Maybe you just got off the waiting list for Eagles season tickets. Sure, you had to prepay and who knows if they’ll be any good this year, but someday it will be worth it. Or maybe you’ve finally accepted the fact that your credit card doesn’t work like a savings account. Either way, you’re trying not to spend a lot of money right now. But you’re also beginning to feel like a hermit, and you want to go out to dinner with a friend. Here are 14 places where you can eat something good and still have enough money to keep your season tickets for more than one year.
There’s a lot to like about Hardena, a counter-service spot near East Passyunk with excellent Indonesian food. It’s BYOB, there’s rarely a line, and it’s hard to spend more than $10 on a huge plate of food. Order a rice plate and top it with up to four different options from their daily dishes, including things like collard greens, curries, and beef rendang. They give you such big portions that you can likely bring the leftovers home and get two meals out of it.
For about $15, here are some things you can get at Rangoon: a whole plate of lemongrass beef with a side of curry potatoes, or crispy thousand layer bread with curry chicken sauce and stir-fried noodles, or Asian tea leaf salad, chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce, and a beer. There’s pretty much no bad choice on their huge menu unless you choose to not come here at all.
If you live around East Passyunk, you’ve almost certainly been here for a beer or five with your friends. But you may have never seen it before 10pm, which is a shame since they have pretty decent bar food, and everything on the menu is $18 or less. Plus, if you come during Happy Hour on weeknights, all of their appetizers, like mac and cheese and wild boar tacos, are half off.
This tiny Mexican spot in South Philly specializes in huge, pizza-box-sized huaraches. These meat-topped sheets of masa dough only cost $10 and it’ll take you a knife, fork, and at least a couple friends to make your way through one. While you’re here, enjoy the free chips and bean and cheese dip they give to every table, grab a jarritos from the fridge, and watch some Mexican soaps that are always playing on the TV.
There are a lot of new pho spots across the city, but Pho 75 is way better than all of them. It looks kind of like a cafeteria, with long tables lining the otherwise empty space, and it only takes about 5 minutes for you to get a huge bowl of pho. It’s particularly helpful after a big night out, like the kind when you announce to the whole bar that drinks are on you until close. The $7 bowl of soup will seem like nothing compared to the bar tab you might have to take a loan out to pay back.
Triangle Tavern is exactly what it sounds like: a triangle-shaped bar on a corner of East Passyunk in South Philly. It’s similar to other bars in the area since it’s a good place to grab a weeknight beer with an old friend. Also like most bars, the food here is pretty cheap - the most expensive item on the menu is $18. But instead of serving reheated mozzarella sticks and rubbery chicken tenders, Triangle Tavern serves excellent Italian food like homemade pasta, polenta fries, and eggplant parm sandwiches.
This Ethiopian restaurant in West Philly is one of our favorite spots in the whole city because you can get a meal that will feed two people for around $13. Every combination platter has six different dishes over injera bread, with things like doro wot (spicy chicken in a rich berbere sauce), yebeg qey wot (tender and garlicky lamb stew), and ye’kik alicha (yellow split peas with onion). Everything is so good you’ll wonder how a full dinner here cost less than the bowl of leaves you ate for lunch.
Kilimandjaro is a small Senegalese restaurant in University City where the most expensive thing on the menu is $18. The menu is full of classic Senegalese dishes like delicious mafe (lamb stew marinated in a peanut butter sauce) and thiou (fish in tomato sauce covered in a blanket of spicy cabbage). You usually can walk in at any time and get a seat - so it’s great for a weeknight dinner when just finished paying off all your weekend Venmo requests.
American Sardine Bar is the neighborhood bar everyone wishes they lived around the corner from, with a nice patio and food that’s both delicious and inexpensive. The menu ranges from things like cups of soup for $4, to sandwiches like the Oaxacan shrimp burger - the most expensive menu item - for $14. During Happy Hour, a bunch of their dishes to share, like the mussels and wings, are half off too.
Sky Cafe is a quick, casual spot hidden inside a South Philly strip mall that serves some of the best Indonesian food in the city. The menu is long, but everything on it, from the chicken satay skewers covered in peanut sauce to the beef rendang platter, is delicious. It’s a place we come to often considering it’s difficult to spend more than $15 per person on a very filling dinner.
Eating dinner on a budget is hard - especially when you’re someone who considers cocktails an integral part of any balanced diet. But at Blue Corn in the Italian Market, both the food and the margaritas are cheap. For about $20 per person, you’ll be able to get a huge platter of tacos, an order of ceviche or two to share, and a seriously strong pitcher of margaritas for the table.
If you’re having a bad week, come to Redcrest on East Passyunk and decompress with some cheap fried chicken. You can get it a bunch of different ways, like in a sandwich for $8, or by itself in either a half ($10.50) or whole ($20) bird. They also have a wide range of sauces, from buffalo to garlic ranch, so feel free to get creative.
The best thing about Fountain Porter in East Passyunk is that it always serves a $5 burger. And while this burger is pretty simple, with a lettuce-tomato-onion combo on a sesame seed bun, it has a perfectly-cooked patty that hits the spot. Besides the burger, you should come here for a beer off the long draft list, which changes every night, as well as the $5 glasses of wine. You’ll need to check their Instagram to know exactly what’s on tap, but you won’t be disappointed with whatever they’re pouring.
If you’re at the point of the month where instant ramen is one of your main food groups, go to Nom Wah. Pay a little more than you would for a pack of noodles and you can get an order of soup dumplings, some scallion pancakes, and shrimp rice rolls. Order by checking off boxes on a little sheet of paper, and since everything in the dim sum section is around $5, you can essentially circle the entire top half of the menu if you come here with a few friends.