If you’re like me and find it hard to believe that bills under $10 are useless by themselves, you’re wrong. Here are 15 places that your $5 bill and the handful of crumpled ones you fished out of the dryer can buy you an entire meal (so long as you order water at most spots).
Art’s Barbecue & Deli – 900 East Morehead Street – If you’ve been looking for an excuse to try the home of that neon sign that everybody knows, here it is. Art’s breakfast menu is as massive as its serving sizes with a good handful of items coming in at under $4.90. Go for any of the breakfast sandwiches or biscuits – Ham and Cheese Sandwich ($4.29), Bacon or Sausage and Egg Sandwich ($3.95) or Bacon and Egg biscuit ($3.45) are all classics. Or, if you’re looking for a larger meal, get one of the grill items, like Two Eggs with Ham or Bologna ($4.90) or Two Eggs with Bacon, Sausage or Livermush ($4.75) – they’re all served with grits or home-fried potatoes with a homemade biscuit or toast.
Mr. G’s – 5027 Morris Field Drive – The classic breakfast menu has combination plates, hot cakes and sandwiches all for well under $5. Get a Steak & Egg sandwich ($3.45), Smoked Sausage & Egg sandwich ($3.25) or two hot cakes ($3) just to name a few and you’ll have more than enough left for a drink ($1-$1.50).
Rhino Market – 1500 West Morehead Street – The breakfast menu at the popular spot may be short and to the point, but the options pack a punch. The only things not under $5 are the French Toast and a Build Your Own Omelette. Choose from an English Muffin Sandwich or Steel Cut Oats (both $3.99), Breakfast Burrito ($4.49) or Le Monde, an egg with spinach, tomato and Havarti on sourdough, for $4.49.
SUGAR Donuts – 11914 Elm Lane – What was a Food Truck Friday staple is now a Ballantyne go-to for those days you’re just not feeling like a healthy breakfast. Individual (huge) donuts that range in flavor from Organic Raspberry Glazed to Lemon Custard topped with marshmallow fluff to Southern Banana Pudding cost $2-$4 per individual donut. The menu changes daily.
Sunflour Baking Company – 2001 East 7th Street, 220 East Boulevard – Save for the breakfast sandwiches (except for #8, the Egg Sandwich at $4.75), the entire Morning Menu is $4.75 and under. Try the Hazelnut Orange Roll ($3.95), cinnamon roll ($3.75) or their Cheddar Biscuit ($2.95).
Brooks’ Sandwich House and Chili – 2710 North Brevard Street – The tiny spot with the walk-up window in NoDa has been around since 1973 and are still going strong. So strong in fact that their burger was named Charlotte’s Best Burger by The Observer in 2011. The menu is no-frills and consists merely of staples like hot dogs ($2.25), Bacon-L-T sandwiches ($3.50) and liver mush ($3.25). Everything on it is $4.50 and under, even Charlotte’s Best Burger, which will only cost you $3.50 (add $.25 for cheese). Yes, you can afford a drink, as they range from $.25 to $1.50. Remember it’s cash only and that hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.. Monday through Friday.
Le’s Sandwiches & Café – 4520 North Tryon Street – If you’re a Banh Mi lover, you needed Le’s in your life yesterday. The small restaurant located in the Asian Corner Mall has a dozen sandwiches on the menu all for under $4.25, including vegetarian options. Options include grilled cured pork ($4), Le’s Combination ($3.50), grilled chicken $4) and shredded pork and pork skin ($4). Two things to know: it’s cash only and closed on Wednesdays. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Little Village Grill – 710 West Trade Street – Look for the small space in the heart of Johnson & Wales that has a line out the door. With a solid portion of the menu (every pita, almost every burger, sandwich and salad) coming in at under $5, don’t expect frills. Pitas are $4.80, salads $3.95 and burgers and sandwiches range from $2.80 to $5.15.
Mr. K’s Soft Ice Cream – 2107 South Boulevard – Opened in 1967 (they’ll celebrate their 49th anniversary August 13) by Mr. Theodore Karres, known better as Mr. K. What started as strictly ice cream from a walk-up window expanded to hot dogs, burgers and fries. What didn’t expand were prices. Every burger and hot dog is $4.60 and under, a handful of sandwiches under $4.95 and sides range from $.99 to $3.50. Keep it simple and go with the classic Big K ($3.35).
Price’s Chicken Coop – 1614 Camden Road – The South End staple has been around since 1962 and the prices still feel old school. Grab any of the sandwiches (chicken sandwiches run $3.65 and $4.40, a Fish Sandwich goes for $4.45), wings (3 wings will cost you $4.30), Bar-B-Q ($3.25) or burgers ($2.15 without cheese, $2.30 with) with that crumpled up five in your pocket. With what you have left over, you can definitely afford an iced tea ($1 with ice, $1.50 without).
Cook Out – 2540 Freedom Drive, 1301 West Sugar Creek Road, 4321 Sunset Road, 5715 North Sharon Amity, 6438 Albemarle Road, 9705 North Tryon Street, 1815 Sardis Road North, 13317 York Center Drive – The end-all, be-all of cheap, eat-like-a-king meals. Is there a single item on the menu over $5 (serious question)? Your best bet is to go with a Cook Out Tray. These hover around the $4.50 mark depending on location, but it gets you one main entrée (things like a hamburger, hotdogs – yes, sometimes multiple – and chicken strips), two sides (will you choose a corn dog? Hush puppies? Another hot dog?) and a beverage (a Coke or Cheerwine float counts as a beverage at no extra cost). It’s insane.
JJ’s Red Hots – 1514 East Boulevard, 15105 North John Delaney Drive – Is JJ’s more of a lunch or dinner spot? We’re going to go with dinner, since every Tuesday all signature hot dogs (usually $3.99) are $2 after 3 p.m. Pair it with one of their $1.99 sides. If you’re not into the signature dogs, build your own Original ($2.99), Veggie ($2.99) or All Beef Dog ($3.99) with free regular toppings and $.49 premium toppings. Not into hot dogs at all? You may need to rethink your restaurant selection, but you can get chicken-based meals for $3.99.
Pie in the Sky – 320 South Tryon Street – An individual slice of their numerous pizzas, including specialty, will only run you $3.00, small salads hover at $2.95 and a Meatball Sub goes for $4.95. Don’t want pizza? Hot dogs range in price from $1.95 (plain) to $2.95 (Loaded Dog with slaw, onions, chili and jalapeño) and individual desserts don’t go past $2.95.
Pinky’s Westside Grill – 1600 West Morehead Street – If you’re smart about it, $5 can get the job done. Burgers are as inexpensive as $4.25 (the Pterodactyl) and $4.75 (the Jive Turkey), sandwiches as low as $4.75 (Grilled Chicken Pita) and their Wiener Wonderland is filled with options under $5, including the Viking Corn Dog ($3.50), The Pinky Dog ($4.75) and the Southern 500 Dog ($3.75).
Sabor Latin Street Grill – 415 Hawthorne Lane, 5945 Weddington Monroe Road, 14039 East Independence Boulevard – They’re loved for their $1 Taco Tuesdays, but, tip: You can get $1 tacos seven days a week if you eat dinner early enough. The special lasts from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Other deals include the Curtido Fish Taco ($3.75), Empanada ($3.95), Elote Loco ($2.95) and every taco ($2.75-$2.95 plus protein. Most are free, but premium proteins are $1).