The Best Cheap Eats In Seattle (2023)

The Best Cheap Eats In Seattle (1)

When I moved here over a decade ago, it wasn’t difficult to find casual restaurants in Seattle serving cheap eats. But with the proliferation of tech, Seattle has become quite an expensive city for food (don’t even get me started on how I feel about grapes being $6 per pound!).

Yet locals know that you can still find cheap restaurants in Seattle if you know where to look. To make it easier for you to find, I’ve curated my list of the best casual restaurants in Seattle for when you’re craving cheap eats under $15.

Best Cheap and Casual Restaurants In Seattle

All of these cheap restaurants in Seattle feature menus with items under $15, and in some cases under $10.

Dante’s Inferno Dogs

website | neighborhood: Ballard | what to get: Seattle dog | cost: ~$6

This food cart at the Sunday Ballard Farmers Market is the most casual restaurant on this list. It’s teeny tiny, but serves up high quality hot dogs. I love it so much, in fact, it’s one of the stops on my self-guided Ballard, Seattle food tour.

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You can choose from traditional hot dogs, veggie dogs, or sausages. My ultimate order is the cheddar bacon sausage served “Seattle style” with creamed cheese, grilled onions, sauerkraut, relish, and yellow mustard. It may sound gross, but the way the warm dog makes the cream cheese melt…it makes me salivate just thinking about it! This is definitely one of my favorite cheap restaurants in Seattle, so don’t miss it!

Fuji Bakery

website | neighborhoods: Interbay and Chinatown-International District | what to get: egg salad sando, beef curry bun, and crunchy cream doughnut | cost: ~$5

You’ll be hard pressed to find cheap eats under $5 in Seattle, but Fuji Bakery is one of those places that won’t break the bank. It’s a bakery on an unassuming area of Elliott Ave in Interbay that’s easy to fly by on the busy road. But it’s worth a stop for their impeccably executed sweet and savory baked goods.

The must gets here are the egg salad sando, beef curry bun, and crunchy cream doughnut. They’re all super flavorful booth with their filling and their bread. If you haven’t been here yet, it’s one of the best casual restaurants in Seattle, so get here soon!

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Tres’ House of Cheesesteaks

website | neighborhood: Crown Hill | what to get: original cheesesteak | cost: ~$9

“The one thing I want people to know is that I love and care about what I do. I’ve been a chef for over 20 years and started my first cheesesteak restaurant out of a bar on Airport Way in Georgetown. It lasted for about 1.5 years, but I had to move out when the building sold. I started a food truck because that was all I could afford, and ended up partnering with 4B’s because they offered to sublease their kitchen and I needed one.” – Tremaine Battle of Tres’ House of Cheesesteaks
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The original cheesesteak at Tres’ House of Cheesesteaks is some of my favorite food in the city. Growing up on the east coast, I’ve had my fair share of Philly cheesesteaks. You don’t see many in Seattle, and the few you do are greasy as hell or just…off. So I was delighted to hear that T.H.O.C.’s Seattle food truck got a permanent home inside Goofy’s, a dive bar on 15th Ave NW in Crown Hill just above Ballard.

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Tre’s cheesesteaks are overstuffed, but not greasy or impossible to eat. They include juicy, thinly-sliced rib eye steak, not the dry, bland meat other imitation cheesesteaks hacksaw and stuff into a bun. And the cheese…omfg. It’s got this addictively gooey, gummy texture and bursts with cheesy flavor. It sticks to the onions, peppers, and beef in such a way that you get it in every bite without it gooping out.

I asked Tre how he makes such good cheesesteaks and learned he’s originally from Camden, NJ, not too far from north Jersey where I grew up. He said he grew up eating cheesesteaks and wanted to bring authentic ones to Seattle. When I pressed for what makes his sandwiches special, he coyly said, “Authentic quality ingredients, my secret seasoning, and our cooking technique.”

I may not have been able to get him to reveal his secret sauce, but I’ll definitely be back to try more of his menu, like the mushroom Swiss and pizza cheesesteaks. For ~$9, it’s one of the best cheap eats in Seattle, and I’m so excited it’s near me in north Seattle.

