October 05, 2022

25 Staff-Favorite Greater Cincinnati Restaurants to Grab a Meal for Under $13

With inflation sending grocery costs soaring, high gas prices and a looming recession, the saying “a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to” feels more apt than ever these days, especially when it comes to dining out. It may seem like you can’t even grab lunch anymore without shelling out at least $15, but CityBeat staffers have put together a list of 25 of their favorite spots for an affordable meal. Ringing up for $13 or less per diner, these are not multi-course, sit-down dinners, obviously, but they’re all super-satisfying options to fill you up without breaking the bank.

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Al-Madina Market & Grill
6 W. Corry St., Clifton
The Lebanese-style Al-Madina Market & Grill has a great variety of halal lunch and dinner options, most notably their sandwich wraps made with housemade flatbread straight from the tandoor oven. While CityBeat has raved time and time again about their chicken shawarma, the shish tawook ($8.99) is an even better wrap at the same price point. The main difference is that the chicken in the shish tawook is charbroiled, making for a smokier and more aromatic protein (ask for extra toum if you like garlic aioli). While you wait for your order (it doesn’t take long), pick up some specialty grocery items for your home kitchen from the market shelves. (Sean M. Peters)
Photo: Paige Deglow

Al-Madina Market & Grill

6 W. Corry St., Clifton
The Lebanese-style Al-Madina Market & Grill has a great variety of halal lunch and dinner options, most notably their sandwich wraps made with housemade flatbread straight from the tandoor oven. While CityBeat has raved time and time again about their chicken shawarma, the shish tawook ($8.99) is an even better wrap at the same price point. The main difference is that the chicken in the shish tawook is charbroiled, making for a smokier and more aromatic protein (ask for extra toum if you like garlic aioli). While you wait for your order (it doesn’t take long), pick up some specialty grocery items for your home kitchen from the market shelves. (Sean M. Peters)
Allez Bakery
1208 Main St., Over-the-Rhine
If the saying “You’re only as good as the company you keep” was applied to the sandwich world, it would mean your filling is only as good as its enveloping bread. Not surprisingly, Allez Bakery, which has garnered national praise for its artisanal bread and pastries, makes spectacular sandwiches. Whether you’re looking for something meaty or veggie-heavy, you’ll find good options when you step up to the counter (as long as they haven’t sold out). A particular favorite is the decadent Meatball Madness ($10), which is only available on Fridays and features fluffy ciabatta bread loaded with red sauce, pesto, provolone and some gratuitous meatballs. Stock up on napkins for this saucy stack. (SMP)
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Allez Bakery

1208 Main St., Over-the-Rhine
If the saying “You’re only as good as the company you keep” was applied to the sandwich world, it would mean your filling is only as good as its enveloping bread. Not surprisingly, Allez Bakery, which has garnered national praise for its artisanal bread and pastries, makes spectacular sandwiches. Whether you’re looking for something meaty or veggie-heavy, you’ll find good options when you step up to the counter (as long as they haven’t sold out). A particular favorite is the decadent Meatball Madness ($10), which is only available on Fridays and features fluffy ciabatta bread loaded with red sauce, pesto, provolone and some gratuitous meatballs. Stock up on napkins for this saucy stack. (SMP)
Anchor Grill
438 W Pike St., Covington
Anchor Grill has one of the cheapest and best breakfasts in the city — and you can get it 24/7/365. Grab a breakfast sandwich or omelet with a side of biscuits and gravy (or pretty much anything else on the menu) for $10 or less. The Glier’s Goetta factory is located across the street, so you can’t go wrong with a goetta dish. In 2020, New Yorker food correspondent Helen Rosner even named the Anchor’s double-decker goetta, lettuce and tomato sandwich ($6.50) one of the best things she’d eaten that decade. The diner celebrated 75 years of offering home-cooked, Southern-style eats in 2021 and maintains its retro vibe. Wood-paneled walls and cozy booths are complemented by a 1940s coin-operated “Band Box,” which contains a miniature toy big band that mimes performances to jukebox tunes. (Brent Stroud)
Photo: Emerson Swoger

Anchor Grill

438 W Pike St., Covington
Anchor Grill has one of the cheapest and best breakfasts in the city — and you can get it 24/7/365. Grab a breakfast sandwich or omelet with a side of biscuits and gravy (or pretty much anything else on the menu) for $10 or less. The Glier’s Goetta factory is located across the street, so you can’t go wrong with a goetta dish. In 2020, New Yorker food correspondent Helen Rosner even named the Anchor’s double-decker goetta, lettuce and tomato sandwich ($6.50) one of the best things she’d eaten that decade. The diner celebrated 75 years of offering home-cooked, Southern-style eats in 2021 and maintains its retro vibe. Wood-paneled walls and cozy booths are complemented by a 1940s coin-operated “Band Box,” which contains a miniature toy big band that mimes performances to jukebox tunes. (Brent Stroud)
Branch
1535 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
East Walnut Hills’ upscale eatery Branch is located in a beautiful former Art Deco bank building at the corner of Madison Road and Woodburn Avenue. With chef Alessandro Urbisci at the kitchen’s helm, the menu features an elegant focus on Italian eats, with a petite selection of pastas, shareables like the Polpette Di Olive or burrata and some sophisticated entrees. On Tuesdays, the restaurant offers an additional menu item: oysters. And they aren’t just any oysters — they’re $1 oysters. As you might suspect, these little guys go fast, so plan on arriving early if you want to score some of these minimally priced mollusks. (Hailey Bollinger)
Photo: Catie Viox/Provided by Branch

