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Atlanta's Industry Insiders Share Their Favorite Cheap Eats Around Town

The pros give their picks for this city's best.

A lot of local chefs like digging into the burgers at Little's Food Store in Cabbagetown.
A lot of local chefs like digging into the burgers at Little's Food Store in Cabbagetown.

It's the final day of Cheap Eats Week, and we're going out with a bang. Below, a whopping 36 restaurant industry insiders — chefs, owners, beverage people, and the like — offer their top choices for delicious, low-cost meals in Atlanta.

Billy Allin, Cakes & Ale chef/owner

Shortys [Pizza], the location on Lawrenceville Highway. Great thin-crust pies, sandwiches, and guacamole. Great prices for the family.

Justin and Derek Anthony, 10 Degrees South owners

Breakfast: Goldberg's. So many great choices and their bagels are the best Also, Corso Coffee. Great croissants and grilled Italian sandwiches.

Lunch: Pita Grill for the shawarma and Grindhouse [Killer Burgers] for the Burgers.

Dinner: Gio's Chicken and Antico Pizza. Such great food and so affordable.

Michael Bertozzi, TWO urban licks executive chef

"Victory [Sandwich Bar]. The sandwiches are cheap and the drinks are good. My go-to sandwich is the Castro.

Victory Sandwich Bar

Victory Sandwich Bar in Decatur. [Photo: Matthew Wong]

Mikey Braswell, Little Five Corner Tavern chef

Deila's Chicken Sausage Stand, because it's awesome.

Alex Brounstein, Grindhouse Killer Burgers/Hi-Five Diner owner

For breakfast, it's LottaFrutta and the cachita con huevo for $2: ham egg and cheese pressed hot like a mini Cuban sandwich on a sweet roll. It's like three perfect bites and then done. For dinner, it's Eats' jerk chicken and veg plate for $7.25. The place is freakin' recession proof — I think their meat-and-three plate has gone up maybe a dollar in the 20 years I've been going there.

Nick Carpenter, Atlantic Seafood Company executive chef

When I can't get near Buford Highway, I go for the pho at Saigon Cafe, especially the pho dac biet with the most meat parts like rare eye round steak, fatty brisket, and soft tendon, for less than $10. It's also a great cure for the worst hangover.

Chad Clevenger, Alma Cocina executive chef

Quoc Huong, Tasty China, Taqueria Oaxacana, and Pho Dai Loi 2.

Matt Coggin, D.B.A. Barbecue owner

I order a small No. 12 from So Ba (pho tai chin nam — rice noodle soup with round eye steak, well done brisket, and flank steak). It's just good for the soul.

Ian Galiszewski, Little Five Corner Tavern chef

El Progreso at the end of Boulevard. Best chorizo and pastor in the city, and tacos are less than $2 apiece.

Jeffrey Gardner, Common Quarter executive chef

1) Doubles from Tassa Caribbean Restaurant in Marietta. Doubles, a street food staple in Trinidad, is a sandwich made from two fried flat bread filled with curried chickpeas. You have the option of mild or hot (I usually get one of each), at which point they'll add any combination of chutneys and salsas. The cucumber with scotch bonnets really brings the thunder.

2) Bibimbap from Hankook Taqueria. For only $7, this is a ton of food — beef, vegetables, rice, and a fried egg topped with a sweet and spicy sauce. Delicious and a great deal.

3) Sour cream doughnuts from Dough in the Box in Smyrna. This is a small operation way off the beaten path, but they have some of the best doughnuts I've ever eaten. The blueberry fritters are great, but it's the sour cream donuts that hooked me the first time and that have me coming back for more. They have a nice crust on the outside, but slightly fluffy and cake-like on the inside. You even get free holes when you buy a dozen.

4) Leek pie from Chef Liu. Many years ago, Chef Liu was the first place I ever visited on Buford Highway, and upon the insistence of my former chef, I started off with the leek pie. For $2.50, the flavor packed into these is amazing, especially after a few shots of soy sauce and a healthy spoon of chili paste.

Linda Harrell, Cibo e Beve executive chef

Pita Grille, shawarma in laffa. The flavor is so authentic that I feel transported to the Middle East with each and every bite.

Savannah Haseler, Twain's Billiards & Brewpub executive chef

I really like to pick up dinner on Tuesdays because it tends to be long and busy day, so I usually stop down the street at Pine Street Market. I stop by for their Tuesday ribs; I usually get the Korean-style short ribs (their Gum Creek Farms pork, which is an additional bonus) and a side dish for $12. I like that it is easy, fast, and I know I am getting a really good product. Oh, and I love that the sides are always different and interesting. I really enjoy when they have the summer ratatouille — so good.

Justin Haynie, Diesel Filling Station owner

Little's Food Store. From specialty diner-style burgers, Italian beef sandwiches, or taco specials, I just walk in and order the special. It's always a deal, either really cheap or a large portion. Can't ever go wrong. I've been known to just call it in without ever knowing what I've ordered until I arrive.

