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A fried chicken sandwich at Federal Donuts, which has several locations around Philadelphia
Michael Persico

23 Essential Cheap Eats in Philadelphia, Summer 2019

Great deals on tacos, pho, falafel, fried chicken, roast pork sandwiches, tomato pie, and more

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A fried chicken sandwich at Federal Donuts, which has several locations around Philadelphia
| Photo by Michael Persico

With one of the strongest sandwich games around and a diverse array of casual neighborhood spots, Philly is an eating destination even for diners on a budget. It would be impossible to name all of the cheap eats that keep this city running, but to start, here are 23 of the best bets for tacos, falafel, burgers, noodles, fried chicken, and much more.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. John's Roast Pork

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14 Snyder Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 463-1951
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Whether it's the eponymous roast pork or a great cheesesteak, John's remains the go-to rec for Philly's signature sandwiches. It's out of the way if you’re not already in South Philly, but worth the trip. For those who’ve been going to John’s forever, note that the shop keeps more convenient hours now: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s also a fantastic option for breakfast sandwiches.

2. La Rosa Pizza

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2106 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(215) 271-5246
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This no-frills takeout and delivery spot has been a Broad Street mainstay for more than 30 years, and all the while, the pizza has remained unchanged — but so have the prices. Giant slices — just $2 — of thick-crusted square pizza (sort of like a fatter, cheesier Roman-style pizza) are topped with whatever the store feels like prepping for the day, which could mean thinly sliced potatoes with rosemary, or better yet, "pizzazz," a Philly-specific mix of American cheese, mozzarella, tomatoes, and banana peppers.

3. Hardena

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1754 S Hicks St
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(215) 271-9442
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Diners would be hard-pressed to think of many more delicious and substantial meals in the $9 to $12 range than at this Indonesian favorite, which recently earned national attention from the James Beard Foundation. Cafeteria-style service invites guests to pick from a number of dishes to eat over rice — there are great vegetarian and vegan options to go along with meaty favorites like beef rendang.

Neal Santos

4. Stargazy

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1838 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 309-2761
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Among the bounty of restaurants on East Passyunk Avenue sits this little British pie shop serving traditional savory pies. Keep it classic with beef and onion or try whatever filling chef-owner Sam Jacobson is making special for the day, and always opt for a side of mashed potatoes in a parsley liquor. Sausage rolls and sweets are also on the menu.

5. Fountain Porter

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1601 S 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(267) 324-3910
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A great neighborhood bar is important. A great neighborhood bar that serves an outstanding $5 burger is indispensable. And the price tag is really just icing: For fans of classic, backyard-style burgers, this might well be the best in the city.

6. Francoluigi's Pizzeria

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1549 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 755-8900
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Every day that it's open, this South Philly pizzeria offers $5.99 14-inch tomato pies. What’s a tomato pie? Read all about the Philadelphia tradition here.

7. Essen Bakery

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East Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 271-2299
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Tova du Plessis’s little Jewish bakery on East Passyunk Avenue goes beyond the usual black and white cookies, rugelach, and challah with a menu of breakfast and lunch sandwiches. Head to Essen for avocado toast with pickled red onion and capers ($4.50) or hard-boiled egg and labneh on a za’atar croissant ($5.50). There’s now an outpost in Northern Liberties at Piazza Pod Park.

8. Federal Donuts

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1219 S 2nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19121
(267) 687-8258
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This fast-casual mini-chain only got off the ground in 2011, but it quickly installed itself as a Philly essential and a major point of pride. At any Federal Donuts location, a hearty lunch of exceptional fried chicken goes for $10 for three pieces, available plain or with a variety of glazes and seasonings, and served with a doughnut, of course. The fried chicken in sandwich form with buttermillk ranch seasoning and American cheese is $8.

Michael Persico

9. South Philly Barbacoa

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1140 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 360-5282
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Cristina Martinez’s counter-service Italian Market restaurant has grown famous for its excellent lamb tacos and consommé, with everything on the menu priced cheaper than it should be for food this good. Don’t skip the fresh juices.

10. Taqueria La Prima

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1104 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 339-5000

Head to this small, no-frills taqueria in the Italian Market for some of the best tacos in Philly, plus tasty tortas and tamales. It’s open well past last call at the bars for those craving a late-night bite. (Note that the name used to be Prima Pizza Taquiera Mexicana — it’s the same place.)

11. Nam Phuong

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1100 Washington Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 468-0410
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There’s no shortage of excellent pho and other Vietnamese specialties in Philly, but for a full-service, all-around option, Nam Phuong is a local’s go-to. The huge menu includes all kinds of soups, broken rice platters, noodle dishes, and much more, with the choices below $10 far outnumbering those above that mark.

