Cheap Eats in Seattle

Lunch under $10? Dinner under $20? Totally achievable in foodie-friendly Seattle. Enjoy savory Cuban sandwiches, Oprah-approved fried chicken, and made-to-order sushi that won’t strain your budget.

1501 4th Ave #103, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
I’m hesitant to even put “food court” and “sushi” into the same sentence, because that summons up a mental picture that hardly does Sushi Kudasai justice. This friendly, unpretentious, mom-and-pop sushi shop is located in the heart of the downtown shopping district, one block down from Westlake Center (skip the sushi joint in that food court and come here). Their lunch specials start at under $10 and include miso and green tea. You’ll see them make your sushi fresh to order, dispelling any doubts about the admittedly lacking “food court” ambience, but service is fast and seating is plentiful. Kudasai has another downtown location, and also offers sushi cooking classes for those who want to get hands-on.
6538 4th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108, USA
This fun, cheap monster-burger joint with an Asian twist is the sister restaurant to Mashiko. Ground beef, chicken, pork loin, or tofu burgers are served katsu style: dipped in tempura batter, coated in panko bread crumbs, then deep fried. The result is a towering, two-handed pile of food that practically requires you to unhinge your jaw. Don’t miss out on the french fries with nori seasoning — sounds odd, but tastes delicious. Colorful, ninja-themed cartoon art all over the walls gives you plenty to look at while you dine.
4721 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116, USA
In the heart of West Seattle‘s Alaska Junction is the local gem Husky Deli, family-owned since 1932. In summer, the line winds through the store for their famous ice cream — like the Oreo Coffee scoop shown here. But their made-to-order deli sandwiches are also a fantastic lunch value at $8 or less (including veggie options). Try the Artichoke Turkey (turkey, herbed cream cheese, artichokes, lettuce, & tomato on French baguette). Get a bag lunch with chips, apple, and cookie and head out to Alki Beach to enjoy the sunshine. While you wait for your sandwich, check out their wide selection of imported chocolates and hard-to-find international foods.
664 S Weller St, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
There are plenty of great dim sum restaurants in Seattle‘s International District, aka Chinatown, but Duk Li is a personal favorite. While they don’t wheel carts full of steamer baskets around the restaurant, the food is served up fresh, fast, and piping hot — and you won’t believe how cheap it is. Duk Li makes especially good buns, and you won’t want to miss their savory green onion buns: light and puffy, with green onion baked in and a sweet glaze. Tea is served as soon as you sit down, and you mark your selections on a slip of paper to order. Dim sum is traditionally a breakfast/brunch meal, so late weekend mornings are a busy time, but tables turn over quickly. Stop in for a snack or treat yourself to a mighty feast for under $10 — and you might want to get some green onion buns to go, for later.
5314 15th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107, USA
Some say El Camion is the best taco truck in town. With four locations (including a sit-down restaurant), it’s easy enough to find out for yourself, although we’re partial to the authentic walk-up truck experience. (The trucks have tent seating nearby.) El Camion serves up breakfast burritos in the morning, and tacos, burritos, and pillowy-soft gorditas (pictured) for lunch and dinner. They also have tortas, but it’s hard to pass up a big platter of freshly-made, juicy tacos garnished with radish and lime. Grab a horchata or Jarritos fruit soda to wash it down, and you’ll still be well under $10 for a delicious, hearty meal. Although it’s always busy, service is fast and friendly, and the line moves quickly.
4543 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105, USA
If you’re one of those people who’s reassured by seeing a long line of customers out the door, then Thai Tom won’t let you down: this beloved Thai hole-in-the-wall is always packed. That doesn’t stop devoted fans from lining up, taking a carved wood-plank menu to peruse, and enjoying the fragrant flavors that waft out of the open kitchen. Located in the University District, Thai Tom is a student favorite, and it’s easy to see why — most of the menu items are under $8 and portions are filling. You’ll see your order made before your eyes in a fiery-hot wok by one of the extremely busy cooks. If the dark, steamy atmosphere isn’t your thing, you can also get your order to go. Stroll a couple of blocks over to the UW campus and enjoy a meal outside if the weather’s nice.
