The Guide to Eating Cheap in Memphis
Ed. Note: I’m happy to share this post from new ILM contributor Bret Weaver, who has provided us with an updated version of the classic I Love Memphis ‘cheap eating’ post.
If you have any places to add, just add ’em in the comments. You’ve probably been seeing some fresh faces on the I Love Memphis Blog. Be on the lookout for even more this month. – Holly
So you ever been “broke”* in Memphis? Man, I have. And you’ve got to eat right? I have to eat like two or three times a day. It can be a real headache.
Here’s a short list of places that have kept me alive over the years.
*Ed Note: not literally broke. The following items do require payment.
Aldo’s (100 S Main): Pick up a slice of the day for $4. Grab-N-Go Special, between 11am – 2pm Monday – Friday get any slice and a 24 oz fountain drink for $5.
Little Tea Shop – No daily specials, but everything on the menu is under $10, including sandwiches, salads, veggie plates, and pot roast.
Pearl’s Oyster House (299 S Main): Pearl’s has a selection of lunch specials that are $10 or less, including Peel n’ Eat Shrimp, Sausage & Red Beans, and Pasta Jambalaya. Monday – Friday, 11am – 2pm.
Maciel’s (45 S Main): Everything is under $11, and I’ve never had something I didn’t like there. If you come in frequently enough they’ll just start bringing you random stuff. I recommend eating that stuff.
Cafe 7/24 (94 S. Front St) from a reader: this new downtown spot offers a happy hour “pub burger and seasoned fries that are $4.00. Also the friendliest owners/bartenders in town.” I’m determining exactly what time this happy hour takes place.
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (310 S Front): 2-piece white meat plate or 3 wing plate for $6. You can get a half chicken for $9.60. I’m not saying you should, but I do.
Bardog Tavern (73 Monroe Ave): Daily soup special for $5 cup, $8 a bowl. Daily hotdog special is $10. “Lunch” specials run from 11am – 3am.
The Blue Monkey (Downtown and Midtown): Lunch special, meat and two with a drink for $10.95. 11am – 2pm everyday.
The Dirty Crow Inn (855 Kentucky St): A little off the beaten path, but worth the trip. Weekly lunch specials for $8.50. (Usually a really good sandwich.) Monday – Friday, from 11am – 3pm. Tell Paul I said hi. Don’t gamble on Golden Tee with him.
Local (Downtown and Midtown): $10 Business Lunch specials Monday – Friday, 11:30am – 1:30pm.
Agave Maria (83 Union): Happy hour from 4pm – 6pm, small plates only $5.
Earnestine & Hazel’s (351 S Main): Soul Burgers are $6. It’s the only food they serve; it’s all they need to serve. 5pm – 3am Monday through Thursday, 11am – 3am Saturday and Sunday.
Catherine and Mary’s (272 Main): Tuscan/Sicilian cuisine. From 4pm – 6pm they offer $5 snacks, so you don’t show up home from work already drunk.
Bayou Bar & Grill (2094 Madison): Bayou “Lunch” specials run $7.50 from open to close. Friday is a massive portion of the chicken and shrimp fettuccine with salad.
Fino’s (Midtown and East Memphis): Both locations have daily pasta, soup and sandwich specials. Half a sandwich is $6 anytime, and they’re pretty huge. I usually get a full for $9 and save half for later.
Pho Hoa Binh (1615 Madison): All-you-can-eat lunch buffet for $5.69 is very likely the best deal in town. (Ed. Note: Nestled on the buffet trays of veggies, pho, stir fry, spring rolls, and lemongrass tofu is also a peppery, crispy Souther fried chicken – pictured at the top of this post. As soon as Pho Binh’s lunch masters bring a fresh tray, regulars swarm the buffet: so be ready.)
Little Italy Pizza (1495 Union): All New York-style slices are $4.39 or less.
India Palace (1720 Poplar): All-you-can-eat lunch buffet, $10.85 every day.
Golden India (2097 Madison): Lunch buffet is $10.95. Slightly more than the other spot, but I think it’s a dime well spent.
Celtic Crossing (903 S Cooper): Lunch entrées from $7 to $11.
Slider Inn (2117 Peabody): “The Perfect $10 Lunch” = Two sliders, fries and a drink. (Sodas, not Jameson slushies. You animals.)
