You must eat. You must not spend a lot of money. We can help
Published: August 29, 2011
Even though students generally don’t have much cash to spare, there are a bunch of you, which means that if you go to one of the area’s larger schools in a bustling urban area, you’re probably close to all sorts of affordable dining options (see: Johns Hopkins). If you go to a smaller school that’s maybe a little off the main commercial drags, you might not have a lot of non-chain options worth noting (see: Coppin). But there are lots of great places to eat for cheap somewhere near most campuses, and a few requiring a little travel that almost any student in the Baltimore area should make a point of trying at least once.
Near Johns Hopkins University
3120 St. Paul St., (410) 243-5200, carmascafe.com
A sweet little basement coffee spot with light breakfast and lunch stuff too, just steps from campus.
3107 St. Paul St., (410) 243-1611, cvptowson.com
An institution, but not the ivy-covered, marble-bust kind. More the generations-of-drinkers-bent-an-elbow-and-maybe-had-some-nachos-here kind. CVP serves up decent pub grub along with the beer and bar games and “atmosphere.”
3811 Canterbury Road, (410) 366-0095, chocolateacafe.com
Located in the ground floor of one of those Tuscany-Canterbury apartment buildings, the kinda style-y Chocolatea offers the intriguing combo of coffee, tea, and breakfast-y baked goods alongside Asian lunch specials (dumplings, teriyaki, and ramen- and udon-based dishes). Go figure.
300 W. 30th St., (443) 869-5864, thedizzbaltimore.com
An awesome neighborhood bar and grill with plenty of home-away-from-home atmosphere and great burgers, sandwiches, and other pub-y stuff. Nobody beats the Dizz.
102 E. 25th St., (410) 235-7685, mandjsoulfood.com
This carryout spot with a small group of tables serves up some serious soul food: ribs, fried chicken, and killer sides. Not saying this is a good idea, but if you were only gonna eat once a day, you’d more than meet your daily requirements of everything at M&J, most especially calories and, uh, flavor.
138 W. 25th St., (410) 235-5100
An old-school diner with old-school diner fare, including hot turkey sandwiches and so on. Excellent not-quite-this-century atmosphere.
100 W. University Parkway, (410) 235-5777, one-world-cafe.com
JHU vegans and vegetarians are lucky to have One World close at hand, for three meals’ (plus brunch) worth of great, basic meat-free eats.
227 W. 29th St., (410) 889-4444, papermoondiner24.com
Sure, it probably makes all kinds of sense, business-wise, that the Papermoon isn’t open 24 hours anymore, but we’re not quite ready to let it go. When it is open (till midnight during the week, until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays), it serves up solid diner fare in a conspicuously quirky space.
3130 Greenmount Ave., (410) 467-7698
Short-order breakfast and lunch served up fast, good, and cheap while you watch from your seat at the counter (the only seating in the place). The lines can get long on the weekends, and there’s a reason for that.
123 W. 27th St., (410) 464-7211, glutenfreedesserts.com
If gluten is a problem (as in, an allergy, as opposed to prepping for bikini season), Sweet Sin ensures that your sweet tooth doesn’t have to go wanting with its gluten-free baked goods (there are soy- and dairy-free options too).
3201-G St. Paul St., (410) 366-6630
It may not sound promising, coming from a place with “mini mart” in the name, but the falafel and hummus here rule. And it’s open 24 hours.
Near University of Baltimore/Maryland Institute College of Art
1218 N. Charles St., (443) 759-8531, alohasushimd.com
Sushi. Cheap and good and nearby. If you like sushi, how much more do we need to say?
1100 Maryland Ave., (410) 385-0318, dukemrestaurant.com
Ethiopian food is one of the best and tastiest ways to break bread with friends. See what we did there? You share a meal around a big piece of spongy bread called injera that’s sort of both plate and utensils. And the food’s really great, spicy and colorful. Just do it, OK?
2118 Maryland Ave., (410) 637-3089, ibarbalt.com
The wings are the thing at iBar. There are other things, both things to eat and (many) things to drink, but the wings are why you’d head to Lower Charles Village. And you should.
1501 St. Paul St., (410) 962-5717, kadercafemochabaltimore.com
Kader Camara makes some seriously good sandwiches in a pleasant spot near Penn Station. Try the roasted turkey breast, or the salmon BLT. Trust us. It might take a minute, but you will be glad you waited.
2126 Maryland Ave., (410) 685-6237
“Open til 4 a.m.” Those are some magic words right there. But the spicy/sour flavors and generous banchan of good Korean food provide their own attraction to this cozy Lower Charles Village basement at any time of day or night. But especially at, say, 2:05 a.m.
