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.Read More
23 Essential Cheap Eats in Philadelphia, Summer 2019
Great deals on tacos, pho, falafel, fried chicken, roast pork sandwiches, tomato pie, and more
1. John's Roast Pork
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
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.
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.
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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.
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5. Fountain Porter
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.
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6. Francoluigi's Pizzeria
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
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
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.
9. South Philly Barbacoa
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
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.)
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11. Nam Phuong
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.
12. Sky Cafe
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
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.
14. Alice Pizza
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.
15. Goldie (multiple locations)
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.
16. Mama's Vegetarian
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
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.
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.
19. Manakeesh Cafe Bakery & Grill
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.
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
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.
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22. Love & Honey Fried Chicken
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
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.