Spice Waala

website | neighborhoods: Capitol Hill and Ballard | what to get: kathi rolls | cost: ~$7

Spice Waala used to operate out of farmers markets before opening a permanent spot up in Capitol Hill a few years ago. I’d tried and enjoyed their kathi rolls before, so when they invited me for a complimentary meal again I was definitely game.

Owners Aakanksha Sinha and Uttam Mukherjee started selling the Indian street food they grew up eating on a quest to evoke the nostalgia of their youth. And as someone who has been to India, I can tell you their menu is really authentic to the types of things you can find there. They feature kathi rolls, chaat, and bhel puri on their menu, all dishes you’ll rarely see at typical Indian restaurants in the US. It’s dishes like these that marry sweet, spicy, and crunchy into the perfect affordable bite beyond the sauce-y/stew-like dishes most of us expect from Indian food.

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When you go, definitely get mango lassi, papdi chaat “nachos”, and kathi rolls. My favorite rolls are the lamb, potato, and chicken tikka (the latter of which is spicy). And make sure to get extra sweet tamarind sauce, spicy green chutney, and yogurt. I slop it on everything.

The papdi chaat is one of my favorite dishes on their menu. It’s a medley of perfectly-cooked potatoes, crunchy fried bread, rice puffs, cilantro, yogurt, and tamarind sauce. This plus 3 rolls and a mango lassi will clock in at just over $30 for 2 people!

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Esters Enoteca

website | neighborhood: Fremont | what to get: meat ragu | cost: ~$13

Esters Enoteca is a small casual restaurant in Seattle modeled after the wine shops you find in Spain and Portugal. You can order takeaway items and wine to go from the counter, or you can sit down to enjoy some of their European-inspired menu items.

My favorite item on their menu is the meat ragu pasta. It’s typically ~$14, but if you go any day between 3 – 7 pm, you can get $2 off during happy hour. It’s a comforting take on the ultimate Italian classic that goes perfectly with a glass or three of wine.

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Falafel Salam

website | neighborhood: Georgetown or West Seattle | what to get: Hesitator plate | cost: ~$15

Middle Eastern food is one of my go-to casual restaurants in Seattle because not only is it usually affordable, but it’s honestly one of my favorite cuisines ever. Falafel Salam started as a food truck, but now also has more permanent locations in Georgetown and West Seattle. If you visit the West Seattle location, visit my other favorite West Seattle restaurants too!

You can get a lot under $15, like a falafel plate for ~$10. But honestly, I can never decide what to go so I like to splurge for their Hesitator plate that includes a little bit of everything: falafel, chicken shawarma, gyro, etc.

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Frelard Tamales

website | neighborhood: Green Lake | what to get: chorizo, bean, or chicken tamale | cost: ~$5

This under-the-radar tamale shop is one of the newer additions to the list of best casual restaurants in Seattle. It serves authentic, larger-than-average tamales that are honestly some of the best I’ve ever had. All others I’ve tried are smaller and denser, but somehow Frelard Tamales makes a fluffier, lighter version with exceptional fillings. My favorites are the chorizo, bean, and chicken ones, but really you can’t go wrong with any of them. The only mistake you can make is not getting extra fresh salsa and pickled carrots.

I asked Frelard Tamales owners how they make such darn good tamales. The answer was in their history. Owners Osbaldo Hernández and his husband Dennis Ramey used to make tamales with Osbaldo’s mom, Eva, back home. They couldn’t find any authentic style tamales in north Seattle so they started making their own. Their tamales are distinct because they weight half a pound and use real corn husks tied at the ends. They also keep to tradition by using lard for the meat options, but try to source local ingredients from the Pacific Northwest (for example their meat comes from Washington and Oregon).

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At first they just sold to people in Ballard or Fremont in church parking lots, but things really took off when they started selling at the Fremont Farmers Market. They now have a location in Green Lake, but what’s super cool is both Osbaldo and Dennis still work full time. Their staff helps run the business on the weekdays, but you can find them there on weekends helping create authentic tamales for the masses.

