Where To Eat When You’re Trying To Not Spend Money

You spent your entire paycheck on artisanal matches from Anthropologie. Here’s where to eat in Seattle if you’re trying to save some money.

Maybe you got a little too excited with one-click ordering on Amazon. Maybe you’re still at the beck and call of Sallie Mae. Or, maybe you just watched with awe and slight horror as your 22-year-old friend with an amazing job purchased a condo. Whatever the reason, you’d rather not spend a ton of money on a meal out 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, you know, actually have enough money to retire.

The Spots

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Perfect For:Cheap EatsLunch

This truck on the side of the road in Queen Anne serves quality Vietnamese street food at reasonable prices. There’s tasty pho, banh mi, vermicelli bowls, spring rolls, and Vietnamese coffee - and nothing costs more than $8.50 (except for the $10 short ribs, if you’re a high roller). Which means that getting an appetizer, a sandwich, and a strawberry bubble tea is within reach here for $12. Sign us up for that.

If you’re going to shell out a lot on drinks in West Seattle later and want to go easy on dinner, splitting a pizza with friends is a solid plan. At Supreme, where the slices are giant, you’ll pay less than 10 bucks per person and still head home with a box full of leftovers. The awesome New York-style pies here range from classic pepperoni to our favorite, the “Ono” pie with American cheese and fried chicken. Share a round of scallion garlic knots, too.

The herby falafel at Aviv Hummus Bar is fried to-order, and for $11 you get seven pieces on top of hummus or stuffed in a pita with cucumber, cabbage, pickles, tomato, and tahini. (French fries are $4 more.) Bask in your good decision-making among the colorful bar stools and garbanzo bean wall decor.

Eating at a bar is a convenient ploy to save money, but some bar food is straight-up bad. Not at Star Brass Lounge, where, for instance, the soft pretzel is housemade and comes with lots of other good stuff: cheese sauce, bratwurst, apples, and grapes. Pull up a barstool for other things like breaded cod bites, the delicious tavern burger, and deep-fried grilled cheese with spicy ranch for dipping. Probably not the best choice if you want something kind of healthy, but at least you’ll have more money to spend on cycling classes tomorrow.

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.

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We get it. Most of these places aren’t upscale enough for an “I am in love with you and I’d like you to be aware” date night. Which is where Pair comes in. It’s a little French bistro in Ravenna that looks like the set of an indie rom-com, and serves delicious entrees like steak frites with blue cheese butter and wild salmon with roasted potatoes and olive vinaigrette - all of which cost under $20. (If you really want to keep the bill low, get the fontina mac and cheese or the rosemary-braised gigante beans with feta.) You’ll be very happy here, and so will your wallet. Assuming your wallet has feelings.

There’s a lot to love about Kamei. The staff is friendly, it’s a nice, relaxed place to eat with friends (or alone), and the sushi is very reasonably-priced - for example, the massive Rock Star Roll stuffed with fresh spicy lobster and avocado is less than $10. Service can be a bit slow when things are busy on the weekends, but as long as you’re not in a hurry, it’s a very good option for dinner in West Seattle.

A solid neighborhood spot for some burgers and fries with your kids (if you have kids) or your friends (if you have friends). The beer selection is great, as are the burgers. They do corn dogs and grilled cheese, too, and the excellently crispy french fries with hoppy garlic mayo must be in your order. Good thing you can get a gigantic basket of them for five bucks. Grab a quarter-pound classic burger with American cheese, the aforementioned fries, and a homemade lemonade for under $15.

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 $10 for a small (which, to be honest, is not small), and 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 cilantro aioli or Vietnamese sausage sliders) with friends to start.

For around $15 (give or take), here are some things you can get at Tacos Chukis: six delicious house tacos with spiced pork, cheese, guacamole, and grilled pineapple, or three baby burritos filled with carne asada, or four quesadillas, or two house tacos, an agua fresca, a baby burrito, and an entire chicken torta. There’s no wrong choice unless you don’t do your taco-eating here.

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.

Mamnoon Street is the fast-casual version of Mamnoon, which is our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in the city. And everything on the menu is under $12. They have the same awesome mezze as their fancier sister restaurant, as well as chicken shawarma, falafel wraps on homemade pita, and spicy cilantro french fries with za’atar mayo. The inside is pretty plain, but this place is great for a quick lunch or low-key dinner in South Lake Union.

