There’s absolutely no denying that Nashville’s ever-growing food scene is one of the best in the South. However, the honest truth with rapid growth is that many of these astounding places are also crazy-expensive. And sure, cooking at home is a lot cheaper, but is it even as satisfying? Luckily for you, we’ve searched the city for the best dishes that will keep your belly (and wallet) stuffed. Here’s Nashville’s best eats for $5 or less.
These Are Nashville's Best Eats Under $5
The order: Pepperoni slice, $3.25 each; OR garlic knots, $3
Everyone knows that pizza is a good go-to meal when you need to fill yourself up on the cheap. However, you might not know the best place to do so. Our top pick: Five Points Pizza. For $3.25, you can get a big slice of its homemade pepperoni pizza. We also HIGHLY recommend the garlic knots, which come in at just $3 for a half-order.
East Nashville (& other locations)
The order: Ice cream, $5
Nashville has some brutally hot summers, so what better way to cool off than with the best ice cream in town? Jeni’s has a a few flavors that are regulars on the menu and you’ll never go wrong by ordering them, but it also has a constantly rotating menu of new flavors that change with the weather depending on what’s in season. They’re very generous with the free samples (so try as many as you need to in order to find the one that’s right for you)... and remember that your $5 gets you TWO scoops of ice cream, so you’re free to get two different flavors, baby!
The order: Buttermilk Cheddar Grilled Cheese, $5
The Grilled Cheeserie is arguably Nashville’s most beloved food truck (and certainly the one with the longest lines). While some of their fancy “grown-up” sandwiches are truly out of this world, you can never go wrong with a classic grilled cheese that’s made simply with bread and cheese (ooey, gooey, delicious cheese). If $5 is all you have in your pocket, The Grilled Cheeserie has 2 options for you: the buttermilk cheddar grilled cheese and the pepperjack grilled cheese. Both are totally worth the wait. Don’t forget:one of their 2 trucks can be found parked right outside the Nashville Farmer’s Market for lunch on most days. And an even bigger bonus: they’re opening up a brick and mortar location later this year.
Franklin & 12 South
The order: 100 Layer Donut, $4.50
Five Daughters Bakery has taken Nashville by storm and quickly risen above all other donut shops in the city. It takes intense pride in its donuts, which translates easily in the taste. The 100 Layer Donut, the most popular item, is exactly what it sounds like: 100 layers of dough delicately stacked on top of one another to create its version of a cronut. This donut comes in three consistent flavors, as well as a wide variety of specialty flavors that change weekly.
The order: Roast pork bánh mì with DOUBLE meat, $4.81
This is a sandwich people go wild about, especially when it comes from the InterAsian Market & Deli. Its bánh mì is a wonderful combination of salty & sweet roast pork and pate (homemade of course), with pickled carrots and papaya on freshly toasted French bread. One of the most popular aspects of this sandwich is its low price tag (clocking in at less than $5). If you’re looking for an even cheaper eat, you can get the regular bánh mì sandwich for only $3.43. Important: when you walk into the InterAsian Market & Deli, it’s not exactly obvious where you go to order food. Just hop in line at the cash register and order your sandwich right at the front desk of the market.
The order: Crunchy shrimp roll, $4.25
Since only a very small portion of the world’s population doesn’t love sushi, let’s be thankful it’s so cheap. There are quite a few great places in town that you can get a good sushi roll for less than $5, but our top pick is Ichiban -- and its wide array of wallet-friendly options.
Inglewood (& other locations)
The order: Fat Mo’s Burger, $3.59
If you’ve lived in Middle Tennessee for quite some time, then chances are you’ve had a burger from Fat Mo’s. However, if you’re not one of the fortunate ones, then we’ll tell you that the burgers are damn delicious and you absolutely can’t beat the price tag of only $3.59. Also, for 30 cents more, you can upgrade your burger to a Double Mo’s burger. The original box stand burger shop is in Smyrna, but it now has locations all across the Middle Tennessee area, meaning that you won’t have to travel far to enjoy one of its cheap (and totally satisfying) burgers.
The order: Tennessee pork shoulder BBQ sandwich, $4.99
What would a “Nashville’s Best Eats” list be without BBQ? Located on Lower Broadway Downtown, Jack’s Bar-B-Que is a classic Nashville BBQ joint and, thankfully for all of us, you can get a sandwich for only $4.99. Many of its other sandwiches come in at just over $5, so if you go searching through your couch cushions, you might be able to scrape up enough change for even greater options.
