The Guide to Eating Cheap in Memphis

Posted by Holly Whitfield | February 13th 2017 58574 0

Ed. Note: I’m happy to share this post from 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.

Menus and prices are always subject to change, and that’s beyond our control. Please call ahead to confirm information. 

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 tacos

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.

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.

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. It’s a damn travesty, but Fino’s is closed. I can’t bring myself to remove it from this list entirely, because I’m hoping some superhero will come buy it and reopen it. 

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


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.)

Jack Pirtle’s has 2-piece dinner boxes including biscuits, gravy, and french fries for under $5.
Tops – Pork sandwich or cheeseburger combo (medium drink and choice of two sides) for under $7.

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).

“The Turk” at Kwik Chek

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.


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.

hog & hominy pizza

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.


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.

Weekly Specials

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.

fish and chips from celtic crossing

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.

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.

Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

Show Comments


  1. StaceyG says:

    Great list! I’d add Wing Night at Growler’s (every Monday) to the weekly specials.

  2. D says:

    This is basically just an advertisement for all the local spots in midtown/downtown – don’t get me wrong, I love them as much as the next person, but as a person living on a fixed income I can’t agree that “$12 prime rib night” or “$5 snacks” at K&M’s (also one of the more expensive eateries on the list) are at all affordable for those in town who are actually poor and hungry.

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Hi D! It’s hard to find good eats for cheap, isn’t it? And not every one of the 42 ideas listed will be appealing to all people. For me personally, I’d probably skip the $12 ribeye (which is incidentally the most expensive thing on the list unless you are eating 2 plates of fish and chips for $13+) and instead go for the Pho Binh lunch buffet ($5.69), slice of amazing pizza at Little Italy ($4.39) or a $6 burger from Green Beetle – or any one of the 25 ideas that are less than $10 on this list. The I Love Memphis blog does not accept advertisements, and Bret didn’t even get any free or comped food out of this one. The readers of ILM have made it clear that they do appreciate us focusing on local spots, rather than chains, so that’s what we did. Having said all of that, I would love to double the number of ideas on this list. We already have about 10 more to add just from everyone’s awesome suggestions on social media and blog comments this morning! Let me know your favorite cheap eatin’ spots and we can add those, like Bret said. Thanks for reading. 🙂

  3. Steven Crain says:

    So the writer never ate fast food to stay alive when broke? There are many choices that are $5 or less at those places. $10-$11 for lunch at a local restaurant is average, not inexpensive to me.

    Just a thought.

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Hi Steven! I don’t think Bret meant that he never ate at fast food places, more like he didn’t include McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. on this particular list on a blog about Memphis because most people are already aware that you can purchase a meal for $5 or less at plenty of fast food places across the country. All of the feedback I’ve received from readers for this blog, including the focus groups we did some time ago, told us that people use this blog to find non-chain restaurants so I didn’t think it necessary to have him list every deal at Mickey D’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, etc. I’m happy to point someone in the right direction if they *are* looking for that, though. This post was about local spots where – unless you just happen to go or do all the research that Bret did – you might not know some of the deals. I agree that $10 isn’t *dirt* cheap for lunch, but 25 of the 42 items listed in the first post do have options under $10. And this list is a work in progress (we already have about 10 ideas to add! Yay!) Where are your favorite places for uber cheap lunch? We’d love to add them, as Bret said in his last paragraph! Thanks again for your comment, Steven!

  4. Victoria says:

    The classic burger at LBOE is 4..95 on Mondays.

  5. Bekah says:

    This is a great list! Definitely bookmarking it. Thanks Bret and Holly!

  6. Don says:

    Wonderful list that will be a help when I am looking to keep it affordable. Couple of adds should be:

    Second Line’s $10 lunch, it includes half sandwich, side and a tea
    Off the Hoof in Arlington has great burgers and only one of them cost more than 10 bucks. Get “The Burger” 6 oz for 5 bucks.
    Mortimer’s on Perkins has 60 cent oysters on Tuesday and Saturday.

    Thanks for the great work Bret and Holly.

  7. G says:

    People who are poor or broke can’t afford these items. Really, we can’t. Please reevaluate your use of the terms. We may not have the funds for these items, but we are literate. Words matter, and you used the wrong ones.

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      G, You’re right. It was meant to be a reference to a film and the previous post (as stated at the top of the post) but it was the wrong thing to do. I changed it and added some clarifications here and more information about what the post was supposed to be. I’m sorry. Thank you sincerely for commenting.

