25 Best Cheap Eats in St. Louis

Get stuffed for less in the Lou with these wallet-friendly finds.

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Photo By: Spencer Pernikoff

Cevapi at Balkan Treat Box

In a meat-loving city like St. Louis, carnivores have plenty of dining options. But Balkan Treat Box stands out for its sausage-stuffed sandwich priced at a steal. The cevapi sandwich ($10) is a top seller at this food truck known for its Bosnian and Turkish eats. To make it, they grill more than half a pound of mini beef sausages over charcoal, then stuff the mound of meat into a freshly baked somun pita with onions and a Bosnian cream cheese called kajmak. Take it from us, you may need a post-meal nap after tackling this bargain behemoth.

Duck Tacos at Mission Taco Joint

Mission Taco Joint pays homage to Mexican street food with its lineup of Baja-inspired bites that can be had for a bargain. Their solid taco selection continues to reign supreme on the local scene, but one option has remained the king since the start — the BBQ duck ($4). Slow-roasted duck and pork belly carnitas are piled into tortillas, then festooned with pickled onions, crispy jalapeno strips and an ancho-agave glaze that’s both smoky and sweet. Go for the late night happy hour at any one of their locales and the tacos drop to $2 a pop.

Pizza and a Beer at Pizza Head

Sometimes (okay, all the time) we just want to cap the day off with two huge slices of pizza and a beer for cheap. This daydream becomes a reality at Pizza Head, which offers a $7.95 special that includes two cheese slices and a brew. Located in the eclectic South Grand neighborhood, this unique spot brings together Chef/Owner Scott Sandler’s love for punk rock, New York-style slices and vegetarian cuisine. Black walls are spattered with neon pink paint. The jukebox blares The Ramones. And the pizza options cater to both vegetarians and vegans (hello, cashew cheese!). Welcome to Pizza Head.

Brisket Sandwich at Salt + Smoke

Load up on St. Louis-style barbecue for less at Salt + Smoke. Known for its bourbon and BBQ, this spot serves a prime brisket sandwich for $10.95. Pro move: when given the option of lean or fatty brisket, ask for burnt ends. Doing so will get you a brisket sandwich slathered with burnt end mayo and piled with crisp tobacco onions. Go all in with a side of garlic and herb fries.

Almond Chocolate Croissant at Nathaniel Reid

Croissant fans, no longer do you have to pony up the cash for two flaky pastries if you can’t decide between chocolate or almond. Pastry Chef Nathaniel Reid has resolved this classic croissant dilemma by combining the two fillings into one extra-decadent treat. Reid bakes a (perfect) croissant, slices it in half, stuffs it with almond creme, rum syrup and dark chocolate — then bakes it again. Priced at just $3.75, it would be a crime NOT to treat yourself.

Torta Ahogada at Taqueria Durango

Bring your appetite if you plan to tackle the torta ahogada (drowned sandwich) at Taqueria Durango. It’s roughly the size of a football. For $7.99, a massive bolillo roll gets stuffed with crisp carnitas and grilled onions, then drenched in the smoky-spicy red chile sauce that gives this classic Mexican sandwich its name. Eating with your hands is not an option. This is a knife-and-fork, multiple-napkin affair.

Nugz at Byrd and Barrel

Chef/Owner Bob Brazell has the nickname Bobby Nugz for a reason: his spicy chicken ‘nugz’ are famous citywide. To even call them a nug is an understatement, considering each one is essentially a whole boneless chicken thigh that’s brined, breaded and tossed in Byrd’s spicy, smoky house rub. Five pieces priced at $6 is enough for most people, but if you’ve got a big appetite, splurge for the ten-piece option ($11) — or tack on the spiced tots ($4).

Chili Verde at Frankly On Cherokee

Feast on stellar sausages for a steal at Frankly on Cherokee. The menu changes often, but all the sausages are made in-house from local, high-quality meat. The one constant is the chili verde sausage, a popular option that channels the flavors of New Mexico’s signature stew. Pick up this pork sausage studded with roasted chiles and onions for $9. Part with $4 more to pair it with Belgian-style hand cut fries.

