We are no stranger to the finer things in life. We are all guilty of overpaying for clothing, beauty products and yes, food. Sometimes, the food is well worth its price and we are more than happy to splurge and indulge. But nothing gets us more excited than an affordable meal at a local joint. So for this round of our Cheap Thrills series, we polled local food experts to see where they find the most affordable eats in Nashville. Cancel your lunch and dinner plans and make your way to one of these 13 spots.
We’ve listed the following in order of price, from $2.50 to $11.
Food Pro: Francesco Vito
Cheap eat: bahn mi sandwich, $2.50 at Kien Giang
Francesco Vito, chef at Fifty First Kitchen & Bar, had trouble picking just one affordable eat. This under-$5 sandwich was at the top of his list — but the half chicken (served with rice, beans, picked vegetables and tortillas) at El Tapatio on Nolensville was a close second. Ringing in under $10, this dish is a steal. “Both are delicious and worth way more than they cost,” Francesco tells us.
Food Pro: Charles Hunter
Cheap eat: frijole, chonchon y queso papusas, horchata and chicken tamales, $2.50 (each), $1.50 and $2.25 at Pupuseria Salvadorena
Pupuseria Salvadorena, located on Welch Road off Nolensville, is a go-to spot for Charles Hunter of The Salted Table. “It’s so reasonably priced that I end up leaving with $20 worth of Salvadoran Gold — but you could just spend $10 and leave with enough food for two,” he tells us. “And extra salsa and slaw is a must.”
When he isn’t enjoying Salvadoran cuisine, Charles opts for the carrot soufflé, fried chicken and squash casserole ($8.49 for a meat + 2) at Bishop’s Meat & Three in Franklin. “When I get my favorite items from there, it’s like a hug from Grandma; and you can eat for under $10, especially if you sign up for their text alerts (which allow you to eat, really, for under $8 — or occasionally for free),” Charles says.
Food Pro: Maher Fawaz
Cheap eat: fish tacos for $2.55 at Baja Burrito
An individual fish taco at Baja Burrito is only $2.55. If you need more to snack on, order a basket of three tacos for $6.45 or add beans and rice to any two tacos for $1.95. Maher Fawaz of Epice and Kalamata’s names these tacos as his favorite affordable eats in Nashville. If fish tacos aren’t what you are after, you are sure to find something else on Baja’s menu — and everything is under $10.
Food Pro: Seema Prasad
Cheap eat: pupusa for $3 at Taquería la Juquilita
Seema Prasad of Miel has a wealth of knowledge and recommendations when it comes to affordable eats. In addition to the pupusa from Taquería la Juquilita on Morrow Road in The Nations, you can find her eating breakfast or lunch at Little Mosko’s (where you can get a simple-but-perfect sandwich for under $10), a $6 tartine on the go from Dozen Bakery, bubbling tofu soup with seafood ($9.50) and kimchee at So Gong Dong Tofu House — or just about anything at VN Pho Deli on Charlotte.
Food Pro: Carey Bringle
Cheap eat: hamburger for $4.25 at Brown’s Diner
Peg Leg Porker’s barbecue pitmaster Carey Bringle chooses Brown’s Diner as one of his favorite cheap eats. “Their burger is as good as any in town,” he says. We don’t think the flavor or the pricing has changed in quite some time and neither Carey nor we are complaining. You can order the burger with cheese for only 25 cents more and add fries for $1.75.
Food Pro: Katie Dean
Cheap eat: pizza for $6 at Park Café
McCabe Pub co-owners Katie Dean and Stefanie Dean know a thing or two about affordable eats, as they serve them up every day in Sylvan Park. But when they have the chance to get away, they love walking across the street to see their neighbors and friends at Park Café. “Their happy hour specials are some of the best in town,” Katie shares. “We always gravitate to their pizza or even their spinach and chicken dumplings.” The pizzas ring in at a mere $6 during happy hour!