The half-pound classic at Little’s Food Store. [Photo: Eater Atlanta] Eater Atlanta

The half-pound classic at Little's Food Store. [Photo: Eater Atlanta]

EJ Hodgkinson, King + Duke executive chef

For breakfast, Home Grown is hands-down delicious every time. Simple, tasty, great service, and cheap. On top of that, it's a restaurant that truly embodies the diversity of Atlanta in the most positive way. People from all walks of life sit right next to each other and pack the place out every day.

Pho Dai Loi #2 is kind of a breakfast and lunch place for me. I get the No. 18 every time. In the mornings, whoever is making the broth for the pho there nails it. It's always consistent and delicious.

Bocado is still killing it for me at dinner. They have a nice, varied menu with lots of lower-priced options. The food is great and I love the feel of the restaurant. I love dive bars; the food at Highlander is really good. The crowd is great and the service is always very gracious. An institution in my book.

Ian Jones, Victory Sandwich Bar/Paper Plane co-owner

Little's [Food Store] burgers, Hankook [Taqueria] tacos.

Drew Kirkland, 521 Kitchen & Que chef

"We really enjoy Eats on Ponce. They have some of the best jerk chicken in Atlanta. It's comfort food done right. We also like Cameli's Pizza in Little Five. They do a monster slice — it's huge — and the garlic bread is really good."

Eli Kirshtein, The Luminary chef/owner

I am a noted fan of Little's [Food Store] in Cabbagetown, and being cheap is another one of the reasons. You can get two burgers for under 10 bucks and leave super happy. The lunch special at Goldberg's is really hard to beat; you can get a salad, soup, and half-sandwich for under 15, which is a total bargain. As always, hitting up Lee's Bakery for a banh mi or sandwich-soup combo is a no-brainer.

Michael Lennox, Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall owner

Taqueria El Rey Del Taco — rarely a day goes by where I am not suffering from a crippling taco craving, and El Rey is my most frequent solution for reliably solid tacos. They are open super late most nights, which is a plus, but if you go during the day on Sundays they usually have the owner's mom hand pressing tortillas, which are some of the best in town. If I have enough time I'll occasionally head out to Smyrna for Tacos La Villa, where you can get some killer tacos for super-cheap with a hooked up salsa bar and heaping bowls of barbacoa de borrego. Throw an ice cold Bohemia into the mix and it's hard to imagine more bang for the buck.

Delight Your Palate — if you blink you might miss this literal hole-in-the-wall jerk chicken shack on Ponce, about a mile east of YDFM in Scottdale. Look for the smokers out front and load up on what they boast as "slammin' jerk chicken" with some sides and scotch bonnet pepper sauce. This place is the real deal — $20 should get you two to three large meals with some of the best jerk chicken around.

Pita Palace — go for the $8 falafel laffa loaded with all the fixings, and an extra helping of their potent red hot sauce known only as "spicy" by the friendly staff. Your laffa will end up the size of a Nerf football when it's fully stuffed, so finishing the whole thing in one sitting can be recognized as a major achievement.

Las Brasas — simply the best easy/affordable mid-week feast in town. A smoky Peruvian bird fresh off the "planetario" rotisserie coupled with the addictive green huacatay sauce is about as good as it gets. Although my wife and I haven't had our fix for a little while since they are relocating and expanding across town, we're excited to see the new incarnation of Las Brasas and are similarly excited for our pal James, who will be doing some fun things with Doggy Dogg in the old Las Brasas space.

Steinbeck's comes to mind more as an "excellent value" option as opposed to "cheap" (though it is certainly not expensive), but I have to give a shout-out to what is probably my favorite place in town. With a top-flight draft beer list, the famous Chinese breakfast, and reliably tasty food, come pull up a stool and get to know Jimmy, Andy and the rest of the gang. It should be mandatory to have a bar like this in every neighborhood.

Chris Marconi, The General Muir pastry chef

Mother [on Edgewood Avenue] for $2 tacos, $2 Tecate, $2 tequila shots. Willy's for burrito bowls. Antico for the best pizza ever, duh.

Matt Marcus, Portofino executive chef

Mike's Hot Dogs in Sandy Springs — my favorite hot dog is a ripper (deep fried). I get mine with cheese, pickled onion. and mustard. The hamburger at Little's Food Store is my favorite burger in Atlanta. Pizza at Cibo e Beve — you are still paying for the best ingredients, but by comparison it over-delivers for the price.

The banh mi at Lee's Bakery is my favorite lunch. It generally means my day has already started off well because I have been to the market. For late night, The Porter Beer Bar. Whatever chef Nick Rutherford is cooking, I always enjoy his whimsical way with food.

Nick McCormick, The Café at Linton's chef de cuisine

I really like popping in to grab lunch at Souper Jenny on the Westside. It's quick service with fresh and tasty food, and they change the menu regularly so I never have to get the same thing twice. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere is always relaxing.

