Maybe it's the end of the month, maybe you’re saving for a vacation, or maybe your ex stole your rainy-day fund. We’ve all got perfectly valid reasons to eat on the cheap sometimes, but fast food and snacks just can’t cut it in the long run. So here are 13 amazing meals you can get for $10 or less at Milwaukee restaurants that are available all the time -- because wing night can't be every night, and taco trucks don't generally park outside your apartment.
Chicago-style hot dog, $3.89
Martino'sAddress and Info
You can't get much cheaper than a hot dog, and one of the most choice dogs in the land is from Martino's. Get a regular Chicago-style with a handful of fries for $3.89, or if you're really hungry, make it a footlong for $7.49 and still stay way within budget. An Italian beef -- this is a Chicago dog joint, after all -- will only set you back $5.99, including cheese and peppers.
La Casa de AlbertoAddress and Info
Former Conejito's employees opened this little restaurant, which is probably why the prices are so low. Unlike Conejito's, though, you get food on actual plates, and it tastes good sober. For the best value, stick with the taco plate. You'll get four tacos mounded with fresh toppings, plus the free chips and salsa if you dine in. It's a steal for six bucks in a sit-down restaurant.
Chicken Caesar panini, $7.50
Nessun DormaAddress and Info
Though it's the apps and daily specials like pasta and salmon that tend to get the most attention, the panini menu shouldn't be overlooked for its value. The chicken Caesar panini takes a filling generally made into a wimpy, cold wrap and turns it into a substantial hot sandwich with two cheeses. For $10, go all out for the puccini panini, with sliced beef tenderloin, capicola, and tapenade. All come with a side salad so you'll be full.
Thali platter, $7.95
Bombay SweetsAddress and Info
There is nothing on the menu at Bombay Sweets above $7.95, which is a thali platter that comes with two curries, daal, rice, raita, pappadum, dessert, and a drink. What more could you want at a vegetarian Indian spot? Oh, right, samosa. That's fine, because they're only 75 cents each. You'll even have change to spare for some sweets from the case to go.
Classic cheeseburger, $5.50
Oscar's Pub & GrillAddress and Info
You'd think that for $5.50 you're getting a baby-sized burg, but it's a massive 1/2lb monster, and it even comes with a side of homemade Parmesan fries. For just another buck or two, you can get your burger loaded with toppings, from mushrooms and Swiss to the signature Big O with multiple cheeses, bacon, chorizo, and even a side of guacamole.
Banh mi thit nuong, $7.95
Pho CaliAddress and Info
Banh mi are somehow always a good deal, and the grilled pork version at Pho Cali is no exception. A footlong loaf of crispy bread is stuffed with pork, mild pickles, cucumber, cilantro, and a savory mayo. Jalapeños come on the side, so if you like it hot, go ahead and stuff those in there too. You can get a chicken or beef version for the same price.
Chicken and waffles, $6.99
Daddy's Soul Food & GrilleAddress and Info
If you can tear yourself away from the buffet line of Southern classics, get yourself an order of chicken and waffles. Four pillowy waffle squares and a mound of fried chicken will arrive, with sides of butter and syrup. Choose chicken strips if you want to eat it as sandwiches, but the better option is the traditional bone-in, skin-on stuff. Just try not to get some peach cobbler for dessert, I dare you.
La Masa Trio, $9
La Masa Empanada BarAddress and Info
Most of the empanadas at La Masa are just $3, so select three for your trio and get a side of refreshing jicama slaw thrown in for free. And don't think for a minute that the $3 ones must only be vegetarian; Argentinian beef, black bean, chorizo, and Cheddar and the ever-popular cheese curd and bacon all fit the bill. You may just want to throw in another $3 for the banana Nutella empanada with ice cream at the end of your meal.
Corned beef hash, two eggs, and toast, $5.29
Ted's Ice Cream & RestaurantAddress and Info
Everyone needs a diner breakfast now and then, and no one beats Ted's prices. The little morning-and-afternoon-only Tosa spot has mostly counter seating, but that means you'll get your coffee refills quickly. Corned beef hash with eggs and toast is a steal at just over five bucks. If you're more into lunch, there's always the diner classic turkey club and chips for $5.99, or a grilled cheese for $1.89.