Fried Chicken at Grace Meat & Three

Billing your fried chicken as famous may seem like a bit much, but Chef Rick Lewis turns out a bird worthy of the hype. Take one bite of Rick’s Famous Fried Chicken and you’ll see why it’s earned a cult-like following in St. Louis. The chef builds layers of spicy flavor by using both a brine and a rub before dredging and frying the bird. Think you can handle extra heat? Get the Nashville-style option dipped in a fiery oil. The quarter chicken costs $10, and that includes two of Grace Meat & Three’s massive (and massively delicious) seasonal sides.

Pho Tai at Mai lee

This bastion of Vietnamese cuisine squeezes more than 300 items onto its massive menu, but the pho options are not to be missed. So big are the bowls of Mai Lee’s fragrant soup that they’re practically a ladleful away from being served in a bucket. The pho tai in particular stands out. Brimming with rare flank steak, rice noodles, herbs, bean sprouts and more, it’s an absolute steal at $8.95. The broth alone is worth it; ginger, star anise and allspice all add depth of flavor to this perfectly balanced base.

Meat Me In St. Louie Calzone at Sauce on the Side

Things St. Louisans love: meat, pizza, bread. That’s why the Meat Me in St. Louie calzone ($9) at Sauce on the Side is beloved citywide. This oversized calzone comes crammed with pepperoni, Italian sausage, provel (because you’re in St. Louis, after all) and a blend of mascarpone and ricotta cheeses. As if that combo isn’t rich enough on its own, a side of meat sauce accompanies every order. This beast is big enough to share, but we won’t judge if you decide to save the second half to eat tomorrow.

Chicken Mole at La Tejana Taqueria

The massive amount of time and sheer quantity of ingredients that go into authentic Oaxacan mole is enough to drive most home cooks mad. Hold on to your sanity and head to La Tejana Taqueria, where you can pick up a masterful chicken mole for $9.99. They roast a quarter chicken, then drench it in their nutty, chocolatey, spicy mole sauce and serve alongside beans and rice. Go ahead and order a side of the mole sauce to dip your chips in… and another container to take home. The splurge is worth it and you’ll likely wind up back in line if you don’t.

Mississippi Nights Club Sandwich at The Gramophone

A haven in The Grove neighborhood for night owls craving crazy-big sandwiches to go along with their craft brews, The Gramophone serves food until 2:30 am. Don’t sleep on their signature Mississippi Nights Club sandwich. This beast comes piled with turkey, roast beef, bacon and all the normal sandwich fixings, plus a peppery mayo and an entire bag of spicy chips. If you’re feeling like a sandwich-slaying warrior, get the full size ($11), but if you’re just looking for a large snack, the half ($5.50) will serve you well.

O’Miso Spicy at Nudo House STL

Anyone who’s made a bowl of ramen from scratch has experienced how much work goes into it. Add bean sprouts, pickled mustard greens, a ramen egg and slow-cooked pork belly to the equation and $12 seems like a steal for the O’Miso Spicy ramen at Nudo House. Not only is it the best ramen in town, but it’s served in a massive bowl. And hey, you don’t have to make it yourself.

800 Pound Gorilla at Guerrilla Street Food

Sample some of the most-popular specialties at this Filipino spot in one portable dish that comes all wrapped up in dough (tortillas, that is). The 800 Pound Gorilla combines Guerrilla’s famous chicken adobo and slow roasted pork — along with sriracha, hoisin, fried garlic, a paprika-laced cream, a sous vide egg and more — in a burrito so big it requires two tortillas. At $12, this two-handed beast might not be the cheapest of cheap eats, but it’s large enough to feed at least two people. Still not big enough? Ask for the Silverback: it’s double the size.

BBQ Nachos at Big Baby Q

Pitmaster/Chef Ben Welch turns out a beastly portion of BBQ Nachos at Big Baby Q, so either bring your crew or bring home leftovers. The white takeout box can barely contain this stack of corn tortilla chips slathered with housemade pepperjack queso, drizzled with BBQ sauce and piled with baked beans, chipotle sour cream, candied jalapenos, shredded cheddar and your choice of meat. Welch customizes each order with turkey, pulled pork or brisket (he’s known for his brisket). No matter which you choose, it’ll only cost you $10.

