The very best lists of bests eschew the familiar. For good grub at good prices, that means banishing pizza by the slice, discarding the hot dog, trashing tacos, and getting rid of grilled cheese. Those are too easy. Instead, we've patched together a list of bargain bites that manages to hit Hungarian crêpes, pig part sliders, even fluffy, stuffed coconut buns. These are bites that any self-respecting bargain seeker should be familiar with.
Best Family and Friends Sandwich Plan
One banh mi sandwich at Quoc Huong is a bargain at $3, but six for the price of five? Super bargain. The crusty crunch of the baguette, the zing of pickled carrots, the bright burst of cilantro, a smear of Vietnamese mayonnaise — it all adds up to the perfect lunchtime meal. Round up some friends, call in your order (we suggest the barbecue pork version, but they all rock), and pick up a big bag o' banh mi that will make everyone happy they have each other to lunch with. Buy five ($3/each), get one free. 5150 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-936-0605.
— Brad Kaplan
Best It's-the-Day-Before-Payday Meal
Thanks to a reliable supply of affordable comfort food, Eats has been making guests forget about their money issues — at least temporarily — since 1993. Relieve your financial stress with the meat and two, specifically, the half chicken rubbed with sweet-and-spicy jerk seasoning, creamy macaroni and cheese, and good ole Southern collard greens. An employee told us, "It's cheaper than McDonald's," while grubbing on his own plate during break. The meal, and any leftovers, should hold you over till payday. $4.50-$7.30. 600 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-888-9149. www.eatsonponce.net.
— Hillary Holley
- DUSTIN CHAMBERS
Best way to feel like you're in NOLA for only $10
An homage to the New Orleans laundry day tradition of making red beans and rice, a long-stewing, low-maintenance meal that could be prepared while washing clothes, Laundry Night at the Pinewood Tippling Room features a special menu with jambalaya, gumbo, and our favorite, red beans and rice, for $10 each. Chef Mike Blydenstein uses thick, peppery slices of andouille sourced from Breaux Bridge, La., deep within Cajun Country. Supple beans and rice tinged orangey-red with Creole seasoning create rich, creamy textures. But the real secret ingredient, says the chef, is adding a ton of butter at the end. Of course it is. $10. 254 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-373-5507. www.pinewoodtr.com. — Stephanie Dazey
Best Fortune Cookie Alternative
After a dinner out on Buford Highway, Sweet Hut beckons with all kinds of crazy pastries, bubble tea, coffee concoctions, and more. Stoners and curiosity-seekers may be tempted by eccentricities like the $1.50 hot dog and spring onion pastry, but those in search of simpler pleasures should pick up a plastic container filled with almond crunch cookies. Glassy smooth on the bottom and studded with almond slivers on top, these cookies are full of almondy crunch. Not too sweet, they go perfectly with coffee or tea, and there's plenty in a package to share. $3.95. 5150 Buford Highway, Doraville. 470-545-2585. www.sweethutbakery.com. — BK
Best So-Much-Great-Free-Stuff With My Already Cheap Order
A meal of banchan and tofu soup at So Kong Dong always amazes, particularly after the check arrives and you realize how well and how much you've been able to eat so cheaply. One of the great joys of Korean dining is the array of small plates of banchan brought to the table at the beginning of the meal (for free!). The kimchi, seasoned seaweed, and other little bites always seem to get the taste buds in high gear. At So Kong Dong, order up a bubbling hot bowl of the sundubu, aka tofu soup, and your table will soon be loaded with banchan, including whole fried fish that are full of bones but fun to pick apart. $9.60. 5280 Buford Highway. 678-205-0555. — BK
- James Camp
Best $5 reminder that dreams do come true
When Pura Vida shuttered at the end of 2012, chef Hector Santiago's legendary pork belly coconut buns went with it. Fans wondered if they'd ever be able to taste those chewy, fluffy, slightly sweet buns stuffed with caramelized hunks of pork belly — glistening with a tangy tamarind glaze — cabbage, and cilantro, ever again. The answer came in February, when Big Sky Buckhead enlisted Santiago to write the menu for its new Atlanta outpost. Just look for the section titled "Hector's Legendary Coconut Buns." In addition to those magical pork belly buns, you'll find flavor combos such as gingery fried chicken with Thai basil and, another Pura Vida throwback, tender beef rubbed with Mayan adobo in an orange and smoky chipotle barbecue sauce. $5.50 each. 3201 Cains Hill Place. 404-481-5168. www.bigskybuckhead.com. — HHBest I HEARD THAT!
The Big Apple Inn is a welcome import from Jackson, Miss., famous for its "smokes and ears," smoked sausage sandwiches and pig ear sandwiches built on soft, slider-like buns. Served with slaw, a thin mustard sauce, and hot sauce (do make sure to order it hot), the pig ear sandwich is a Southern fever dream of tender porkiness and tingly acidity. You may as well get some smokes, too. Between the friendly smile from owner April Patton and the low price, who can resist? $2-$3. 1542 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. 404-254-1678. www.bigappleinnatl.com. — BK
Best Bargain at Pricey Star Provisions
Star Provisions is not known for being particularly wallet friendly, so the fried chicken by the pound may be one of the market's better kept secrets. The chicken here benefits from brining in salt water then buttermilk, and gets fried up in pork fat in a skillet for a browned char that sets it apart from deep-fried chicken. The spice is nice, too. Like most things at Star Provisions, it's just right. $7.95 per pound. 1198 Howell Mill Road. 404-365-0410. www.starprovisions.com. — BK
- Dustin Chambers
Best Taste of Your Imaginary Childhood in Europe
Julianna's Coffee and Crepes, a cute little spot in Inman Park, focuses on the simple pleasure of the freshly made crêpe. While it feels oh-so-French, down to the exposed stone and rustic wood surroundings, the crêpes are actually inspired by the owner's Hungarian roots. Who knew? Try the lemon and sugar crêpe, a perfect harmony of crisp edges and slightly doughy interior with a burst of tart lemon zest dancing with the powdered sugar sweetness. Squeeze the slice of lemon on top and ... ooh la la. Or, rather, jó étvágyat! (That's Hungarian for bon appétit.) $3-$8. 775 Lake Ave. 404-436-1825. www.atlantacrepes.com. — BK