Food & Drink

The 14 Best Spots for Cheap Eats in Memphis

Published On 04/27/2015 Published On 04/27/2015
Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Memphis is an easy town to live in: housing is affordable, traffic's not bad, and the food is amazing and sometimes amazingly cheap. Here you can skip the drive-thru when hunting for cheap eats, as many restaurants, even fine-dining spots, have you covered for 10 bucks or less. Save money by stopping at any of these 14 cheap eateries in town and put that extra cash toward beer and Grizz tickets.

Porcellino’s

East Memphis
What you're getting: Dutch baby pancake, $5
If you don't know about Dutch baby pancakes, you haven't truly lived. They're a cross between a pancake and a popover -- eggy and sweet, with a hint of lemon. It feels like eating dessert for breakfast, and what's better than that? It's so cheap, you can get a fancy coffee and still not break $10.
 

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Kwik Chek

Overton Square
What you're getting: Bi Bim Bop $10.99, Bi Bim Bap burger $6.99
Come for a sizzling-hot bowl of rice, veggies, bean sprouts, spicy sauce, and the meat of your choice all topped with a sunny egg that's almost too pretty to eat. Grab some chopsticks and mix it all together while the sizzle evenly distributes the yoke. It's hearty, satisfying, and seemingly pretty healthy. To pinch a few more pennies, order the Bi Bim Bap burger instead and get all of the same flavors, no chopsticks necessary.

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Mosa Asian Bistro

East Memphis
What you're getting: Rainbow Wings, $5 for four, $6.50 for six
Memphis has a lot of affordable hot wing options, no doubt, but there's only one place for Rainbow Wings. They feature a panang curry, fresh lime, and lemongrass dipping sauce, which is a total game changer. The curry is sweet, spicy, and tangy all at once, and the wings are perfectly crispy. 

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Dino’s Grill

VECA
What you're getting: 3-Way tamales, $7.95
Dino's tamales are the perfect hangover food: tender, meaty, and pack a nice, spicy punch. Four of them serve as a base for a heaping helping of spaghetti and chili, which can and should be topped with cheese and onions. 

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Slider Inn

Midtown
What you're getting: Mix & match sliders, $9.99 for three
With everything from brown rice, beet, and black bean to jerk pork, the mix & match sliders are both crowd and wallet pleasers. The Original Memphis and Chick-N-Fill-Ay buffalo style are favorites. An order of three (any three!) comes with Slider's famous salt and sugar sprinkled skinny fries and bourbon-mayo dipping sauce.
 

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Pho Saigon

Chickasaw Gardens
What you're getting: Banh mi, $3.99
A small, crunchy baguette is the foundation of this sandwich, which includes house-made liver pâté, flavorful crispy-barbecued pork, cucumber, pickled carrots, daikon radish, sliced jalapenos, and fresh cilantro. The crispy pork makes it a standout from every other bahn mi in town. At $3.99 a pop, you can even afford to feed a friend.
 

Courtesy of Central BBQ

Central BBQ

Summer/Midtown/Downtown
What you're getting: BBQ nachos (half order, pork), $5.75
You have to feel sorry for people who don't live in Memphis and can't simultaneously get their BBQ- and-nacho fix. Now standard on many menus, Central's are the best and biggest. The nachos are simple, but delicious. There's processed cheese topped with tangy BBQ sauce, perfectly smoked barbecue, and pickled jalapenos if you so choose. Pro tip: Central's house-made BBQ chips can be substituted for the standard-issue tortilla chips.

Courtesy of Fino's

Fino’s

Midtown
What you're getting: Prosciutto cotto, $5.25 half, $8.00 whole
All of the sandwiches at the one-and-only Fino's are deals, and a half is usually more than enough. The prosciutto cotto is sweet boiled ham, topped with provolone, and roasted red pepper marinade. The super-hard crunchy bread is often the best part, though soft bread is available upon request. 
 

Brother Juniper’s

University District
What you're getting: Black bean breakfast burrito, $8.95
By the time you get a seat for a top-tier brunch at Brother Juniper's, you are sure to be extra hungry. The black bean breakfast burrito will fill you up and then some. The large flour tortilla is filled with black bean vegetarian chili, egg, and cheddar cheese, then topped with salsa and sour cream. You also get home fries or grits, and biscuits or toast.
 