Musashi’s is cash-only. It’s small. There’s often a line to get in, and the interior is not fancy. But none of that matters, because you can get 12 pieces of spicy tuna roll for under $7, and it’s not coming from a gas station refrigerator case. If you’re looking for a sushi bargain, you’ll find it here.

You already know about Il Corvo. But here’s another spot where you can get serious fresh pasta served in a real bowl for under $10. At this casual Pike Place restaurant, your delicious plate of carbs will taste like it’s actually from Italy, you won’t have to wait forever in line, and you’ll have money left over for some dessert crostata. Which you’re definitely going to want.

Entrees at Manao are mostly in the $10-$15 range, but one order of anything - from crispy, creamy lime chicken to scallop and shrimp fried rice or drunken noodles - will last you for at least two meals. Plus, the way-better-than-average pad thai is only nine bucks.

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 great deal at $10, but the loaded macaroni bowl is definitely the best value here.

Little Ting’s is so far north that it’s barely within Seattle city limits - good luck with the bus route on this one. The beauty of this place, though, is that you can get 15 homemade potstickers for under $10, and they’re really good. For a dollar less, you can get six humongous steamed pork buns that are just as filling - because there’s a dumpling food baby for every budget.

Let’s say you need to tear into a double cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake, but you don’t hate yourself enough to eat at Dick’s. 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 root beer floats made with actual soft serve ice cream.

You could go somewhere and spend about $11 on four slices of floppy “New York-style” pizza chased with an entire bottle of two-buck chuck. Or, you could have a whole Neapolitan wood-fired pie to yourself in the dimly-lit Via Tribunali, as well as a generous glass of good prosecco - all for the same price. You just have to show up between 4 and 6 for Happy Hour, and your fancy affordable pizza meal is within reach.

At Bok A Bok Fried Chicken, you can get a Korean fried chicken thigh with four different dipping sauces, kimchi mac and cheese, a homemade biscuit with spiced honey, and a can of beer for around $15. Trekking to White Center may feel like exploring uncharted territory, but if you’re looking for an interesting fried chicken dinner with minimal damage to that pie chart on your Mint app, then by all means, borrow a friend’s car and do it - or head to their second location in Capitol Hill.

Paying less than $8 for about a gallon of Vietnamese broth and a pound of rice noodles is a great move when you’re trying to save money - and at Pho Than Brothers, that’s exactly what you can do. Get some very fast takeout if you’re in a hurry. Oh, and cream puffs come free with every order.

You only have $15 to burn, but you (and all your friends) still want a sit-down meal. La Cocina Oaxaquena is always the fun answer, and it happens to have some of the best Mexican food in the city. Tortilla chips here aren’t free, but they’re unlimited, as are the excellent salsas - so bring on that eighth bowl. With the 12 bucks you have left, a great majority of the menu is yours for the taking - from tostadas to quesadillas to tacos to tamales. Or, you can just get your chips with a pint-glass-sized margarita and call it a day.

Even though vegan food is made of things that grow in the dirt, it can get pretty pricey in a restaurant setting. For something delicious and reasonable, head to Cycle Dogs’ newest Ballard takeout location and grab some dinner instead. The dogs themselves—made with wheat gluten and lots of tasty spices—are from Field Roast, so they’re basically local meatless gold, and come loaded with toppings like grilled corn, mayo, green onion, and lime. Get a breakfast dog with an entire hash brown patty, vegan chorizo, chipotle mayo, and grilled onions, along with a side of crinkle fries dunked in their delicious ranch. You’ll like these things even if you’re an omnivore.

Marination Ma Kai is like a choose-your-own-adventure game, but for reasonably-priced Hawaiian-Korean-Mexican fusion street food on a beachside patio. Spam sliders and tacos with proteins like miso ginger chicken and “sexy tofu” (our favorite) are $3 each, or you can go for something heartier like spicy kimchi fried rice with an over-easy egg (around eight bucks) or the pork katsu sandwich ($12.75 - spring for it). No matter what, add the macaroni salad for $2.50 and compensate with free office drip coffee the next day.

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