Souper Jenny Buckhead

Lunch at Souper Jenny. [Photo: Matthew Wong]

Patrick McLean, East Point Corner Tavern chef

I just love the vegetarian pizza at Fellini's. It comes with mushrooms, onions, green peppers, fresh garlic, green and black olives, extra cheese, and tomatoes, and every time I eat a slice it's like a little taste of heaven for $3.90. Awesome.

Brian Meiler, JCT. Kitchen & Bar executive sous chef

For breakfast, I go to Home Grown. It's super local and kind of a whole in the wall, with a fresh garden on-site. For lunch, Lee's Bakery — they have a pho and banh mi combo for $9. It's always delicious and consistent, and they make everything in-house. Tacos la Villa is good for a cheap dinner. I get three tacos, rice, and beans for 6$. They're located in an old Quizno's. It's very fresh, and the ingredients come from family-owned market next door. Late night? Waffle House. It's an Atlanta tradition.

Ian Mendelsohn, Vine & Tap owner

I stop by La Fonda to get the Cuban, slightly grilled with side of mustard, and I always need a beer with it.

Ricky Navas, Murphy's chef de cuisine

I usually like hitting restaurants off Buford Highway. I enjoy La Pastorcita they have great tacos and carne asada. It's super cheap and you don't leave full.

Kevin Ouzts, The Cockentrice/The Spotted Trotter chef/owner

I am a huge fan of Home Grown's comfy chicken biscuit in the morning. When I can get out at night, the salt-and-pepper shrimp at Octopus Bar is served just right. For lunch, since its right across the hall from the restaurant at Krog Street Market, Gu's Dumplings gets me with a a bowl of pork dumplings, or on the weekend I grab a Cadillac chicken salad sandwich from Candler Park Market. All comfort food and all satisfying."

Jason Paolini, Resurgens Hospitality Group executive director of culinary

My favorite cheap eats are at Panahar Bangladeshi Cuisine on Buford Highway. The food is absolutely delicious and I love the fact that it's BYOB. The poori chicken and the teek-ka moshol-la are amazing. Hands down one of my favorite places to eat in the city.

Melanie and Mike Rabb, Corner Tavern owners

Chef Jarrett Stieber's Eat Me Speak Me. We love this chef so much. He has a great new take on uncommon (or out of the ordinary) veggies. He has Mike eating rutabaga soup, for crying out loud. It's the most affordable gourmet in the city. Just spectacular plating.

Eat Me Speak Me

Bok choi, duck, trout, and other ingredients on the griddle at Eat Me Speak Me. [Photo: Jonathan Phillips

Chris Sheehy, Edgewood Corner Tavern chef

Anna's BBQ in Kirkwood is amazing barbecue and reasonably priced. Everything is great. You know it's good because if you don't get there early enough, everything is gone.

Jordan Smelt, Cakes & Ale wine and beverage director

My favorite "cheap eat" at the moment could more accurately be called a "cheap treat." I may be married to wine, but the ice cream at Butter & Cream is my mistress. They make everything in-house and all of their flavors are great, but the butterscotch brownie is their tour de force.

Joey Stallings, Sweet Auburn Barbecue executive chef

Lunch: Fred's [Meat & Bread], really anything on their menu — but I love that Philly. Just ask anyone on the Sweet Auburn team.

Dinner: Buford Highway, Buford Highway, Buford Highway.

Late-night: Argosy, two beers and a free pizza. Nothing is cheaper than free.

Jarrett Stieber, Eat Me Speak Me chef

BoccaLupo, because Bruce Logue is in there cooking pasta on the line every night when most chefs don't actually cook in their restaurants. The consistency is spot on and the service is great.

Dish Dive, because they work their asses off and are doing something really unique.

Shoya Izakaya, because you feel like you magically teleport to Tokyo when you walk through the front doors. My good friend, Hiro, runs their sushi program, too, and we never get to see each other unless we visit each other at work.

Adam Waller, Bocado executive chef

El Mexicano on Moreland Avenue; soild food and drinks — my favorite are the tacos. The Argosy in East Atlanta Village [serves] my favorite pizza in town — cool space, great beer selection.

Matt Weinstein, ONE. midtown kitchen co-executive chef

Ameer's Mediterranean Grill on Briarcliff. Delicious, cheap, large portions. What else would you want?

Ameer's Mediterranen Grill

[Photo: Ameer's/Facebook]

John Williams, Oddbird chef

I think my favorite cheap eats would have to be Pho Bac [on Buford Highway]. I usually order egg rolls, rare steak pho, and the pork banh mi. The authenticity of the food is why I continue to go back.

George Yu, Makan chef/partner

Ping's Place inside the Great Wall food court in Duluth; order the beef tendon noodle soup. It's under $10 and reminds me of eating my grandma's beef noodle from Taiwan — good home cooking with flavorful broth. Go on the weekends when the broth is not watered down and the noodles are hand cut.