225 12th Avenue South
Who has the best banh mi? That’s a question that could be debated endlessly - but Saigon Deli, in the International District, is a strong contender. For just $2.50, you get a fresh, crusty baguette stuffed with meat or tofu (the BBQ pork is especially good), pickled veggies, cilantro, and jalapeño peppers. The deli also offers hot Vietnamese food, pre-made spring rolls and hombao buns, and assorted Asian snacks and sweets. Great for picnics or an on-the-go meal while you’re exploring the neighborhood, and one of the best deals in town.
309 3rd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
If you see a line stretching around the block and think, “No way,” then Salumi isn’t for you. But if you see a long line and think, “I want what they’re waiting for!” bring a book and get ready for one of the messiest, meatiest, richest sandwiches of your life. Owner Armandino Batali is the grandson of Seattle‘s first Italian food importer; now he crafts artisanal cured meats on-site, including lardo, lamb prosciutto, hot sopressata, smoked paprika salami, porchetta, and pancetta. You can get hot or cold sandwiches, meat platters, or meats and cheeses by the pound — and you’ll want to. It’s all rich, oily, and thoroughly delicious, a fitting reward for all that waiting in line.
97 Pike St
If you’ve never had a Japanese hot dog, it’s not exactly ballpark fare. Unconventional and highly flavorful topping combos like wasabi mayo, nori, bonito flakes, and sukiyaki beef make for a completely different experience. It’s not for everyone, but at about $5 each, the risk is minimal. No seating, as this is a food truck; look for it at the corner of 1st and Pike, very close to the Pike Place Market entrance. Veggie dogs are available. Cash only.
1207 South Jackson Street
There’s some confusion about this place’s real name — even the restaurant can’t seem to decide whether it’s 7 Stars Peppers, 7 Stars Pepper, or something else. But whatever you call it, they make some mean hand-shaven noodles. Highlights of their Szechwan-style Chinese menu include garlic-sauteed green beans, green onion pancakes, and chicken chow mein with thick, chewy hand-shaved noodles. The little bowls of kimchi that they set out when you sit down are spicy and addictive. Hot pot is very popular here, and you’ll often see large groups gathered around a steaming pot of broth. Service is incredibly fast and friendly, and the prices are very reasonable, with most items $10 or less.
Pie
3515 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103, USA
Of course there’s a pie food truck! Pie’s savory selections include classics like peppered steak and spicy pork, as well as more unusual flavors like channa masala, meatloaf, and triple pig (ground pork, bacon, ham, potatoes, onions, bacon gravy); there’s a rotating daily selection, but you can check the day’s options on their website. Likewise, the sweet pie menu is huge, and includes flavors such as grapefruit meringue, chocolate orange cream, PB&J, and marionberry, our local berry that’s similar to a blackberry in flavor. Pie also has a permanent location at the Seattle Center’s Armory food court, if you’re in that area and don’t feel like chasing down the truck. With a motto like “You Butter Believe It,” expect some seriously flaky crust.
1013 East Pike Street
A popular spot for late-night carb-loading (it’s open until 2 a.m. every night), Bimbo’s serves up cheap and enormous burritos in its eye-catching restaurant, decorated wall-to-wall in a Mexican-wrestler-and-black-velvet theme. When you see the giant blinking red arrow, you’ve found the place. They offer burritos, tacos, nachos, tortas, and taco salads, and nothing is over $10. Vegetarian and vegan options are available. Downstairs is the Cha Cha Lounge, a large basement space with plenty of seating for groups; there’s an upstairs and downstairs bar for convenience. Happy hour is 4-8 every day, and all day Sunday and Monday. Wells are $3.50, sangria is $4, margaritas and Bloody Marys are $4.50, and there’s a small happy hour food menu. But really, with prices this cheap, how much of a discount do you need?
600 5th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
One of the country’s largest Asian markets, this massive complex has anchored the International District since 1928—and contains a Japanese bookstore, a 12-station food court, and a Taiwanese hot-pot hot spot: The Boiling Point. Its shelves stock everything from curry to durians and juicy kalua pork, plus surprisingly good, affordable freezer bags to preserve your haul on the way home. Fancy a quick bite in the food court first? Hit Uwajimaya’s Asian deli last and pay at the express lane. While one-stop shopping rocks, fans of Asian curios and calligraphy supplies may want to wander to nearby Kobo (koboseattle.com) or Deng’s Studio and Art Gallery.