COURTESY OF FUEL CAFE & FOOD TRUCK

Fuel Food Truck

@FuelFoodTruck for Location
What you’re getting: Veggie tacos, $6 for two
We've got taco trucks and authentic Mexican restaurants up and down Summer Ave, so finding a cheap taco is not hard. However, should you want veggie tacos that are so good non vegetarians line up to order them, then track down Fuel Truck's current location. Made with fresh tortillas gently glued together with cheese, its signature veggie burger patties, and a load of toppings, an order of two is a meal in itself. Go ahead, add the fresh avocado for an additional buck (chicken and bison tacos are also available). 

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Lee’s Fresh Sushi

East Memphis
What you're getting: Shrimp tempura roll, $5.99
The shrimp tempura is the top seller at our beloved gas-station sushi spot, but all of the 12-piece rolls are worth a try. Instead of avocado, which tends to brown, Lee's uses cucumbers for a nice crunch. It also has a special rice formula that keeps the sushi from getting hard. It makes sushi fresh all day, and is mindful of the fact that the rolls can be refrigerated for several hours.

Courtesy of Bianca Phillips 

Pho Binh

Midtown
What you're getting: Lunch buffet, eat in $7.49, to go $8.99
The Pho Binh lunch buffet (M-F 11am-3pm) immediately comes to mind for local cheap eats. It's where vegetarians and meat eaters alike gather to worship perfectly fried tofu. Lemongrass tofu, black bean tofu, and coconut curry tofu are just a few of the options available among more traditional buffet fare.
 

Courtesy of Trolley Stop Market 

Trolley Stop Market

Medical District
What you're getting: A slice, $3.99-$4.99
There's no better or bigger slice of pie in town than at Trolley Stop Market. One is quite filling, but two is still in the budget. Go at lunch and get the Slice Combo Special: one slice of pizza, side salad, and fountain drink for $8.99. Slices vary by day and are displayed up front. 
 

Courtesy of Andrew Michael

Andrew Michael

East Memphis
What you're getting: A|M Breakfast, $11
Breakfast-for-dinner lovers, unite! Have a seat at Andrew Michael's new bar and treat yourself to the best breakfast (for dinner) in town. The meal includes a perfectly poached egg, pork belly, polenta, and house-made pork rinds all together on one plate! It's the total package of crispy, creamy, salty, and fatty.
 
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Stacey Greenberg lives in Cooper Young with her two sons. She is the author of the award winning Dining with Monkeys blog. 

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1. Porcellino's 711 W. Brookhaven Cr., Memphis, TN 38117 (East Memphis)

From Andy Ticer & Michael Hudman, Porcellino's manages to impress at every meal. Breakfast is marked by nitro coffee, meaty breakfast sandwiches, fresh pastries, and delights like the Dutch baby pancakes. Lunch has great sandwiches and salads, plus the entire breakfast menu. The real standout, however, is dinner. In addition to a menu full of one of a kind dishes, there are dim sum style carts that come around with mini daily specials. Not in the mood to sit and stay? Grab a cocktail and pick up a dinner to go from the butcher.

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2. Kwik Check 2013 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104 (Overton Square)

Come for a sizzling-hot bowl of rice, veggies, bean sprouts, spicy sauce, and the meat of your choice all topped with a sunny egg that's almost too pretty to eat. Grab some chopsticks and mix it all together while the sizzle evenly distributes the yoke. It's hearty, satisfying, and seemingly pretty healthy. To pinch a few more pennies, order the Bi Bim Bap burger instead and get all of the same flavors, no chopsticks necessary.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Mosa Asian Bistro 850 S White Station Rd, Memphis, TN (East Memphis)

Memphis has a lot of affordable hot wing options, no doubt, but there's only one place for Rainbow Wings. They feature a panang curry, fresh lime, and lemongrass dipping sauce, which is a total game changer. The curry is sweet, spicy, and tangy all at once, and the wings are perfectly crispy.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Dino's Grill 645 N McLean Blvd, Memphis, TN 38107

Dino's tamales are the perfect hangover food: tender, meaty, and pack a nice, spicy punch. Four of them serve as a base for a heaping helping of spaghetti and chili, which can and should be topped with cheese and onions.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Slider Inn 2117 Peabody Ave, Memphis, TN 38104 (Midtown)

Yes, there are plenty of sliders at this Midtown restaurant (and on its patio). And yes, they're so fantastic that, for instance, the Big Deuce burger (two juicy grilled beef patties with bacon, slices of melty Swiss and American cheese, tomato, pickles, and onion, plus mayo and mustard) earned a spot on our best burgers in Memphis list.

