When you’re traveling on a budget, eating out can easily become your biggest expense. But happily, you won’t need to get your lunch from a street vendor to eat well in Boston—the city has loads of inexpensive-yet-delicious restaurant options with menus to please even the most frugal foodie. Walking around, don’t be surprised if you see rave reviews posted in the window of a seemingly shabby Chinese restaurant, or if you suddenly stumble upon an unexpected gourmet sandwich shop on an otherwise nondescript street corner. Boston, after all, is still a college town, and used to feeding its hordes of struggling students and post-grads. In my own starving-student days, my typical Friday night out in Allston wasn’t complete without local bartender Liz Havoc slinging shots of fireball whiskey alongside The Avenue’s pocket-change priced hamburgers; as a starving young professional, battling the lunchtime crowd for $3 arancini at the North End’s Galleria Umberto was half the fun!
Never judge a dive bar by its gaudy awning and glaring neon signs. This Allston watering hole’s 30-tap beer wall and daily deals are too good and totally true. All day Monday, the kitchen dishes out $2 burgers: sweet, simple and seriously delicious char-grilled beef patties topped with lettuce, tomato, and homemade “secret sauce.”
Hiding in plain sight on Hanover Street, this Italian joint lets you sate your appetite (and clog your arteries) for not much more than the change you’ll find at the bottom of your purse. Everything on the menu is under $5, from pizza to panini sandwiches and calzones. Get there as soon as it opens at 11:00 a.m., though—the kitchen only makes a limited amount, and when it’s gone, it’s gone!
Mike & Patty’s
This itty-bitty Back Bay corner cafe is best known for waking up the busy Bostonian with a perfectly crafted breakfast sandwich. Try the Green Madame, an open-faced croque made with melted gruyere and dijon crème fraîche broiled on pain de mie (soft white sandwich bread) and topped with an over-easy egg.
After the 2008 recession left three local university grads without a job, they banded together to bring Boston the French-fried dinner of your dreams. The Belgian-style pomme frites here come with a choice of one of 15 flavor-blasted dipping sauces, including Pindasaus (peanut butter, soy sauce, sate saus and chili paste) and Green Monster (jalapeño, habañero, fresh cilantro and garlic).
When I first discovered this spot—my stomach grumbling, my wallet light—I nearly wept with joy at the sight of so many steaming, piled up entrees set before me, some for as little as $4.00 a plate. Skip the General Gau’s chicken and take a chance on something you never thought you’d see on a menu, like fried stinky tofu, sautéed blood pudding, or chilled jellyfish.