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Short rib and rice bowl with edamame.
A filling bowl from Itaewon Grill.
Itaewon Grill

11 Affordable Eats to Try in the Triangle

Save money while eating well

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A filling bowl from Itaewon Grill.
| Itaewon Grill

Sometimes it can seem like the Triangle’s dining scene is keeping pace price-wise with the rapid development of million dollar condos and influx of companies like Apple and Google. The bill after a dinner out with cocktails and dessert can sometimes rival that which one might end up with in New York or Miami. However, with a little careful sleuthing its still possible to find a great meal that rings in around the $10 range. After all, the Triangle is also home to tens of thousands of college students in addition to those high-paid tech imports, and not everyone is in the mood for a bank-breaking epic meal every night of the week.

Here are 11 of some of the area’s best, and most affordable, restaurants around. $10 is the the target range, although some offerings vary a bit, but rest assured all are as easy on the wallet as they are on the belly.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Italian Pizzeria III

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A staple of UNC students and Chapel Hill locals alike, IP3, as its known colloquially, is the home of the two-slice-and-a-soda $6 deal. In addition the more than dozen sandwiches and subs all ring in under $10, with hearty baked pastas coming in at $10.99, and strombolis and paninis under $10 as well.

Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering

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Med Deli is part grocery store, part deli/bakery, part restaurant. All the pita sandwiches (like falafel, baba ghanoush, chicken salad, and more) are in the $8 to $12 range, as are the gyros and shawarma. A two-item sampler platter from the packed-to-the-gills deli case plus pita bread rings in at $10.50, and for just a couple bucks more the house platters come with a choice of meat (or falafel), two vegetarian sides, and pita.

Sup Dogs

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Like any good college town joint, Sup Dogs is open late and serves up creative hot dog combos like the chili cheese dog combo or the Hawaiian dog combo for under $10. All combos include a rather large pile of fries and the special Sup Dog Sauce for dipping. A decently sized burger menu and chicken strips/chicken sandwich menu round things out, again all ringing in under $10 before tax or substitutions.

Sister Liu's Kitchen

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Chinese hamburgers? Yes, that’s right— Sister’s Liu’s has become locally famous not only for its handcrafted dumplings, but the homestyle rou jia mo. Something akin to the child of an American-style burger and an arepa, the sandwiches come with a variety of fillings (spicy pork and cumin chicken being just two of the offerings) and are all under $9. In addition to the burgers, there are noodle and rice bowls that run anywhere from $12-$14, and a selection of frozen dumplings for sale by the pound to take home.

Itaewon Grill

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Korean barbecue meets Chipotle-style fast casual at Itaewon Grill, a favorite of both Duke students and Duke University Hospital workers alike. The concept is familiar — pick a bowl base (veggies, white rice, brown rice, hongdae noodles, or fried rice) and then move on to toppings. There are plenty of veggies and sauces, and then a choice of meats including beef bulgogi, garlic chicken, Korean fried chicken, and more. The most expensive bowl (before any additional add-ons) is only $10.25.

Beef short ribs, kimchi, pickled cabbage, corn, romaine, golden beets and carrots over brown rice 
Beef short ribs, kimchi, pickled cabbage, corn, romaine, golden beets, and carrots over brown rice. 
Itaewon Grill

The Durham Filling Station

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Breakfast and lunch items at the Durham Filling Station are as easy on the wallet as they are tasty. Consistently rated one of the best burgers in the town, they range in price from $5-$9. Other options include a fried bologna sandwich ($3.50), a variety of hotdogs and sausages ($2.50 - $6.50), and an all-day biscuit menu ($1.50 -$4.75).

Dain's Place

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The Dain’s burger is a Durham legend, and at $8.99 the eight-ounce Black Angus burger comes with more than 20 complimentary add-ons and an additional list of extras (think bacon, cheese, or chili) that cost anywhere from $.99 to $1.99 more. The quarter-pound hot dogs (starting at $4.25) can be similarly customized, as can a chicken breast sandwich. “The Dainer,” as featured on the show Man v. Food, costs $12.50 and lettuce, tomato, Thousand Island dressing, bacon, sauteed onions, and cheddar.

Cosmic Cantina

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A burrito the size of a small child’s head and late-night hours that catering to the post-bar crowd are the main draws at Cosmic Cantina (which also has a Chapel Hill location). Regular-sized burritos (still huge by most standards) are all under $10, while the giant burritos (which could easily feed two to three people or perhaps 1.5 hungry Duke undergrads) aren’t more than $15. The menu also has mini burritos, nachos, chimichangas, tacos, quesadillas, and more.

King's Sandwich Shop

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For more than seventy years, King’s has been the go-to for generations of Durham families. Burgers, hot dogs sandwiches, fries, and more are almost all under $10. There are a variety of milkshakes available, and a side of the chili cheese fries with onions and jalapenos will only set someone back $3.25 ($6.50 for a large).

Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

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Guasaca Arepa actually has multiple locations throughout the Triangle, but the one near North Carolina State University does a brisk business serving hungry college students. The signature fillings (both of the meaty and vegetarian variety) can either be enjoyed as an arepa or a bowl, with two arepas or a bowl coming in for the most part under $10.

