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tacos in foil.
Priced at $1.50 each, the tacos at Tacos Tierra Caliente cannot be beat.
Amy McCarthy/Eater

Dine Out on a Budget at These 16 Houston Restaurants

From excellent tacos to comforting bowls of ramen and super-fast Greek eats, here’s where to dine in H-Town without going broke

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Priced at $1.50 each, the tacos at Tacos Tierra Caliente cannot be beat.
| Amy McCarthy/Eater

Houston has an assortment of quality high-end restaurants, but it isn’t always possible to splurge on dinner. Fortunately, the city’s expansive dining scene is also packed with a bounty of affordable restaurants that make dining on a dime totally possible — and dare we say it, enjoyable?

The prices at some restaurants have gone up, meaning Bubba’s Texas Burger Shack, Ragin’ Cajun, Jax Grill, AL Quick Stop, and Frenchy's Chicken are off the list. But newcomers like Burger-Chan, Tamashi, Dona Lena, Eastside King at Post Market, and Golding Dumpling House are offering up delectable, cost-effective meals.

From chef-approved banh mi to fast-casual Greek eats and some of the city’s finest burgers, here’s where to eat the best-value restaurant food in Houston. Now go on — ball out on a budget.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Tamashi

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Making noodles and broth for ramen can be a time-consuming process, resulting in a hefty price tag. But at this no-fuss ramen joint with multiple locations, guests can take their pick of shrimp-based broth, tonkatsu, and bone-based broth bowls for under $12. A meal in one, the soups are loaded with noodles, tender meat, fish cake, and a soft-boiled egg. 

Tacos Doña Lena

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In a town with no shortage of places to score tacos, newbie Dona Lena is an impressive choice and it’s got great prices to match. The tacos at this vibrant, family-owned restaurant start at $2.50 and are built on warm, corn tortillas. Choose from beef, chicken, barbacoa, tinga, or a meatless option like soy pastor.

Tarka Indian Kitchen

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Dining on authentic Indian street foods, curries, and more is made convenient and affordable at this counter-service restaurant with multiple locations around town. Heaping platters of spiced lentil, daal, or biryani — rice stir-fried with meat, spices, onions, and ginger — start at $8 and decadent lamb vindaloo is under $10.

Treebeards

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Treebeards has been churning out Southern comfort plates for more than four decades, and despite its expansion with multiple locations across the city, the menu remains affordable. Good ol’ standbys like red beans and rice with link sausage and shrimp etouffee start at just $5, while the chicken fried chicken platter with two sides provides a hearty meal for under $10. Save room for buttercake, a sweet deal at $3.

El Rey Taqueria

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Cuban food cravings are easily satisfied without breaking the bank at any of the El Rey’s locations that are peppered around town. A feast like the Havana plate, loaded with lean pork in mojo sauce, vegetables, rice, and black beans and plantains, is under $12. House-made horchata or fresh cantaloupe juice make the perfect pairing for an extra $3.

East Side King

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Omakase experiences touting fresh sushi and seafood typically come with a hefty price tag, but with Eastside King’s new 12-course tasting menu, diners can indulge wholly for just $49. The casual, 45-minute chef-led tasting changes based on the bounty of the season, include offerings like bluefin tuna belly, dayboat scallop, amberjack, and Jonah crab. And supplementing caviar isn’t a bad idea either — seven grams will set you back just $25.

Lankford's Grocery & Market

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Lankford’s may be known for its classic and specialty burgers, but there is much more to consider, and plenty for under $12. The Montrose gem is open bright and early and touts solid Mexican breakfast plates like migas, huevos rancheros, and chilaquiles, plus $5 mimosas. Sweet tooth? Spring for a peach or apple cobbler, both under $5.

Cali Sandwich & Fast Food

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The banh mi may just be the unofficial sandwich of Houston, and at Cali Sandwich, you can choose from grilled barbecue pork, shredded chicken, and more for under $5. Bowls of pho are equally reasonable — a small size starts at $8.99, but springing for the large for a dollar more is never a bad idea.

Tacos Tierra Caliente

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With its prime location steps from the West Alabama Ice House and a mouthwatering menu of $1.50 tacos, Tacos Tierra Caliente is one of the best ways to get the most bang for your (literal) buck. Order a few al pastor and chicharron tacos, or splurge on a $5 torta.

burger-chan

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Since launching in 2016, this fast-casual burger bar has garnered a loyal following, and for good reason. Its burgers are built with 2 or 5 oz 44 Farms beef patties and can be customized from bun to bun to your liking. A 2 oz burger starts at under $6 — but you can make it a double for just a couple of bucks — and interesting toppings like onion strings, kimchi relish, and charred jalapenos are $1 each.