Frelard Tamales offers free takeout and delivery in Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond, which you can order directly from them (preferred!) or third-party delivery apps. These items make excellent frozen meals…if you can control the temptation to gobble them all up!

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El Camión

website | neighborhood: various | what to get: carnitas and fish tacos | cost: ~$3

El Camión is one of my OG cheap eats recommendations in Seattle. They started as one tiny food truck years ago in Ballard, but have since expanded to have food trucks around north Seattle, Laurelhurt, and West Seattle. They also have a truck at Hale’s Brewery, one of the Ballard breweries you may want to visit if you go on this self-guided Seattle brewery tour.

My go-to order is a plate of 2 carnitas tacos and one grilled fish taco. I go to San Diego every year, one of the taco capitals of America. And every year I make sure to add an aggressive taco crawl to my San Diego itinerary. Even in taco capitals like San Diego, I have yet to find a carnitas taco I like better than at El Camión.

Heaven Sent Fried Chicken

website | neighborhood: Lake City or Everett | what to get: fried chicken | cost: ~$3 per piece

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Heaven Sent is a fried chicken spot opened by the famous Ezell Stephens whose name still graces his original venture into the restaurant world, Ezell’s Famous Chicken. However, he’s not associated with EFC anymore. I think both fried chicken spots are great, but Heaven Sent wins out ever so slightly for consistency in their chicken being top notch.

You can get a 2-piece chicken combo with a side, roll, and drink for under $10, but I prefer to buy individual pieces so I can get all thighs, since those have the best flavor. I also splurge the extra ~$2.50 to get the mac and cheese side because it’s my favorite. If you’re looking for a casual restaurant in Seattle, don’t miss this spot!

Mr. Gyros

website | neighborhood: Ballard or Wallingford | what to get: chicken shawarma or lamb gyro | cost: ~$9

I used to only ever get the chicken shawarma at Mr. Gyro’s (which is still awesome!), but I’ve recently converted to their lamb gyro sandwich because of how flavorful the meat is. This is one of my favorite cheap restaurants in Seattle, and others would agree. It’s been voted one of the most-loved casual restaurants in Seattle according to Yelp reviews in all of the US!

Another fun fact? I just learned they’ve opened up locations on the Big Island in Hawaii. While I usually travel to Maui every year, I’m definitely adding them to my list when I visit the Big Island to see if it’s as good. Stay tuned!

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Alternate recommendation: Another great spot to get lamb gyros for about the same price is Taki’s Mad Greek in Crown Hill. It’s another casual restaurant in Seattle with a touch more ambiance than Mr. Gyro’s, which can be a good option if you’re hosting parents who aren’t always down with the typical vibe at cheap eat spots.

Pho Than Brothers

website | neighborhood: various | what to get: chicken pho | cost: ~$7

I think Pho Than Brothers makes the best chicken pho (or “pho ga”, pronounced “fuh-ga”) in Seattle. When I’m craving something light and comforting, I’ll head to their Ballard location and get a small bowl of this classic Vietnamese noodle soup. I love adding some of their spicy chili sauce and a ton of Thai basil, bean sprouts, and lime to it. But let’s be real, the best part about this place? The cream puff that’s served for free with your order.

Monkey Bridge

website | neighborhood: Ballard | what to get: pork banh mi | cost: ~$8

Monkey Bridge is one of my favorite casual restaurants in Seattle. I used to go all the time with my sister and brother in law when I first moved here. Their menu is extensive, serving every type of traditional Vietnamese dish you can think of. But the dish I hone in on is the banh mi.

Their banh mis are huge. You’ll find them overstuffed with meat and the perfect combo of spicy and sweet. They’re served with beef, chicken, tofu, and pork, but my absolute favorite is the pork. Add their addictive mango salad and this is enough for two people to share!

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Kiriba Sushi

website | neighborhood: Shoreline | what to get: salmon toro hand rolll | cost: ~$7

Kiriba Sushi on N 145th St up in Shoreline is located inside a tiny yellow house converted into an unassuming sushi restaurant loved by locals. Seriously, when we went to pick up our order we were amazed at how many people were walking from the neighborhood streets nearby to grab their takeout from this local casual restaurant in Seattle.

