut R.

5. The $3.50 hot dog at Sullivan’s

Restaurants Fast food spots South Boston

For more than 60 years, Sullivan’s has been dishing out cheap weiners in Southie to loyal hot dog (and cheap eats) fanatics. It’s a simple, steamed dog served in a toasted bun, and when loaded up with toppings it'll still allow you to splurge on the cheese and chili.

Banh Mi
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/ Salinda N.

6. The $6 dac biet at Banh Mi Ba Le

Restaurants Vietnamese Dorchester

Banh Mi Ba Le serves up authentic and fresh Vietnamese classics daily, starting bright and early at 5am. Their daily specials vary depending on the freshest produce and meats available.The result is delicious banh mi sandwiches at a great price. Go for the Dac biet, a pate sandwich served with homemade mayo, fish sauce, scallion oil, cucumber, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, and soy sauce.

Sapporo Ramen
Photograph: Courtesy Sapporo Ramen

7. The $11 House ramen at Sapporo Ramen

Restaurants Japanese Porter Sq

You’ll probably find a line at this small Porter Square ramen shop. Bowls are big, flavorful, and inexpensive. The House Ramen here (delicious broth and noodles topped with pork, egg, beansprouts, nori, corn and scallions) is so big and filling that we’ve let it slip in $1 over the limit; the leftovers will be worth it.

Punjabi Dhaba
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Will W.

8. The $10 House special combo at Punjabi Dhaba

Restaurants Indian Inman Sq

This small Inman Square spot specializes in heaping portions of fast, flavorful Punjabi dishes. Whatever you choose, you’ll enjoy spiced delights for a reasonable price. We think you should go for the smorgasbord of flavor that is the House special combo: a platter with mixed veggie curry, veggie biryani, a samosa, a pakora, a naan, and raita.

Machu Chicken
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Yi-Chien C.

9. The $6 quarter chicken at Machu Chicken

Restaurants Peruvian Somerville

Machu Picchu's casual sibling specializes in the same juicy, mouth-watering Peruvian roast chicken. For a quick, cheap, and filling meal, you can't beat a quarter chicken with salad and fries or rice. You can even splurge on a chicha morada (purple corn juice) for a complete meal.

Tasty Burger
Photograph: Courtesy Tasty Burger

10. The $4.95 burger at Tasty Burger

Restaurants Hamburgers Fenway/Kenmore

This homegrown burger joint offers a retro vibe, reasonable prices and late hours, making it a local favorite (and the official burger of the Red Sox). You’ll find the standard burgers and fries plus turkey burgers, veggie burgers, chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs. The standard burger, which comes with lettuce, tomato, and pickles, is the straightforward winner.

Neighborhood Restaurant & Bakery, Restaurants, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Neighborhood Restaurant & Bakery

11. The $10 cream of wheat at Neighborhood Restaurant & Bakery

Restaurants Somerville

You’ll probably have to wait in a line, but that’s part of the experience at this Somerville gem. Once inside, you’ll get huge portions of breakfast favorites for cheap. The Cream of Wheat is legendary. It’s an option as a side, but go for the entree option and you’ll get fruit, sweet toast, homemade jam, coffee, and juice.

Kelly's Roast Beef Revere Beach
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/David R.

12. The $8.50 roast beef at Kelly's Roast Beef

Restaurants Seafood

Kelly’s Roast Beef has been serving hungry Revere beach goers since it first opened in 1951. Kelly’s is a one stop shop for all things quintessentially New England such as lobster rolls, clam chowder, golden fried scallops and more. But the thinly sliced roast beef, piled high on a buttered and griddled bun, is the winner here. Top it with a trio of sauces and you’re good to go.

Photograph: Courtesy Saloniki

13. The $10 despena pita at Saloniki

Restaurants Greek Fenway/Kenmore

Saloniki offers fresh, farm-to-table Greek fare for a very reasonable price. Souvlaki sandwiches feature tender grilled meats and local produce. Rice plates and pitas—identified by classic Greek names like Yianni, Nico, and Herc—include stars like lemon-oregano grilled chicken, roasted pomegranate-glazed eggplant, and spicy lamb kefte. The vegetarian Despena Pita is a top choice, featuring zucchini-feta fritters, greens, tomato, onion, herbs, fries, garlic yogurt, and secret sauce.

Effie’s Kitchen
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Stavros A.

14. The $8.50 pork gyro at Effie’s Kitchen

Restaurants Mediterranean Roslindale

Effie’s, a family-run favorite in Roslindale, serves up exceptional Greek takeout at affordable prices. Flavorful meats are cradled in thick, warm pita, salads are overflowing with feta and chicken, tzatziki is prepared fresh in-house, and spinach pies are flaky and fresh. The traditional Pork Gyro In Pita is everything you’d want, served with red onion, tomato, tzatziki and fries.

Chicken and Rice Guys
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Chicken and Rice Guys

15. The $8 chicken rice plate at Chicken and Rice Guys

Restaurants Mediterranean Downtown

The ubiquitous Chicken and Rice Guys dot the landscape with trucks, pop-ups, and brick-and-mortar spots. Inexpensive, filling, and flavorful, their fresh, fast halal street fare is great for a quick lunch. The Guys’ Chicken Rice Plate includes rice, pita, salad, and a choice of protein (go for the seasoned and grilled Halal chicken).

Bites under $10 at Time Out Market Boston

Time Out Market Boston
Photograph: Eva Sakellarides

Time Out Market Boston

Restaurants Fenway/Kenmore

Eat well without damaging your wallet at the city's coolest spot for cuisine, cocktails and culture. Start off with Taqueria El Barrio's tacos ($4.35). Enjoy one or two of these delicious flavor bombs; may we suggest the Asada (cabbage, salsa taquera and guacamole) or birria (onion and cilantro). If you're there on a weekend, enjoy Mamaleh's Pastrami, Egg & Cheese ($8.75), served with Russian dressing on a challah roll. Cusser's crispy fish tacos ($10) include cabbage slaw, pickled onions, cilantro, jalapeños and Thoreau sauce. For a healthful option, try Revolution Health Kitchen's Loaded Avocado Toast ($8), which gets bursts of flavor from tomato, red onion, lemon, sesame seeds and red pepper. Finish up with a sweet treat from Gelato & Chill—for $5, you can try one of the handmade, small batch flavors—or Union Square Donuts, whose signature flavors ($3.25) include Vietnamese coffee and Belgian dark chocolate.


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