PHLGuide

The Best Meals In Philly For Under $15

15 great things to eat when you don’t want to spend a lot.
The Best Meals In Philly For Under $15 image

photo credit: Nicole Guglielmo

There are things at the dollar store that cost $7. Happy Hour only saves you a buck or two. Life is a lie, and everything is expensive. When the thought of checking your bank account makes you shudder, minimizing your food budget is a must. We're here to help with places where you can get a meal on the cheap. All of the options in this guide are $15 or under and good enough to make you question the sanity of the $1,000 burger tribe. FYI—we skipped the cheesesteaks, hoagies, and roast porks because that would just be too easy. 

The Spots

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

Puerto Rican

Fishtown

$$$$Perfect For:Walk-InsKeeping It Kind Of HealthyTakeawayLunchVegansSerious Take-Out Operation

The Meal: Vegano Bowl, $15 

You could leave Amy’s Pastelillos in Fishtown with several things stuffed in their paper containers for under $15. The doughy pouches here are five bucks, and they have a combination platter where you can get two with a side. Plus, tostones nachos with sweet pineapple is just $12. But it’s their Vegano Bowl, with sweet plantains, fluffy white rice, avocado, pickled onions, and tender red beans and pumpkins, that’s so good any carnivore would happily eat it daily. Plus, they give you such big portions that you’ll basically be paying $15 for a savory, sweet, and filling bowl that you’ll get two meals out of.

The Meal: Burger and Fries, $10

When you head to this East Passyunk tavern, you’ll encounter a few regulars who’ve been there every day this week. The simple, delicious, $6 burger is the reason why. The thick burger comes on a soft potato bun with crunchy iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato, and melted American cheese. It’s like a standard BBQ burger—if your uncle’s beers never distracted him from burning your patty. And grab an order of fries to pair it with. Duh.

photo credit: GAB BONGHI

The Meal: Pepperoni Panzerotti, $12

Bella Vista’s Paffuto should be high on your list after you plan a summer vacation to Italy and realize you’ll have to pay for it. Everything on the breakfast menu is under $10, and most lunch items are under $15. This casual, colorful Italian shop's menu is built around quality panzerotti. Each one of the deep-fried, hand-held cousins of the stromboli deserves its own slow turn in a 360 photo booth. But for the ideal balance of peppery meat, sweet basil sauce, and melted mozzarella, go with the pepperoni. grab an Italian soda to wash it all down and start saving up for your trip to the old country.

The Meal: Turkey Club, $12.50

We could have made this guide simply based on hoagies, cheesesteaks, and roast pork sandwiches alone, but that would be too obvious. If you need a cheap sliced meat and cheese fix, head to Olde Richmond’s Meetinghouse. Two slices of toasted, airy bread carry hefty slices of turkey, crispy bacon, lettuce, and mayo. With one bite, you’ll feel like you’ve won the sandwich Powerball. And since you’re already in a bar, you can keep the celebratory mood going with a really good Long Island Iced Tea or the house beers they have on draft.

The Meal: Seafood Jjamppong, $14.99 

You forgot to cancel your seven-day free trial, and now YouTube TV put a $73 crater in your checking account. This calls for nights in and heaps of seafood jjamppong. Jeong’s is in a food stall in Cheltenham’s H-Mart, so grab a foam tray overloaded with thin, chewy noodles, shrimp, mussels, sauteed cabbage, and pork drenched in thick, earthy black bean sauce to go. While you’re waiting for your Korean noodles, you can pick up 40 Asian snacks that cost less than your new streaming bill.

The Meal: Double Sausage, $15

Imagine—some people live in a city where a trip to Home Depot doesn’t end with a cheesesteak or sausage. Luckily, we live here, and Rocco’s Italian Sausage is attached to every Home Depot in Philly. So you'll see people in line with planks of wood and a chandelier they claim they know how to install. The small, fast-casual trailer serves up cheap portabella, chicken, and jerk cheesesteaks, but our go-to order is the Double Sausage topped with grilled onions and peppers. They put two long sausages (hot or sweet) on a long buttery roll, and it’s a simple and smoky way to stay full while you paint a wall Daytona Peach three hours later.