I don’t even know what made me order this hand roll, as I wouldn’t say I order these a ton. But I am SO glad I did. This one is served with salmon toro, which means it’s a fattier cut of fish. That fat, when given a quick sear, takes on a whole new juicy flavor. It went beautifully with the fresh, simple filling.

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La Cabaña

website | neighborhood: Greenwood | what to get: chicken pho | cost: ~$17-$26 for platter that feeds 2

My dad (of all people!) told me about this spot. It’s on the rather busy 105th Street and easy to blow right past, but it’s serving authentic Central American comfort food in HUGE portions. I’ve been here multiple times since my dad first recommended it. In fact, it’s one of our go-to Seattle restaurants when we’re craving quick takeout and arguably one of the best North Seattle restaurants.

The menu is pretty big, so the sampler plates are the way to go to get the best of what they offer. Make sure not to miss the plato guanaco, a Salvadorian platter that comes with 1 pupusa, 1 tamale, 2 pastelitos, yuca, chicharrones and deep fried ripe plantain.

The other must-order dish is the mar y tierra molcajete. It’s a traditional Mexican dish that layers carne asada, chorizo, chicken, prawns, nopal, queso fresco, avocado slices, and one jalapeño in a steaming hot molcajete stone, topped with house made spicy red sauce, and served with rice, beans, and freshly made tortillas.

If you get both, it’s enough food for basically 4 people. And you’re all going to fight over everything because there isn’t one thing on these platters that’s not friggin’ phenomenal. I recommend getting extra fried rip plantain because you’re definitely not going to want to share those!

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Seattle Fish Guys

website | neighborhood: Central District | what to get: poke bowl | cost: ~$12

Y’all know I’m obsessed with finding the best poke bowls in Seattle. Well, Seattle Fish Guys makes my list of both the best poke and the best casual restaurants in Seattle.

They’re a casual fish counter typical to the traditional poke shops you’ll find in Hawaii. They serve huge bowls filled with your choice of two pre-mixed poke styles. The options change regularly, but I enjoy their salmon pokes when they have it.

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Spice Bridge

website | neighborhood: Tukwila | what to get: stews and savory pastries | cost: ~$4-$10

Spice Bridge is a food hall near the airport serving food from women of color and immigrants who are part of Food Innovation Network’s incubator program. They work with 8 vendors to teach skills about running a successful food business. Any given day you’ll find 4 of them serving authentic cuisine from their culture.

Some of my favorite items are the goat or chicken stew from Moyo Kitchen, beef stew from Taste of Congo, and the noumm kari pastry filled with savory meat from Theary Cambodian Foods. This place is perfect for trying a bunch of items and doing a mini food crawl, so come hungry!

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Bongos

website | neighborhood: Green Lake | what to get: shrimp po’ boy | cost: ~$11

Bongos may be one of the most-loved casual restaurants in Seattle. They have a serious cult following for their comforting Caribbean food. I really enjoy their spicy shrimp, either via a plate of po’ boy sandwich, but they’re also known for their braised pork that often runs out.

If you’re looking for a casual restaurant in Seattle that also has great ambiance, Bongos has a killer outdoor patio area that’s perfect for chilling in the sun with your group.

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Due’ Cucina

website | neighborhood: Capitol Hill | what to get: cacio e pepe pasta | cost: ~$10.50

Due’ Cucina is also on my honorable mentions list of the best pasta in Seattle. It was created by two Tuscans who studied at MIT on the quest to develop a healthier pasta leveraging healthy grains. They succeeded and chose Seattle as their base for a new casual restaurant in Seattle.

The dish I like best is their cacio e pepe. First, the reason I like this is that they serve this traditional Roman dish in the actual traditional way: no cream! This dish tricks you into thinking it’s cream based, but it’s actually an emulsion of cooked pasta water, Parmesan cheese, and egg yolk. Yet a lot of US restaurants add cream as a short cut.

