If a college kid only remembers two things from their years of hard study, it should be these: food is life, and it’s hard to survive in Boston as a broke-ass college student. Fear not! Boston actually does have some really great and affordable places to eat, so you can indulge in more than Annie’s mac and cheese (how good is that stuff though, seriously?). Honestly, for the cost of a meal swipe you can have more adventurous and delicious plates. So forego the dining hall and venture out into the city. Or throw on some sweats and order in, because lots of places in Boston deliver, too (praise Foodler, Grubhub, and UberEats!). Now presenting the 12 best affordable restaurants in Boston that any college kid can afford, AKA the foodie’s survival guide to Beantown (it’s not nicknamed after food for nothing).
1) Max Brenner
Ahhh, my favorite restaurant in Boston—maybe even in the world! Don’t let its Back Bay location fool you. This place is very reasonably priced, especially for the portion sizes! Some friendly advice: split the mac and cheese with a friend, and save some dough (and room) for the real reason you came: the chocolate pizza dessert!
How much: $11-16
Where: 745 Boylston St
When: M-Th 10am-11pm, F 10am-1am, S 9am-1am, Su 9am-11pm
2) The Friendly Toast
Pancakes count as part of a balanced breakfast, right? Thought so! This edition to the best affordable restaurants in Boston serves more than breakfast dishes, although it is a great place to brunch it up with friends after a night of heavy… studying! If you’re looking for greasy, filling, scrumptious food, this one takes the cake (although they don’t serve cake. sorry.). The Friendly Toast has several locations, but the Back Bay one is probably the most centrally located.
How much: $6-14
Where: 35 Stanhope St
When: M-Th 7am-9pm, F 7am-10pm, S 8am-10pm, Su 8am-8pm
3) Amelia’s Taquería
This one’s not exactly a restaurant. It’s a more laidback option—an order counter with…yup! cheap food! And it must be good, because there always seems to be a line to order. Try to hit this one outside of peak hours. Maybe between classes!
How much: $7-$9
Where: 309 Huntington Ave
When: M-Th 7am-11pm, F-S 7am-2am, Su 7am-10pm
4) Bon Me
Okay, again, not a restaurant. But it still belongs on the list of best affordable restaurants in Boston—you’ve got to try this one! Food trucks are all the rage lately, and if it’ll save you a pretty penny to get some mouthwatering Asian cuisine, then why not? And the good news is food trucks come to you! Find the nearest Bon Me stop and enjoy lunch outside.
How much: $7-$10
Where: multiple locations
When: times vary based on location
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5) Symphony Sushi
Sushi rolls for $5? Um, yes please! Not only does Symphony Sushi deliver on the price, but also on the taste! So treat yourself to 2 rolls, or 3, or 4, or…
(PS—I’m sure a lot of you Northeastern kids have realized by now that a lot of the best affordable restaurants in Boston are near campus. It could be favoritism, but this area just tends to have a lot of the great and cheap food in the city.)
How much: $4-$12
Where: 45 Gainsborough St
When: M-S11:30am-10:30pm, Su 12 pm-10pm
6) Pour House Bar & Grill
This place is great for some good old-fashion American style carbohydrates. Serving up everything from burgers to subs to Tex Mex, most of the food at the Pour House hits under the $8 mark, so you can go home with a full stomach and wallet. Also great for brunch (can you tell I love brunch yet?).
How much: $6-$9
Where: 907 Boylston St
When: M-Su 8am-2am
7) The Cheesecake Factory
Okay, so this one might not be a one-of-a-kind Boston restaurant, but it’s still one of the best affordable restaurants in Boston for a cheap and delicious meal. With a twenty-page menu, they have just about anything you can think of, and you’re bound to find something under $10. Plus, have you seen the size of those entrees?! You could easily share with a friend—even a slice of cheesecake!
How much: $7-$18
Where: 115 Huntington Ave
When: M-Th 11am-11:30pm, F 11am-12:30am, S 10am-12:30am, Su 10am-11pm
Another good casual option. The menu is pretty limited—sandwiches, salads, fries, and sausages—but this place prides itself on its made-from-scratch menu, and it’s very impressive for the price! Saus also lives up to its name; there are heaps of sauces and sides you can add to jazz up your meal. Some good beer options as well. Bonus: the waffle desserts are only $4!
How much: $5-$9
Where: 33 Union St
When: M-W 11:30am-9pm, Th 11:30am-12am, F-S 11:30am-2am, Su 11:30am-8pm
9) El Pelón Taquería
Mexican food is always sure to satisfy! That’s why I’m sharing a couple options with you in this list of best affordable restaurants in Boston, including El Pelón. They have the usual line up of food: quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos, etc. But they also have cheap daily specials if you’re feeling spontaneous. Recommendation: the carnitas quesadilla—you won’t regret it!
How much: $6-$9
Where: 92 Petersborough St
When: M-Su 11am-11pm
10) Boston Sail Loft
You think New England, you think great seafood. And good news: there are actually some great seafood restaurants in Boston that college students can afford! Cue Boston Sail Loft. A bowl of infamous New England clam chowder will only set you back $7. If you have friends who don’t like seafood, bring them along anyways. There are plenty of other options!
How much: $6-$20
Where: 80 Atlantic Ave
When: M-S 11:30am-2am, Su 11am-2am
11) Sapporo Ramen
Is there anything more satisfying than ramen? I’m not talking about the one in the orange packaging. I’m talking about the real thing. Hearty bowls of this staple food are served up in Sapporo, a cozy restaurant in Cambridge (perhaps a good option for you Harvard and MIT folks). For just $11, you can feast on some noodley goodness!
How much: $8-11
Where: 1815 Massachusetts Ave
When: M-Su 11:30am-3pm, 5:15pm-9pm
12) Quincy Market
In case you haven’t discovered the endless hallway of gastronomic heaven that is Quincy Market, I’d recommend taking a stroll down the dozens of stands in this iconic Boston spot. There are food stalls which specialize in seafood, mac and cheese, bread bowl soups, bagels, smoothies, chocolate, candy apples, you name it! And you can actually find some reasonably-priced options. Hit Quincy Market on a weekend, grab something to go, find a nice bench or park, or even head to the harbor and bam! Dinner with a view! Definitely beats eating microwaved food in your dorm room (don’t worry, we’ve all been there… like a million times).
How much: prices vary based on stand
Where: 4 S Market St
When: M-S 10am-9pm, Su 11am-7pm (*restaurant hours may vary)