Cheap Eats: The Big List

Rocky economic times give us second thoughts about carefree spending and multicourse dinners. But pa

Category: Eat + Drink Articles


Rocky economic times give us second thoughts about carefree spending and multicourse dinners. But paying more attention to the bottom line doesn’t have to feel (or taste) like scrimping. In fact, it’s not hard to eat on the cheap in Seattle: We’ve got taco stands, bánh mì delis and pho spots all over town. But we went the extra mile to suss out drop-dead delicious flavors at the hottest restaurants that don’t cost a mint. With a $20 budget for dinner, and a $10 limit for lunch, we discovered everything from gourmet $2 tacos to budget bites at trendy eateries. We even dug up a few affordable splurges. Turns out, eating for less in Seattle can taste like a lot more. 

Best Mexican Meal (without the beans and rice, please):
La Carta de Oaxaca’s entomatadas, with fresh chips and salsa
Start with a basket of fresh chips ($3) at this bright and bustling sit-down spot in Ballard. Sip a bottle of ice-cold Bohemia ($4). Now dig your way into a meal of thin slices of deliciously salty steak served alongside handmade tortillas topped with your choice of a green tomatillo or red sauce (go for the green), cheese and onions ($9). Insider tip: Can’t decide what to dip your chip into? Head to La Carta’s salsa bar where a half-dozen bowls are filled to the brim with tomato, chile and tomatillo concoctions. Go early to beat the rush.

Best Late-night Taco Salvation: Stewed chicken tacos from Taco Gringos
Two fresh, warm tortillas wrap around pulled chicken that has been stewed slowly in tomatillos. It’s all topped with a smattering of onions and cilantro. Simple, perfect—and just $2. Insider tip: Chefs Taber Turpin and Michael Pitts don’t open their teensy Capitol Hill take-out taco shop until 8 p.m.; it’s the ideal spot for an after-show bite.

Best Breakfast for Lunch (or dinner):
Joe Bar’s Jamon Serrano, egg and gruyere crêpe
A wonder of salty, savory depth: a chewy, sweetish crêpe folded around slices of Jamón Serrano, pungent Gruyère cheese and a whispery layer of moist egg ($7.50). Served from 11 a.m. daily. Insider tip: Despite a quality menu and substantial booze selection, this Capitol Hill Loveless Building staple is still a coffee shop, which means noise (grinding, pounding of espresso beans) and being at the mercy of the barista’s musical selection (loud).  

Best Pub Grub Minus the Fuss:
Jolly Roger Taproom’s Po’ Lil’ Oyster Combo
Pan-fried oysters are piled on two toasted mini buns, then slathered in jalapeño tartar sauce and topped with homemade slaw. Incredibly, they’re served with a house Caesar or fries, all for just $5.95 at lunch (or get three oyster sliders à la carte for $6.95 all day long). Insider tip: Chef Dave Miller’s specials—homemade chilis, fantastic sandwiches, braised meats—are also delicious. Sorry, parents: Ballard’s laid-back JR is a 21-and-older-only restaurant/bar, so leave the kids at home.  

Best Variation on Chicken Salad:
Louisa’s curried chicken sandwich
Served between two airy slices of homemade bread (your pick of wheat or white), the curry spices, sweet raisins, green apple and hunks of white breast meat will have you wondering if the bland chicken salad of your childhood ever had a fighting chance against Louisa’s masterpiece (half portion $4.75, whole portion $7.25). Pair it with an iced tea ($1.75) brewed at this homey and inviting Eastlake food spot, and you’ll be smiling the whole day. Insider tip: Grab a trailhead cookie for the road. This oatmeal-chocolate-chip-coconut-dried-cherry