527 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102, USA
Comfort food doesn’t have to be heavy and drowned in grease: just try pho, the light and flavorful Vietnamese soup that’s much loved by Seattleites. Than Brothers is the local chain, with locations all around town, but the Capitol Hill one is one of their longer-established restaurants. First-timers can start with the classic #1, medium-rare beef, before advancing to options such as tripe and tendon; chicken, meatball, and vegetarian choices are also available. The “small” bowl is a hearty, filling portion for about $5, and comes with their trademark cream puff, but add on a Vietnamese iced coffee or tea for an extra sugar-and-caffeine rush. As their menu notes, pho is particularly good when you’re feeling under the weather — Vietnam’s answer to chicken noodle soup, perhaps?
5315 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107, USA
Sometimes only a sandwich — thick and hearty, piled with meat and cheese and toppings — will do. The Other Coast Cafe won’t blow your mind with some revolutionary take on the sandwich, but what they do, they do well: hot and cold sandwiches, pickles and potato salad, and friendly service. Their house specialty is the Rajun Cajun (cajun turkey, pepper jack cheese, tomato, onion, spicy salsa mayo), and their reuben is also popular, but don’t overlook the daily specials, like the grilled chicken pesto served on a baguette. If you have very specific sandwich needs, you can also custom-build your dreamwich; seitan is on the menu for non-meat-eaters. Oh, and grab a stack of napkins, because these saucy sandwiches can get messy quick.
1933 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Le Pichet (the sister to Cafe Presse in Capitol Hill) is a quaint little French bistro close to Pike Place Market. Locals rave about the quiche, which often sells out by lunchtime, but if you miss out, you can console yourself with their generously portioned five-meat charcuterie plate, pork pate, chicken liver terrine, or a simple baguette sandwich. The prices are reasonable and they’re known for high-quality meats. Just like an authentic Parisian brasserie, tables are packed close together and it can get noisy inside. Their dining room is small and fills up fast, so if you have your heart set on dinner here, reservations are recommended.
501 23rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
There’s nothing fancy about Ezell’s, a hole-in-the-wall fried chicken joint in Seattle’s Central District—there isn’t even seating. But that’s not the point. You don’t go to Ezell’s for the ambience; you go for the crispy, batter-fried drumsticks, the sweet and tangy barbecue beans, and the fluffy biscuits that look like popovers. Faygo fans will also appreciate that Ezell’s keeps its soda cooler fully stocked with the fruity pop. Oprah famously ate here once, and her picture is proudly displayed on the wall. The joint is takeout only, but no one will judge you if you immediately tear open the bag and eat in your car—you won’t be the only one.
1427 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Too often, vegans and gluten-free folk get relegated to a sad corner of a restaurant menu with a paltry few selections. So it must be pretty amazing to walk into Veggie Grill, knowing that anything on the menu can be yours. They serve “100% plant-based food,” meaning that everything has no meat, dairy, eggs, cholesterol, animal fat or trans fat. Protein options include tempeh, chickin’, veggie-steak and “crab” cake. Hearty comfort food includes nachos, taco platters, buffalo wings, burgers, and wraps; the kale with miso ginger dressing and moist, sweet carrot cake are especially good. Best of all, everything on the menu is under $10! Kids’ menu available, too.
115 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102, USA
In 1954, three friends set out to simply “serve fresh, high quality food at low prices with instant service.” Bank executives warned they’d never turn a profit selling 100 percent beef burgers for 19 cents, but the drive-through was a runaway hit. Among its many honors, this Seattle institution was voted America’s Most Life-Changing Burger by Esquire readers. Swing by one of its six locations—marked by iconic orange signs harking back to the atomic age—for a meaty epiphany, along with hand-cut fries and freshly whipped shakes. Best of all: Dick’s offers worker scholarships and even insures part-time employees. So you can feel good about the indulgence!
