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Best "cheap" sit down restaurants in Boston?

  • c


I am going to be honest, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to food but I am trying to keep on a budget these days of under $20 per person for a meal. Any hidden finds that have a nice atmosphere, neighborhood joints? I live in Back Bay so I can easily go to Kenmore, Beacon Hill or South End. Reasonable drinks/wine list is another plus! I moved from Manhattan recently so I am bummed by the lack of BYO in Boston proper. Any ideas much appreciated!


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  1. Here are some of my favorite places with nice atmosphere that have entrees under $20:

    The Dish, South End (New American)
    75 Chestnut, Beacon Hill (American/New American)
    Orinoco, South End (Venezuelan)
    Montien, Theatre District (Thai)

    1. there are quite a few places in ChinaTown that will get you out for under $20.
      do a board search for the best of breed there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ScubaSteve

        sorry, i thought the OP was looking for a complete cost rather than a per entree cost.
        my recc would include a first and second plus beverage.

      2. Silvertones, Lucky's Lounge?

        1. You might try Dok Bua. It fits your price point, allows BYOB, and is generally considered one of the best (if not THE best) Thai restaurants in the area. Downsides: it's not right in your neighborhood (you'd need to take the T up to either Harvard St on the B line or Coolidge Corner on the C line and walk a few blocks), and while the atmosphere is... interesting, I don't know that I'd call it "nice."

          Dokbua Thai Restaurant
          411 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

          7 Replies
          1. re: BobB

            Only a truly odd person like me would think the atmosphere at Dok Bua is nice, so the OP might want to think twice about this one, though the food is indeed among the best in Boston, IMO.

            Khao Sarn, which is just down the street, might be a better bet, as the food is about as good as Dok Bua and the atmosphere is a lot nicer, I'd say.

            1. re: hiddenboston

              BYO and Thai are two of my favorite things so it sounds like Dok Bua is the spot. Is the atmosphere really that bad though?

              1. re: ced9

                Well, what are you looking for in terms of atmosphere? I mean, would you rather have a great meal in a shabby room, or a less-good meal in a nicer room? I have a lot of favorites, but if atmosphere is a deal-breaker, you won't be interested in many of them.

                1. re: ced9

                  No, it's not that bad. I wouldn't call it romantic and I wouldn't go there to make a million-dollar business deal, but it's nicer than....well, it's nicer than a sub shop, I guess. (It used to be a convenience store and still has that same feel to it.)

                  1. re: ced9

                    I guess you could use the word funky - though as I write that I realize it's pretty vague. Let's see: the owner likes shiny, odd , often electrified gewgaws. A few years ago it was seriously psychedelic, but it's gotten toned down quite a bit recently.

                    It's obvious that not much money was spent on decor. Lighting is fairly bright - not blindingly so, but not dusky/romantic. There are a couple of two-tops in the front window which are great if you like to watch people going by on the street, but the bulk of the seating is further back and there are no other windows.

                    Still, it's fun and cheap with really excellent food. Check it out for yourself and see what you think. We always love it when people come back and report after trying our recommendations.

                    1. re: BobB

                      My favorite is the vast display of miniature plates of different types of food in the front windows (including many foods Dok Bua would never serve!) The bobble-headed kitten is my 3-year old son's favorite!

                      1. re: Cachetes

                        Jeepers, with so much stuff it siunds all higgledy-piggledy!

              2. Trattoria Toscana in the Fenway area, I was there the other night, it was delicious, shared an appetizer and two pasta dishes for 2 of us, total bill came to about $36 after tax and before tip. Carlos Cucina on Brighton Ave, almost everything under $20 and very good.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bakerboyz

                  We just ate at Trattoria Toscana last night. Apps are $7-8, Pasta dishes are around $14 while secondi dishes are in the $18 range.

                  It'll be difficult to keep it under $20pp (with exception mentioned by bakerboyz above). We ordered the antipasto app for 2 ($16), 1 pasta dish, 1 secondi, 1 dessert (to-die-for tiramisu), 1 beer, 2 coffees (NB no wine at all). Our total bill including tips was $80 for 2 people.

