Finding cheap eats in Seattle is easier than you might think. And surprisingly delicious. You just have to know where to look–and even that’s not hard.
Seattle has always been pricey; it’s been at the top of “too-expensive-to-visit” list for years, sometimes even beating out places like Honolulu, San Francisco, and New York City. Seattle on a budget takes planning, but it’s entirely possible…especially when you eat like a local.
You already know that I’m a Frugal Foodie when I travel. I’m on a limited income, so given my options, I’ll always choose to spend on museums rather than Michelins. I can eat quite well–and have more fun–by taking a local cooking class or a walking food tour,
I lived in the Emerald City for 12 years. The places I’ll “take you” aren’t secrets. But if you’re from out-of-town, you might not find them on your own. Alas, you’d miss out on the best cheap eats in Seattle.
The TravelSmart Woman Food Tour of Seattle
We’ll start at Pike Place Market, since all visitors go there. For good reason–it’s amazing! The longest-running farmer’s market in the country, it’s still the best place to get produce, flowers, fish, and specialty foods. Nice views of Elliott Bay, too!
Take a photo with Rachel the Pig, watch the “flying fish,” drop a dollar in a busker’s jar, stop in the first Starbucks…then go into Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. Depending on the day, you can watch the cheesemakers at work!
I’m an unabashed Beecher’s cheese fan…along with millions of others. For the longest time, you could only get it in Seattle. Now, you can get the cheeses–never pass up the Flagship–at fine purveyors all over. I still think of Beecher’s as local, so it leads off my list of cheap eats in Seattle.
Order your sandwich (or a dish of Mac & Cheese…read my article about it here) and wait for your name to be called. There are a few stools inside the store, but most likely, you’ll take your grilled cheese outside.
Perch on a curb or take it to Victor Steinbrueck Park across the street. With a drink, your total should be under $15. Combined with the view and ambience: Priceless!
Dick’s Drive-In: This was the first of my cheap eats in Seattle, in the Wallingford neighborhood. After I moved there, I passed Dick’s every day on my way to work. The only time there isn’t a line is when it’s closed. Naturally, I had to try it!
The burgers at Dick’s are made from fresh beef, served on a locally-baked bun. Fries are handcut…and the milkshakes…oh, the milkshakes! Dick’s sells condiments in tiny cups for 5 cents each. Part of the fun is estimating how many ketchups and onions you’re going to want.
How much for the best burger in Seattle–and beyond? My favorite, the Deluxe (2 patties, cheese, lettuce, mayo, and pickle relish) is $3.65. A Special (single patty, lettuce, mayo, and pickle relish) is $2,25. Don’t like burgers? Then Dick’s isn’t for you…that’s all they sell.
Fries–one size only, cut fresh every day–cost $2.05. A hand-dipped and whipped milkshake (chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry) will have you wondering why it’s only $2.85. Grand total for this meal–with a few ketchups, and some onions for my burger: $8.75. Yep, you read that right. There are five Seattle locations, plus one in Edmonds and Kent.
Just how famous is Ezell’s Famous Chicken? Oprah used to have it flown from Seattle to Chicago! And she catered it for one of her birthday extravaganzas! For 35 years, the family, who brought their recipe with them from Texas, has kept to their motto: Fresh, Good, and Fast!
From a single store in the Central District, today you’ll find three stores in Seattle, including the original one, and others in nearby towns. Even swanky suburb Bellevue has an Ezell’s!
It’s always a treat to find a food that’s delicious and affordable. Ezell’s is both: My 3-piece dinner, with a roll and two sides was only $10.99. The choice of sides is challenging: fresh potato salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, cole slaw, baked beans, mac & cheese, or kernel corn. Decisions, decisions!
Ezell’s truly is a Southern-style place. You can get gizzards, livers, and fried okra, too.
I had my first Pho Than Brothers up on Broadway…and wanted to weep because it was so, so, so good. There’s really nothing like a bowl of the Vietnamese broth and rice noodles. It sounds too simple to be spectacular, right? Add a little meat, bean sprouts, fresh basil–and it’s transformed. Spice it up or not with the condiments at the table.
After many delicious bowls, I settled on Pho Ga–chicken–as my favorite. A “small” bowl–don’t be tempted to get the large!–is $8.75. Dare to go with the medium? That’ll cost you $9.25. Really, the only beverage to have with pho is water.
You can find Pho Than Brothers at eight Seattle locations, plus a few in nearby towns. You’ll be eating with locals, university students, and others who are more interested in flavor and value than chasing the latest food trend.
Our last stop takes us to Fishermen’s Terminal, Homeport of the North Pacific Fishing Fleet. Located on Salmon Bay, this is a working port, complete with a memorial dedicated to fishermen who have lost their lives at sea. Take your time here…stroll the wharf and watch the action.
When you’re ready for lunch or dinner–it’s open 11 am to 7 pm–head into Little Chinook’s for a satisfying meal. This is the most expensive of my cheap eats in Seattle…about $15. The menu? Well, seafood, of course! Fish and chips–with several fish options–or chowder. It’s all good.
This casual cafe has glass doors that open during summer. There are tables indoors and outdoors, whichever you prefer. Order at the counter and find a seat. The food isn’t prepared until you pay. I guarantee you’ll be happy with whatever you decide to try.
There’s another Chinook’s at the terminal. It’s fine dining, with prices to match. Should you wander in by mistake, you’ll soon find out! Arriving by boat? There’s guest moorage while you relax.
Five places, five different kinds of food…all about $15 or less. AND you get an authentic local experience. Enjoy eating in my favorite “adopted” city!
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