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12. Sky Cafe

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1122-38 Washington Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 271-1983
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On Washington Avenue in South Philly, this popular Indonesian restaurant serves up Sumatra-style hand-made egg noodles, satay, pork and rice platters, and seafood soups, each for under $8. Note that it’s moving next door, but, for now at least, service is not interrupted.

13. Tattooed Mom

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530 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 238-9880
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Over on South Street, Tattooed Mom’s daily food specials make a meal at one of Philly’s coolest bars a serious deal. On Mondays, the veggie menu is half price. Tuesday brings $1 tacos. Stop in for a beer and a $4 beef or vegan burger on Wednesday, and come back on Thursday when pierogies go for $.50 each.

Tattooed Mom [official]

14. Alice Pizza

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235 S 15th St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 545-2020
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The first U.S. location of Rome’s popular pizzeria Alice (pronounce it in Italian: ah-lee-chay) sells its mix-and-match slices by weight. The options are always numerous, with combinations like rosemary potatoes and zucchini with tomatoes and ricotta. A couple of small slices will run under $5, while a heartier order can be had for less than $10.

Alice [official photo]

15. Goldie (multiple locations)

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1526 Sansom Street
Phiadelphia, PA 19102
(267) 239-0777
Visit Website

Goldie, the (vegan) falafel spot from the team behind the award-winning Zahav, has a tight menu of sandwiches, fries, and one of the city’s coolest drinks: tehina (tahini) shakes. They’re delicious, dairy-free, come in a few flavors, and can be had for just $5. Walk out feeling full for under $15 total. Another good option is Dizengoff from the same owners, where hummus is a full-on meal with meats and seasonal vegetables, plus fresh-out-of-the-oven pita, Israeli pickles, and chopped salad, for under $15.

Michael Persico

16. Mama's Vegetarian

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18 S 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 751-0477
Visit Website

Throughout the world, falafel shops often provide some of the very best bang for hard-earned bucks, and Mama’s near Rittenhouse is no exception. Platters large enough to yield leftovers hover right around $11, full-size sandwiches can be had for less, and many appetites can be appeased with just a half sandwich for under $5. Expect creamy hummus, crunchy falafel, fresh veggies, and a sweet pickle bar at this kosher and vegetarian eatery.

17. Saad's Halal Restaurant

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4500 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19139
(215) 222-7223
Visit Website

With its Middle Eastern dishes and student-friendly prices, it’s easy to see why Saad’s is a West Philly favorite. Sandwiches (shawarma, kebabs, falafel, and more) are hearty and almost all fall well below $10, especially on the vegetarian side of the menu, which trends toward $6 for a meal. Beyond falafel and kebabs, Saad's also makes a good cheesesteak. The food here is halal.

18. Abyssinia

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229 S 45th St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 387-2424

One of the city’s standout Ethiopian restaurants, Abyssinia in West Philly offers great vegetarian options, like collard greens, split lentils, and cracked yellow peas, plus traditional beef and lamb dishes like kitfo and tibs. Most of the dishes are $10 or less. Bonus: Dive bar Fiume is right upstairs.

19. Manakeesh Cafe Bakery & Grill

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4420 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 921-2135
Visit Website

Manakeesh is a Lebanese bakery and cafe specializing in, of course, manakeesh. The filling flatbread (which has a few spellings in English) comes with a choice of toppings at this halal eatery, like za’atar and labneh or spiced ground beef, with the most expensive still under $10. Hummus, falafel, kebabs, sweet and savory crepes, pastries, and fruit smoothies are also served here.

Manakeesh [official photo]

20. Kilimandjaro

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4317 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 387-1970
Visit Website

West Philly is a treasure trove of African eats, including flavorful fare from Ethiopia and parts of West Africa. This Senegalese favorite in University City serves whole grilled fish, rotisserie chicken, lamb chops, and more in portions that are much bigger than you’d expect for the price.

21. Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House

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1022 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 923-1550
Visit Website

Go for the hand-drawn and shaved noodles, served in soups or stir-fried dishes, in a number of combinations that should satisfy almost any taste — and then keep coming back to eat through the rest of the menu. Portions are bountiful and prices are low across the board, making Nan Zhou one of Chinatown's many affordable must-tries.

22. Love & Honey Fried Chicken

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1100 N Front St #103
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 789-7878
Visit Website

After getting Questlove’s seal of approval, newcomer Love & Honey was an instant Philly hit. For $12, enjoy a golden-brown fried half chicken with a cornbread muffin and honey butter. Or order by the piece and add a $4 side of buttermilk ranch slaw or sweet pickles.

