Grub Notes

Cheap Eats: Local Budget-Friendly Options Around $10

Marti's at Midday

Welcome, students and newbies—a lot of you are on the lookout for cheap eats. They’re getting harder to find these days, as restaurants get squeezed between what folks want to pay and the costs of food, labor, take-out packaging and more. Nonetheless, there are still some options in town that are not fast food, not chains and can feed you well for $10 or less, not including tax and tip, which you certainly should add on generously. Can you eat for less by buying a huge case of ramen noodles? You assuredly can, but the below options are generally tastier and more fun.

The Old Standards

Some places in Athens have low prices because they’re old school. They’ve always had low prices, and they’ve raised them slowly. The ADD Drug counter, in Five Points next to Earth Fare, is one of these, open for breakfast and lunch from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturdays. Don’t expect to pull up at 12:15 p.m. and easily grab a seat. Get there early or be patient. The fare is simple, and the portion sizes are yesteryear-ish, but the food is made right in front of you, the fries are classic, and the prices are quite low. It’s hard to find things on the menu priced over $5. Hodgson’s Pharmacy, just around the corner, serves up Edy’s ice cream at $1 a scoop, a price only slightly higher than it used to be. Billy Meadows Station, out in Colbert, has a similar vibe, but with a few more taxidermied animals. You can expect to pay $2.30 for a grilled cheese and $3.50 for a chili cheese slaw dog, the most expensive thing on the menu. Served on a toasted bun, the hot dogs are just about perfect, and your meal can come in at a low price even considering the gas money to get out there. Mama Sid’s has been open since 1983 on the Eastside, with an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet that’s priced at $7 for students; that’s less than Cici’s. And, of course, there’s still Taco Stand, by now one of Athens’ oldest restaurants, with the original Milledge Avenue location offering up unique vibes, plus the mega burrito at $7.50 and several combos priced at under $10.

Country Cooking

It’s hard to get meat and three sides, plus bread, for less than $10 these days, but there are some places that come close. Food for the Soul, on Broad Street, charges $14 for its all-you-can-eat option (including drink and dessert), but folks with big appetites find it well worth it. If you’re really trying to stick to the $10 budget, you can get a veggie plate with four sides plus bread for $8.64 and add on a drink for a mere 50 cents. You don’t even need a pork chop to fill yourself up. Boulevard’s one-time Bread Basket convenience store, renamed the Biscuit Basket after new owners repainted it and replaced the sign a year or so ago, is best known for its morning options, but it also does lunch from 10:30 a.m.–2 p.m., and you can assemble your meal from various meats and sides to come in at a fairly low price if you’re careful. Skip dessert and you can get a three-veggie plate for $8.19, plus a 99-cent biscuit, or a fried chicken leg and thigh for $5.49. Dawg Gone Good BBQ, in downtown Athens on Hancock Avenue, also serves up good portions for a good price, with two-side/one-meat plates (sausage, barbecue, chicken) starting at $7.14. At Weaver D’s, down at the river on E. Broad St., you can get a meat and two vegetables (or a vegetable plate) with a cornbread muffin and a drink for under $10.


Little Italy, in downtown Athens on Lumpkin Street, is the gold standard for a sandwich that can feed at least two people or cover two meals. The subs now cost between $9.75 and $11.75 each, but they are enormous, meaning they get cut a little slack here. Marti’s at Midday also has large portion sizes fitting for two meals, including a large selection of sandwiches priced at $9.99. Ideal Bagel, which was just about reopened at presstime after a closure to fix the floor in the neighboring Luna bakery, does not have gigantic sandwiches, but it does have the 1959 on its menu—a combination of scrambled eggs and ketchup embraced by sourdough that runs $3 a pop and is kind of a wonder in this day and age, even if you generally don’t put ketchup on your eggs. Em’s Kitchen, inside Hawthorne Drug, does some fine inexpensive hot dogs and a bunch of classic sandwiches like egg salad, chicken salad and tuna salad that start at $4.49 (add chips and a drink for $2.69 extra). Buvez, in Boulevard by the train tracks, doesn’t make a lot of sandwiches, and they run out quickly, but the combinations of thinly sliced meats and cheeses plus veggies and accouterments like fig jam layered onto Independent Baking Co. baguettes and served with a side of cornichons are delicious and run about $8. Add a scoop of Swedish fish for dessert for another dollar. Pulaski Heights BBQ, on Pulaski Street, has one of the best sandwiches in town in the Redneck Reuben ($8.50), a combo of housemade bacon, pimento cheese, ranch and collards on Texas toast that is seriously dense. The veggie version costs a dollar less and will also make you want to take a nap. Farm Burger, on Prince Avenue, isn’t known for being the least expensive but offers a $10 combo with a featured beer and a build-your-own burger.


There are loads of affordable and good Mexican restaurants in Athens, depending on what you want to eat. Taquerias will generally provide your best value if you’re trying to stay under $10, especially if there’s a condiment bar to load up your tacos with extras. Taqueria Juaritos, on Jefferson Road, has tacos for as low as $2.29 each, filled with good amounts of flavorful meat, and has perhaps the best condiments in town, with two different kinds of pickled onions and lots of excellent salsas. Tienda los Amigos, on Rowe Road, in a grocery just off Chase Street by the Pilgrim’s Pride plant, is close behind, with most of its offerings available for $2.50 (cabeza, al pastor, barbacoa, cuero, buche, carnitas), made with meat cut at the counter right next door. Tacos los Plebes, out Danielsville Road in a former Huddle House, charges closer to $3 for its equally tasty tacos, but they may weigh more. Tlaloc, on Chase Street near the bypass and across the street from Tienda los Amigos, is more of a sit-down place, meaning its offerings are a little pricier but balanced by the free chips and salsa. Order some pupusas (Salvadoran griddled corn cakes filled with beans, cheese, meat and/or greens) to get the best value. Tamez, a Texas barbecue place on Broad Street near Hancock Avenue, tends to be priced a bit higher, but its basic breakfast burritos will run you $4 each and are a great price-to-quality ratio.

Something Different

Looking to get outside of pimento cheese sandwiches, pizza and hot dogs? Athens Wok, downtown on Clayton Street near The Classic Center, has a nice Thai lunch menu with entrees under $10 that include rice and either soup or a spring/egg roll. Mother Pho, on Broad Street downtown, makes a nice, substantial banh mi for $7.99–8.99. Mediterranean Grill, in Five Points, does a “business lunch” special on weekdays that is priced at $10, including a drink, and features its combination feast (several kinds of meat, rice, salad, pita, hot sauce), vegetarian plate (falafel, hummus, baba ghanouj, rice, salad, pita, hot sauce) or chicken plate. Rashe’s Cuisine, on Vine Street, has Jamaican lunch specials that will run you $7–9 for an entree plus a big helping of rice and peas. 

Happy eats!