Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken

Multiple locations, 

Everyone swears by the Peruvian-style chicken—charcoal rotisserie, white or dark meat, a half and two sides for under ten bucks. And that’s fine. But the sides need love, too: the green beans, the fried plantains, the corn, the rice and black beans, even something as quotidian as french fries, whatever that yellow sauce is. Just mash it all together and pig out. 

Banh’s Cuisine

750 Ninth Street, Durham

No website, no credit card machine, no discernible staff besides the owner: Banh’s no-frills approach to Vietnamese and Chinese classics has made it one of those inconspicuous holes-in-the-wall that you’re not truly local until you’ve tried. It would actually be hard to spend more than $10 on a meal.

C&H Cafeteria 

1720 Guess Road, Durham, 

If you weren’t blessed with a Southern grandmother, don’t despair. Every day the staff at C&H Cafeteria in Durham cooks up a bounty of Southern classics, like the silkiest-ever country-style steak and creamed shoepeg corn, all crafted with fresh ingredients and skill. You can get shamefully full and take home a slice of pecan pie for less than $10. And somebody will call you “shug,” guaranteed. Just like Grandma.


711 West Rosemary Street, Carrboro,

Carrburritos has been serving fast, cheap, delicious, and, well, let’s call them generously apportioned tacos ($7.20 for two) and burritos ($8.60 for the mejor, which will do you for the day) to undergrads since before most of today’s undergrads were a twinkle in their parents’ eyes. Order the all-flour chips. 

Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas

112 West Main Street, Durham, 

You could spend a bit more at Luna if you go all in on rotisserie meats, but what we love about it is that you can get a hearty meal—two empanadas and a side or vice-versa—for less than ten bucks, smack in the middle of downtown Durham. 

Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering

410 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill,

Bring your crew to sample the maximum amount of mezze from Med Deli’s gleaming display cases—grape leaves, hummus, tabouli—or opt for the satisfying falafel pita, where the crispy chickpea nuggets are nestled into warm pita pockets and drizzled with tahini. Since you’ll have change to spare, pick up a bag of pita to go.

The Roast Grill 

7 South West Street, Raleigh,

A DTR landmark, located four blocks from the Capitol, has served hotdogs—and only hotdogs—to politicians and downtowners since 1940. The famous house rule on ketchup (nope) stands, but the char-grilled dogs don’t need it anyway. If you want to dress up your frank, opt for the chili and mustard. A hot dog is $1.45 and a glass bottle of Coke is ninety cents.

Szechuan Garden

10285 Chapel Hill Road, #300, Morrisville, 

Locals flock to Szechuan Garden for the $7.50 bento box deals, but those in the know eschew the regular lunch menu for the Szechuan specialties. The tongue-tingling lamb with spicy Szechuan sauce and ma po tofu, both chock-full of Szechuan peppercorns, will have you reaching for seconds, and the dan dan noodles and cold-sliced chicken with spicy chili oil are musts. Embrace the heat.


9650 Strickland Road,411 West Morgan Street, Raleigh; 1347 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary;

This family-owned restaurant serves fresh Mediterranean soul food classics on the cheap, such as hummus (try the unorthodox jalapeño variety) and stuffed grape leaves, as well as fresh salads such as tabouli with quinoa or roasted sweet potatoes. All meals come with a basket of warm, freshly baked pita for snacking and dipping.

Toot-N-Tell Family Restaurant

903 West Garner Road, Garner

If you grew up anywhere in the South, this epitome of “down home” will feel instantly familiar. Opened in 1946 and now a mishmash of multiple expansions and add-ons, the building isn’t much to look at, and the food won’t appear in many Instagram feeds.  The simple country cooking is for eating, not photographing. Do the buffet for less than $9 and load up on collards, cabbage, pork chops, fried trout, and more. 

2018 Best of the Triangle Readers’ Picks, Best Cheap Eats:

Guasaca, Durham County

Carrburritos, Orange and Chatham Counties

Mami Nora’s, Wake County.

One reply on “2019 Food & Drink Almanac: The 10 Best Places for Cheap Eats in the Triangle”

  1. Roast Grill is no longer really a cheap eat spot, hot dogs are $3 each which is way too much to pay for a dog.

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