23. Johnny's Hots

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1234 N Delaware Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(215) 423-2280

Open only for breakfast and lunch, Johnny's is a quintessential cheap eats staple for breakfast sandwiches, hot dogs, and even cheesesteaks. A basic breakfast or dog will cost less than $5, and only a truly hefty meal here will break the $10 mark. The hot sausage is always a good move, and for a Philly original, grab a combo — that's a hot dog and a fish cake, on the same bun — and make sure to add some pepper hash.

1. John's Roast Pork

14 Snyder Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

Whether it's the eponymous roast pork or a great cheesesteak, John's remains the go-to rec for Philly's signature sandwiches. It's out of the way if you’re not already in South Philly, but worth the trip. For those who’ve been going to John’s forever, note that the shop keeps more convenient hours now: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s also a fantastic option for breakfast sandwiches.

14 Snyder Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

2. La Rosa Pizza

2106 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19145

This no-frills takeout and delivery spot has been a Broad Street mainstay for more than 30 years, and all the while, the pizza has remained unchanged — but so have the prices. Giant slices — just $2 — of thick-crusted square pizza (sort of like a fatter, cheesier Roman-style pizza) are topped with whatever the store feels like prepping for the day, which could mean thinly sliced potatoes with rosemary, or better yet, "pizzazz," a Philly-specific mix of American cheese, mozzarella, tomatoes, and banana peppers.

2106 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19145

3. Hardena

1754 S Hicks St, Philadelphia, PA 19145
Neal Santos

Diners would be hard-pressed to think of many more delicious and substantial meals in the $9 to $12 range than at this Indonesian favorite, which recently earned national attention from the James Beard Foundation. Cafeteria-style service invites guests to pick from a number of dishes to eat over rice — there are great vegetarian and vegan options to go along with meaty favorites like beef rendang.

1754 S Hicks St
Philadelphia, PA 19145

4. Stargazy

1838 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

Among the bounty of restaurants on East Passyunk Avenue sits this little British pie shop serving traditional savory pies. Keep it classic with beef and onion or try whatever filling chef-owner Sam Jacobson is making special for the day, and always opt for a side of mashed potatoes in a parsley liquor. Sausage rolls and sweets are also on the menu.

1838 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

5. Fountain Porter

1601 S 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19148

A great neighborhood bar is important. A great neighborhood bar that serves an outstanding $5 burger is indispensable. And the price tag is really just icing: For fans of classic, backyard-style burgers, this might well be the best in the city.

1601 S 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19148

6. Francoluigi's Pizzeria

1549 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Every day that it's open, this South Philly pizzeria offers $5.99 14-inch tomato pies. What’s a tomato pie? Read all about the Philadelphia tradition here.

1549 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

7. Essen Bakery

East Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Tova du Plessis’s little Jewish bakery on East Passyunk Avenue goes beyond the usual black and white cookies, rugelach, and challah with a menu of breakfast and lunch sandwiches. Head to Essen for avocado toast with pickled red onion and capers ($4.50) or hard-boiled egg and labneh on a za’atar croissant ($5.50). There’s now an outpost in Northern Liberties at Piazza Pod Park.

East Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147

8. Federal Donuts

1219 S 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19121
Michael Persico

This fast-casual mini-chain only got off the ground in 2011, but it quickly installed itself as a Philly essential and a major point of pride. At any Federal Donuts location, a hearty lunch of exceptional fried chicken goes for $10 for three pieces, available plain or with a variety of glazes and seasonings, and served with a doughnut, of course. The fried chicken in sandwich form with buttermillk ranch seasoning and American cheese is $8.

1219 S 2nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19121

9. South Philly Barbacoa

1140 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Cristina Martinez’s counter-service Italian Market restaurant has grown famous for its excellent lamb tacos and consommé, with everything on the menu priced cheaper than it should be for food this good. Don’t skip the fresh juices.

1140 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

10. Taqueria La Prima

1104 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Head to this small, no-frills taqueria in the Italian Market for some of the best tacos in Philly, plus tasty tortas and tamales. It’s open well past last call at the bars for those craving a late-night bite. (Note that the name used to be Prima Pizza Taquiera Mexicana — it’s the same place.)

1104 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

11. Nam Phuong

1100 Washington Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Eater

There’s no shortage of excellent pho and other Vietnamese specialties in Philly, but for a full-service, all-around option, Nam Phuong is a local’s go-to. The huge menu includes all kinds of soups, broken rice platters, noodle dishes, and much more, with the choices below $10 far outnumbering those above that mark.

1100 Washington Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147

12. Sky Cafe

1122-38 Washington Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147

On Washington Avenue in South Philly, this popular Indonesian restaurant serves up Sumatra-style hand-made egg noodles, satay, pork and rice platters, and seafood soups, each for under $8. Note that it’s moving next door, but, for now at least, service is not interrupted.

