We do a lot of bitching about not being able to find cheap eats in Charleston. But if you look a little closer, there are tons of places to get a great meal for less. And cheap food doesn't have to taste like it is. Here are some of the best local eats on a budget.
1. The Alley
Burger night ($4)
Whether it's a classic burger or a specialty option (see: Breakfast Burger with a 6 oz. patty, bacon, Gouda cheese, arugula, tomato, with a sunny side up egg and hot pepper jam or the Vermont with a 6 oz. patty, white sharp cheddar, bacon, thinly sliced granny smith apple, maple mayo and arugula) that baller burger will get you through a couple of games.
2. Bar Normandy
OK, now take this next suggestion as, well, a suggestion because in the case of Bar Normandy it's not likely to be on the menu next week. At this tiny spot — Normandy Bakery by day, Bar Normandy by night — you can probably order the entire menu for less than $40. Alex Lira keeps it short and sweet and his gazpacho is no exception. Get it while it's, er, not hot.
Thai Chicken wings ($7.95 lunch; $8.95 dinner)
These soy-marinated wings pack a rich garlic and white pepper spice, brightened with a zing of lime and Thai chili — it's almost enough to make you forget there are other types of wings.
4. Benny Palmetto's
"Slice Of Freedom" Bacon Cheeseburger ($5.5)
If your goal is to consume the most food for least money at latest hour, you could do worse than a jumbo slice of Benny Palmetto's pizza. The franchise traffics in larger than life slices and its "Slice of Freedom" is a god damn salute to the American spirit.
Roots Black Bean Hummus Salad ($8.50)
Like a rainbow in a box, this photogenic salad of layered veggies, purple-ish hummus, avocado and pico de gallo actually tastes as good as it looks on Instagram.
6. Chico Feo
Bun Cha ($8)
An adventure of rich pork broth, vermicelli noodles, fresh greens, and house-made sausage, this dish comes as little mounds of ingredients crowding around a bowl of hot broth that would be worth the $8 by itself.
7. The Daily
Avocado toast ($4.50)
Don't "You hipsters!" us. We know you're secretly eating avocado toast, too. And, hell, if we're all doing it, why not buy it from a place that makes it well?
8. D'Allesandro's Pizza
Lunch Combo 2: 3-topping 10" pizza plus a drink ($7.50)
Your own customized pizza — pick from toppings like capicola, buffalo chicken, roasted red peppers and vegan cheese — plus a cold drink ... it's like winning the lunchtime lottery in grade school all over again.
9. Dave's Carry Out
Devil Crab ($2.75)
Classic fried fish from this family joint is hard to beat for the price, especially when it's a full crab fried to a crisp and packed with pimentos for less than the price of parking on King.
10. Dellz Uptown
Pita pizza ($9)
You can barely see the pita under mounds of avocado, olives, and veggies on this "pizza" drizzled with creamy sauce.
11. Early Bird Diner
Fried pickles ($6.50)
Thick-cut, juicy slices fried into crisp disks make a perfect vessel for Early Bird's creamy remoulade. It's an experience not for the feint-tongued.
12. Five Loaves
Half sandwich and a bowl of soup ($5.10)
- Jonathan Boncek
- Turkey Reuben
Prices have inched up over the years, but you can still get a half sandwich and soup for less than $10 — and the food is sustainable/local. Family friendly and fast, we've been living off Five Loaves for years.
13. Gala Desserts
Peanut butter mousse ($7)
A posh treat you'd expect for double the price downtown, this mousse stands out amid Gala's many temptations as the perfect balance of rich peanut butter and air-fluffed cream.
14. Home Team BBQ
Half Dozen Chicken Wings ($7.50)
We've written about these wings dozens of times and for good reason, they're freaking good. Dry rubbed and served with Alabama White Sauce, these are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
15. Huriyali Gardens
All day burrito ($9)
- Jonathan Boncek
- All day burrito
A rare burrito that makes you feel healthy, this wrap of chickpea and egg salad, cashew "cream," avocado and pineapple salsa is good any day, all day.
