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.
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, I have removed that part of the title.
If you need assistance with finding food in Memphis, visit the Mid-South Food Bank’s website. If you would like to contribute to the work of the Mid-South Food Bank, MIFA, or other organizations that provide nutritious meals to Memphians who need it, please check out the monthly volunteer guide published on this blog.
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.
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.