1908 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Don’t be discouraged when you see the long line winding through the store, out onto the sidewalk, and back into the building — it moves surprisingly fast, and Piroshky Piroshky is worth it. Plus, the wait will give you time to peruse the glass case and make the agonizing decision: chocolate cream hazelnut roll, cheddar cheese and garlic roll, or their signature fish-shaped smoked salmon pate roll? (It’s a trick question. Get one of everything and share.) There’s no seating, so take your pies to go and eat at the small waterfront park nearby. If the weather’s foul, you can duck back into the indoor market to eat.
6301 Seaview Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107, USA
Craving a Cuban sandwich, but not quite enough to wait in an hour-long line at Paseo? Just a few doors down is Geo’s Cuban and Creole Cafe, which serves up deliciously messy, meaty sandwiches and other Cuban specialties without the wait. The fluffy tostones come piping hot with garlic aioli and Geo’s spicy Cajun mayo for dipping, and the pan con bistek is stuffed with tender strips of marinated sirloin, sauteed onions, and spicy sauce on Cuban bread. You won’t leave hungry — but just in case, you can buy their house-baked Cuban bread to take with you for snacking on later. Try not to look too smug when you stroll, stuffed and happy, past the line at Paseo on your way out.
1211 Pine St, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
With two locations (Capitol Hill and Ballard), Lil’ Woody’s is known around Seattle for their hearty, inexpensive burgers. (Note to convention-goers: the Capitol Hill location is just a few blocks up Pine St. from the Convention Center.) Toppings range from classic to creative: the rich and savory “Fig and the Pig” burger features a scoop of Boat Street pickled figs, Hills bacon, mayo, and crumbled gorgonzola cheese. They also offer veggie burgers, a fried chicken sandwich, and salmon burgers for non-beef-lovers. The hand-cut “crack fries” come with a cup of Molly Moon’s milkshake for dipping.
3207 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116, USA
No surprises – pork is the focus at West Seattle’s Swinery deli. When you walk into the tiny shop, you’ll see a huge deli case full of steaks and chops, bacon, smoked meats, sausages, pates and confits, as well as all the pickled veggies, slaws, sauces, and sliced deli meats you need to assemble a truly kickass charcuterie platter. If you can’t wait, order a sandwich in the adjacent Courtyard Cafe. The focus is on BBQ pork and burgers, but the smoked turkey sandwich is smoky and flavorful, and the red onions and Carolina sauce add some tangy brightness. For big appetites, try the “Danger Fries,” hand-cut and fried in rendered pork fat, tossed with salt, fresh garlic and chives, and smothered in a bacon blue béchamel sauce.
525 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144, USA
It sounds like a Portlandia sketch: the Northwest pizza joint with an on-site chicken coop, where you can get any pie topped with a soft-cooked egg. But Humble Pie is quite serious about their pizza (and their chickens); their goal is balancing Asian and Pacific Northwest architectural elements with sustainable urban farming. That means sunny wooden picnic benches right next to the outdoor coop, and sharing a table with new friends during their busy happy hour. The menu is heavy on local and organic ingredients, including the beer and cider selection. Our favorite was the pulled pork, pickled onion, and Beecher’s mozzarella cheese pizza — with an egg on top, of course.
4225 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103, USA
Seattle’s favorite Caribbean grill features fantastically messy grub that catapulted Paseo to number three on Yelp’s 2016 list of best places to eat in the U.S. The menu’s undisputed star: the slow-roasted pork—garnished with jalapeños, romaine lettuce, and soft-cooked onions—on a bed of pillowy bread. This gooey, drippy deliciousness soaks right through two layers of waxed paper...and no one ever minds. Not feeling the gluten? Go for a bean-and-rice bowl, tofu braised with garlic-tapenade, or a chicken breast grilled over lava rocks. The restaurant also has a Fremont location (4225 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103).
1916 Pike Pl #14, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Don’t be misled by the name — there are no biscuits and gravy at Country Dough. This tiny mom-and-pop restaurant serves up Szechuan street food like flatbread sandwiches and thick-cut, hand-shaved noodles. Try the Szechuan flatbread No. 1, generously stuffed with meat, lettuce, onions, cilantro, and carrots. The sweet and spicy dry noodles are dense, chewy, and delicious served hot in a savory sauce. On a recent visit, the cooks were experimenting with pot stickers for a winter soup, which sounds like a perfect lunch option for a grey Seattle day.
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