Branch

1535 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
East Walnut Hills’ upscale eatery Branch is located in a beautiful former Art Deco bank building at the corner of Madison Road and Woodburn Avenue. With chef Alessandro Urbisci at the kitchen’s helm, the menu features an elegant focus on Italian eats, with a petite selection of pastas, shareables like the Polpette Di Olive or burrata and some sophisticated entrees. On Tuesdays, the restaurant offers an additional menu item: oysters. And they aren’t just any oysters — they’re $1 oysters. As you might suspect, these little guys go fast, so plan on arriving early if you want to score some of these minimally priced mollusks. (Hailey Bollinger)
Brew House
1047 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills 
Open since the 1970s, Brew House in Walnut Hills is an eclectic neighborhood bar offering a slice of history, cheap drinks, and super good and fairly priced food. The flavorful burgers ($8; $7 without cheese) are the perfect size: a 5.5-ounce 80/20-blend patty. They come with chips, but you can make yours a platter with fries and coleslaw for a slight upcharge, or snag a side of onion rings for $4. Brew House also gets a little crazy with its weekly burger special, like the recent pizza or taco burger with fries ($9.95). It all pairs perfectly with a draft beer ($5) and some James Brown playing over the speakers. (BS)

Brew House

1047 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills
Open since the 1970s, Brew House in Walnut Hills is an eclectic neighborhood bar offering a slice of history, cheap drinks, and super good and fairly priced food. The flavorful burgers ($8; $7 without cheese) are the perfect size: a 5.5-ounce 80/20-blend patty. They come with chips, but you can make yours a platter with fries and coleslaw for a slight upcharge, or snag a side of onion rings for $4. Brew House also gets a little crazy with its weekly burger special, like the recent pizza or taco burger with fries ($9.95). It all pairs perfectly with a draft beer ($5) and some James Brown playing over the speakers. (BS)
Bridges Nepali Cuisine
4165 Hamilton Ave., Northside; 133 E. Court St., Downtown
Food from Nepal is smoky, spicy and packed with vegetables. It calls upon the flavors found in Indian and Chinese cuisines, which makes sense because Nepal is nestled between the two countries. Bridges Nepali Cuisine, featuring the owner’s mother’s recipes, specializes in build-your-own meat or vegan rice bowls ($10.60), with toppings including grilled chicken tikka masala, aloo wala chilled potatoes and lentil-based curry gravy. Or try the chow mein noodles ($12.60), pan-fried with ginger, cabbage and scallion. Another specialty? Plump, multicolored dumplings called momos ($10.75), which are served steamed, sauteed or deep fried. (SMP)
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Bridges Nepali Cuisine

4165 Hamilton Ave., Northside; 133 E. Court St., Downtown
Food from Nepal is smoky, spicy and packed with vegetables. It calls upon the flavors found in Indian and Chinese cuisines, which makes sense because Nepal is nestled between the two countries. Bridges Nepali Cuisine, featuring the owner’s mother’s recipes, specializes in build-your-own meat or vegan rice bowls ($10.60), with toppings including grilled chicken tikka masala, aloo wala chilled potatoes and lentil-based curry gravy. Or try the chow mein noodles ($12.60), pan-fried with ginger, cabbage and scallion. Another specialty? Plump, multicolored dumplings called momos ($10.75), which are served steamed, sauteed or deep fried. (SMP)
Carl's Delil
2836 Observatory Ave., Hyde Park
Carl’s Deli has been a Hyde Park staple for over 80 years, with ownership that’s only changed hands a few times since 1938. Most recently, in April 2022, sisters Sydney Turnbull and Cameron Kurz purchased it from Anne McManus, whose family had run the business since 1968. Aiming to keep traditions alive, the sisters have kept the numbered sandwich menu unchanged. Walk up to the deli counter to order sandwiches, salads — like the signature Joanie’s Crabmeat and Artichoke Salad — quiches, pastas, soups and even dessert. Bonus: Everything is $11 and under. Ask for a No. 30 ($9), with creamy homemade red pepper hummus and fresh veggies. The No. 23 ($10.99) is also a hit: Carl’s Country Club features rotisserie turkey, swiss, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo. For the same price, you can also get half a sandwich and a soup. (Mackenzie Manley)
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Carl's Delil