16. H&R Sweetshop
Tucked in the Old Village in Mt. Pleasant, this joint has been operating for years, but its prices seem to remain the same and the flavor endures.
17. Jack Of Cups Saloon
Ginger Noodle Salad ($9)
Like the nondescript bar it's served in, this cool ramen salad is more than it seems. Chilled noodles are drizzled with a zippy orange-ginger sauce and topped with seasonal picks specials like crisp veggies, peanuts or sriracha peas.
18. Joey Tomatoes
Chicken Parm ($9)
It's a rare spot that'll sell ya a chicken parm in the Lowcountry. But here is where Joey Tomatoes has come to help. The small Chuck Dawley space makes the marinara and parm classic and for less than a tener. Gotta be at least worth a try.
19. Le Farfalle
Polpette alla Siciliana ($3)
Don't go rolling your eyes, we know what you're thinking, Le Farfalle is not cheap. This is true. However, you can still act like a big spender by pulling up to the bar and ordering the polpette alla Siciliana, one delicious pork meatball served with currants, pine nuts, tomato sugo, and parmigiano.
20. Leon's Fine Poultry
Crispy clam wraps ($4.5)
Clams dipped in Leon's otherworldly batter and topped with hot sauce, cilantro and herbs are the perfect pop of fried and fresh in one bite.
21. Lewis Barbecue
Green chile corn pudding ($3.50)
One of the more unexpected barbecue sides in Charleston, this "pudding" is a savory-sweet square of cornmeal flecked with pepper, salt, and chiles and unlike corn pudding anywhere else.
22. Mama Kim's
Beef Bul Go Gee ($8.50)
This take-out joint has been keeping co-eds going for years. Stop by for the Beef Bul Go Gee and tell us that's not damn satisfying.
Red Posole with Anson Mills Hominy ($9)
With an insane flavor-to-price ratio, Sean Brock's posole combines moist chicken and charred avocado in a thick, chili broth that delivers James Beard-status flavor without a huge bill.
24. Moe's Crosstown Tavern
Papa T's Pierogies ($7.95)
Charleston is not a pierogi town, which makes these fried little Polish dumplings and their creamy sidekick of chive dipping sauce even more precious. But thanks to the dive-bar pricing you don't have to hold back.
25. Mozzo Deli
At Mt. P's Mozzo Deli, the sandwiches are big, yummy, and top out at $9. The only trouble is the wait. The secret's out and crowds line up at lunch to grab these deals.
26. Nana's Seafood & Soul
Fried whiting sandwich ($4)
God bless Nana's Seafood & Soul. This tiny spot off of Ashley Avenue does it all, from hot chicken to garlic crabs, but if you're munching on a budget, the $4 fried whiting sandwich can't be beat. Add fries for $6.
27. North Charleston's
If you want to eat well for less, there's no better place that to cruise the myriad taco spots of North Charleston. Eric Doksa went on a taco crawl this spring and found eight kickass spots with tacos between $1.25 to $2.50. Look for Las Lupitas, Taqueria La Jarocha, La Nortena, Tiki Taco, Los Parados, Taqueria Espres, Mi Pequeño Hidalgo, and Pollo Loko Peruvian.
28. North Central Delicatessen
Bagel & Smoked Salmon ($8.50)
There are times when a bagel with cream cheese just ain't gonna cut it. And when that happens, we know where to go. North Central Delicatessen hooks us up with an bagel with smoked salmon, hard boiled egg, onions, dill, and capers, that's the most satisfying meal with a hole in it.
Spicy Tuna Crunch Roll ($5; half-price rolls at happy hour; M/W/F)
- Jonathan Boncek
- Spicy tuna roll
Spicy, crunchy, salty, rich and cheap, there's really no excuse for skipping this high-class roll at half-price.
30. Pitt Street Pharmacy
Egg salad sandwich ($3.75)
Much like the trapped in amber feel of Pitt Street Pharmacy's facade, the prices also seem to have been trapped in time. You can sit at the counter and get a sandwich for just couch change.
31. Persimmon Cafe
Roasted Chicken Sandwich with smoked gouda, garlic mayo & caramelized onions ($8)
A Persimmon fave, this gooey, pressed sandwich is like a hug in caramelized, cheesy, chicken form.
