Eat Cheap, But Well
Charlie’s Old Original Hamburgers It’s just $2.50 for a griddled old-school burger (with the works) at this bare-bones shack. Stay in and wolf it down at the counter, or grab a sack — thriftily packaged in the repurposed plastic bag the hamburger rolls come in — and get affordable beefy bliss to go. 336 Kedron Avenue, Folsom, 610-461-4228.
Hank’s Place It’s as bucolic a diner as we’ve ever seen, but what else would you expect in picturesque Chadds Ford? The bargain prices — $8.95 for a three-egg omelet stuffed with Kennett Square mushrooms, or, for a real belly bomb, the $4.95 creamed chipped beef — are what’s really unexpected. Make like a Wyeth and stop in on your way to the local museums. Routes 1 and 100, Chadds Ford, 610-388-7061, hanks-place.net.
H Mart Food Court Take the escalator up to the second floor of the H Mart Asian grocery store, and at the top you’ll find sub-$10 sushi-and-sashimi combos, giant $8 Korean rice or noodle bowls, $9 beef teriyaki with dumplings, and plenty of bubble tea. But you’ll have to stake out a table, because this place is always jammed with regulars who know a good deal — and good food — when they see it. 7050 Terminal Square, second floor, Upper Darby, 610-734-1001, hmart.com.
The Original Clam Tavern Don’t even try and show up at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night without a reservation at this near-50-year-old neighborhood seafood house, when loyal followers pile in for $6 Beefeater martinis served in shakers, and lots of clams — baked, steamed, half-shelled or casino’d. Each January, owner Tony Blanche rolls back some of the prices to match the old menus hanging on the wall. Don’t miss the 99-cent clam chowder and $1.99 bowl of mussels. 339 East Broadway Avenue, Clifton Heights, 610-623-5070, clamtavern.net.
Pica’s Restaurant Sometime in the 1940s, Frank Pica opened a tiny pizza shop in West Philly and started selling 75-cent thin-crust square pies instead of the thicker round pizzas that were the status quo. Today, Pica’s is a sprawling family-friendly Italian restaurant, where Frank Jr. is still selling his pop’s pizzas. For $9.45, you get a small plain, which, accompanied by a large $9.95 Greek salad, is all two hungry people need. 7803 West Chester Pike, Upper Darby, 610-789-7770, picas-restaurant.com.
Shere-E-Punjab Indian was never well represented in this part of Delco until this BYOB opened behind the Drexeline Shopping Center. The lunchtime buffet is better than most (hope they have the lamb vindaloo when you visit), and it’s only $9.95 during the week and $10.95 on weekends. If your kids don’t require chicken fingers, they can eat all they want for half that. Supplement with a basket of crispy flatbread-like papadum ($1.50) or garlic naan ($2.50). 5059 State Road, Drexel Hill, 484-452-8140, shereepunjab.com.
Chung Sing When eastern Main Liners say they’re heading to the China Diner, they’re actually talking about this Ardmore mainstay for cheap Chinese fare. It’s housed in an old silver train-car diner, but instead of omelets and meatloaf, you’ll get giant plates of well-prepared Chinese staples. One young family of four we know eats dinner here every other week for $20. Including tip. Be sure to munch on the complimentary pickled vegetables while you wait. 210 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8115.
Milkboy Coffee Part live music venue, part community coffee hang, these Main Line cafes serve up a variety of eats with an impressively broad selection of vegan options, like a spicy $6.95 seitan cheese-steak wrap, plus multiple breakfast sandwiches made with organic eggs and meats, to go with your morning joe. Even better — they’re very kid-friendly. 2 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-645-5269, and 824 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610-527-0690; milkboycoffee.com.
Nudy’s A cross between the classic American diner and a country cafe, this regional mini-chain offers actual meals at the elusive $10-and-under price point. For lunch, salads like country apple with blue cheese and marinated chicken ($7.95) and hearty sandwiches like the oven-roasted turkey melt, topped with (mmmmm) stuffing and cranberry mayo ($7.95), satisfy. Breakfast is busy for good reason: to-die-for gingerbread pancakes ($6.95). 292 East Conestoga Road, Wayne, 610-687-1345, and six other area locations.