Buffalo’s restaurant scene has come a long way in the last 10 years, but, if you’re broke or on a budget, that growth can feel inaccessible. What UB graduate student can eat at Black Sheep or Billy Club every week? Happily, the scene has expanded across the spectrum: There is a wealth of cheap, delicious places to eat as well—dozens of them, really, from Burmese to Middle Eastern, Puerto Rican to Ethiopian. Here we offer a a handful of suggestions, some new and some old standbys, as a jumping-off point. Start here and you’ll soon find many new favorites.
LA DIVINA MEXICAN STORE
2896 Delaware Avenue
They are not the only $2 tacos in town but they are probably the best. A more substantial torta runs just $5 at this Kenmore institution, run by the family that also owns Don Tequila, Agave Mexican, and El Agave.
The newest coffee shop in Allentown also serves lovely sandwiches—just $6, or $8 if you add a side—and all of the food is vegetarian, most of it vegan. Delicious pour-overs, too, and a quiet spot to chat, read, or work.
272 Hudson Street
We have never done a cheap eats feature that did not include this West Side storefront Puerto Rican restaurant. (Ask our editor about it.) Substantial lunch specials just $6; mammoth sandwiches, big enough to serve two, for a couple dollars more.
THE MELTING POINT
There are some gussied-up grilled cheeses on the menu of this shoebox sandwich shop nestled among Allentown’s bars and music clubs. But if you’re broke and hungry, just get the classic: one for $1.99, a bag of six for $9.99.
883 Jefferson Avenue
For our money, the best of the region’s handful of Caribbean restaurants. Lunch specials—curried or jerked chicken with beans and rice, for example—run $6 or $7. Full dinners are a bit more but worth it for the cabbage and mac and cheese.
There are plenty of cheap, delicious options at the West Side Bazaar, and you should try all of them. But 007 is one of the few places around that serves Chinese steamed buns. A couple dollars is all you need, and the tea is free.
FREDDY J’S BARBECUE
195 Grant Street
Freddy is a barbecue artist, and his sides—which are as important a measure of a barbecue joint as the meat itself—are impeccable. And every dish on the menu is $10 or less.
A good place to watch young people administering to their hangovers of a late Saturday morning. Much to enjoy here, all of it reasonably priced. We recommend the falafel, which is delicious and will set you back a mere $5.50.
LONE STAR FAJITA GRILL
1855 Hertel Avenue
A North Buffalo standby toward the east end of Hertel Avenue. Nothing on the menu costs more than $5.25—that’s the taco salad—but we usually go for two guaco tacos, $2.35 each, and slather them in pico de gallo and hot sauce.
EDDIE’S CHOP HOUSE
Another place with a $6 lunch special—in fact, you’de be hard-pressed to spend more than that on one dish, unless you ordered an entire duck. The cuisine is Chinese barbecue, along with noodle bowls and other satisfying dishes.
893 Jefferson Avenue
This ice cream stand also offers burgers and fries and other such fare at remarkably low prices. (Most lunch specials come with a piece of cake, too.) It’s not exotic but it’s a bargain. The delicious barbecue joint next door, Mr. Bone’s, appears to have closed, but something new is sure to fill the space soon.
RANCHOS LATIN FOOD
The arepas here—$8 for a massive serving of shredded pork or beef or chicken, doused in lovely hot sauce—are outrageous. Try getting three mini-arepas for $4 instead and split them. Maybe add some yuca with avocado for $3 and call it a meal.
322 West Ferry Street
Pho Dollar isn’t super-cheap—you’re going to spend $10 or $15 per person here, maybe more—but use the money you saved by living on $2 tacos and splurge: This Vietnamese place makes lovely dishes unlike any other place else in town.
Becoming a regular at Amy’s Place might as well be a graduation requirement at the University at Buffalo. It’s cheap, it’s delicious, it’s welcoming. It’s been an institution in University heights for 35 years. We like the lentil-berry sandwich, but an early-bird plate of eggs for $2.50 is nice, too.
More Back to School info: