From cheeseburgers to noodles to banh mi, here are 13 of the best inexpensive dining destinations in the Boston area — filling, delicious meals that won’t put too much of a dent into one’s wallet.Read More
13 of Boston’s Best Affordable Meals
Save money while eating well
A fantastic Japanese food hall is hiding inside of a Lesley University building right in the heart of Porter Square, and it’s full of inexpensive dining options, from ramen to sushi to udon. The restaurants are small, but most offer full-service dining. Some only accept cash; there’s an ATM onsite. Top picks include the spicy miso ramen at Sapporo Ramen, the Tokyo hamburg set at Cafe Mami, and the niku udon at Yume Ga Arukara.
Pikalo East Boston
The crispy, piping hot empanadas at Pikalo are as big as a person’s forearm and bursting with fillings like Buffalo chicken, eggplant parm, and bacon, ham, and cheese. Along with the East Boston outpost, Pikalo also operates shops in Jamaica Plain, Lowell, and Lawrence.
From breakfast quesadillas to spicy sausage shakshuka and za’atar egg bowls, there’s a little something for everyone at Brookline Lunch, a cornerstone of Central Square. Head here for breakfast or lunch, and don’t forget to bring cash.
Saus is a cheery little counter-service shop that believes “in the power of the condiment,” as they put it. There are build-you-own bowls of poutine, brats, burgers, chicken sandwiches, vegetarian sandwiches, and salad bowls, plus fries and an impressive array of dipping sauces to go alongside everything. The team has a second outpost in Somerville’s Bow Market, which is entirely vegetarian and anything can be made vegan there upon request.
You’ve seen the retro signage at this classic Allston spot; now eat the doughnuts. Flavors include chocolate butternut, powdered, honey dip, Boston cream, and lots more. There’s also a full breakfast menu of omelets, pancakes, and such.
Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe
A downtown Boston mainstay, Gene’s is one of a fairly small number of places that serve Xi’an-style Chinese cuisine in the Boston area, highlighting hand-pulled noodles that are garlicky, chewy, and so filling. Add a lamb skewer and/or tea egg to boost the (already ample) portion.
Now over 25 years old, beloved local burrito chain Anna’s Taqueria has six locations in and around Boston. It’s still one of the best places in town for a fast, inexpensive meal. Best bet: a super burrito with choice of filling.
Local chain Tasty Burger is always a reliable pick for a not-too-expensive hamburger that is, well, tasty. The “starvin’ student” is a useful deal: hamburger or cheeseburger, fries, and a beer for $12.
A cross between a dive bar and an old-school Italian American joint, Anchovies is a gem in Boston’s increasingly expensive South End neighborhood. Anchovies’ stuffed peppers come on a gigantic bed of linguine that serves enough for two, and the bar famously hands over the cocktail shaker with any leftovers after mixing your drink, which often equates to nearly two drinks per order.
Part counter-service restaurant, part halal butchery, part grocery store, Nubian Markets is a shiny new addition in Roxbury that showcases food exploring the African and Muslim diaspora. Come for the excellent butcher’s burger, ginger beef and injera, and chickpea peanut stew, and leave with a bag of ingredients from local purveyors that are also used in the food served at the connected restaurant, including Hapi African Gourmet’s peanut sauce and bottles of hot sauce from Hillside Harvest.
Singh's Roti Shop
Get a hearty taste of Trinidad with roti stuffed full of meats and sides, and don’t miss the hot sauce. Also a must: the doubles, pictured here. Singh’s also carries a variety of Caribbean soft drinks and juices, from soursop to sea moss to peanut punch, as well as desserts, such as tamarind balls and coconut rolls.
One of Boston’s most iconic dishes can be found at Ba Le, one of Dorchester’s excellent options for Vietnamese food. There’s plenty of variety on Ba Le’s banh mi menu, including baguettes stuffed with spiced pork and shredded pork skin, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, cilantro, a choice of hot peppers, and special sauce.
Rubato, which was just crowned one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants in America in 2023, is a fantastic stop to fill up for breakfast or lunch. Don’t miss the beef brisket ji cheung fun (rice rolls), the crispy fried chicken bolo bao, or the Hong Kong-style French toast — stuffed bread oozing with Nutella, peanut butter, or salted egg yolk.