The Best Meals For $20 & Under In Seattle
Here’s where to eat in Seattle if you’re trying to save some money.
Maybe you started looking into buying a home in Seattle and realized that the listing prices are just never going to calm down. Maybe your car's engine decided that functioning is optional. Or maybe you’ve accepted the fact that your credit card doesn’t work like a savings account. Either way, you’re trying not to spend a lot of money right now. Luckily, Seattle has many inexpensive restaurants with enough variety to keep things interesting and enough value to keep your wallet full, so you can spend your cash on the important things, like footie pajamas for your dog in three different patterns. Or, retirement.
This orange counter serves some of the best Filipino food in Seattle, and it happens to be reasonably-priced, too—from excellent tart pork adobo over rice seeped in braising liquid and crunchy lumpia wands to shiny red longanisa sausage that deserves its own long-form documentary. This is up there for the best meal you can get in Seattle for around $15, not to mention that the secluded location makes for a particularly low-stress Pike Place lunch ideal for locals or tourists who want to feel like locals. But just keep in mind, “YOUR PORTION DEPENDS ON YOUR ATTITUDE.” So be nice and you won’t leave hungry.
If you’re going to shell out a lot on drinks around Capitol Hill later and want to go easy on dinner, splitting a pizza with friends is a solid plan. At Blotto, you’ll pay less than 10 bucks per person and still might likely leave a straggler slice or two. The excellent New York-style pies here range from a phenomenally done classic cheese to Ezzo pepperoni and castelvetrano olives. Share a caesar too, and don't forget multiple sides of Calabrian chili-vin for dunking your crust ends in.
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Phở Bắc Sup Shop
You can get some of the city’s best pho at Pho Bac Sup Shop, where a giant bowl of noodle soup with incredible slow-poached chicken or dinosaur-sized short ribs costs less than $15. And that’s if you’re starving. Most of the bowls are $14 for a small (which, to be honest, is not small), and it only costs one more dollar for a large. They’re all delicious, whether you’re going for some meatballs or keeping things vegetarian. Split some of the great bar snacks (like french fries with a lemongrass dip) with friends to start.
photo credit: Stan Lee
Marination Ma Kai
Marination Ma Kai is like a choose-your-own-adventure game, but for inexpensive Hawaiian street food on a beachside patio. Spam sliders and tacos with proteins like miso ginger chicken and “sexy tofu” (our favorite) come in packs of four for $13, or you can go for something heartier like $10 spicy kimchi fried rice with an over-easy egg, or the panko-crusted fish sandwich with pickles and miso slaw ($12.25—spring for it). No matter what, add a pint of mac salad for $5.50 and compensate with free office drip coffee the next day.
For bánh mì that costs less than $6, you can't get much better than Tony's. In particular, we're fans of the lemongrass fried fish version. It’s an outstanding baguette of flaky, fragrant, dry-fried fish that only softens slightly on contact with the custardy egg-forward mayo. And it’s a sandwich that we want for lunch daily. The cold cut option is also excellent, complete with sliced ham and charred pork, all stacked to the perfect thickness with crunchy pickled vegetables and shaved red onion for a little kick.
For around $15 (give or take), here are some things you can get at Tacos Chukis: four delicious house tacos with spiced pork, cheese, guacamole, and grilled pineapple, or three baby burritos filled with carne asada, or four cheesy mulitas, or two house tacos, an agua fresca, and a baby burrito. There’s no wrong choice unless you don’t do your taco-eating here.
Spice Waala is a good lunch takeout spot in Ballard that serves roti wrapped with fillings like paneer masala, chicken tikka, and ground lamb—but our favorite is the aloo patty that keeps its crisp even when rolled up with their delicious green chutney. The kathi rolls run about $7 each, and they’re big enough to keep you full for a few hours. Add some fries with the aforementioned chutney and a soft serve sundae.
Aviv Hummus Bar
The herby falafel at Aviv Hummus Bar is fried to-order, and for $14 you get seven pieces on top of hummus or stuffed in a pita with cucumber, cabbage, pickles, tomato, and pickles. Add some fries with tahina for $6 and bask in your good decision-making among the colorful bar stools and garbanzo-themed wall decor.
Bowls are economical, especially when they’re big and they can fit a lot of food. Fremont Bowl takes this concept and really runs with it—for around $15, they sell excellent donburi bowls filled to the brim with sushi rice and sashimi, teriyaki, or other toppings. It’s a very good value, particularly considering the high quality of the fish here. Make sure to use the (free) smoky housemade soy sauce.
Rachel's Ginger Beer/Ma'ono Fried Chicken
In the back corner of Rachel’s Ginger Beer at University Village is a little counter serving a condensed version of Ma’ono Fried Chicken’s menu—spicy chicken sandwiches, chicken fingers, salads, fries, and macaroni with a kimchi-infused cheese sauce. Not only is it a quick dinner situation, but it’s also quite affordable. You need this chicken sandwich—now go get it.
If you’re looking for a great value on low-priced sushi, it’s hard to find somewhere better than Musashi’s in the ID. You’re not going to see things like toro or uni, but you will enjoy fantastic tuna and torched salmon for around $3 per piece as well as hamachi rolls for $6. We especially appreciate the thick-cut sashimi that come in a set of four pieces for around $13. Plus, their casual space has a ton of tables, which makes it perfect for a dinner with friends when you need to spend your money on other things, like more sushi.
photo credit: Derrick Koch
G.H. Pasta Co.
G.H. Pasta Co. is a spot where you can get serious fresh pasta for around $15. At this casual South Lake Union lunch restaurant, your delicious plate of carbs will contain things like truffled cacio e pepe, pomodoro rigatoni with burrata, or gemelli chicken bianco ragu with cream and fennel. And if for some reason you're in here and don't want pasta, the $10 Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich is your order.
Wood Shop BBQ
If you head to Woodshop BBQ and get a smoked jalapeño mac and cheese bowl topped with pulled pork, pickled onion, and homemade barbecue sauce, and then your apartment building’s elevator breaks down, you probably won’t start wheezing in panic, because hunger is not going to be an immediate concern. The massive smoked meat sandwiches are also a swell deal at $13, but the loaded macaroni bowl is definitely the best value here.
Little Ting's Dumplings
The beauty of Little Ting's is that you can get 12 homemade potstickers for around $12, and they’re really good. You can also choose between ordering them steamed, pan-fried, or boiled, so bring some friends who enjoy the various cooking methods of dumplings.
Pick-Quick Drive In
Let’s say you need to tear into a double cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake. Pick-Quick Drive In is an old-school fast food experience where you can get most things on the menu with only the rumpled bills you find in your pants pockets while doing laundry. These burgers are much better than the ones at Dick’s, and you don’t even have to stand up while eating them. Pile your friends inside your car at lunch or dinner and get a round of vanilla soft serve root beer floats.