1122-38 Washington Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147

13. Tattooed Mom

530 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Tattooed Mom [official]

Over on South Street, Tattooed Mom’s daily food specials make a meal at one of Philly’s coolest bars a serious deal. On Mondays, the veggie menu is half price. Tuesday brings $1 tacos. Stop in for a beer and a $4 beef or vegan burger on Wednesday, and come back on Thursday when pierogies go for $.50 each.

530 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

14. Alice Pizza

235 S 15th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
Alice [official photo]

The first U.S. location of Rome’s popular pizzeria Alice (pronounce it in Italian: ah-lee-chay) sells its mix-and-match slices by weight. The options are always numerous, with combinations like rosemary potatoes and zucchini with tomatoes and ricotta. A couple of small slices will run under $5, while a heartier order can be had for less than $10.

235 S 15th St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

15. Goldie (multiple locations)

1526 Sansom Street, Phiadelphia, PA 19102
Michael Persico

Goldie, the (vegan) falafel spot from the team behind the award-winning Zahav, has a tight menu of sandwiches, fries, and one of the city’s coolest drinks: tehina (tahini) shakes. They’re delicious, dairy-free, come in a few flavors, and can be had for just $5. Walk out feeling full for under $15 total. Another good option is Dizengoff from the same owners, where hummus is a full-on meal with meats and seasonal vegetables, plus fresh-out-of-the-oven pita, Israeli pickles, and chopped salad, for under $15.

1526 Sansom Street
Phiadelphia, PA 19102

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16. Mama's Vegetarian

18 S 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Throughout the world, falafel shops often provide some of the very best bang for hard-earned bucks, and Mama’s near Rittenhouse is no exception. Platters large enough to yield leftovers hover right around $11, full-size sandwiches can be had for less, and many appetites can be appeased with just a half sandwich for under $5. Expect creamy hummus, crunchy falafel, fresh veggies, and a sweet pickle bar at this kosher and vegetarian eatery.

18 S 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

17. Saad's Halal Restaurant

4500 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19139

With its Middle Eastern dishes and student-friendly prices, it’s easy to see why Saad’s is a West Philly favorite. Sandwiches (shawarma, kebabs, falafel, and more) are hearty and almost all fall well below $10, especially on the vegetarian side of the menu, which trends toward $6 for a meal. Beyond falafel and kebabs, Saad's also makes a good cheesesteak. The food here is halal.

4500 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19139

18. Abyssinia

229 S 45th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104

One of the city’s standout Ethiopian restaurants, Abyssinia in West Philly offers great vegetarian options, like collard greens, split lentils, and cracked yellow peas, plus traditional beef and lamb dishes like kitfo and tibs. Most of the dishes are $10 or less. Bonus: Dive bar Fiume is right upstairs.

229 S 45th St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

19. Manakeesh Cafe Bakery & Grill

4420 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Manakeesh [official photo]

Manakeesh is a Lebanese bakery and cafe specializing in, of course, manakeesh. The filling flatbread (which has a few spellings in English) comes with a choice of toppings at this halal eatery, like za’atar and labneh or spiced ground beef, with the most expensive still under $10. Hummus, falafel, kebabs, sweet and savory crepes, pastries, and fruit smoothies are also served here.

4420 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

20. Kilimandjaro

4317 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104

West Philly is a treasure trove of African eats, including flavorful fare from Ethiopia and parts of West Africa. This Senegalese favorite in University City serves whole grilled fish, rotisserie chicken, lamb chops, and more in portions that are much bigger than you’d expect for the price.

4317 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

21. Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House

1022 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Go for the hand-drawn and shaved noodles, served in soups or stir-fried dishes, in a number of combinations that should satisfy almost any taste — and then keep coming back to eat through the rest of the menu. Portions are bountiful and prices are low across the board, making Nan Zhou one of Chinatown's many affordable must-tries.

1022 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

22. Love & Honey Fried Chicken

1100 N Front St #103, Philadelphia, PA 19123

After getting Questlove’s seal of approval, newcomer Love & Honey was an instant Philly hit. For $12, enjoy a golden-brown fried half chicken with a cornbread muffin and honey butter. Or order by the piece and add a $4 side of buttermilk ranch slaw or sweet pickles.

1100 N Front St #103
Philadelphia, PA 19123

23. Johnny's Hots

1234 N Delaware Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125

Open only for breakfast and lunch, Johnny's is a quintessential cheap eats staple for breakfast sandwiches, hot dogs, and even cheesesteaks. A basic breakfast or dog will cost less than $5, and only a truly hefty meal here will break the $10 mark. The hot sausage is always a good move, and for a Philly original, grab a combo — that's a hot dog and a fish cake, on the same bun — and make sure to add some pepper hash.

1234 N Delaware Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125

Related Maps