                2. Good value, mostly under $20, with food I like: Ten Tables (worth getting beyond your specified range into Jamaica Plain), Trattoria Toscana, Orinoco, Don Ricardo's, Chilli Duck, Coda, Cafe Marliave (downstairs bar), Grotto, Franklin Cafe, India Quality, Buttery Bar-Bistro, stuzzi menu at Sage, Bin 26 (excellent wine bar), Silvertone, Addis Red Sea, Antico Forno, Audubon Circle, Bhindi Bazaar, Zon's in Jamaica Plain.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Good list. I second Carlo's Cucina, plus a lot of other placees on Brighton Avenue. The Shabu place next door. Punjab Palace. Sunset Grille. Etc.

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Good list. I'd add Delux Cafe. Often overlooked, in the south end. Cute, funky spot with great food, good, quality entrees averaging btwn $10-14. Consistently delicious, & a really fun vibe...

                      1. re: twentyoystahs

                        Delux is great for the $12-$15 range - as is Anchovies in the South End.

                    2. Ecco in East Boston has everything under $18 and similar quality to a $30 plate in the South End. Good atmosphere, and unique list of cocktails and martinis, all of which are under $10. Its a short T ride from downtown on the Blue line or you can drive and they have their own parking lot. It is a stone's throw from the Sumner/Callahan tunnels.

                      1. I will second Orinoco. I went for the first time last night (the S. End one) and it was very good and not expensive. I went w/ two friends. We each ordered an appetizer and shared (my friends ordered empanadas, a fried cheese appetizer and I ordered an arepa). We each ordered a meal, we ordered a bottle of red wine, then we shared a dessert and each had coffee. With tip, the bill was about $138. You can definitely get away w/ $20 per person per meal there (again, we spent a little more because we ordered a bottle of wine to share, 3 apps, 3 main courses and a dessert & 3 coffees and it came to roughly $46 a person). The atmosphere is very nice and the staff there is very welcoming and lovely.

                        1. How about the New Bridge Cafe. Great tips, I like the pork and beef combo, for about $13. (the last time I was there).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chuck s

                            Not so convenient when traveling by T. Alchemist in JP is a bit hit or miss but most everything is under $20. Mission Bar & Grill, Savant Project and Squealing Pig in Mission Hill are nice enough atmosphere and better than usual pub food (and more). Petit Robert Bistro is <$20 and a great lunch deal. You could get a drink and app at Eastern Standard for $20.

                          2. Helmand, across from the Galleria Mall in Cambridge. It is beautiful,and quite reasonable. There is a veggie version of lots that is on the menu. It is Afghani food, quite delicious and great bread.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jomarch

                              the new Rod Dee on the Green line (C train just past washington square stop) - not much style but very good thai - shanghai gate (green line to Harvard and Commonwealth stop, B train) - wonderful shanghai food (best steamed pork dumplings, best meatballs, wonderful spicy shrimp, and fabulous singapore noodles, and lots more) - orinoco and duk boa already mentioned, though orinoco is more than 20.00 a person if you drink at all, family restaurant, brookline village, for lovely turkish food

                              1. re: teezeetoo

                                Rod Dee is indeed very good! I second that as well.

                            2. I guess it would depend on your definition of what the $20 covers, and also how hungry you might be, but you can certainly get two or three tapas at a place like Estragon, for that $20. Although that wouldn't include wine.

                              One other suggestion I'd second is Addis Red Sea Ethiopian in the South End. One of my favorite restaurants. You can certainly fill yourself with delicious food for under $20 there.

                              In the Fenway, across the street from Trattoria Toscana, is Brown Sugar Cafe, which is excellent Thai food and would definitely be in your price range.

                              Finally, there's Cafe Polonia in Southie, which is an excellent Polish restaurant. It's on Dorchester Ave. about two blocks from Andrew station on the Red Line. Great food, cute little place and reasonable prices.