Mulan – Thirty different lunch specials for $7.95. Includes choice of fried rice or white steamed rice, and choice of soup (egg drop, hot and sour, wonton, or vegetable).
Kwik Check (2013 Madison): Everything here is inexpensive and tasty, mostly sandwiches and wraps. I think the only thing over $10 is a full muffaletta.
Fuel Cafe (1761 Madison): Tacos are $7 – $9 all the time. Just like the ones you get off the truck.
Soul Fish (Midtown and East Memphis): Daily sandwich special for under $10. Fried green tomatoes are $5.25 everyday. Also a daily $5 dessert special.
Ecco on Overton Park (1585 Overton Park): Mediterranean. Small plates are $6 – $9 Tuesday through Thursday, from 4:30pm to 6:30pm.
Bar Louie (2125 Madison Avenue): burgers for $5 on Tuesday nights after 5 PM that includes tots or fries, and if you go between 5 and 7 PM you can add to that their Happy Hour specials which include half price on select appetizers and $5.25 martinis.
Memphis Pizza Cafe (5 locations): $6 sandwich and salad combo all the time.
Belmont Grill (4970 Poplar): Dinner specials under $10 every night of the week. The pot roast may change your life.
TJ Mulligan’s (3 locations): TJ’s lunch specials include an entrée, two sides & bread for $7.95. Monday – Friday, 11am – 2pm.
RP Tracks (3547 Walker): Specials every night of the week under 10 bucks. Great brunch menu Friday – Sunday from 11am – 3pm, also under 10 bucks.
Hog & Hominy (707 W Brookhaven Circle): All pizza’s are $10 from 2pm – 5pm, Monday – Friday. Get the Thunderbird.
Ryu (5137 Summer): Hibachi with your choice of meat for $10.
Cook Out (757 S Highland): The only non-local fast food place I’ll be mentioning. The menu is very large, and you can drive away with an obscene amount of food for $10. Personally I’m not a milkshake guy, but they have over 40 flavors.
New Hunan (5052 Park): Lunch buffet is $7.10 and the dinner buffet is $9.38. For $1.50 extra you can get it to-go and see how many spring rolls you can cram in a box while the chef gives you side eye. (closed)
Chowtime (4207 Hacks Cross): Lunch buffet runs you $8.40 for lunch and $10.95 for dinner.
Garibaldi’s Pizza (3530 Walker): Full lunch buffet is under $9 and includes a drink.
Local (Downtown and Midtown): Sunday and Monday are prime rib night, $12.
The Green Beetle (325 S Main): “The Oldest Tavern in Memphis” offers $10 steak and baked potato from 4pm to close Monday nights. $6 burgers on Tuesday.
Aldo’s (752 S Cooper): 2 for 1 slices on Tuesday, 11am – 2 pm.
Belmont Grill (4970 Poplar): Tuesday is $5 burger night. People, this is the best thing on the list.
Celtic Crossing (903 S. Cooper): Two-for-one fish and chips on Tuesdays should be enough for a heart attack at $13.50. Or you can bring a friend.
The Blue Monkey (Downtown and Midtown): Steak night is a 7oz filet with a side and salad for $15. Also discounts on the prime rib and beef tenderloin. Tuesday night downtown and Thursday night in midtown.
Trolley Stop Market (704 Madison): Dinner special every night under $11, and every Tuesday is Taco Night.
Spaghetti Warehouse (40 Huling): “The Warehouse” has $5.95 and $6.95 pasta specials Wednesday nights. Includes bread and bottomless salad or soup. Also they own the URL to meatballs.com.
Dino’s Grill (645 N. McLean): All-you-can-eat spaghetti is $7.49, 5:30pm to 9pm on Thursday night. BRING YOUR OWN WINE! (No corkage fee.)
Did I “forget” your favorite spot? Maybe sí, maybe no. I guess we’ll never be sure. Mention it in the comments and Holly will probably add it later. She’s nice like that.
About The Author
Bret Weaver is a freelance writer living in Midtown. In addition to copywriting full-time, he contributes to Pulse, Sifter, I Love Memphis, and Memphis Travel. He enjoys books, whiskey, and poker. Please send hate mail to @Bret_Weaver.