2836 Observatory Ave., Hyde Park
Carl’s Deli has been a Hyde Park staple for over 80 years, with ownership that’s only changed hands a few times since 1938. Most recently, in April 2022, sisters Sydney Turnbull and Cameron Kurz purchased it from Anne McManus, whose family had run the business since 1968. Aiming to keep traditions alive, the sisters have kept the numbered sandwich menu unchanged. Walk up to the deli counter to order sandwiches, salads — like the signature Joanie’s Crabmeat and Artichoke Salad — quiches, pastas, soups and even dessert. Bonus: Everything is $11 and under. Ask for a No. 30 ($9), with creamy homemade red pepper hummus and fresh veggies. The No. 23 ($10.99) is also a hit: Carl’s Country Club features rotisserie turkey, swiss, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo. For the same price, you can also get half a sandwich and a soup. (Mackenzie Manley)
Cincy Steak & Lemonade
2607 Short Vine St., Corryville
Fans of FX’s Chicago-based kitchen drama series The Bear can say “yes, chef” to Cincy Steak & Lemonade’s Italian beef sandwich ($11.99), a local replica of the Windy City staple. Topped with mozzarella and giardiniera peppers, it comes with a side of gravy (for dipping) and fries. The neon-lit joint also offers other favorites in to-go Styrofoam containers, from Philly cheesesteaks and gyros to burgers, wings, tacos, nachos and even breakfast. Don’t miss the frozen lemonades ($2.99), with flavors ranging from rainbow and watermelon to pina colada. (Maija Zummo)

Cincy Steak & Lemonade

2607 Short Vine St., Corryville
Fans of FX’s Chicago-based kitchen drama series The Bear can say “yes, chef” to Cincy Steak & Lemonade’s Italian beef sandwich ($11.99), a local replica of the Windy City staple. Topped with mozzarella and giardiniera peppers, it comes with a side of gravy (for dipping) and fries. The neon-lit joint also offers other favorites in to-go Styrofoam containers, from Philly cheesesteaks and gyros to burgers, wings, tacos, nachos and even breakfast. Don’t miss the frozen lemonades ($2.99), with flavors ranging from rainbow and watermelon to pina colada. (Maija Zummo)
Daylily
3751 Eastern Ave., Columbia Tusculum
Chef Jose Salazar’s restaurant group and Deeper Roots Coffee recently opened Daylily, a New York City-inspired bodega and deli in Columbia Tusculum. It offers a taste of home for the Queens-born Salazar, as well as a full coffee program, groceries and beer and wine. The food menu features slightly elevated versions of iconic bodega eats, like egg and cheese on a roll ($5; $8.50 with breakfast meat) and a Chopped Cheese ($9.50), with ground beef, American cheese, sauteed onions, banana peppers and special sauce on a hoagie. Grab either to go or enjoy them on the big back patio. (MZ)
Photo: Catie Viox

Daylily

3751 Eastern Ave., Columbia Tusculum
Chef Jose Salazar’s restaurant group and Deeper Roots Coffee recently opened Daylily, a New York City-inspired bodega and deli in Columbia Tusculum. It offers a taste of home for the Queens-born Salazar, as well as a full coffee program, groceries and beer and wine. The food menu features slightly elevated versions of iconic bodega eats, like egg and cheese on a roll ($5; $8.50 with breakfast meat) and a Chopped Cheese ($9.50), with ground beef, American cheese, sauteed onions, banana peppers and special sauce on a hoagie. Grab either to go or enjoy them on the big back patio. (MZ)
El Barril Mexican Sports Bar & Grill
940 Pavilion St., Mt. Adams 
Mount Adams welcomed this dining establishment to its quaint hilltop neighborhood last fall, taking over the space formerly occupied by Next Chapter. As its name suggests, the eatery is part restaurant — boasting both Mexican street food and bar bites — and part sports bar. Across the board, menu prices are pretty reasonable, but if you’re looking for a real bang for your buck, opt for the burger and taco combo ($12.99). The meal comes with your choice of burger (options include the breakfast burger with goetta, bacon, cheese, fried egg and Sriracha mayo or the El Barril Burger with guacamole, sauteed mushrooms, onions and American cheese), two tacos and a side of fries. (HB)
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

El Barril Mexican Sports Bar & Grill

940 Pavilion St., Mt. Adams
Mount Adams welcomed this dining establishment to its quaint hilltop neighborhood last fall, taking over the space formerly occupied by Next Chapter. As its name suggests, the eatery is part restaurant — boasting both Mexican street food and bar bites — and part sports bar. Across the board, menu prices are pretty reasonable, but if you’re looking for a real bang for your buck, opt for the burger and taco combo ($12.99). The meal comes with your choice of burger (options include the breakfast burger with goetta, bacon, cheese, fried egg and Sriracha mayo or the El Barril Burger with guacamole, sauteed mushrooms, onions and American cheese), two tacos and a side of fries. (HB)