Mandola's Deli

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In Houston, the Mandola family name is associated with iconic restaurants and wonderful food, and that is particularly true of Mandola’s Deli. The reasonably priced café near the University of Houston has a hefty focus on Italian classics with the deluxe muffuletta and spaghetti with meatballs, both under $10. Don’t sleep on dessert. Find house-made cannolis and Italian cream cake for under $6.

Oishii Restaurant

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Sushi night can be pricey, but at Oishii, diners can indulge in all of the house staples paired with beer, wine, or sake without breaking the bank. Small plates like seaweed salad, chicken yakitori, fried pork gyoza, and agedashi tofu are under $5, while sushi and sashimi options are priced at $1 or $2 per piece. Cut down on cost even more by visiting during Oishii’s famed happy hour where appetizers are two for the price of one.

an exterior shot of the Oishii Houston location.
Oishi Houston offers a variety of small plates for under $5
Oishii Restaurant

Ekko's Greek American Deli

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Located inside a Galleria-area convenience store, this no-frills counter is the definition of a hidden gem. Known for its mouthwatering Greek eats served fast and at a seriously reasonable price, its Gyro sandwiches are packed full of meat. Choose from chicken or a lamb and beef combo — a bargain at $7.

Golden Dumpling House 黄金水餃子

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It’s worth the trek to Sterling Plaza in Chinatown for a sampling of true pan-fried, boiled, and steamed dumplings — and their affordable price makes them even better. Score an order of 10 Texas-sized dumplings filled with shrimp, beef, pork, or vegetables for $7 (or less). Die-hard dumpling fan? Try the dumpling with beef soup for $6.50.

Molina's Cantina

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Few restaurants can stand the test of time and continue to deliver quality food at a low-cost price, but Molina’s pulls it off seamlessly. The iconic Tex-Mex restaurant offers several combination plates with beef chalupas, tamales, chalupas, and more for under $12, including the enchiladas de Tejas platter, a duo of chili con carne topped cheese enchiladas — a staple on the menu for six decades.

New York Deli & Coffee Shop

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From its food to its nostalgic décor, dining at NY Deli & Coffee Shop is like stepping back in time. This old-fashioned diner remains tried and true for its NY-deli style comfort plates and is always a scene on weekends with early birds looking to score hot and fresh bagels. Along with traditional breakfast pastries, budget eats are aplenty. French toast and pancake platters are just $6.25 while heartier meals like the hot Reuben sandwich and the bagel and lox come with two sides for under $12.

Tamashi

Making noodles and broth for ramen can be a time-consuming process, resulting in a hefty price tag. But at this no-fuss ramen joint with multiple locations, guests can take their pick of shrimp-based broth, tonkatsu, and bone-based broth bowls for under $12. A meal in one, the soups are loaded with noodles, tender meat, fish cake, and a soft-boiled egg. 

Tacos Doña Lena

In a town with no shortage of places to score tacos, newbie Dona Lena is an impressive choice and it’s got great prices to match. The tacos at this vibrant, family-owned restaurant start at $2.50 and are built on warm, corn tortillas. Choose from beef, chicken, barbacoa, tinga, or a meatless option like soy pastor.

Tarka Indian Kitchen

Dining on authentic Indian street foods, curries, and more is made convenient and affordable at this counter-service restaurant with multiple locations around town. Heaping platters of spiced lentil, daal, or biryani — rice stir-fried with meat, spices, onions, and ginger — start at $8 and decadent lamb vindaloo is under $10.

Treebeards

Treebeards has been churning out Southern comfort plates for more than four decades, and despite its expansion with multiple locations across the city, the menu remains affordable. Good ol’ standbys like red beans and rice with link sausage and shrimp etouffee start at just $5, while the chicken fried chicken platter with two sides provides a hearty meal for under $10. Save room for buttercake, a sweet deal at $3.

El Rey Taqueria

Cuban food cravings are easily satisfied without breaking the bank at any of the El Rey’s locations that are peppered around town. A feast like the Havana plate, loaded with lean pork in mojo sauce, vegetables, rice, and black beans and plantains, is under $12. House-made horchata or fresh cantaloupe juice make the perfect pairing for an extra $3.