The order: Chili Cheese Weenie, $3.50
Most of the hot dogs on I Dream of Weenie’s menu are under $5, so you have a nice variety of well over 15 weenies to choose from. This deal also includes the Sunday brunch menu, so go ahead and get the Eggs Benedict Weenie, or sample the French Toast Weenie. For everyday cheap hot dog options, the Chili Cheese Weenie is a great choice at a low $3.50. It’s topped with spicy chili and cheese, and it’s incredibly satisfying.
The order: Cheeseburger, $4.50
If you’re looking for a spot with lots of options for not a lot of cash, Brown's Diner is your place. Seeing as nearly every item on its menu comes in at under $5, this is the perfect spot for cheap eats. If you’re really crafty with the menu, you can order yourself a whole meal and still come in at around $5.
East Nashville & Melrose
The order: Hot chicken breast quarter sandwich, $5
Thanks to Bolton’s, you can be a true Nashvillian on the cheap and enjoy hot chicken for $5. Its breast quarter sandwich conveniently comes in right at that price (though you’ll need a whole extra 50 cents for its hot fish).
The order: Everything bagel with veggie schmear, $3.50
Even though BFB’s bagel sandwiches are a bit on the pricey side, you can always get a good toasted bagel with spread for well under $5, leaving just enough for a cup of coffee to go along with it. If you’re going for breakfast, you can also get an egg & cheese bagel for a mere $4.50.
The order: Beer & cheese soup, $4.11
Rae’s sandwich shop is a small hole in the wall on Capitol Hill that’s a favorite lunch spot for those who work Downtown. Even better than its sandwiches, in our opinion, is its daily special soups that change depending on the day of the week. Our personal favorite is its beer & cheese soup that’s served on Thursdays. But really, all of its soups are very filling, and pretty cheap at just $4.11 for a bowl.
The order: Mushroom ravioli, $5
Should you find yourself looking for a dish with a bit more sophistication, but still around $5, we suggest the mushroom ravioli from The MaD PLaTTeR. Aside from sweet tea, the lunch portion of the mushroom ravioli is pretty much all that you can order on its menu for $5, so be warned.
Germantown & Donelson
The order: Two cupcakes, under $5
Sometimes you just really need a cheap way to satisfy your sweet tooth, and cupcakes are always a good option for that. The Cupcake Collection has a surprisingly large variety of flavors that range from $2 for its regular cupcakes to $2.50 for its speciality cupcakes. Either way, you can get a couple cupcakes for less than $5. It also has quite a few gluten-free and vegan options. And might we suggest one of its premium cupcakes: Campfire S’mores.
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Brita Britnell is a Nashville-based food blogger and photographer who often leaves the house with only $5 and has learned to make it stretch.
1. Five Points Pizza1012 Woodland St, Nashville
2. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams1892 Eastland Ave, Nashville
3. The Grilled CheeserieMobile, Nashville
4. Five Daughters Bakery1110 Caruthers Ave, Nashville
5. InterAsian Market & Deli2160 Nolensville Pike, Nashville
6. Ichiban109 2nd Ave N, Nashville
7. Fat Mo's2509 Lebanon Pike, Nashville
8. Jack's Bar-B-Que416 Broadway, Nashville
9. I Dream of Weenie113 S 11th St, Nashville
10. Brown's Diner2102 Blair Blvd, Nashville
11. Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish624 Main St, Nashville
12. Bagel Face Bakery700 Main St, Nashville
13. Rae’s Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe501 Union St, Nashville
14. The MaD PLaTTeR1239 Sixth Ave N, Nashville
15. The Cupcake Collection1213 6th Ave N, Nashville
Five Points Pizza is the closest thing you can get to New York-style pizza in the Nashville area. The crust is thin, flaky, and topped with thick house-made tomato sauce. True to NY style, there are NO SUBSTITUTIONS allowed on those slices. The walk-up window at Five Points Pizza is perfect when you need some extra fuel to continue your crawl from bar to bar in East Nashville. But the unsung heroes are the garlic knots: soft, cheesy, and so damn good you’d be forgiven for making the trip just for them.
There's no better way to cool off from Nashville summers than visiting Jeni's in multiple location around the city to enjoy a couple scoops of ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet. A few classic flavors are always on the menu, but with each season, Jeni's brings in a rotating menu of flavors that are sure to surprise and refresh you. The workers will let you try as many samples as you'd like, so ask away before committing to your order. And if you can't decide, just order more than one scoop.
