Travelers with big appetites but small budgets need not despair. You can hit up some of America's delicious eateries without breaking the bank -- heck, without even spending $10! From NYC to Los Angeles, we've tracked down the best cheap eats in America's big cities for under $10. Thankfully, low in cost doesn't mean low in quality; these eateries offer both classic and creative meals at reasonable prices.
Want wallet-friendly foods in Manhattan? Try an Asian food feast. Cheap ethnic eats abound in NYC's tangle of streets at Chinese hot spots such as Xi'an Famous Foods, a hand-pulled, or handmade, noodle shop with locations in Chinatown and St. Mark's Place. Dive into a bowl of liang pi (cold skin) noodles, which -- fear not -- involve no skin, but rather slippery wheat noodles and chunks of wheat gluten, served in a cool, spicy oil and vinegar sauce. For an even bigger spice kick, try the "spicy and tingly beef hand-pulled noodles," a warm noodle concoction with chunks of beef in hot sauce spiced with Chinese pepper powder.
You'll feel penny-wise after chowing down on super-low-priced Lito's Empanadas in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Colombian-born owners Lito and Eve Escalante fry up crispy-crusted empanadas in 10 different varieties. Menu highlights include the beef empanada, stuffed full of ground beef, olives, raisins, potatoes, tomatoes and onions, and the spicy chori-cheese empanada, filled with chorizo, cheese, potatoes, tomatoes and onions. Craving a sweet treat? Bite into the choco-banana empanada, a mix of Nutella hazelnut spread and banana. Pro-tip: Before planning to eat at the store's counter, consider placing a to-go order and chowing down in nearby Lincoln Park, adjacent to Lake Michigan.
You don’t have to shell out cash like a megastar to enjoy a good meal in Los Angeles. Head to Pink's Hot Dogs, the hot dog stand of the stars -- really, celebs like Katie Couric, Betty White and Jay Leno have been photographed eating here -- for a cheap and quick meal. Located smack in the heart of Hollywood, Pink's serves up 15 varieties of hot dogs, including a bacon chili cheese dog, a Guadalajara dog with relish, onions, tomatoes and sour cream, and a NYC dog, served plain with red onions. Pink's has been selling hot dogs here since 1939, when the stand was really just a cart, making it an honest-to-goodness LA staple. Open past midnight, think of Pink's when you're craving a post-partying late-night snack.
San Francisco budget travelers, rejoice! Turns out, some of the city's best Thai food happens to be some of the city's cheapest food, period. Hungry tourists searching for a cost-friendly eating adventure should head to Lers Ros Thai, blocks away from the San Francisco Civic Center, in the city's Little Saigon neighborhood. The menu's 150 items include Thai food fixtures such as pad Thai, pan-fried rice noodles with prawns, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts and lemon; shredded green papaya salad with spicy chilies, tomatoes and lime dressing, and kao ka moo -- that’s stewed pork spiced with cinnamon, cloves, fennel and peppercorns served with mustard greens, Chinese broccoli and a chili-vinegar dipping sauce. Check that your hotel room has a fridge; Lers Ros Thai's generous portions make for delicious leftovers.
Washington DC's Good Stuff Eatery is a hip, budget-friendly burger joint popular with the Capitol Hill lunch crowd. Order one of the freshly made burgers, such as the Colletti's Smokehouse, a burger topped with applewood-smoked bacon, Vermont cheddar cheese, fried Vidalia onion rings and a chipotle barbecue sauce; and Uncle D's chili and cheddar burger, topped with spicy chili, cheddar sauce, green onions and sour cream. If for some odd reason, a salad sounds better than a beefy burger, Good Stuff has you covered: pick up a classic wedge salad, served with green and red onions, fried onions, crumbled bacon and blue cheese dressing.
Sticking to a dining budget while on vacation needn't be a stressful, tasteless endeavor. Cheap, delicious eats abound across America's big cities. With a little exploring, you'll satisfy your belly and your wallet.
Valerie Conners is a former senior interactive producer at the Travel Channel who has written for Discovery Communications and publications such as the Boston Globe and Frommer's Travel Guides.