Top 5 Cheap Eats in Gainesville

Someone posted about a bad experience at Hungry Howie’s and some lady grew upset at me when I said “that’s because it’s Hungry Howie’s”. Evidently, I only believe in eating at high end eateries. That is far from the truth. Though it may seem that way, if I had fancy meals all the time, I would become a very broke Asian very quickly. But I’m here to say that you don’t have to settle for McDonalds, Hungry Howie’s, Olive Garden, or any of that sadness to eat. Here are 5 of my favorite local spots in town where you can have a meal for $10 or under (in no particular order).

Cymply Fresh Café – 5402 NW 8th Avenue

I recently wrote about this spot, and they’re only open for lunch from Monday through Saturday, but there’s no better spot to stop by for a fresh healthy meal. The Raw Broccoli Salad (organic broccoli, scallions, celery, sunflower seeds, blanched almonds, carrots, red peppers, vegan ranch dressing) is $9, a Cymply Fresh Salad (baby spinach, romaine, goat cheese, red onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and toasted sunflower seeds with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette) is $7, and if you want something with meat on it, the Candied Bacon BLT is $9 and one of the best BLTs I’ve ever had.

Bento Café - 3832 W Newberry Road and 3841 SW Archer Road

Variety, quick service, and a large menu of items are under $10. Noodle and rice bowls that range from $7.25 to $8.50, noodle soup bowls for $7.95, most sushi for $5.95 to $9.50, and most sashimi bowls for $7.95. Bento is my go-to choice for a cheap, quick meal that doesn’t suck. I recommend the Spicy Cream Chicken, Curry Katsu, and the Udon Stir Fry Bowls. It’s definitely not the best food around, but is pretty consistent and quick. I never feel creepy or depressing when I eat here alone.

Mac’s Drive-Thru – 129 NW 10th Avenue

Mac’s is the best damn fast food burger in town (Bev’s in Alachua is wonderful too). For a bit above the price of a McDonald’s Big Sad, you get ground beef patties with actual meat in them, and the softest most tastiest buns known to mankind. A Double Cheeseburger will run you $2.49, and a Triple will run $3.49. Fries are $1.09 a bag, and their super delicious sweet tea is $1.55 for a large. They’re open Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 7 PM…because who doesn’t want a burger at 9 AM? Go during non-peak hours, the drive-thru line gets out of control!

Pho Hanoi – 3550 SW 34th Street

One of my favorite spots in town, mostly because I believe a big bowl of Pho can cure all ailments. The Pho at Pho Hanoi is probably my favorite. A big ol’ bowl will run you about $8 for a variety of beef, tendon, tripe, or meatballs. If you’re feeling extra hungry, an extra-large bowl of Pho will run you $9.50 and is basically endless. I ordered a bowl one time and felt like I was eating it for days. Pho Hanoi also offers Hu Tieu, which is basically Pho, but pork-based. This will also run you $8 a bowl and $9.50 for an extra large bowl. Still too much? Pick up a Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) for about $5. You get a choice of sliced pork, BBQ pork, grilled chicken, beef, and more in between French bread, cilantro, carrots, lettuce, and more. It’s pretty much delicious.

Falafel King – 3252 SW 35th Blvd

For years, Falafel King supplied local favorites like Farah’s and Ward’s Supermarket with their own pita bread. It was and still is so very delicious. This is one of my favorite spots to stop in for some great Mediterranean food. A Gyro Platter will run you $7.25, and you’ll get some delicious marinated beef and lamb meat served with hummus, taboleh, and pita bread. Pita Sandwiches (falafel, beef, baba ghanoush, tuna, or chicken) will run you $5.25, and is served with lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, and pickles. Extra Gyro meat will only run you an additional $2 as well. The place isn’t very big, with only a handful of booths, so it can get busy. There’s also a few shelves stocked with all sorts of Mediterranean goodies, so you can get yourself some Turkish Delight or Kefir!


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© 2020 by Ken Peng & Ken Eats, LLC. Title image courtesy of Jesse Adrian Scanlon Media.

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