Top Cheap Eats in Phoenix

Top Cheap Eats in Phoenix

After traveling across the Sonoran desert, you will undoubtedly face thirst and hunger. You will not be the first.

For more than a thousand years, between the 5th and 15th centuries, the Hohokam tribe occupied and irrigated the desert land. Droughts and floods forced them to abandon the area, but their irrigation systems formed the basis for the canals that now water the rich soil of Phoenix, and that have helped the city rise, firebird-like, from the ashes to engage in trade, education...and dining.

Nearby cooking schools like the Arizona Culinary Institute and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culiary Arts in Scottsdale create an environment where you can find culinary delights in unexpected places.

Matt's Big Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for students.

Matt's Big Breakfast, located near Arizona State University in downtown Phoenix, serves both hearty breakfast and lunch, made from organic ingredients and local produce (when available). The updated diner atmosphere is a winner with students and locals alike, and most menu items are in the $5-$8 range, making it very affordable for formerly starving students.


If you're in the Southwest, but craving the Middle East, go to Al-Hana. Pitas are baked in-house, customers rave about the hummus, beef kababs, and falafel, and the prices are perfect for students and others watching their wallet. The restaurant is in the Baiz Market, a Middle Eastern grocery, so after lunch or a quick dinner you can find fixings to prepare your own Middle Eastern feast -- or just return to Al-Hana.

Welcome Diner

The 1930s-style Welcome Diner is a 9-stool Valentine Diner that was built in Kansas in 1945 and moved to Arizona ten years later. The Welcome Diner offers traditional diner fare like hambugers, hot dogs, and grilled cheese, but with a modern, organic take. Lettuce, tomato, onions and peppers are all locally sourced. Most menu items won't break the bank -- ranging from $3.50 for a hot dog to $6.75 for slightly fancier food.

Los Compadres Mexican Food

Until the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, when most of Mexico's northen zone was ceded to the U.S., Mexico held sway over the region where Phoenix now sits. The foods at Los Compadres hint at that history. Locals love the Sonoran-style Mexican food, including cheese crisps, green chile burritos and beef enchiladas. Los Campadres has two locations in Phoenix -- one a casual family-style, the other a full-service style.

Mama Mia's Subs & Brick Oven Pizza

It wouldn't be a list for students if we didn't mention pizza and sandwiches. Mama Mia's serves New York-style (or really New Jersey-style) thin-crust pizza, wings, calzones, and cold and hot subs. Two locations -- one downtown and one in the Arcadia neighborhood -- offer delivery services to Phoenicians missing the East Coast.

If you want to work at any of these restaurants or open your own restaurant, check out the culinary arts schools in Phoenix.

Visiting another city? Check out our restaurant listings for Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Miami, New York, Orlando, Orange County, Calif., San Francisco and Seattle.

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