Where To Find Dallas\' Best Cheap Eats
Dallas has no shortage of $80 dry-aged steaks and $100 tasting menus, but lucky for us, the city also has a wealth of time-honored restaurants ideal for budget dining.
They may not have the glamour of the city\'s hottest restaurants, but these restaurants are timeless, classic, stalwart, essential — and each one is very, very good in its own right. The fact that you won\'t spend more than about $15 on an excellent lunch (or dinner) only sweetens the pot.
Whether you\'re looking for killer fried chicken, great tacos, or Dallas\' best Cuban sandwich, these 20 spots serve up food that you\'d be willing to pay much, much more for.
Is there an excellent Dallas dining deal missing from this map? Make your voice heard in the comments.
Angry Dog is loud, it\'s cluttered, it has its own smell; there is no place quite like it, even now — especially now — in the throes of Deep Ellum\'s neighborhood facelift. Their menu is huge, and within it are some extremely cheap gems, like 10 wings for $6.50 and the eponymous Angry Dog hot dog for $7 that\'s topped with dangerous amounts of mustard, chili, grilled onion, and cheddar cheese.
If you\'ve never been to this living relic of a sandwich shop, what the hell are you waiting for? The "original" po boy comes with salami, ham, provolone, mayo, and a uniquely tasty chow-chow relish on fresh, soft bread; it\'s far from haute cuisine, but it satisfies, and best of all — the lunch special includes a drink and chips for less than $5. Can\'t beat that with a stick.
The little brother of DFW fried chicken phenom Babe\'s, Bubba\'s has been serving cheap chicken-fried fare since 1981. The food here certainly isn\'t light — chicken-fried steak, chicken strips, chicken and dumplings, and a whole lotta gravy — but the prices are: A freshly fried thigh, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a best-in-town-hands-down yeast roll will cost you less than 7 bucks, and there are more than a dozen other under-ten-bucks lunch offers.
Gentrification long ago swept through and transformed North Oak Cliff, but somebody forgot to tell El Jordan Cafe. It remains unchanged, excepting a few shiny new menus, as an unassuming, breakfast-and-lunch-only Tex-Mex spot in the middle of Bishop Arts. El Jordan hits the spot without breaking the bank. In fact, you\'d be hard-pressed to find a single menu item here that\'s over nine dollars. What you can find is a whole lot of goodness: smothered burritos, Mexican oatmeal, and a bowl of menudo that borders on magic. [Photo: Google Maps]
Eating gobs of fajitas, and getting good and tanked on pitchers of margaritas, at Joe T.\'s is inarguably a Fort Worth rite of passage. But sister restaurant Esperanza\'s is a must-visit in its own right, with a variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex offerings that are cheap as hell and cooked just right. Tamales, flautas, tortas, enchiladas in mole and red sauce, chilaquiles, migas, barbacoa, carnitas, lengua, milanesa — the menu seemingly never stops, and the options rarely exceed 7 or 8 dollars. A bonus: the on-site bakery boasts an assortment of even cheaper traditional Mexican treats.
Henk\'s: the German version of Jimmy\'s. Part specialty market, part restaurant. But at Henk\'s, you can order big-ass glasses of German-ass beer. And you can use said beer to wash down a lunch special — say, half a bierwurst sandwich, a bag of Lay\'s, and a pickle — that will cost you $4.75. Less than five bucks! For lunch! At a place that doesn\'t end in "In the Box"! What\'s more, none of their breakfast plates, which range from Polish (sausage and eggs) to Dutch (ham and eggs) to German (pork loin and eggs), tops 8 dollars. Henk\'s definitely isn\'t the wurst. [Photo: Henk\'s/Facebook]
This list wouldn\'t be complete without an ode to all of the crazy-good and preposterously cheap cuisine that overflows from the predominantly Asian-American pockets of Richardson. Jeng Chi is just one example; there are literally dozens upon dozens of places, and that makes this part of the Metroplex more than worth your time, food-wise. Start at Jeng Chi with some green onion pancakes; they\'re only three dollars, and they are spectacular. Then move on to their bevy of noodle and rice dishes, none more expensive than $7.95, and all boasting a variety of flavors, spices, and textures.
What more could be said about the homespun East Dallas Italian sub paradise that is Jimmy\'s? It\'s been open since 1966; Jimmy\'s is older than Dave Matthews. It\'s been serving strictly Italian fare since 1997; Jimmy\'s has been Italian longer than Donnie Brasco. Jimmy\'s is still standing even after a 2004 fire and a 2012 car crash! That still didn\'t stop them from dishing out cheap and delicious sandwiches. The Italian sub, the meatball, the Italian beef, the muffuletta, the roast pork — they\'re all mind-detonatingly good, and all $6.99 or less. [Photo: Sara Kerens]
After more than four decades, John\'s Cafe stays true to itself — and that means, as its namesake sign proclaims, "just good food" at obscenely low prices — amidst a rapidly changing local ecosystem. While Lower Greenville becomes a hipster haven, replete with food trucks, gourmet ice pops, and Trader Joe\'s, John\'s simply keeps on doing what it\'s done since 1972: namely, meaty, sizable omelets under 8 bucks; approximately 25 different sandwiches ranging from less than $5 to under $9; and a variety of daily breakfast and lunch specials that expand only your waistline, never your wallet.