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6. Pho Saigon 2946 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38111

A local favorite, Pho Saigon offers hearty helpings of Vietnamese for low prices. Its bahn mi reigns supreme with house-made liver pâté, flavorful crispy-barbecued pork, cucumber, pickled carrots, daikon radish, sliced jalapenos, and fresh cilantro. At $3.99 a pop, you can even afford to feed a friend.

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7. Central BBQ 147 E Butler Ave, Memphis, TN 38103 (South Main)

For good barbecue it's best to avoid the tourist-centered places Downtown. But if you go a little south of Beale St to the South Main district, to the Downtown location of Central BBQ, you'll be rewarded with a menu that frequently tops local polls for best barbecue. And since the sauces are self-serve, it's a great place to sample a variety to see what you prefer among the four options: mild, hot, vinegar, and mustard.

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8. Finos Italian Grocery 1853 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104 (Midtown)

All of the sandwiches at the one-and-only Fino's are deals, and a half is usually more than enough. The prosciutto cotto is sweet boiled ham, topped with provolone, and roasted red pepper marinade. The super-hard crunchy bread is often the best part, though soft bread is available upon request.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. Brother Juniper's College Inn 3519 Walker Ave, Memphis, TN 38111 (University District)

By the time you get a seat for a top-tier brunch at Brother Juniper's, you are sure to be extra hungry. Juniper's black bean breakfast burrito will fill you up and then some. The large flour tortilla is filled with black bean vegetarian chili, egg, and cheddar cheese, then topped with salsa and sour cream. You also get home fries or grits, and biscuits or toast.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Fuel Cafe 1761 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

We've got taco trucks and authentic Mexican restaurants up and down Summer Ave, so finding a cheap taco is not hard. However, should you want veggie tacos that are so good non vegetarians line up to order them, then track down Fuel Truck's current location. Made with fresh tortillas gently glued together with cheese, its signature veggie burger patties, and a load of toppings, an order of two is a meal in itself. Go ahead, add the fresh avocado for an additional buck (chicken and bison tacos are also available).

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Lee's Fresh Sushi and Deli 6121 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38119 (East Memphis)

The shrimp tempura is the top seller at our beloved gas-station sushi spot, but all of the 12-piece rolls are worth a try. Instead of avocado, which tends to brown, Lee's uses cucumbers for a nice crunch. It also has a special rice formula that keeps the sushi from getting hard. It makes sushi fresh all day, and is mindful of the fact that the rolls can be refrigerated for several hours.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Pho Binh 1615 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104 (Midtown)

You had us at “all-you-can-eat tofu buffet.” This bare-bones Midtown spot serves up affordable Vietnamese eats, and while the usual suspects like shrimp spring rolls à la peanut sauce and pork glass noodles remain staples on the menu, Pho Binh is especially popular amongst local vegetarians: whether you opt for the lemongrass tofu or vegetable pho, the vast meatless offerings are entirely satisfactory. It’s a beloved hole-in-the-wall that won’t burn a hole in your pocket, so swing through during weekday lunches to get your fix.

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13. Trolley Stop Market 704 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38103 (Downtown)

Trolley Stop’s daily pies are developed by pizza masters and local farmers Jill & Keith Forrester. Trolley's farm-to-table toppings include tons of vegan and vegetarian options. Go for the Margherita pie with super-fresh tomatoes, big tangy chunks of mozzarella, and fresh basil. Also in store are a wide variety of locally made artisan goods.

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14. Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen 712 W Brookhaven Cir, Memphis, TN 38117 (East Memphis)

When childhood friends Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman opened their first restaurant in 2008, they combined Memphis' reverence for pork with their own Italian culinary training. The chefs' strength is consistent execution of an ambitious menu (think beef tartare, squid ink bucatini, or local pork roast with vegetables); go for the monthly no-menu Monday and you might find yourself enjoying sweetbreads or pork snouts.

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