When you think of Nashville's food scene, BBQ and hot chicken immediately spring to mind. But please, on your next trip, save a little pocket of stomach space for this gourmet sandwich truck, founded by a husband and wife team of LA transplants (one of which happens to be a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef). Their truck is always packing eco-friendly melts like the B & B of Tennessee (Benton's bacon, buttermilk cheddar, an seasonal jam on multigrain), and they're even cool enough to let you build your own sandwich on the fly, with any combo of their 15+ ingredients.
This super popular mom & pop shop recently opened a second location in 12 South where they churn out their famous "100 layer" donuts for denizens of hungry Nashvillers. Also on the menu: crispy, carmelized croissants, fluffly yeast donuts filled to the brim with homemade jellies and custards, and gourmet cupcakes. Be sure to peep their website's donut cam before you go to see how it's all made or to see if your favorite treat is sold out.
This Nolensville Pike market and sandwich shop has people raving about many of its eats, but especially the pork banh mi. This sandwich is a wonderful combination of salty and sweet roast pork and pâté (homemade of course!) with pickled carrots and papaya on freshly toasted French bread. One of the most popular aspects of this sandwich is its low price tag at less than $4. Can’t beat that.
A traditional Japanese spot, Ichiban, located Downtown, serves up some of the best ramen in the city - and of course, some fantastic sushi. The shrimp tempura and chicken teriyaki are also solid, and there's a great selection of sake. Most of the rolls are very inexpensive, but that doesn't mean the sushi chefs skimp on taste. The affordable crunchy shrimp roll, for example, is a perfect sushi experience that won't break the bank.
Fat Mo's burgers all around Nashville are a staple in Middle Tennessee, and the fast-food restaurant serves up heaping portions for next to no money. The gourmet-style burgers clock in less than $5, even if you want a double. The original box stand burger shop is in Smyrna, but there are locations all over the area, so odds are you are never too far from your next juicy burger.
The godfather of BBQ in Nashville, Jack Cawthon opened Jack’s in 1976 overlooking the riverfront on Broadway and 1st Ave and they're still doing barbecue as good as ever, with tasty options like Tennessee pork shoulder, Texas brisket, smoked Boston turkey, and St. Louis ribs.
I Dream of Weenie in East Nashville is a food truck that's partly made out of Volkswagen van, so naturally, they don't take themselves too seriously, which is makes the hot dog eatery so fun. This "full service weenery" has an extensive menu of delicious dogs including a seasonal menu that changes daily and the Sunday brunch menu with an Eggs Benedict Weenie.
Brown's in Hillsboro Village has been serving the drinking class out of a converted trolley car since 1927 and is the owner of Nashville's oldest beer license. A no-frills restaurant space was added to the trolley years ago, and the kitchen still serves one of the most iconic cheeseburgers in town. Head here if you're low on cash as almost all of the menu items will only have you handing over around $5.
Famous for their chicken-on-a-stick, this East Nashville eatery also doles out terrific seafood (done up in their spicy chicken treatment), including dishes of whiting, grouper, catfish, and tilapia. With classic southern sides like mac and cheese and collard greens, Bolton's provides a hearty meal on simple styrofoam. But beware: it has spicy in its name for a reason; even the mild flavor can pack a kick.
Sometimes all you need in the morning is a fresh, warm bagel sandwich (and a good cup of coffee, of course!) handed to you by the friendliest bagel staff you ever did meet. Bagel Face in East Nashville has a great selection of bagels and schmears to satisfy pretty much any morning craving. If you're looking for something more hearty, try an egg and cheese bagel for a perfect start to your morning. Grab a coffee, a newspaper and enjoy your breakfast in their welcoming dining area, complete with a whimsical mural of the logo on the wall.
Rae's Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe is a popular lunch stop for the Capitol Hill work crowds, even if it is a hole-in-the-wall. They always have classic deli sandwiches, hot sandwiches and salads, giving it a quintessential lunch menu. The daily soup specials provide a change of pace, but Thursdays are the day that the sandwich shoppe offers its decadent signature beer and cheese soup.
This fine dining establishment brings some classic Southern flavors and American favorites to its lunch, dinner, and brunch menus. Be sure to check if it's open before going though -- lunch is only 11am-2pm, Monday-Friday, and dinner is only served Thursday-Sunday.
Speciality cupcakes can run pretty expensive, but The Cupcake Collection located in Germantown and Donelson is the perfect spot to grab a decadent dessert when you only have a $5 bill in your pocket. You can pick from a huge range of regular and premium cupcake flavors, but the highly addicting Campfire S'mores cupcake is the best premium flavor worth splurging for (calorie-wise, that is.) Also, there are many gluten-free and vegan options.