Best Food in Seattle: 4 Low-Cost Restaurants for a Student Budget

BY DUSTY HENRY | PHOTOGRAPHY BY LUKE RUTAN

College students are in constant pursuit for affordable eats. Thankfully, Seattle Pacific University is close by some of the best and affordable spots in the city. Whether you’re in the mood for searing spices or classic standbys, there’s something for every collegiate foodie.

Students at El Camion

El Camión — Ballard

Car: 7 minutes
Bus: 24 minutes
Don’t miss: $1.55 tacos

Love burritos? El Camión has some of the best in the city. With two locations in the nearby Ballard neighborhood, a food truck and a sit-down restaurant, quality Mexican food is just a short bus ride away. The restaurant’s generous portions are ideal for hungry appetites or to save in the mini-fridge for a late night study snack. El Camión also has a wide array of salsas that will appease both those with a high spice tolerance as well as more mild, avocado-based dips. It’s also the perfect spot to grab a breakfast burrito at any time of day, which is cause for celebration in itself.

Students at Ballard Pizza Company

Ballard Pizza Company

Car: 7 minutes
Bus: 25 minutes
Don’t miss: $2 pizza slices, 4-8 p.m.

A huge slice of pizza is a college favorite, but Ballard Pizza Company offers something a little bit different. Owned by famed Seattle restaurateur Ethan Stowell, BPC adds a bit of gourmet to the dish without spiking the value. While buying a whole pizza can steep the bill, stopping in for a quick slice or two is easy on your wallet. In the evenings, the shop also offers “Flour Hour” with $2 slices. For the health conscious, they also have a variety of salads. If you’re feeling adventurous, pool some cash with friends and order a “Big Moses” — a mystery pizza that lives up to its massive name.

Dick’s Drive-In

Dick’s Drive-In — Wallingford 

(also in Ballard, Capitol Hill, Edmonds, Lake City, and Queen Anne)

Car: 12 minutes
Bus: 26 minutes
Don’t miss: $1.40 hamburgers

Longing for the old school days of drive-up burger joints with ‘50s pastiche? Dick’s Drive-In in Wallingford has you covered. No SPU residence hall experience is complete without joining your floormates on a late-night Dick’s run at least once. The iconic Seattle chain has multiple locations peppered throughout the city, but the Wallingford location has a certain charm to it. Grab a burger, fries, and a milkshake for just a few bucks. (The most expensive item on the menu is $3.10.) You can either eat in your car, the parking lot, or take it to go for a city adventure. These burgers are beloved just as much for their flavor as their value. They’re open to 2 a.m. as well, perfect for a study break or post-concert fuel-up.

Students at Kwanjai Thai Cuisine

Kwanjai Thai Cuisine — Fremont

Car: 7 minutes
Bus: 12 minutes
Don’t miss: $9.50 for most entrees

Located in a repurposed house in Fremont, Kwanjai Thai Cuisine is one of the many excellent Thai restaurants within our city. Scarf down some Phad Thai or curry to your liking of spiciness and down it with a refreshing Thai iced tea or coffee. The house provides a comforting, home-like feel for diners. The portions are large, making them great to split with a friend or to challenge the limits of your stomach. Their menu is expansive, so there’s plenty of reason to keep coming back and working your way through these delicious meals.

Photo Gallery

Seattle’s Best Budget Eats