Ultimate Guide to Cheap Eats in Philly

By Danya Henninger  |  August 13, 2013
Credit: Danya Henninger

Summer isn’t necessarily a breeze, financially speaking: beach trips, BBQ extravaganzas and day-drinking deck parties can all put a dent in your wallet. There’s time for a bit more merriment before back-to-school schedules and autumn diligence... but can you afford it? Yes. From burgers to veggies and brunch to late-night bites, follow our guide to cheap eats in Philly for food fun that won’t blow your budget.

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    Budget Burgers

    There’s no need to sacrifice quality if you don’t feel like spending upwards of $15 on your gourmet burger. Fountain Porter sells a solid patty for just $5, possibly the best deal on East Passyunk. All the heaping creations at Spencer ETA Burger in University City are $7.25 or less (add fries and a soda for $9.99).

    On Wednesday nights, every burger on the menu at South Street West’s Miles Table are half-price - and they start below $10 to begin with. If it’s a lunch craving you’re looking to satisfy, Butcher & Singer’s Pat LaFrieda burger with English cheddar and fried onions goes for just $10.95.

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    Veggie Values

    Vegetarian fare that’s both flavorful and cheap isn’t exactly easy to come by, but nothing on the menu at Rittenhouse quick serve HipCityVeg is over $10. The same goes for Mama’s Vegetarian, where huge platters of Middle Eastern favorites will end up as two meals for the price of one.

    If you’re going out, get to haute vegetable sanctuary Vedge for the weekday 5-7 PM happy hour to find discounts on drinks and all kinds of veg-only bar snacks. If you’re staying home, it’s tough to beat the $8.50 lunch or dinner combos from Indian delivery expert Tiffin.

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    Price-Is-Right Pizza

    Whether topped with meat or veggies, pizza is a go-to option for an inexpensive meal. Make your pie an even better deal by heading up Kelly Drive on a Tuesday for In Riva’s half-price pizza night, or take your sauce cravings to the Northeast on Wednesday for half-off tomato pies from Tony’s Place.

    For slices with savings, hit up South Street for Lorenzo & Son ($1.75) or Little Italy Pizza ($2.25), or go for the late-night $2 slice at Dock Street Brewing in West Philly, offered 11 PM-1 AM.

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    Lucky Buck-a-Shucks

    There may be no happy-hour deal as pervasive as dollar oysters, but that’s because it’s a really good deal. Find $1 slurps from 5-7 PM weekdays at Pennsylvania 6 in Midtown Village and from 4:30-6:30 PM at Route 6 on North Broad.

    Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House supplies West Philly with buck-a-shucks from 5-7 PM, Monday-Friday, and for late-night half-shells, look to Pub & Kitchen in Rittenhouse, where the whole raw bar is half-price from 11 PM-close, everyday. For an even better bargain, don’t forget old-school Snockey’s Oyster & Crab House, where the happy hour is long (4-6:30 PM) and the oysters are extra cheap (83 cents apiece).

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    Fried Chicken Finds

    Despite all the national attention it’s gotten, the fried chicken at Federal Donuts is still a damn good deal: $9 gets you a full half-bird (choose the chile-garlic or Shabazzi), plus a donut and Japanese pickles on the side. It's filling.

    At Wash West newcomer Chick-a-Licious, seven drumsticks or 10 wings in double-fried and glazed Korean style will run you $10, the same price of the combo at KeVen Parker Soul Food Cafe in Reading Terminal Market, where your dime brings a platter of Southern fried chicken, a biscuit and a side (get the mac ‘n’ cheese).

  • Cheesesteaks on the Cheap

    By definition, if you order a meal at a cheesesteak joint, it’s not going to break the bank. Joe’s Steaks in the Northeast (yes, the former Chink’s) offers one of the better bargains, with a large going for $7.95 (good luck finishing it).

    Three quarters of a pound of meat make up the cheesesteak at John’s Roast Pork in South Philly ($8.50), while D’Alessandro’s in Roxborough beats them both on price - a full cheesesteak will run you just $7.25 (up it to hoagie status - with lettuce and tomato - for an additional 75 cents).

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    Brunch Bargains

    At brunch, the savings are all about specially priced sips. On both Saturday and Sunday mornings, Old City’s Farmicia offers half off all booze, and at Devil’s Den in Bella Vista, Bloodys and mimosas are just $3.

    Fishtown brunchers can hit Frankford Hall for $3 radlers or Bloody Bavarians, and McGillin’s Olde Ale House in Midtown Village has more Sunday-only dealage - $2 PBRs and $4 Bloody Marys, mimosas and bellinis. Meanwhile, at Italian Market dive 12 Steps Down, $2 ‘Marys and ‘mosas are offered from 11 AM-3 PM every single day.

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    Cut-Rate Combos

    Sometimes, value comes not from a discounted price, but via an add-on drink. On Mondays, order a sandwich or burger at the East Girard Gastropub and get a free pint of beer. If you’re closer to Pennsport than Fishtown, do Monday night at The Industry instead: the "Bubbles & Burgers" deal brings $6 burgers with $1.50 Miller High Life bottles or $5 glasses of cava or rosé.

    Find a value finish to your Friday or Saturday on East Passyunk at Sophia’s, where the 10:30 PM-12:30 AM late-night happy hour includes a changing $10 snack-and-drink pairing.

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    Late-Night Leads

    End of evening specials abound, in fact. On East Passyunk, Noir offers half off appetizers from 9-11 PM, the same hours as Jet Wine Bar’s Wednesday night happy hour on South Street West with $3 and $5 snacks and drinks.

    On weeknights, deals stretch even later at Jerry’s Bar in Northern Liberties, where cans of beer and cocktails are half price from 10 PM-midnight. For the real night owls, Sidecar Bar & Grille keeps Graduate Hospital rocking with $1 drafts and half-price bar snacks from midnight-2 AM.

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    Prix Fixe Deals

    While critics debate the value of $200 tasting meals, there are some prix fixe dinners that are unquestionable deals. If you can get a spot, the $25 family-style feast at Han Dynasty in Old City (offered on the first Monday of each month) is definitely one of them. Another is the $25 three-course Friday dinner in the cafe at Wyebrook Farm in Honey Brook.

    $40 might not sound cheap, but when you consider you’re getting 10 courses of Marcie Turney’s tapas, the Sunday night Jamonera special seems like a steal. Same goes for dinner at Sbraga - a near-flawless four-course dinner goes for $49, every single night.