This little gem is proof that Japanese food need not break the bank. Hidden in the back of this market is a counter where you can order up sushi rolls and nigiri, ramen, tempura, and bento boxes at crazy-cheap prices — nigiri start at just 90 cents, and a fully loaded bento box with chicken teriyaki, a California roll, vegetable tempura, soup, and salad is just $7. [Photo: Mark C.L./Yelp]
Idling in the drive-thru at Keller\'s is like being in a Twilight Zone episode where everyone acts like the people in the movie Pleasantville but all the parts are played by the actors in Bernie. The Keller\'s ambiance is equal parts aw-shucks and oh-shit, but that\'s doubtlessly part of its charm. Charming, too, are the prices — a cheeseburger and lemonade will cost you just a hair over 4 bucks. Other cheap, and tasty, steals also abound: the grilled cheese, BLT, and ham-and-cheese all clock in between 2 and 3 bones.
Wiener-craving Dallasites have been flocking to Kuby\'s for meats in tube form since 1961. That\'s the kind of longevity that you can\'t help but raise a sausage to. Nowadays, Kuby\'s serves German-style meats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at prices that people of all types of checking accounts can appreciate. A house-smoked pork chop, two eggs, and a mound of country potatoes here costs you less than nine dollars; and the wurst, brat, wiener schnitzel, and housemade corned beef all clock in between $5 and $10.
When you need a quick, tasty, and filling breakfast in East Dallas that won\'t empty your wallet, this little cafe should be first on your list. Hearty breakfast burritos with your choice of fillings — we recommend bacon, potato, and egg with spinach — start at a mere $2.75. The coffee\'s not great, but it\'ll do the trick.
Say what you will about Fort Worth chef/restaurateur Tim Love\'s insatiable thirst for celebrity; all things considered, the dude makes a damn good burger. Especially at these prices: A Dirty Love burger adorned with bacon and a fried quail egg is less than $6.50. A regular-ass cheeseburger tips the scales at under $4.75. And there are two different kinds of hot dogs on the menu for three bucks, straight up. This is tasty food done creatively in an unpretentious way at an approachable price. That, in itself, deserves praise.
La Me is considered by many to be the gold standard for Vietnamese food in DFW, and it\'s easy to see why: a hearty bowl of pho will run you just $6, and the must-order banh mi top out at around $3 for the deluxe model topped with pate. Even if you snag an order of the extra-crunchy eggrolls — which you definitely should — you can easily get out for around $20 for two people.
When you want to stuff yourself silly with Indian food without dropping a significant amount of cash, look no further than this Richardson staple, where the lunch buffet will cost you just $8.95. That\'s right — nine bucks for as much hot fluffy naan, basmati rice, chicken tikka masala, goat curry, and vegetable pakoras as you can fit in your stomach. On Mondays, said lunch buffet will cost you just $6.99 (or $7.99 at dinner), which is basically almost like stealing.
I never met Norma — her namesake cafe has been around since 1956, so I am assuming she has passed on to that 24-hour diner in the sky — but I bet she was a hell of a woman. Here at Norma\'s you can get a chicken-fried steak with hashbrowns and a biscuit for $9.99; their website says that\'s "eNORMAus," in both value and portion, and we\'re not inclined to disagree. A short stack of pancakes with bacon sets you back only six bucks, and every one of their five blue plate specials is under ten dollars. [Photo: Margo Sivin]
People in Dallas disagree about a lot of things: fracking, tollways, tax dollars, the public education system. And that\'s just to name a few. Which is why Tacos La Banqueta is such a remarkable place. No one in town disagrees about its awesomeness. Banqueta is the Dirk of taquerias. Banqueta\'s tacos are also $1.35 a piece! Quesadillas are $2.50, and the mountainous alambre plate is only $10. Oh, and that illustrious (and essential) salsa verde is free.
This brand new arrival brings Halal cart chicken & rice to Dallas, and it\'s much cheaper than flying to NYC for the original. A chicken (or gyro meat) and rice platter is bountiful enough for two meals, and will only cost you about $10.
You haven\'t lived till you\'ve had a pambazo from this no-frills torta shop. A sandwich roll is stuffed with ground chorizo, tender potatoes, shredded lettuce, cheese, and crema, then the whole damn thing is dunked in a fiery red chile sauce. It\'s messy, glorious, and a steal at $5.49 — as is everything else on the menu here, like huaraches, sopes, and quesadillas that beat the hell out of the ones you make at home.
The city\'s true burger connoisseurs flock to this legendary joint for the beastly burgers. A single cheeseburger will stuff just about anyone, and if you dare to order a double, well, you\'d better cancel any dinner plans you had later. A cheeseburger and an order of crinkle fries costs just $8.15, and it\'s worth every penny.
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