If you want to splurge on a 10-course tasting menu and a bottle of wine that costs more than your mortgage, Dallas can hook you up. But don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to spend a lot to enjoy excellent, award-winning food. Cheap eats in Dallas hold their own; and from slow-cooked BBQ or breakfast tacos to mind-blowing burgers, most won’t set you back more than $5.
The Best Cheap Eats in Dallas
Get a mouthful of these delicious cheap eats in Dallas.
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A trip to Dallas isn’t complete without some good ol’ barbecue, and the Fourton family does it better than just about anyone else. What was once a modest farmers market stall has expanded into this huge Deep Ellum joint filled with mesquite-burning pits and basic wood tables set with much-needed paper towel rolls. In keeping with Texas tradition, standouts like smoked brisket and jalapeno sausage are served with pickles, onions, and bread; pile on slaw and pinto beans, and save room for made-from-scratch banana pudding and cobbler at this cheap eats in Dallas institution.
Maple & Motor
Locals flip for the juicy half-pound burgers at this cheap restaurant in Dallas, but it’s the fried baloney sandwich that’s put this casual Americana-style spot on the map; in fact, it’s been rated one of the best cheap eats in Dallas. The sandwich selection is short but satisfying, with the option of adding fries, tots, or onion rings to your order.
For less than $20, you can get your hands on one of the best pizzas in town, a 14-inch Neapolitan-style, thin-crust, wood-fired pie laden with gourmet ingredients like candied jalapenos, homemade mozzarella, hot soppressata, or bacon marmalade and laced with olive oil and basil. The popular chain also serves up salads, pastas dishes, and Italian desserts. Hit up happy hour at this cheap eats in Dallas favorite for extra savings.
There’s a narrow window during which to enjoy some of the best BBQ in Dallas, as this low-frills, high-thrills joint is only open on Thursdays, Fridays, and the first Saturday of the month. If you manage a stop before the meat runs out, line up—and prepare to wait—for succulent ribs and pulled pork sandwiches served with hefty helpings of potato salad and cheesy jalapeno grits. Cattleack has indoor and outdoor seating and, more importantly, plenty of napkins. You’ll need them.
Four DFW locations and a line out the door can’t be wrong. Locals love to start their day with breakfast tacos and burritos stuffed with eggs, chorizo, beans, and peppers; but the lunchtime trade is equally fierce. Tex-Mex faves like queso, tortilla soup, and, of course, tacos have established this chain as one of the best cheap restaurants in Dallas. Choose crispy or soft with fillings like brisket, fajita meat, or pork carnitas.
There’s no better place to get in an Empire State of mind than at this authentic New York City-style deli. In additional to dishing up Reubens and corned beef sandwiches that are thicker than the dictionary, Deli News specializes in Russian-Jewish classics like matzo ball soup, latkes, gefilte fish, and kugel, as well as bagels, challah bread, and onion rolls that are baked fresh on-site. The menu also includes standard diner fare like chicken soup, burgers, and meatloaf.
Jimmy’s Food Store
With all due respect to the mass-market chains, there’s absolutely nothing sub-par about the real-deal Italian subs at Jimmy’s. Olive oil, fresh herbs, marinated peppers, and the finest Italian meats and cheeses—including Genoa salami and spicy sausage—come with your choice of toppings and white or wheat roll. Fresh caprese and straight-out-of-New-Orleans muffuletta salads are a step above the veggie options at most sandwich shops, and will make you feel less guilty about ordering that extra cannoli. Squeeze in time for a little shopping, as the deli also stocks Italian wine, pastries, deli meat, and “Mama’s Meatballs” you’ll no doubt try to pass off as your own.
One of the best-loved cheap restaurants in Dallas feels like it was plucked out of the movie Grease. Cars have been pulling up to this family-owned Northwest Highway drive-in since 1963. More than five decades and two additional locations later, it remains one of the best values in town. The menu is straightforward, with fat double cheeseburgers on poppy-seed buns, onion rings, chili dogs, tater tots, milkshakes, and, yes, even beer, all served by carhop. Everything is cooked to order, and nothing costs more than a couple of bucks.
Not even true-blue Texans can live on steak and BBQ alone. When a veggie craving comes calling, the Flower Child hits the spot. Though omnivores are welcome to add grass-fed steak, all-natural chicken, or sustainable salmon to their order, this fun, hippie-chic cafe is especially popular with vegans and vegetarians who just want to dig into some tofu, hummus, and quinoa bowls sans judgment. Fresh ingredients and flavor-packed dressings keep veggie sides and whole-grain wraps tasting bold, not bland. The efficient service makes it easy to grab your greens on the go.
This Austin transplant has two Dallas locations, and both have developed a cult following thanks to their build-your-own breakfast tacos. The lunchtime taco menu offers lots of variety, with countless chicken, pork, beef, seafood, and veggie options, four different salsas, and sides and salads aplenty. Officially, Tacodeli is BYOB, but you can’t go wrong with a house-made agua fresca or horchata if you left your cerveza at home.
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– Original reporting by Erin Donnelly