Falafel sandwich, $4.99 and hummus, $3.99
Jerusalem PastriesAddress and Info
Most people think gyros when they think of cheap eats, but why not go for something a little less greasy and a little more tasty? The falafel sandwich at Jerusalem Pastries is made with homemade pita and can be topped with 13 delicious things, including pomegranate molasses. A side of incredibly smooth hummus (and more delicious homemade bread) will fill even the most avowed carnivore right up.
Fried chicken dinner, $8.50
TomKen'sAddress and Info
The best fried chicken around also happens to be one of the best deals around. You get four pieces of chicken, fried with a golden crispy crust just like grandma used to make, plus fries, cole slaw, and Italian bread for $8.50. You can also get eight of their fantastic chicken wings for $7.50, but the old-fashioned chicken dinner will always be the best value.
Beef pho, $7.99
BambooAddress and Info
Sure, the $7.99 bowl of pho is the "small" size, but even those are as big as your head. For a buck more, you can get enough rich broth, springy meatballs, and thin-sliced beef to last for another two meals. If pho's not your thing, they also serve Thai and Laotian cuisine, so try the Thai red curry with chicken, long beans, eggplant, and Thai basil for $8.99.
Cheeseburger combo, $6.70
MazosAddress and Info
A cheeseburger with fried onions and two sides for less than seven bucks? And the beef is ground fresh every day? And you can pick from sides like buttery, crunchy American fries and homemade soup? And you can add a huge malt for only $3.55 more, only going over budget by a quarter? And you get to eat it all at a counter that's been there since 1934? Sign us up.
Sign up here for our daily Milwaukee email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Brew City.
1. Martino's Italian Beef1215 W Layton Ave, Milwaukee
2. La Casa De Alberto624 W National Ave, Milwaukee
3. Nessun Dorma2778 N Weil St, Milwaukee
4. Bombay Sweets3401 South 13th St, Milwaukee
5. Oscar's Pub & Grill1712 W Pierce St, Milwaukee
6. Pho Cali4756 S 27th St, Milwaukee
7. Daddys Soul Food and Grill754 N 27th St, Milwaukee
8. La Masa Empanada Bar1300 E Brady St, Milwaukee
9. Ted's Ice Cream & Restaurant6204 W North Ave, Milwaukee
10. Jerusalem Pastries4171 S 76th St, Greenfield
11. Tomken's Bar & Grill8001 W Greenfield Ave, Milwaukee
12. Bamboo3427 W National Ave, Milwaukee
13. Mazos3146 S 27th St, Milwaukee
If you’re craving a Chicago-style dog but you’re stuck in Milwaukee, head to the South Side and stop into Martino’s, a neighborhood staple since 1977. You’ll place your order at a window and make your pick from dozens of dog creations, like the chili, Southern, or Reuben dog favorites. But the mother of all dogs is the Chicago-style, with its yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, and salt. If this doesn’t fill you (though we’re reasonably certain it will), add a chicken Parmesan sandwich, calamari appetizer, or chili cheese fries to complete the dogged fun.
Conejito’s alumni Alberto and Laura Gonzalez helm La Casa de Alberto, a barebones Mexican joint whose menu of tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, and chicken mole is simple yet bursting with flavor in every dish. Portions are generous, so you’ll want to pace yourself as you dive into your sizzling plate of steak fajitas, snack on cilantro- and onion-covered tacos, and soothe your singed tongue after the fiery chile rellenos. The best part of the whole affair might actually be the precursor: the chips and three salsas hurriedly brought to your table when you first take a seat.
Think of Nessun Dorma as a neighborhood tavern that just happens to serve Italian food instead of mini tacos. The emphasis here is on bruschetta, antipasti, and panini, with some soup and salad for good measure. Daily and weekly specials bulk up the menu with pastas, salmon, and chicken.
Bombay Sweets prepares massive quantities of savory, sweet, vegetarian Indian fare, like masala samosas, dosas, and more than a dozen varieties of curry. The prices are locally renowned for being bafflingly low, but the restaurant compensates for affordability with a barebones hyper-casual space, and use of styrofoam plates.
