As any foodie knows, good food isn’t cheap. But, thankfully, that doesn’t mean cheap eats are bad. Whether you’re fresh out of college and trying to live off an entry-level wage or just simply aren’t willing to blow all your savings on food, you won’t be disappointed with your options.
Since it’s summer and there’s plenty of traveling to be done, we chose four trendy cities — Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Portland — with a reputation for good food. And, since you’re trying to stick to a budget, here are the cheap eats in each of those cities that we highly recommend. Bon appetit!
Los Angeles Cheap Eats
Ah, yes, the City of Angels and green juice. The sunny side of the coast is renowned for its food scene, especially when it comes to healthy eating. L.A. certainly has its fair share of sugar-ridden dessert places and fast food chains, but they really do excel when it comes to finding a gluten-free, vegan, paleo, whole30-friendly meal.
Leo’s Tacos Truck. While gas station food sounds just as awful as hospital cuisine, Leo’s Tacos Truck‘s location holds no power over the taste of its menu items. Choose from burritos, tacos, quesadillas and huaraches while you fill up your tank. You’ll be shocked and confused that food this good shares a lot with a mini mart.
Everytable. For your quintessential California health experience, Everytable has you covered with super affordable prices and super tasty food that won’t contribute to heartburn or a sugar crash. The place feels a bit like a store, but as soon as you sit down with your meal you’ll be happy you came and tried their homemade, wholesome dishes.
B Sweet Dessert Bar. Once you’ve patted yourself on the back for eating a piece of lettuce at Everytable, dash over to B Sweet Dessert Bar for a sugar high. Yeah, you’ll regret it later, but life is about living in the moment, right? They have an array of rainbow colored desserts, and a famous Halo Halo drink that can only be explained as an icy, cavity-inducing, sugar pit. (It’s so good though.)
New York City Cheap Eats
It may sound like it, but the Big Apple’s name doesn’t actually come from NYC’s booming food industry (the apples grow further up North anyways). Even still, the amount of restaurants, diners, bars and hole-in-the-walls crammed into the city is mind-boggling. It’s also safe to say that you can apply the mindset “it’s what’s inside that counts” to the eateries here. The ugliest little shack in Brooklyn might happen to be a Michelin Star restaurant.
Taqueria Diana. New York isn’t cheap, even when it comes to tacos. This little hotspot, Taqueria Diana — which has multiple locations — thankfully found the balance between budget-friendly and delicious taste. For a few bucks, you can get stuff tacos served on tin baking sheets and for a few dollars more you can get a cerveza to complement your meal.
Luna Pizza. You could probably walk down any street in any borough and find at least two pizza places. The debate over the best spot to get a slice will never end, but Luna Pizza is one hell of an option when it comes to cheap eats. Mouthwatering heroes, chicken parm and pasta are also all available on the menu.
Cafe China. Didn’t think you could afford eating at a Michelin Star restaurant, did you? Cafe China makes sharing their culinary expertise available for anyone. None of the dim sum choices surpass $10 at this quaint little spot, and even some of their main entrees will only put you back about $17.
Chicago Cheap Eats
The arch pizza nemesis of NYC. You’re either a deep dish fanatic or a diehard thin crust lover — if you’re both, you’re probably an anomaly. I’m not looking to start fights here, but Chicago definitely has something going for its food scene, too. Whether you’re there for the pizza, hotdogs or giant sandwiches, you’ll find yourself easily satiated. Just don’t talk about ketchup, or worse, actually use it.
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. Their pizza pot pie is about as deep as you can get when it comes to Chicago style. If you’re in the mood for something that’ll keep you full until tomorrow’s breakfast, stuff your face with one of the meatball or Italian salami grinders at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. Be sure to show up with an empty stomach.
Crisp. For delectable Korean fare, look no further than Crisp. The Seoul Sassy K-BBQ wings and the Big Boy Buddha Bowls are enough to keep anyone coming back. The small counter-service restaurant may not look like a five-star gourmet palace, but the food is hard to beat.
Murphy’s Red Hots. Pure Vienna beef is one of the key ingredients to making the hot dogs at Murphy’s Red Hots the best of the best. For just $3.99, you can get a red hot with all the condiments of your dreams. For $2 more, you can get that in a foot-long version. Top it off with some homemade American fries and a triple thick milkshake.
Portland Cheap Eats
While it may pale in comparison size-wise to the aforementioned cities, there’s a reason why people travel to PDX solely for the food. Don’t let the hipsters standing in line deter you from trying Rose City’s best plates. Wasabi and raspberry sorbet, the grilled Cheesus and marionberry pies are just a few tasty items that prove Portland really is as weird — and delicious — as it sounds.
Andina. Peruvian food tapas are hard to beat, especially here. While Andina’s menu can be pricey, you won’t regret coming for happy hour. You can’t leave without trying one of their Pisco Sour cocktails or $4 empanadas.
Salt & Straw. Don’t be frightened by the line that wraps out the door and around the corner at Salt & Straw. It goes pretty quick and they’ll bring you samples. Try their weird seasonal ice cream flavors — blood pudding for Halloween and Lucky Charms for St. Patrick’s Day — or stick with double-fold vanilla, you know, if you can’t handle the weird.
Blue Star Donuts. Yeah, yeah you’ve probably heard of Voodoo Donuts and its weird selection of pastries. But Blue Star Donuts is just as good, and it has a few more normal options for the faint of heart. It also tastes better (don’t @ me).
Luc Lac. For pho that will blow you out of the water, hop in line at this tiny restaurant by the waterfront. The music is way too loud and the lights are pretty dim, but your stomach will never be happier whenever you do decide to leave Luc Lac.
Lead image via Getty