      Ed. Note: An earlier version of the post was titled “The Poor & Hungry” as a) a reference to Craig Brewer’s early indie film, b) the P&H Cafe, and c) as well as the original 2012 post. To avoid any confusion for those unfamiliar with the reference, and because, frankly, it was insensitive, I have removed that part of the title. This list is meant to be a list of places to get occasional “deals” or “specials” at popular eateries in Memphis, not necessarily a list of the cheapest restaurant, fast food restaurants, or food assistance programs.

      • Steve Crain says:

        Thanks for making the change! I didn’t get the reference (sorry) and I do think it’s great to hear about special deals at many local restaurants. And I especially appreciate your kind replies and responsiveness to commenters. It’s sorely needed on many websites!

  8. Andy Smithers says:

    Side street on Wednesday. For $28, you get one appetizer, two salads, two steaks.

  9. Melissa says:

    Great list. I’ll add a few chains that offer free food for the kiddos on certain nights. IHOP, McAlister’s Deli, & Holiday Ham are my favorites.

  10. Shawn Danko says:

    Kooky Canuck has daily lunch specials Mon to Fri 11am to 2pm for $7.99 both downtown and Cordova.

  11. Robert Fox says:

    This was very helpful we are planning a trip to Memphis the first week of July. We have never been there and I have been looking for places to go eat at.Thanks

  12. anon says:

    Neglecting Cafe 7/24 downtown (on Front St.) is excusable, since it’s pretty new–but they have, hands down, the best happy hour special in town: a pub burger and seasoned fries that are KILLER for $4.00. Yep. $4. Also the friendliest owners/bartenders in town.

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Great addition! This list is definitely meant to be a work in progress. It takes a village to make a Memphis foodie list…

  13. Esmee @ Incredibly Wee says:

    Bar Louie has 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. The Clover martini is my favorite!!!!! Keyword: Hennessy!

  14. Taylor McKinney says:

    Daily lunch specials are $8.69 and includes two sides at Stone Soup Cafe in Cooper Young!

  15. elboogiemacalicious says:

    Plz add El Mezcal on union to this batch. On Tuesdays after 5pm they have 99¢ tacos and 2 10oz dos equis ambers for 3.75. This is some good eating.

  16. Nikki says:

    All you can eat wings at Growler’s on Mondays, $10

  17. Shops of Saddle Creek says:

    Grimaldi’s at Saddle Creek has a new weekday lunch combo for only $9.49. It includes an 8″ traditional 1-topping pizza or calzone, a caesar or house salad, and a soft drink or iced tea. Available 11AM-4PM Monday through Friday and it’s DELICIOUS!

  18. Drew says:

    Any cheap all you can eat chinese buffets near midtown?

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Wang’s on Highland by U of M has a $7ish lunch buffet. While Pho Binh on Madison is not strictly Chinese, the $8ish lunch buffet is a midtown favorite.

  19. Katie says:

    For those of us out in the burbs, Ichiban Buffet in Collierville has $5.75 lunch specials and $6.95 dinner specials. You can order on Bite Squad and have it delivered. Tons of food(at least enough for 2 meals) and it’s comparable/I think a little better than Wang’s.

  20. Allan Lynn Ledbetter says:

    Very nice ! The Thursday Dino’s night with no screw off fee sounds like a great time.
    Also Pho and spring roll buffet
    Goodness Gracious Alife!
    Thank you both for the wonderful article.

  21. Alistair says:

    Missing from the Midtown list is the excellent DWJ2 on Young. The lunch specials are cheap (between $8 and $11 with most dishes being $8) and you get a lot of food for this. Ambience is non-existent but service is speedy and friendly and the food is excellent.

  22. Steven says:

    I checked out Pho Binh at 1615 Madison Ave. and I was surprised when the bill was $9.81. You said it was $5.69. This extremely basic Vietnamese restaurant must have received a lot of customers in the past year since you wrote this. I feel like I was ripped off. They don’t even offer you a menu. They are taking advantage of the customers that you are sending their way.

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Hi Steven, I apologize for this. I am very sorry this happened and it’s very unfortunate. At the top of the page, we do mention “Also, menus and prices are always subject to change, and that’s beyond our control. We will do our best to update this post, but please call ahead to confirm information.” However, that sucks and I’m sorry.

  23. Jacob Wallace says:

    Local is now under new ownership and the daily specials are not the same at the moment.

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Thanks Jacob, all of these are subject to change – restaurants change A LOT. But thank you for this heads up. I’ll get it updated or removed.

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