32. Queen Street Grocery
Downtown crepe: fruit + brie ($7)
Often called the best crepes in town by local Francophiles, Queen Street's "downtown" is classic Française at a less snooty price.
Track Burger ($4)
Another rare burger deal, Rarebit's Track Burger is essentially a slider for $4. You can add cheese for $1 and another patty for $2, plus fries for another $2.50.
34. Roadside Seafood
Seafood Basket ($9)
Sometimes you just need some fried shrimp and if you want arguably the best in the Lowcountry, Roadside Seafood has you covered.
35. Rodney Scott's BBQ
Banana Puddin' ($3.50)
The perfect, syrupy exclamation mark to end Scott's smoked meat meals, this pudding might not be what you came for but it will bring you back.
36. Rutledge Cab Co.
Char-grilled Shishito Peppers ($9)
We have it on good authority from CP's Arts Editor that this shishito pepper app at Rutledge Cab Co. is large enough to make a satisfying lunch. Served with sesame, lime, teriyaki, and a hibachi white sauce, if you take it to go, prepare to make your co-workers mouths' water.
37. Santi's Restaurante Mexican
Shrimp stuffed avocado ($8)
Stuffed is an understatement for the amount of creamy shrimp salad Santi's manages to pack inside this avocado appetizer.
Beef & Boursin Croquettes ($8)
Not your average pub fare, these round, savory bites are just as worthy of your day drinking dollars.
39. Southern General
Still sailing in super trendy waters, poutine may feel like its played, but not at Southern General. The craft sandwich shop does Quebec proud with its curdy, gravy, glory.
Deviled Egg ($1.23)
The guys at Spero, who tend to use menu descriptors for their own amusement, write that they're deviled eggs "taste like nachos." That would be rad, but the way these beauties taste are even better and for less than a buck and a quarter you can test a few.
Yia Yia's Fried Potatoes ($6)
At Stella's, Yia Yia makes fried potatoes and Yia Yia don't play. These Greek treats are dusted with kefalotiri — a goat's milk cheese — and a touch of oregano and are what you've always wanted in a carb. Salty, cheesy, herby, and for six bucks, you can double down on the cocktails.
42. Stems & Skins
Iberico Ham ($9)
We dream about the Iberico ham Stems and Skins and not just because it's delicious AF. It's also a luxe bite we can afford. S&S sells it by the ounce for $9 a pop. Savor that ish.
43. Taco Boy
Mexican Street Corn ($3)
The white crumbles coating this warm cob of grilled corn are salty Mexican cheese, and it is addicting AF.
Taiwanese popcorn chicken ($6)
These addictive bites of double-fried chicken are soft and warm inside and caked with crunch thanks to Tapio's secret, spiced batter. Drizzle with the sweet citrus dipping sauce for extra pop.
45. Tattooed Moose
Bleu cheese garlic fries ($9)
An entire bulb of grilled garlic sits crown-like atop this heap of duck fat fries oozing bleu cheese. Don't make plans for the rest of the night. Or maybe week.
46. Tricera Coffee
Kimchi Localsaur breakfast sandwich ($5.95)
- Jonathan Boncek
#Foodporn at its eggy, spicey, cheesy, carb-y best, this loaded breakfast bagel threatens to make lunch unnecessary.
47. Torres Suprettes
Double Burger ($7.59)
At this little corner store, you can grab a double patty burger with fries for under $10. And this is a strong contender for top 10 burgers in Charleston.
Confit Wings ($9)
Let's be real, wings and ranch are always a good idea, but they're especially on point at Warehouse where Chef Emily Hahn dry rubs and serves them with southern slaw and buttermilk ranch.
49. Xiao Bao Biscuit
If a pancake and a condiment drawer had a baby, XBB's okonomiyaki would be it. We've written about it for years, but it's still worth repeating that this is a baller dish for a very decent price.
50. Zia Taqueria
Baja Fish Taco ($3)
Mondays are rough. But ya know what makes them better? A super cheap, tasty taco guaranteed to cure your case of the Mondays.