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.
B’s is obviously not the only - or even the best - place in Seattle to get some seafood by the water. It is, however, a great place to get something very fresh in classic po’ boy form for under 10 bucks per (substantial) half-sandwich. They get their bread from a bakery in New Orleans, so you know these people are serious about their craft. We’re fans of the fried shrimp version - ask for the homemade lemon aioli instead of mayo. A couple more bucks will get you some sweet potato fries, too.
Tu Cantinas is a tiny little corner bar that serves some of Seattle’s best tacos. Their outrageously good pulled pork is piled onto thick tortillas that are pressed and grilled in front of you. You can get three tacos with housemade avocado sauce and spicy salsa, as well as a stiff margarita for about 15 bucks. This isn’t the place to expect blood orange sangria and guacamole mixed tableside - this is the place to slap an Andrew Jackson onto the bar and get an authentic taqueria experience (and some change) in return.
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 less than $11. They have the same awesome mezze as their more grown-up sister restaurant, as well as chicken shawarma, falafel wraps on homemade pita, and spicy cilantro French fries. 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 pretty no-frills. But none of that matters, because you can get 12 pieces of spicy tuna roll for less than five bucks, and it’s not coming from a gas station refrigerator case. If you’re looking for a sushi bargain, this is it.
Il Corvo is one of the greatest places for pasta in Seattle, period. Incredibly, it’s also among the least expensive. Get here early to avoid the ever-present snake of people waiting in line, and prepare yourself to enjoy some truly awesome lunch-only housemade pasta - for $9.95 per massive steaming bowl. The focaccia bread, garlicky kale salad, and caramel sandwich cookies are amazing, too, but when you’re on a budget, the pasta alone will easily hold you over until dinner.
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 here are also a great deal at $10, but the loaded macaroni bowl is definitely the best value here. Both can also come with house-smoked portobello, if you’re vegetarian but still want to feel like you’ve ingested a cinderblock of f*cking good barbecue.
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 $8.99, and they’re really good, especially with lots of black vinegar and chili oil. 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. Not only that, but these burgers are much better than 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 $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 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.
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. This soup tastes really good drizzled with sriracha and hoisin, takeout is a breeze, and cream puffs come free with every order.
You only have $14 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 aren’t free, but they’re unlimited, as are the excellent salsas - so bring on that eighth bowl. With the 11 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-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 Peddler Brewing Company and grab some dinner from the Cycle Dogs food truck. The dogs themselves - made with wheat gluten and lots of 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 addicting crinkle fries for about 11 bucks. You’ll like these things even if you’re an omnivore (especially after an IPA or two).
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 creatively-marinated 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 - spring for it). No matter what, add the macaroni salad for $2.50 and compensate with free office drip coffee the next day.