Bomb food on a beer budget

Cheap Eats

Getting a filling meal at a decent price that doesn’t come from the nearest chain drive-thru may feel an impossible feat to master these days, especially with the constantly rising cost of goods (including food). Luckily for San Joaquin County residents, it is possible to dine on delicious fare without breaking the bank and we’ve rounded up some of our favorite low-cost meals from sizzling soups and heartwarming cups of chili to sandwiches perfect for lunch and burgers that promise to leave even the hungriest diners feeling full. Read on for our countdown of the best foods on the market with a price tag your budget will appreciate. Pssst nothing on this list rings up over $12.


College Cravings

If you’re hanging out near UOP, whether as a student or faculty, there are plenty of places to grab a little grub between classes, and many of those will satisfy both your hunger and your starving college student budget. All of these delicacies will run you less than $11, with choices as low as $6 on the menu.


Avocado Burger from Manny ‘s California Fresh Café

A quarter pound of lean ground chuck topped with freshly sliced avocado, tomato, onion, and mayo. Served on a Genova roll with a Vienna pickle.


Breast of Chicken Sandwich from Manny ‘s California Fresh Café

Bite into a tender marinated chicken breast carved from the bone and served on a sourdough bun. Finished with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise.


Blake’s Turkey and Pesto Aioli Sandwich from Whirlow’s Tossed and Grilled

Oven-roasted turkey with provolone cheese, pesto aioli, lettuce, tomato, and onion.


Slider Basket from Fat City Brew & BBQ

Mix it up with your choice of meat (up to three) on this basket featuring three mini burgers.


The #3 from Gians’ Delicatessen

This customer’s favorite is heavy on the meats, boasting slices of mortadella, coppa, salami, and prosciutto, plus provolone cheese and other toppings.


LOWEST PRICE ALERT: Chicken Teriyaki bowl at Luu’s Chicken Bowl

Nothing on the menu at Luu’s will run you more than $8. Consider the teriyaki chicken bowl to start, complete with rice and veggies.


Comfort Food

Looking to fill your belly with something warm and delicious? We’ve got all those coziest meals for the colder months—or just a dreary spring day—right here. The best part is nothing clocks in over $11.25 and some featured dishes are under $6.


Buffalo Chicken Tenders from Moo Moo’s Burger Barn

White meat breaded chicken tenders tossed in buffalo sauce, served with celery sticks and Bleu cheese dressing.


Fish & Chips from Moo Moo’s Burger Barn

Beer battered cod fish, served with tartar sauce and a side of regular or battered fries, sweet potato fries, or onion rings.


Jill’s Patty Melt from The Creamery

This BIG sandwich is stacked with 1/3-pound of beef, grilled yellow onions, and melty swiss cheese over grilled rye bread.


Wormanator from Bigworm’s Bakery & Deli

This hearty meal will do for lunch or an early dinner. Two beef patties, bacon, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and grilled onions are presented on two pieces of buttermilk toast and smothered in the house sauce and barbecue sauce. Served as a full meal, it comes with a side of hand-cut fries.


Donut Burger from Bigworm’s Bakery & Deli

This daring creation has gained some notoriety in SJC. A glazed donut acts as the bun, stuffed with two patties, cheese, two slices of bacon, and one egg before it’s finished with house sauce.


Cup of Chili, Moo Moo’s Burger Barn $5.95

Premium beef and bean chili finished with a heaping helping of cheddar cheese and diced red onions


Chili with Cornbread from Tin Roof BBQ, $10

Made with quality meat and prepared slow, this mouthwatering chili will warm you from the inside out


Bavarian Pretzel, $9, West Oak Nosh

This over-sized pretzel is served with beer cheese and beer mustard for dipping


5 Hot Spots for Chicken Wings


Fire Wings offers a killer deal on their five-piece boneless wings, but all of these options ring up under $12, making them a steal for a hearty serving—boneless, bone-in, and available in an endless number of flavors.


Chicken Wings from Fat City

Choose a flavor from a long list that includes original BBQ, sweet n tangy, sweet chipotle, hot manganero, 50/50, or buffalo sauce.


6 Pack Wings from Smitty’s Wings and Things

You’ll be able to pick two flavors to try with this combo. Sauces include damn hot, hot, plain, honey bbq, mango chipotle habanero, spicy bbq, teriyaki, Thai sweet and sour, garlic chile, and hot honey. Served with carrots and celery.


8 Piece Chicken Wings from Lord of the Wings

You have your choice of flavor, including options like Jamaican Jerk, sour cream and onion, Cajun dry rub, sweet chili, teriyaki, ranch dry rub, lemon pepper dry rub, Greek, bacon, sweet lemon pepper, and more.


7 Boneless or Bone-In Chicken Wings from Porter’s Pub (about $1.50 more for bone in)

Dry rubs include lemon pepper and chili lime or sauce them up with buffalo, sweet Thai chili, garlic parmesan, Korean pepper, honey sriracha, honey garlic, or mango habanero.


LOWEST PRICE ALERT: 5-piece Boneless from Fire Wings

There’s a long list of flavors offered. Get your wings extra wet or crispy before picking your favorite seasoning and sauce. Flavors include Korean kick, Jamaican jerk, garlic parmesan, dragon, peanut butter, Louisiana rub, salt and pepper, Saigon street, and more.


