1. Arizmendi Bakery, San Francisco, CA
Located between the North Judah line and Golden Gate Park, this little hole-in-the-wall is a local favorite in the Inner Sunset neighborhood. The magic ingredient is the sourdough crust in their gourmet pizza, plus classy toppings like smoked Gouda and rosemary oil. A slice will only cost you $2.50, leaving enough money for a coffee and pastry for dessert.
2. Ocean Deli, Miami, FL
If you want to find the best lunch deal in Miami Beach, follow the parade of hotel and construction workers to Ocean Deli, a family-owned bodega off Collins Avenue on 19th Street. For about $5 bucks, they will pack you a to-go container with as much Cuban food as can be constrained by mere styrofoam walls. They’ve also got made-to-order sandwiches (we sign off on their signature Cubano), a full buffet and cold beers if you need to, you know, hydrate.
3. Charlie's Kitchen, Cambridge, MA
Founded over 40 years ago, this bare-bones burger joint with a beer garden is a lunch and late-night Harvard Square staple that serves up a slew of burger choices from double to triple deckers. But then again, when in New England you gotta roll with their “wicked” lobster roll for only $8.
4. Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen, Chicago, IL
For home-cooked, old-fashioned Jewish deli food, Manny’s is the go-to spot thanks to a menu full of favorites from bubbie’s (grandma’s) kitchen. The working-class, WWII-era cafeteria made headlines in 2008 when then President-elect Barack Obama stopped by one of his favorite haunts to order a classic Chicago deli lunch: corned beef sandwich and cherry pie for dessert.
5. Mamoun’s Falafel, New York City, NY
Sure, we love Halal Guys, it’s an NYC staple but if you want to try somewhere new, you can’t find a better meal deal in New York than at this ground-breaking Greenwich Village favorite. For only $3.50, you get one of the best falafel sandwiches you’ve ever had. It’s no wonder that NYU students have been flocking to this family-owned and operated spot since it opened in 1971, establishing itself as one of the oldest falafel eateries in the Big Apple.
6. Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant, Seattle, WA
Pho is the modern chicken (or beef) soup for the soul so, $8.95 is a small price to pay for a generous bowl of the classic Vietnamese noodle soup, along with the traditional garnishes of fresh mint, cilantro, hot peppers, lime, and mung bean sprouts. It’s a perfect antidote to those notoriously cold, rainy Emerald City days. There’s probably going to be a line, but there are two locations in the city. The original spot is humble and cozy, while the other locale near Olympic Sculpture Park has the same authentic menu along with cocktails.
7. District Taco, Washington, DC
District Taco started as an uber-popular food truck and has now expanded into a full-on food franchise by living up to their “always fresh, always Mexican” tagline. For lunch, drop into their their Dupont Circle spot, offering fresh, environmentally-friendly, Yucatan-style tacos, burritos and nachos — all for under $8. Just watch out for the dripping salsa, a stain on your tie is definitely going to put a damper on that afternoon pitch deck.
8. Lorenzo’s Pizza, Philadelphia, PA
Although Philly’s historic Italian Market on 9th Street has been hit with the big “G” word (gentrification) over the last few years, it will always be a cultural institution of the city. While there might be expensive cheese shops, trendy restaurants, and $8 juice shops in one of the nation’s oldest and largest Italian towns, but you can still get one of the best Philly cheese steaks in the city for under $10 at Lorenzo’s. The pizza’s damn good too.
9. Downtown Food Trucks, Portland, OR
The great thing about Portland’s downtown street food scene is that you can find an inexpensive lunch from any corner of the world. Take your tastebuds on a globe-trotting tour through the Old World (Italian, French, German) to the far-off exotic (Taiwanese, Indian) to the good old ‘Merica backyard (Southern, East Coast), all within a stone’s throw of each other. Sure, there might not be enough places to sit in-between the herd of lunch-time eaters, but that’s a small price to pay (especially for a meal under $10) to indulge from some of the best food trucks, carts and pods in the land.
10. In-and-Out Burger, Los Angeles, CA
As much as part of the Southern Cali landscape as smog, fake noses, and Kardashians, In-N-Out is legendary burger empire with a justifiable reputation of excellence. Unlike the mass-produced frozen patties and buns from fast food places like McDonalds, one bite will take you back to 1948, a time when classic American comfort food was at its best. Even better, you can still be on a budget and really go for broke with a combo order of fresh-cut fries and a milkshake for less than an Hamilton (the dollar bill, not the musical). Like all cults, there are mysteries behind the regional chain, which have Bible verses hidden on cups and wrappers, as well as a secret menu. Pro tip: Try your patties mustard-grille and get your fries animal style.