Arepas next to an avocado.
Arepas from Guasaca.
Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

Char Grill

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Char Grill is a Raleigh institution, and customers line up during the lunch hour for the half-pound, charcoal-grilled burgers. The signature burger with fries and a medium drink is less than $9, but for an even more affordable meal aim for a grilled cheese ($2.22) or hotdog ($3.17). The BLT is only $3.09, and an apple turnover for dessert is a cool $1.51.

Italian Pizzeria III

A staple of UNC students and Chapel Hill locals alike, IP3, as its known colloquially, is the home of the two-slice-and-a-soda $6 deal. In addition the more than dozen sandwiches and subs all ring in under $10, with hearty baked pastas coming in at $10.99, and strombolis and paninis under $10 as well.

Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering

Med Deli is part grocery store, part deli/bakery, part restaurant. All the pita sandwiches (like falafel, baba ghanoush, chicken salad, and more) are in the $8 to $12 range, as are the gyros and shawarma. A two-item sampler platter from the packed-to-the-gills deli case plus pita bread rings in at $10.50, and for just a couple bucks more the house platters come with a choice of meat (or falafel), two vegetarian sides, and pita.

Sup Dogs

Like any good college town joint, Sup Dogs is open late and serves up creative hot dog combos like the chili cheese dog combo or the Hawaiian dog combo for under $10. All combos include a rather large pile of fries and the special Sup Dog Sauce for dipping. A decently sized burger menu and chicken strips/chicken sandwich menu round things out, again all ringing in under $10 before tax or substitutions.

Sister Liu's Kitchen

Chinese hamburgers? Yes, that’s right— Sister’s Liu’s has become locally famous not only for its handcrafted dumplings, but the homestyle rou jia mo. Something akin to the child of an American-style burger and an arepa, the sandwiches come with a variety of fillings (spicy pork and cumin chicken being just two of the offerings) and are all under $9. In addition to the burgers, there are noodle and rice bowls that run anywhere from $12-$14, and a selection of frozen dumplings for sale by the pound to take home.

Itaewon Grill

Beef short ribs, kimchi, pickled cabbage, corn, romaine, golden beets and carrots over brown rice 
Beef short ribs, kimchi, pickled cabbage, corn, romaine, golden beets, and carrots over brown rice. 
Itaewon Grill

Korean barbecue meets Chipotle-style fast casual at Itaewon Grill, a favorite of both Duke students and Duke University Hospital workers alike. The concept is familiar — pick a bowl base (veggies, white rice, brown rice, hongdae noodles, or fried rice) and then move on to toppings. There are plenty of veggies and sauces, and then a choice of meats including beef bulgogi, garlic chicken, Korean fried chicken, and more. The most expensive bowl (before any additional add-ons) is only $10.25.

Beef short ribs, kimchi, pickled cabbage, corn, romaine, golden beets and carrots over brown rice 
Beef short ribs, kimchi, pickled cabbage, corn, romaine, golden beets, and carrots over brown rice. 
Itaewon Grill

The Durham Filling Station

Breakfast and lunch items at the Durham Filling Station are as easy on the wallet as they are tasty. Consistently rated one of the best burgers in the town, they range in price from $5-$9. Other options include a fried bologna sandwich ($3.50), a variety of hotdogs and sausages ($2.50 - $6.50), and an all-day biscuit menu ($1.50 -$4.75).

Dain's Place

The Dain’s burger is a Durham legend, and at $8.99 the eight-ounce Black Angus burger comes with more than 20 complimentary add-ons and an additional list of extras (think bacon, cheese, or chili) that cost anywhere from $.99 to $1.99 more. The quarter-pound hot dogs (starting at $4.25) can be similarly customized, as can a chicken breast sandwich. “The Dainer,” as featured on the show Man v. Food, costs $12.50 and lettuce, tomato, Thousand Island dressing, bacon, sauteed onions, and cheddar.

Cosmic Cantina

A burrito the size of a small child’s head and late-night hours that catering to the post-bar crowd are the main draws at Cosmic Cantina (which also has a Chapel Hill location). Regular-sized burritos (still huge by most standards) are all under $10, while the giant burritos (which could easily feed two to three people or perhaps 1.5 hungry Duke undergrads) aren’t more than $15. The menu also has mini burritos, nachos, chimichangas, tacos, quesadillas, and more.

King's Sandwich Shop

For more than seventy years, King’s has been the go-to for generations of Durham families. Burgers, hot dogs sandwiches, fries, and more are almost all under $10. There are a variety of milkshakes available, and a side of the chili cheese fries with onions and jalapenos will only set someone back $3.25 ($6.50 for a large).

Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

Arepas next to an avocado.
Arepas from Guasaca.
Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

Guasaca Arepa actually has multiple locations throughout the Triangle, but the one near North Carolina State University does a brisk business serving hungry college students. The signature fillings (both of the meaty and vegetarian variety) can either be enjoyed as an arepa or a bowl, with two arepas or a bowl coming in for the most part under $10.

Arepas next to an avocado.
Arepas from Guasaca.
Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

Char Grill

Char Grill is a Raleigh institution, and customers line up during the lunch hour for the half-pound, charcoal-grilled burgers. The signature burger with fries and a medium drink is less than $9, but for an even more affordable meal aim for a grilled cheese ($2.22) or hotdog ($3.17). The BLT is only $3.09, and an apple turnover for dessert is a cool $1.51.

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