From the quintessential pub ambience (embossed tin ceiling, neon signs ablaze with familiar beer logos, chalkboard specials, and a warm, cabin-like back dining room) to the creative burger offerings, this is a go-to for those craving a hearty bite in the Mitchell Park area. Regulars flock here for signature dishes like The Big O, a bold Black Angus burger with chipotles, smoked Gouda, hickory bacon, onions, house guacamole, and jalapeños. If you appreciate the spicier things in life, we suggest you try the house Bloody Mary -- in addition to the regular garnishes, it’s finished off with a pearl of fresh mozzarella and a slice of bacon, proving that you can have it all.
Pho Cali on South 27th has an array of Vietnamese rice and noodle dishes, with expected options like spring rolls, egg rolls, and vermicelli with veggies, pork, shrimp, and beef. Unsurprisingly, the standout menu item is the pho, served so piping hot that the broth cooks the thin slices of rare steak swimming in it. With typical garnishes of Thai basil, bean sprouts, lime, jalapeno slices, chili paste, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce, this pho makes for the perfect antidote when the sun don’t shine in Milwaukee.
Housed in a former SOHI Subway outpost is Daddy’s Soul Food and Grille, a brick-and-mortar home for Milwaukee’s Bennie Smith’s catering business. The restaurant is centered on the concept of family -- sections of the menu are named after Smith’s six children -- and whether you opt for one of Ashley’s meatless options (like the Philly cheese portabella sandwich), Bria’s fish dishes, or Andrew’s burgers, you’ll feel like a Smith yourself at this casual, cozy, friendly joint.
This restaurant’s arsenal includes empanada fillings from all over the globe, from Argentine beef with raisins and green olives to Wisconsin beer brat with sauerkraut. Since savory options aren't enough, grab a dessert empanada with ricotta and chocolate chips to round out the meal, but not before you sip on a cocktail or two at the vibrant, mosaic-tiled bar. Our favorites include the Moe Tea with black tea, vodka, basil, cranberry, citrus, and agave and the La Masa Sangria.
Think of Luke's Diner from Gilmore Girls, but with a staff that's anything but grouchy, and you've got Ted's, a classic corner diner where locals start piling in at 7am for dirt-cheap, damn-good breakfast and lunch specials. Besides a couple of tables, this affable East Tosa spot is counter seating-only, meaning -- with less ground to cover -- the servers are always on-hand for quick coffee refills and speedy delivery of plates like corned beef hash with eggs & toast, turkey club sandwiches, and grilled cheeses that are under two bucks. Fans of this morning-and-afternoon joint will tell you that it's those servers who truly make Ted's a neighborhood gem.
Jerusalem Pastries is a sun-soaked Middle Eastern counter-serve with a knack for hummus and a whole island just for sweets. Have a seat in the large dining area to enjoy the pristinely whipped, white hummus adorned with olive oil and spices, a crispy falafel sandwich with tahini, or a traditional Shish Kabab platter (with two sewers of lamb and/or steak). And don’t leave without visiting the sugary oasis of pistachio-heavy pastries… our vote goes to the cylindrical baklava shimmering with golden honey.
Sitting across from the State Fairgrounds in West Allis, Tomken's is an unpretentious neighborhood tavern that regulars (who all know each other's names) defend as Milwaukee's top wing joint. From Buffalo Bleu to Honey BBQ to Jerk-rubbed, the wings -- served grilled or fried -- are reliably moist and meaty no matter the sauce, and will barely make a dent in your wallet. For another good deal, order the fried chicken dinner, which offers four crispy, golden-brown pieces just like grandma used to make, plus crinkle-cut fries, cole slaw, and Italian bread. And what are wings without beers? There are plenty of American brews on tap to pair with your basket.
Situated among the several Thai and Laotian restaurants that call Milwaukee's Silver City neighborhood home, Bamboo is a small, six-table space serving up scratch-made Southeast Asian cuisine. Bold and vibrant like the restaurant's red walls, the authentic dishes here range from beef pho with a rich broth, springy meatballs, and thin-sliced beef (go for the large and it'll last you another two meals) to a Thai red curry with chicken, long beans, eggplant, and basil. The prices are as generous as the portions, making this unassuming storefront a go-to for a cheap workday or weekend lunch.
That this old-school diner has been a Milwaukee staple since 1934 should come as no surprise: the fresh, house-ground burgers here are some of the city's finest. Guests can select two different sides to pair with their patties, ranging from French fries, cottage cheese, coleslaw, or apple sauce, all of which are made from heirloom family recipes. There's a lovingly divey vibe to the place, one that attracts locals and passersby time and time again.