As the Seattle area gets more and more expensive, restaurants serving truly delicious food at affordable prices are more precious than ever. We ate all year long to find these for you — our very favorite local places to eat for cheap right now.

Food & Drink

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Bopbox

  • Cuisine: Korean
  • Reviewed by: Jackie Varriano
  • Location: Georgetown

Tender beef brisket bulgogi, served with a side of the pickle of the day at Bopbox. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

Overall, everything about this spot is pleasant — even the French pop music! Tender and juicy brisket bulgogi is in the “bopbowls” section of the menu, joined by grilled short ribs, a sake/soy-marinated salmon and fried rice. There’s also noodles in a skillet (yakisoba or japchae) and sizzling hot bibimbop. Snack-y items include kimchi pancakes, which are spicy, chewy and greasy in the most wonderful way. Read the full review here.

5633 Airport Way S., (Georgetown) Seattle (eatbopbox.com).

 

Cemitas Tepeaca 2

  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Reviewed by: David Gutman
  • Locations: Des Moines, with another branch in Everett

Each cemita comes on a housemade roll (also called a cemita), and with a choice of meat, grilled or pounded thin and fried. They’re stuffed with queso fresco, avocado and onion.   (David Gutman / The Seattle Times)

The menu includes burritos, flautas and more, but most people come for the cemitas. The sandwiches are majestic — hulking, unruly fellows, as wide as a salad plate and as fat as a dictionary. Each comes on a housemade roll, also called a cemita. Cemitas come stuffed with avocado, queso fresco and slivers of white onion. You choose an element of heat, chipotles in adobo sauce or pickled jalapeños, and a meat. The standouts are the milanesas — breaded and fried cutlets, pounded thin — available in pork, chicken or beef. Read the full review here.

121624 Pacific Highway S., Des Moines (206-878-8202). Also, Cemitas Tepeaca, 11632 Evergreen Way, Everett (425-263-8777).

 

Dacha Diner

  • Cuisine: Eastern European
  • Reviewed by: Bethany Jean Clement
  • Location: Capitol Hill

The herring under a fur coat at Seattle’s Dacha Diner is something you probably want for your Instagram, and it’s also really, really good. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

There’s so much to love about Dacha Diner, starting with its airy, triangle-shaped, lace-curtained Capitol Hill space. The menu, rife with dishes representing “Eastern European & Jewish cuisine,” makes choices here a happy challenge. Herring under a fur coat? Not just an Instagram star, its multilayers are also entirely delicious. The latkes? Others pale beside Dacha’s lacy-crisped-outside-yielding-inside version. The pelmeni? Also a paragon of their form. If the Reuben’s on special, get it — this sandwich, on Dacha’s marvelous housemade black bread, might bring tears to your eyes. And if you love bread and cheese and joy, prepare to engulf the khachapuri, a golden-crusted vessel of pure, gooey goodness. Read the full review here.

1416 E. Olive Way (Capitol Hill), Seattle; 206-708-6855, dachadiner.com

 

Garlic Crush

  • Cuisine: Lebanese
  • Reviewed by: Dahlia Bazzaz
  • Locations: Capitol Hill, Bellevue, Issaquah and Redmond

Here’s everything we ordered at the new Seattle location of Garlic Crush, except for the Lebanese rice pudding, which is not pictured here. It was all delicious. (Dahlia Bazzaz / The Seattle Times)

The Eastside chain brings its large helpings of juicy, authentic shawarma to Seattle. Other must-haves include  the garlic paste, hummus and lentil soup. Read the full review here.

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1417 Broadway, (Capitol Hill) Seattle; 206-860-3989, garliccrush.com

 

Mama Dough

  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Reviewed by: Tan Vinh
  • Location: Kent

Clockwise from front, xiao long bao, Mama’s House special bao with pork, shrimp fried rice, seafood dumplings, and pan-fried pork dumplings with chives at Mama Dough in the Great Wall Shopping Mall in Kent. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

We designated Mama Dough as a Seattle Times Critic’s Pick for good reason. The pork soup dumplings here are better than Din Tai Fung’s. Here, all the components steep in perfect harmony. The filling has a tart-pickle flavor to balance the fatty-salty pork and sweet broth. Each morsel is soupy enough to give you the requisite slurp. Read the full review here.