East Side King

Omakase experiences touting fresh sushi and seafood typically come with a hefty price tag, but with Eastside King’s new 12-course tasting menu, diners can indulge wholly for just $49. The casual, 45-minute chef-led tasting changes based on the bounty of the season, include offerings like bluefin tuna belly, dayboat scallop, amberjack, and Jonah crab. And supplementing caviar isn’t a bad idea either — seven grams will set you back just $25.

Lankford's Grocery & Market

Lankford’s may be known for its classic and specialty burgers, but there is much more to consider, and plenty for under $12. The Montrose gem is open bright and early and touts solid Mexican breakfast plates like migas, huevos rancheros, and chilaquiles, plus $5 mimosas. Sweet tooth? Spring for a peach or apple cobbler, both under $5.

Cali Sandwich & Fast Food

The banh mi may just be the unofficial sandwich of Houston, and at Cali Sandwich, you can choose from grilled barbecue pork, shredded chicken, and more for under $5. Bowls of pho are equally reasonable — a small size starts at $8.99, but springing for the large for a dollar more is never a bad idea.

Tacos Tierra Caliente

With its prime location steps from the West Alabama Ice House and a mouthwatering menu of $1.50 tacos, Tacos Tierra Caliente is one of the best ways to get the most bang for your (literal) buck. Order a few al pastor and chicharron tacos, or splurge on a $5 torta.

burger-chan

Since launching in 2016, this fast-casual burger bar has garnered a loyal following, and for good reason. Its burgers are built with 2 or 5 oz 44 Farms beef patties and can be customized from bun to bun to your liking. A 2 oz burger starts at under $6 — but you can make it a double for just a couple of bucks — and interesting toppings like onion strings, kimchi relish, and charred jalapenos are $1 each.

Mandola's Deli

In Houston, the Mandola family name is associated with iconic restaurants and wonderful food, and that is particularly true of Mandola’s Deli. The reasonably priced café near the University of Houston has a hefty focus on Italian classics with the deluxe muffuletta and spaghetti with meatballs, both under $10. Don’t sleep on dessert. Find house-made cannolis and Italian cream cake for under $6.

Oishii Restaurant

an exterior shot of the Oishii Houston location.
Oishi Houston offers a variety of small plates for under $5
Oishii Restaurant

Sushi night can be pricey, but at Oishii, diners can indulge in all of the house staples paired with beer, wine, or sake without breaking the bank. Small plates like seaweed salad, chicken yakitori, fried pork gyoza, and agedashi tofu are under $5, while sushi and sashimi options are priced at $1 or $2 per piece. Cut down on cost even more by visiting during Oishii’s famed happy hour where appetizers are two for the price of one.

an exterior shot of the Oishii Houston location.
Oishi Houston offers a variety of small plates for under $5
Oishii Restaurant

Ekko's Greek American Deli

Located inside a Galleria-area convenience store, this no-frills counter is the definition of a hidden gem. Known for its mouthwatering Greek eats served fast and at a seriously reasonable price, its Gyro sandwiches are packed full of meat. Choose from chicken or a lamb and beef combo — a bargain at $7.

Golden Dumpling House 黄金水餃子

It’s worth the trek to Sterling Plaza in Chinatown for a sampling of true pan-fried, boiled, and steamed dumplings — and their affordable price makes them even better. Score an order of 10 Texas-sized dumplings filled with shrimp, beef, pork, or vegetables for $7 (or less). Die-hard dumpling fan? Try the dumpling with beef soup for $6.50.

Molina's Cantina

Few restaurants can stand the test of time and continue to deliver quality food at a low-cost price, but Molina’s pulls it off seamlessly. The iconic Tex-Mex restaurant offers several combination plates with beef chalupas, tamales, chalupas, and more for under $12, including the enchiladas de Tejas platter, a duo of chili con carne topped cheese enchiladas — a staple on the menu for six decades.

Related Maps

New York Deli & Coffee Shop

From its food to its nostalgic décor, dining at NY Deli & Coffee Shop is like stepping back in time. This old-fashioned diner remains tried and true for its NY-deli style comfort plates and is always a scene on weekends with early birds looking to score hot and fresh bagels. Along with traditional breakfast pastries, budget eats are aplenty. French toast and pancake platters are just $6.25 while heartier meals like the hot Reuben sandwich and the bagel and lox come with two sides for under $12.

Related Maps