The second reason I think this is one of the best cheap eats in Seattle is because this cacio e pepe is also different. Traditional cacio e pepe adds a heavy dose of black pepper to the pseudo cream-based sauce, but Due’ Cucina’s uses pink peppercorns. I love the subtleness of this type of pepper, and it’s not something I’ve ever seen done before. So if you’re in Capitol Hill, make sure you stop by this spot because I consider it one of the best casual restaurants in Seattle!

Rough Draft Burgers

website | neighborhood: Ballard | what to get: double cheeseburger | cost: ~$8

There are so many good burgers in Seattle, but Rough Draft is one of my favorite casual restaurants in Seattle among the under $10 category. They sell outside of Fair Isle Brewing, one of my favorite Seattle breweries, and do a really yummy take on a classic cheeseburger.

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Un Bien

website | neighborhood: Ballard | what to get: Caribbean roast sandwich | cost: ~$12

If you’re a Seattle local, you likely remember when Paseo in Fremont closed due to non-payment and treatment of workers and then its employees went to open Un Bien. Paseo is now open again under new ownership, but Un Bien is better (likely thanks to the OG employees bringing their recipes over).

This Caribbean sandwich spot along busy 15th Ave NW is a super fast casual Seattle restaurant. You order at a window and sit in a covered outdoor area. It’s also casual in the sense that these are some messy sandwiches. Bringing hand wipes isn’t a bad idea.

But even with the mess, this is one of the most flavorful pork shoulder sandwiches you’ll ever have. It’s served on a crispy baguette with mayo, jalapeños, cilantro, and grilled onions. It’s a place I recommend all out-of-towners visit on their culinary adventure, so make sure to add this cheap restaurant in Seattle to your list!

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Qin

website | neighborhood: Edmonds | what to get: biang biang noodles | cost: ~$10

Qin is on my best restaurants in Edmonds, WA,, a town about 20 minutes north of Seattle. It’s an unassuming Chinese restaurant in an easy-to-miss strip mall on Aurora Ave.

My go-to order at this cheap eats spot is their biang biang noodles. It’s handmade noodles with a variety of sauces, but being indecisive I like getting the combo with beef and egg. It’s incredibly flavorful and served with the perfect chew on the noodle. I don’t hear many people talking about this place, so if you want some serious street cred make sure to visit this casual Seattle restaurant!

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Blackstar Kebabs

website | neighborhood: various (food truck) | what to get: large beef kebab | cost: ~$9

This food truck is owned by arguably the cutest older gentleman ever, Priestwick Sackeyfio. He used to be a semi-professional soccer player in Ghana and told Seattle mag in a 2019 article that it’s common to drink beer on the beach and enjoy skewered meat after games. Seattle didn’t have options for experiencing African street food, so in 2015 he opened up Blackstar Kebabs, named after the national Ghanian soccer team’s nickname.

The menu at Blackstar is straightforward: you get a plate of joloff rice (jasmine rice stewed in onions, cayenne, vegetables, and tomato paste), fried plantains, and your choice of either beef, chicken, or lamb skewers. The skewers are heavily seasoned with a spicy 11-ingredient spice mixture that is so proprietary, even Sackeyfio doesn’t know what’s in it. That’s because he sources it from friends in Ghana with food stands. He slathers it all over organic meat before grilling, which helps ensure it stays juicy and tender.

These skewers are incredibly flavorful, super spicy, and the perfect accompaniment to a beer, which is why you’ll find Sackeyfio parked outside popular Seattle breweries. And pro tip, get extra plantains. They’re sweet and the perfect cool down to the skewers.

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More Cheap Eats In Seattle

Looking for more affordable ways to explore Seattle’s culinary scene? Here are some of my other guides you may find helpful.

  • The definitive list of Seattle’s best burgers
  • Seattle street tacos you need to try in your lifetime
  • Seattle’s best Thai restaurants
  • Where to find the best cookies and desserts in Seattle
  • The controversial list of best ice cream shops in Seattle
  • Where to eat in South Lake Union, Seattle’s tech desert

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