18230 E. Valley Highway, Suite 156, Kent; 253-236-2165; mamadoughkent.com

 

Núodle

  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Reviewed by: Tan Vinh
  • Location: Bellevue

A worker checks on boiling noodles at Núodle. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

With 40 shops in China, Singapore and Japan, this Chinese chain has built an empire around one soup, the Lanzhou-style hand-pulled beef noodle. The chain, which plans to expand with more locations around the Seattle area, is banking this will become the next pho. The short menu also features some stellar deep-fried beef pies and pot stickers. No reservations accepted. Read the full review here.

14603 N.E. 20th St., Suite #6, Bellevue; 425-395-9999; nuodle.us

 

Spice Waala

  • Cuisine: Indian
  • Reviewed by: Bethany Jean Clement
  • Location: Capitol Hill

Spice Waala co-owner Aakanksha Sinha gets ready to roll. (Rebekah Welch / The Seattle Times)

Also a Seattle Times Critic’s Pick. Spice Waala’s herbal, garlicky, just-right-salty-and-spicy green chutney is so good, you’ll want to dip your life into it, and husband-and-wife Uttam Mukherjee and Aakanksha Sinha put it on almost everything they serve at their cheerful Capitol Hill counter-service spot. It’s all under $10, including their extremely savory-satisfying kathi rolls — like 36-hour marinated chicken tikka, toastily smoky with a creeping heat and just enough orange grease on the pliant roti wrapper. They call Spice Waala’s menu “Indian street food that is unapologetically authentic to us,” and their social-justice mission supporting both workers and the community comes with it. The lines attest to Spice Waala’s greatness. Read the full review here.

340 15th Ave. E. Suite 202, (Capitol Hill), Seattle; 206-466-5195; spicewaala.com

 

SODO Chicken

  • Cuisine: American
  • Reviewed by: Tan Vinh
  • Location: Sodo

Our restaurant critic Tan Vinh anointed SODO Chicken’s the best fried-chicken sandwich in Seattle.  (Tan Vinh / The Seattle Times)

In the year of the fried-chicken sandwich, we wanted to find the best. SODO Chicken’s ratio of juicy, dark thigh meat to craggy crust is perfect, and it is structurally impeccable, with the batter never falling apart. It’s a clean bite that tastes, well, like bird. No pomp of slaw or exotic flavored aioli here, either — this unfussy (and inexpensive, at just $6.95) sandwich delivers with just a squirt of mayo and three pickles on a buttered sesame bun. And unlike most other purveyors of the form, SODO Chicken leaves the skin on the chicken, so you get that layer of salty, crispy fat flavor. Read the full review here.

6538 Fourth Ave. S. (SoDo), Seattle; 206-898-5862, facebook.com/sodochicken

 

Tabassum

  • Cuisine: Central Asian
  • Reviewed by: Katherine K. Long
  • Location: Varies. It’s a food truck!

Samsa sit on a traditional Uzbek painted plate from the  food truck Tabassum  at a pop-up market in Redmond. (Rebekah Welch / The Seattle Times)

Meet this cherry-red Uzbek food truck at one of its many stops — ideally, inside a brewery — for a steaming-hot samsa: Beef, spinach, pumpkin or mushroom enfolded in flaky pastry. Two hands, and plenty of napkins, required. Read the full review here.

Check website for hours and locations; 206-909-458; tabassum.info

 

Watson’s Counter

  • Cuisine: Eclectic
  • Reviewed by: Amy Wong
  • Location: Ballard

Clockwise from top left: loco moco, cereal french toast with “Frosty Flecks” and chicken and waffles. Served at Watson’s Counter.

Most items on the menu are Korean-inspired, from short-rib-infused Korean poutine to eggs Benedict with doenjang-marinated pork belly. Everything is made in-house and ingredients are locally sourced. Try the cereal French toast, which comes with “Fruity Pebs” or “Frosty Flecks”; the chicken and waffle; or the loco moco — the true star of the menu. Your taste buds may do a happy dance. Read the full review here.

6201 15th Ave. N.W., (Ballard) Seattle; watsonscounter.com