Food Pro: Vivek Surti
Cheap eat: torta milanesa for $6.50 at El Amigo
Vivek Surti, founder of VEA (Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures) Supper Club, has insights on some of the best ethnic eats in Nashville. One on Vivek’s list is El Amigo on Nolensville Pike. The menu includes authentic Mexican eats, such as tacos, tostadas, burritos and tortas. All are delicious but, as Vivek says, the torta milanesa is the sandwich that dreams are made of. “Upon first bite, it’s a flavor explosion with big hunks of avocado, lettuce, tomato and onion — all on top of a breaded beef cutlet. It’s crispy, creamy and spicy all at the same time,” he says of the sandwich. “And one sandwich is big enough for one to three meals!”
Food Pro: Ryan Poli
Cheap eat: bun bo hue and bahn xeo for $7 each at VN Pho Deli
Ryan Poli, chef at The Catbird Seat, loves Vietnamese food and is particularly fond of VN Pho on Charlotte Pike. The restaurant’s affordability and authenticity keep him coming back. Bun bo hue is a spicy, hue-style noodle soup; and banh xeo is a savory fried pancake made of rice flour, water and turmeric powder and stuffed with shrimp and pork. Both are delicious and affordable at just $7 each.
Food Pro: Kate Davis
Cheap eat: cheeseburger + fries for $8 at Dino’s
You may know Kate Davis not by her name but by the name of her popular and mouthwatering Instagram account: nashvillefoodfan. When asked her favorite affordable eats in town, Kate lists Dino’s cheeseburger, Cochon Butcher’s Cubano sandwich ($10) and Bartaco’s wedge salad ($6.50). All are delicious choices but Dino’s burger rises to the top of the list because it is the most bang for your buck. The burger —topped with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle — is served with fries. It will leave you full, happy and ready for a beer.
Food Pro: Chris Chamberlain
Cheap eat: chicken noodle soup for $ 8.95 at Thai Esane
Local food writer and author Chris Chamberlain begins to crave Thai Esane’s chicken soup as the temperatures begin to drop. “For less than $9 for a huge bowl that is easily enough for two to share — plus a lunch of leftovers — you get a rich chicken broth teeming with ropy, homemade noodles topped with fried shallots, green onions, cilantro and enough garlic that will cure whatever ails you. I encourage you to share it with your sweetheart out of self-defense,” he tells us.
Food Pro: Beth Sachan
Cheap eat: kao soy soup for $8.95 at Thai Esane
Thai Esane is also a place that appeals to Beth Sachan of eat.drink.smile. on a chilly day — or any time she needs a pick-me-up. “The huge bowl of thick rice noodles in tomato and pork broth, loaded with bean sprouts, carrots and lettuce is almost always more than I can finish off in one sitting, so score! Two meals for the price of one,” she tells us. Another of Beth’s obsessions is salads. One of her favorites in Nashville is the Grilled Napa Wedge at The Family Wash. “It’s so unique, delicious and filling!” she raves.
Food Pro: Tom Morales
Cheap eat: khao kai ra-bert for $9.95 at The Smiling Elephant
For an unbeatable deal, try this dish for lunch (although dinner is only a few dollars more at $11.95, so you really can enjoy it at any time of day). This stir fry with minced pork, garlic and ground black pepper served with a fried egg and rice is a favorite of Tom Morales, restaurateur behind Acme Feed & Seed, Saffire, The Southern Steak & Oyster, TomKats and the soon-to-open Fin & Pearl. “Very rarely do I order any other dishes than the khao kai ra-bert or the curry of the day,” Tom shares. “I make sure I see Sam at least once a week. The spice and authenticity is why I return over and over again. I have spent much more for much less flavor!”
Food Pro: Cindy Wall
Cheap eat: curried goat for $11 at Jamaicaway
The Nashville Farmers’ Market has no shortage of delicious and well-priced eats, including Jamaicaway, which Cindy Wall (organizer of Dirty Pages) calls “astounding.” Cindy is also a huge fan of the Grow Local Kitchen. “It is always a go-to for delicious eating that’s never expensive,” Cindy says. “With a revolving lineup of small, interesting food entrepreneurs, as well as some of Nashville’s big-name chefs, it’s easy to go for lunch both weekdays and weekends — and I often find myself picking up ‘extras’ to take home for a quick dinner.” Outside of The Farmers’ Market, Cindy thinks that Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Cuisine should be on everybody’s list for affordable eats!
For more inside scoop on where locals love to dine, check out this list of nine spots chosen by folks around town.
Discover more local restaurants in the SB App.