Lunch Special at Union Loafers

No need to drop a lot of dough for lunch at Union Loafers. The $12 lunch special gets you a soup (Kale & Garbanzo) or a salad (Little Gem) paired with one of two half sandwich options. It might sound basic, but it’s a deal you don’t want to miss. The sandwiches alone may convert you, as they’re all built on the bakery’s much-buzzed-about bread.

Big Thai Wrap at Lona's Lil Eats

Lona’s Lil Eats delivers big on both portion size and flavor. Stumped on where to start? Begin with their giant rice paper wraps. Similar to spring rolls (but sized way up), these fan favorites come stuffed with Thai and Chinese fillings. Make your own or stick to beloved menu standards like the #5 Big Thai ($9.25): grilled chicken, stir-fried rice and lime-ginger peanut sauce, all tucked into a massive wrapper. No matter what you pick, it’ll be right around $10, and well worth every penny.

Chicken Parm Sandwich at Porano

Porano Pasta might be known for its build-your-own pasta and salads, but its sleeper hit is the chicken parm sandwich. For $9, you get a chicken thigh that has been marinated, pounded thin, and fried until crunchy (but still juicy), then placed on a freshly baked brioche roll with pomodoro sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil. Word of warning: this sandwich might give your salad-eating companions a serious case of food envy.

Khao Soi at Fork n Stix

Treat yourself to a budget-friendly feast straight out of Chiang Mai, Thailand, without actually leaving St. Louis. Fork and Stix features a Northern Thai menu stuffed with affordable options. Almost every item costs less than $10, but it’s worth parting with a tad more than a ten-spot for the khao soi ($10.95). A curry base brings a heady blend of sweetness, heat and a bit of funk to this egg noodle soup.

Banh Mi at Banh Mi So #1

Score a satisfying sandwich without shelling out major bank at this spot that offers seven banh mi options, most of which are priced at $3.95. They build each one on the traditional baguette that typifies this Vietnamese sandwich, cramming the sliced loaf with fresh and pickled carrots and daikon, sprigs of cilantro and jalapenos for a tinge of heat, then customizing it with your choice of protein. The selection includes vegetarian, vegan, chicken and pork options. Feel like splurging? They’ll pile on extra for $1.50 more.

Cheeseburger at Carl's Drive In

Carl’s Drive In has been the king of cheap eats in St. Louis since the 1950s, thanks to its old-school prices that continue to stay super-low. A cheeseburger, fries and a mug of housemade root beer will set you back just $6.00. The patties are smashed thin, though, so you may want to shell out a few extra bucks for this extra-satisfying upgrade: a triple cheeseburger, onion rings and an even bigger root beer mug that all adds up to $10.50 total.

Reuben at Protzel's Deli

Known as one of the last New York-style delis in St. Louis, Protzel’s does the Big Apple proud by doing the Reuben sandwich right. This old-school spot offers several variations on the iconic sandwich, but the standard pastrami Reuben is a classic for a reason. Hefty slices of Jewish rye bread are slathered with Russian dressing, then piled with pastrami, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese before being grilled into a golden-brown sandwich. The small ($8.25) will satisfy most, but if you’re a big eater, go for the medium ($10.25). And if you want leftovers, order the large (you likely won’t put much of a dent in it).

Burrito at Seoul Taco

What started as a food truck slinging Korean-accented tacos and burritos has grown into a mini restaurant empire that stretches across two states. Demand shows no signs of slowing, with fans packing in for Seoul Taco’s fusion food. The best part? It’s budget-friendly. Case in point: $8 gets you a gigantic burrito loaded with kimchi fried rice, lettuce, cheese, carrots, green onions, sour cream, your choice of meat (get the bulgogi steak) and the spot’s signature sauces.

Hot Salami at Gioia's

Don’t let the line at Gioia’s scare you off — they turn out sandwiches at top speed. A local institution that’s been in business since 1918, this spot has become synonymous with its hot salami. Made primarily of pork shoulder, it’s served hot (hence the name) but isn’t spicy. They stuff it between a hefty slab of garlic cheese bread to create a nap-inducing sandwich that costs just $9.

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