The Meal: Large Brown Stew Chicken Platter, $13

Ron’s Caribbean has two locations (North Philly and the Northeast), where they serve classic Jamaican dishes like curry goat, jerk chicken, and patties. All of their platters are generously filled and come with sides like peas and rice, stewed cabbage, and sauteed okra with a little spice. And they’ll all come in handy when student loans rob your paycheck of a digit or two. The $13 brown stewed chicken platter, with fall-off-the-bone-tender meat, is the best thing to get here. The sauce they drench it in is like a thick, chicken gravy with a smokiness so delicious we scrape the carton with our spoons just to get the last drop. 

The Meal: Al Pastor Torta, $12 

Taqueria Morales is just across the street from Snyder Station, so you can get a bunch of tortas here for less than a weekly reload on your SEPTA Key. The standout is the al pastor torta, filled with adobo-glazed pork, avocado, chiles, and lettuce, all cupped by a soft teleras roll. Eat a few inside with friends, or take the meaty creation with you on your way home. Snyder Station could use a scent that’s not wafting from the overserved crowd heading to The Linc.

The Meal: Garden Veggie Omelet, $12.99   

Diners are magical. Almost everything is so inexpensive that you could pick up the tab for everyone’s breakfast and barely crack $100. And that’s exactly the kind of place you need after you pay your rent, blink, and have to pay it again. The Four Seasons Diner in the Northeast makes four egg omelets, so the Garden Veggie, stuffed with sauteed broccoli, spinach, onions, and red peppers, will topple over your plate like a blanket. It also comes with home fries and three pieces of toast, so after eating, you’ll need a blanket (and couch), too.

The Meal: Seven Chocolate Baklava, $14 

Sure, this West Philly restaurant offers falafel platters, beef kabobs, and fish wraps for under $15. But where’s the fun in that? Head to this Middle Eastern spot for these pastries, which cost $2 each and taste like chocolate and pistachios made a baby. Like most baklava, they’re flaky, syrupy, subtly sweet, and don’t require a small loan to eat a bunch. Whether you come in for a quick grilled chicken salad or spinach pie with feta, it would be a mistake not to have a few before leaving.

The Meal: Beef Noodle Soup, $12.99

This Chinatown spot’s beef noodle soup is the first thing we think of when the weather turns to several-layers levels. And that’s fine with us since a bowl won’t require us to check our available balance before ordering. It has tender beef shanks, bok choy, and thick noodles bathing in a beefy broth, and we like to add chili oil and chopped mustard greens for some extra heat and tanginess. It’s big enough for two, but why share on a miserably cold or rainy day when you deserve the world?

The Meal: Sayur Singkong and Beef Rendang, $13

The menu at this South Philly Indonesian restaurant varies daily, but you can always find beef rendang ($8) and sayur singkong ($5). If you head there during the week and avoid the crowds, the plate of braised, caramelized beef in coconut milk and tender collard greens will taste even better. Instead of reheating day-old pizza or making another air fryer meal, get a large, aromatic curry that’s worth crossing town for.

The Meal: Bulgogi, Egg, and Cheese, $6.55

You just had to have those $500 headphones because your inner, impulsive child whispered that you need to “study” sound. So for the next month, a night out will be streaming Grey’s Anatomy’s 100th season with $5 wine. But your morning can be filled with this cheesy, eggy, and sweet beef masterpiece. The Center City spot has a breakfast sandwich to end all breakfast sandwiches (especially when it’s on an everything bagel). And since you have those headphones now, you can blast sad songs anytime you eat anything else.

The Meal: Lamb Over Rice, $8.99 

If anybody needs a budget meal, it’s students who have sad, shi*ty Top Ramen in a steady rotation. Everything at this University City Indian food truck is better than microwaveable noodles, and it’s all under $10. When we’re here, we go for the lamb over rice. The meat is cubed and is supremely juicy thanks to the curry sauce it’s in. And if you spent the last of your cash on an ancient copy of The Principles of Economics, you can pay with almost any payment app.

The Meal: Steak Bowl, $13.89

This Nigerian cafe might be the best thing Northern Liberties has to offer outside of the free parking garage next to the Acme. The West African grill offers incredible grilled meats, crispy akara fritters, and meat pies. After you’ve gone a little Antarctica with the A/C on a sweltering day and the bill has an extra zero, head here. The beef in the steak bowl is dry-rubbed and coated with Nigerian yaji, so when you add it to your bowl, everything from the cabbage to the jollof rice gets a hint of the smoky, peanutty flavor. Order the buttery cornbread even if it tips you over the $15. You’re not paying for parking, so you can afford it.

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