Lunch Staples – Soups, Salads, and Sandwiches

These are the go-tos when we think of a quick lunch. Shell out $5 and satisfy your hunger. Nothing on this list tops $12.


Soup & Salad Combo from The Creamery

Enjoy a bowl of soup and a green salad, served with garlic bread or corn bread.


Lemon Chicken Soup at Papapavlo’s Bistro & Bar

Save money on a cup or order up a bowl. Neither one breaks the bank.


LOWEST PRICE ALERT: Soup from Green Papaya

All of the soups on the menu are offered at a daringly low price. Choose from Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup, Chicken Coconut Soup, Wonton Soup, Glass Noodle Soup, or Tofu Vegetable Soup.


Clam Chowder from Midgley’s Public House

This chef’s specialty is served at a low everyday price of $10.


Menudo or Pozole Soup from El Chilango Chido

Pick your poison—these two classic Mexican soups will warm you from the inside out.


The Golden Gate from Bon Appetit

A grilled chicken breast sandwich served with bacon, aioli, smoked gouda cheese, and lettuce on toasted bread.


Cannonball Run at Fiori’s Butcher Shoppe

This stacked sandwich boasts honey ham, roasted turket, cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise on your choice of bread.


Grilled Pork sandwich from Mama’s Pho & Sandwiches

Traditional Vietnamese sandwich made with grilled pork


Bacon Grilled Cheese from Porter’s Pub

Served on parmesan-crusted sourdough and topped with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and cream cheese.


Beet & Orange Salad from West Oak Nosh

Fresh beets and oranges are served on a bed of mixed greens with cinnamon and goat cheese.


Half Salads from Porter’s Pubs

These salads are filling even when ordered in a half-size. Choose between Cranberry Spinach, Oriental Chicken Salad, Candied Walnut Chicken Salad, Sirloin Steak Salad, Taco, or Cobb.

6 Places for Tacos

 Tacos are probably one of the easiest meals to grab on a budget. And whether it’s a taco Tuesday special (a la Fat City BBQ) or an everyday price, you can grab these bad boys for prices as low as $1.50.


Beef or Chicken Taco from Habanero Hots

Make a meal of these a la carte tacos when you dine in.


Taco Truck Style Tacos from Porter’s Pub

Diners can choose between asada, chicken, and carintas.


Taco De Guisado from El Chilango Chido

Make it a meal with rice, beans and your choice of potatoes, nopales, or pico.


Tacos from El Frutal

You have your choice of meat including fish and shrimp with low, low prices on every option.


Tacos and Crunchy Tacos from Maria’s Taqueria & Meat Market

Made authentic style, the street tacos are served with cilantro, onion, and salsa. Or get them in crunchy shells with your choice of meat, cheese, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream


Taco Tuesday Special at Fat City Brew & BBQ

Every Tuesday treat yourself to the way Fat City does tacos. The choices for meat are extensive and include Fat City specialties from brisket and St. Louis ribs to pulled pork and bacon.

Asian Eats

Whether you’re craving Thai curry of Filipino eggrolls, there are no shortage of options to satisfy a craving for Asian fare across San Joaquin County. With eateries in Tracy, Stockton, and Lodi, to choose from, this list ensures you won’t go hungry even if you’re waiting on that next paycheck to hit the bank.


Green Curry from Thai Spices

You choose between chicken, beef, pork, or tofu simmered in this concoction of green curry and coconut milk. Plus veggies.


Yellow Curry with Rice from Thai Kitchen

Served with potatoes and onions in coconut milk with options for chicken, pork, beef, or tofu.


Red Curry from Royal Siam

Red curry paste and coconut milk served with bamboo shoot, bell peppers, and sweet basil.


Fried Pork Belly from Thai Me Up

This raved about dish is cooked to perfection and comes with dipping sauce on the side


Pho from Mama’s Pho & Sandwiches

Choose your meats and flavors from the list of 14. All come in sizes small, large, and extra-large.


Lumpia from Papa Urb’s

The counter serve eatery in Stockton and Tracy turns out Filipino fare including these traditional fried spring rolls.


Pad Thai from Green Papaya

Perhaps the most popular Thai dish in the states. This dish comes fried with shrimp, ground peanuts, egg, bean sprouts, and scallions. Made with Thai spices.


Spicy Ramen from Komachi Sushi

This spicy ramen boasts pork, shrimp, and mixed vegetables. Choose between mild, medium, hot, extra hot, or challenge hot.


Cheap Gyros

Gyros for less than $10? Yes, please!


Gyro Wrap from Go Falafel

Wrapped in pita bread and served with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce


Lamb Gyro from Rice & Spice

Featuring decadent slices of lamb, finished with lettuce, tomato, and a classic tzatziki sauce


Chicken or Lamb Gyro Meal from Kabob & Gyro Grill

Get the whole meal – a chicken or lamb gyro, French fries, and a canned soda


Gyro Sandwich from The Greek Fork

Opt for chicken, falafel, a traditional Greek gyro, or the vegetarian rendition