Thanks to its popularity as one of the country’s top destinations for theme park vacations and family-friendly getaways, Orlando isn’t always the most budget-friendly destination — but if you do your homework, you can save big bucks when it comes to eating in this Florida city. Just check out these eight cheap eats in Orlando where you can stretch your food budget further.Search for flights to Orlando
Massive bowls of savory broth, tender meat and delicious noodles for less than $10? Pho-get about it! Bad food puns aside, Pho 88 is one of the best values you’ll find for your buck while dining in Orlando. Dozens of versions of this Vietnamese staple are served up here, including pho with chicken, brisket flank and tendon. Beyond the soup, you can chow down on banh mi sandwiches for between $4 and $5, fried rice dishes for less than $10, rice vermicelli dishes (served with everything from grilled shrimp to grilled pork) for less than $9 and fried egg rolls with various fillings for under $4 for two. Daily lunch specials are also available for less than $10.
Hawkers Street Fare
Hawker stalls are a dining staple in countries like Singapore and Malaysia, where you can head to these congregations of street food stalls for a taste of pan-Asian fare at its finest — and most affordable. Luckily, you don’t have to travel all the way to Singapore to dig into cheap Asian street food: just head to Hawkers Street Fare in Orlando, where choices from the menu of Singaporean, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian and Japanese street food will run you less than $10. When you go, grab a few friends so you can make the most of what the menu has to offer and try multiple dishes.
Lazy Moon Pizza
They call it “pizza worth fighting over,” but with slices this big and this affordable, we recommend you bury the hatchet and just buy everyone a round. Seriously, these slices are big — think “two paper plates” big. At around $6 per specialty slice (slices start at $3.95 if you want to build your own), you won’t be going hungry anytime soon after filling up at Lazy Moon. If you’ve got a big group in tow, consider chipping in and building a 30-inch pizza, which starts at $25 with toppings coming in at $4 a pop. Considering how many this monster pizza will feed, though, you’re getting one of the best pizza pie deals in the city. Calzones, melts, soups and salads are available for less than $9, too. If you want a beer with your pie, the “Boxcar Willie” deal gets you a slice and a pint of PBR for under $5.
Bubbalou’s Boudacious BBQ
Barbecue on a budget? Count us in! At Bubbalou’s Boudacious BBQ in Orlando, you won’t be breaking the bank to nosh on the joint’s signature barbecue baskets. Baskets of beef, pork, chicken and fried catfish come in at less than $10, while the ribs will run you $10.49. Plus, the baskets come with two signature sides: baked beans, buttered corn, black-eyed peas, collared greens, jalapeño cheese grits, mac and cheese and Texas caviar. If sandwiches are more your style, you’ll save even more — most come in at around the $7 mark.
Good luck trying to stick Tako Cheena into one of your predefined categories for dining out. Part food truck, part taco shack, Tako Cheena has combined the best of Mexican food and Thai cuisine to focus on one important concept: good, inventive grub on a budget. Is there a Tom Yum Mojo Shrimp Tako on the menu? You bet. How about a Thai Peanut Chicken Tako? Of course there is. There’s even a Thai Penang Chicken Burrito and an Asian Ginger Apple Fried Spring Roll, too. If you’re a sucker for pain, don’t miss the Sweet Chili and Smoked Ghost Pepper Sauce, either. Burritos will run you about $8, while tacos are about $3.50 or less. They’ve also got Asian-inspired hot dogs for around $3 and empanadas for $2.35.
Open since 2006, Tu Casa is a family run restaurant with a focus on Caribbean flavors, highlighting their home country of the Dominican Republic. The majority of the items on the a la carte menu are under $10 and served with rice and beans. Fried or grilled tilapia are both under $8, as are the fried chicken and fried pork chops. Garlic shrimp, sautéed shrimp, onion steak and peppered steak are all under $9 and sides are all between $1.25 and $3.50. Tu Casa also has daily lunch specials which include rice, beans and one meat for under $5.
Athena Roasted Chicken
Chicken platters at this hole-in-the-wall Orlando restaurant are a steal for what you get – a quarter chicken (leg and thigh, or breast and wing) plus two sides and a roll – is under $7. You can get a half chicken for under $9. If you don’t want the sides, prices for the same chicken are well under $6. But don’t let the name fool you; there are other affordable eats here to choose from. Soups and chili are under $5, sandwiches (from egg salad to grilled cheese to tuna salad) are all around $5 and various wraps and pita sandwiches come in at around $6 or $7.
The Meatball Stoppe
As the name would suggest, The Meatball Stoppe is all about the meatballs – and it offers great value for what you get. The concept is simple: choose whether you want your meatballs on top of something (creamy polenta, salad, white bean ragu or penne pasta) or opt for your meatballs in sandwich form. From there, choose your meatball (options range from spicy pork to traditional Italian to vegetarian) and then choose from a selection of sauces, including roasted tomato and creamy provolone among others. A meatball sandwich (called a smash) is under $8, while ordering your meatballs on top comes in at under $9. There’s also a variety of Italian entrees like baked ziti and lasagna, served with salad and focaccia, for under $9.
Lucy Bleuz Café
The folks behind Orlando’s Incredibly Edible Catering Company also own Lucy Bluez Café where the menu is comprised of affordable dishes made with fresh, organic ingredients. Paninis, including a vegetarian option, chicken margarita and grilled ham and cheese, are all under $9. The same goes for fish tacos and the turkey sandwich on whole grain bread. The burger and chicken quesadilla net out at $10.
Tips for saving money on food
It’s not always easy to stick to a budget at destinations with a high number of tourists – especially when it comes to food. But there are a few ways to save even when it seems like you’re caught in a sea of pricey restaurants. Here are five tips for saving money on food when you travel.
Research ahead of time: Before you even start packing, start searching for cheap eats in your destination and make note of any that sound like they meet your needs in terms of menu and budget. That way you’ll have several spots to choose from before you even arrive.
Ask the locals: Once you arrive, ask around for budget-friendly options. Most people usually have a go-to spot or two they go back to regularly for affordable eats.
Eat away from big attractions: The closer you are to mega tourist attractions, the more expensive the restaurant’s menus are going to be because they’re banking on the convenience factor. Rather than sitting down at the first place you see after visiting, say, Times Square, go further afield and check menus there.
Book accommodations with a kitchen: Being able to eat some meals in your room (or at least breakfast) can help save you a lot of money. You can also use your kitchen to make sandwiches and snacks you can take with you while sightseeing. You will also be able to bring home leftovers to eat the next day.
Look for happy hour deals: We’re not suggesting a liquid lunch, but with happy hour drink deals often come food deals. And a lot of the time, the food is the same as what you’d get on the regular menu, just in a smaller size.
Do you have any favorite budget-friendly restaurants in Orlando? Spill your best-kept budget dining secrets in the comments below!
(Main image: istock.com/MSPhotographic)