The West End’s Best Meals For Under $20 guide image

ATLGuide

The West End’s Best Meals For Under $20

From a plant-based pizzeria to a few soul food staples, here are the best places to eat in the historic Southwest Atlanta neighborhood when funds are tight.

We have no clue how often Clark-Atlanta, Morehouse, or Spelman students are down to their last $20. But whether for a starving college student or financially-stretched working adult, it’s a great feeling whenever you can make a Jackson (the bill) work as hard as a Jackson (Michael, Janet, Samuel L., etc.). Luckily for them, us, and any other famished folks in the West End/AUC area, there are more than enough options for a solid, reasonably priced meal. From a plant-based pizzeria to a few soul food staples, here are the best places to eat in the historic Southwest Atlanta neighborhood when your cash flow isn’t quite cooperating.

photo credit: @bitesndbevsmedia Amisha Nair

Q-Time review image
7.5

Q-Time Restaurant

$$$$

1120 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd SW, Atlanta
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

With a name like Q-Time—BB-Q? Q-Time? Get it?!—you figure the ribs and chicken are going to be right. But the secret folks around these parts have known for years is that the restaurant also has some fair prices on the menu. You can start with the three-veggie plate, costing only $6. And then there’s the Q-Time Classic (tender dark chicken, rice, two other veggies, and a muffin) that sets you back less than $8, making it one of the tastiest deals on this list.

Don’t let the karaoke nights and speakeasy vibes fool you—Bakaris is definitely a pizza shop. This spot across the street from The Mall West End puts a delicious spin on things by sticking to strictly vegan ingredients. The Ultra Vegan Deluxe half pizza ($12) is literally half of a medium pie, made with a buttery-ish, cracker-like crust that holds onions, mushrooms, spinach, and other goodies up well. We just wish they were a tad more gracious with the red sauce.

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Massive coolers filled with Joya sodas stand on both sides of the small restaurant. Nary a seat in sight. Okay, we get the hint—Taste of Tropical isn’t the place you come for a sit-down meal. Regulars know that, if they want to enjoy the generous order of jerk chicken over rice and peas ($15.95) or the brown stewed snapper with cabbage ($13.95), they’re going to have to do it from the Ikea table in their own place.

With a focus on healthy, fast-casual dishes, Local Green has become one of our go-tos off MLK. Though it’s largely used as a take-out spot, LGA does have a few tables and stools for those moments you just can’t wait to dig into the Rapper’s Delight ($15.99), a salmon philly packed with seasoned fish and topped with vegan mozzarella, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and a tangy secret sauce. Lately, though, we’ve been ordering the salmon philly quesadilla ($15.99), a hand-held treat filled with the same great toppings but almost none of the mess.

Another tiny takeout spot, Mr. Everything has been an essential part of the AUC dining experience for years. While affordable hot dogs and subs are both great off the grill, it’s the famous Healthy Choice Rice dishes that make the most sense if you’re on a budget. Depending on the meat (options like chicken, lamb, or salmon) sizzling atop your diced vegetables and bed of yellow rice, you’ll spend between $14 and $19. But because your plate is packed with so much stuff, you’ll likely have enough leftovers for your next meal.

There’s a widely circulating rumor that good, healthy food can’t be found at a decent price. Soul Vegetarian, a West End mainstay for decades, disproves that notion with tasty smoothies ($8.95), hearty salads ($12), and lunch specials ($13.50) comprised of alternative proteins and fresh vegan sides as good as any fast-food option you’ll find down the street.

The only way to work around the crowds that line up at this house-turned-health-food-eatery is to preorder your refreshing Liberation Lemonade ($3.99) or kale wrap ($15.99) online. Outside of that strategy, we suggest passing the wait time by practicing your breathing exercises or patronizing the vendors selling their goods on the front porch. For rawist, vegans, and anyone looking for a non-processed, plant-based meal that doesn’t taste like lazy crudité, this is a great spot to bet on for a tasty marriage of ingredients like hemp hearts, black-eye hummus, and couscous seasoned with nutritional yeast and other spices.

With its motorcycle-garage decor and beer-heavy drink menu, it’s understandable if your first thought about this spot off Ralph David Abernathy is that it’s not the best place for you and your scooter-riding 3-year-old to lounge after a stroll. But almost on cue, a mom pushing a stroller comes in and orders the small-but-mighty grouper tacos ($15). By the time she adds a Terrapin brew to her order, you realize, parent or not, we can all appreciate a good pour. Plus, the patio atmosphere is welcoming to everyone—pets, underaged humans, and probably even Saints fans.

The barbecue spot, named after the restaurant owner, is well-known for pit-cooked pork ($14.99) and turkey breast plates ($17.49). These meaty portions come out of the kitchen on big aluminum trays, so you can go full-on Jackson Pollock with the tableside sauces.  When we dig into a forkful of smokey meat drenched in the vinegary Rodney sauce, we always say our grace again. We gotta be grateful for economical eats this good.

We're always down for a really smart deal—from the Sock Man van across from the mall to the bean pie vendors outside the Marta station—so $12 Tuesdays at Slim & Husky's is right up our alley. The hip-hop-themed pizzeria is the perfect post-work retreat, where you can unwind with craft beers and boozy slushies. The shape and crunch of their crust gives off more flatbread than pizza, but you need their sturdy dough so you can pile up your personal pizza with next-level toppings like smoked chicken, salmon, and peach mustard drizzle. Plus, Slim & Husky’s menu shows love to vegans (with faux meats and dairy-free cheeses) and dessert lovers (with signature cinnamon rolls), too.

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