1723 N. Charles St., (410) 727-7732, sofiscrepes.com
Right before showtime at the Charles Theatre next door, the tiny Sofi’s space can get a little jammed, and you’ve got to be sure you leave more than enough time if that’s your pre-movie eats option. But if you don’t have a show to make, you can relax and scarf made-on-the-spot crêpes, both savory and sweet (e.g. Nutella and banana).
11 W. Preston St., (410) 528-1003, soupsonbalto.com
Soup and sandwiches from a short menu that changes daily, all prepared with excellent ingredients and considerable care. A fabulous cheap, healthy lunch spot to have handy.
1203 W. Mount Royal Ave., (410) 625-2668, twoboots.com
This smallish chain splits the difference between cheapo gutbomb pizza and foofy gourmet pizza with slightly exotic, super-flavorful pies and slices (example: the spicy Balto-specific crab-crawfish-andouille Old Bay Beast).
Near Morgan State University
1518 Havenwood Road, (410) 889-2055
Every now and then, you’re going to need a chicken box. (It’s a Baltimore thing; ask somebody.) And if you need a chicken box around Morgan, Sunny’s Subs is the place to hit.
4607 Harford Road, (410) 254-0122, zekescoffee.com
Yes, you can get cheap, generic go-juice anywhere, but Zeke’s will get your day started right with its house-roasted beans. And if you need a little something to go with the joe, there’s good breakfast and lunch stuff too.
Near Loyola University Maryland/College of Notre Dame of Maryland
Belvedere Square, 529 E. Belvedere Ave., (410) 323-2396, atwaters.biz
The lunch counter at this Belvedere Square staple is one of the most no-frills urbane spots for a bite on this end of town. The menu of sandwiches, soups, etc., changes daily, but everything is made on-site from fresh, locally sourced ingredients and everything’s good.
501 W. Cold Spring Lane, (410) 235-8118
The kind of homey coffee spot every decent college neighborhood needs: good coffee, baked goods and light lunch stuff, couches and tables, free wifi.
Belvedere Square, 519 E. Belvedere Ave., (410) 323-9463
Greg’s does gourmet bagels without any Top Chef-style gimmickry, specializing in interesting ingredients (cornmeal, bittersweet dark chocolate, onion bagels with chunks of real onions instead of “bitz”) and the best selection of smoked fish around. You’ll never go back to dining-hall lox after this.
513 W. Cold Spring Lane, (410) 889-5272, missshirleys.com
The lines can get pretty long for weekend breakfast/brunch, and once you get a table, you’ll see why: benne-seed chicken and waffles, coconut cream-stuffed French toast, surf-and-turf omelets. It almost isn’t cheap eats, but it’s so worth it. Breakfast and lunch only.
5921 York Road, (410) 532-7542
It looks like a dive bar, and it tends to fill up with student drinkers on Friday and Saturday nights, but don’t sleep on the cheap, delicious burgers, which are half-price on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Near Towson University/Goucher College
798 Kenilworth Drive, Towson, (410) 938-8775, atwaters.biz
Delicious sandwiches, soups, and so on made from fresh, locally sourced everything are the highlight at this suburban takeout version of the Belvedere Square staple.
14 Allegheny Ave., Towson, (410) 321-1880
Yeah, Five Guys isn’t far, but Burger Bros grills up a great burger that’s a bit less of a gutbomb, in a good way.
3 Allegheny Ave., Towson, (410) 821-5352, dipasqualescafe.com
Here’s where to get your serious Italian deli fix if you don’t make it down to Little Italy or Paca Street that much. The Italian cold cut sub is a nearly perfect food item, and there are plenty of fixins for make-at-home feasts.
6374 York Road, (410) 377-7300
Under new ownership, neighborhood staple Fortunato’s now takes credit cards. Fortunately, the pizza is still the same New York-style goodness (people gush about the crust, but don’t sleep on the sauce) and that’s why you need to get out your credit card.
13 Allegheny Ave., Towson, (410) 821-8005
Meat on a stick (or, you know, just off of one). What’s not to like? A nice spot for “Middle Eastern” staples such as souvlaki, gyro, falafel, and the dish in the name, all inexpensive and flavorful.
510 York Road, Towson, (410) 296-9118
Not down with Vietnamese food yet? Pull up a bowl of rich, noodle-y pho on a cool day and you’ll get down pretty quick.
714 York Road, Towson, (410) 494-0061
Some call it Peruvian chicken. Whatever you call the crispy, spicy roasted chicken that Pollo Amigo serves up, you’re going to be calling it a bunch. The menu features all sorts of other Mexican/Central American dishes, but seriously, the chicken.
13 Allegheny Ave., Towson, (410) 296-0799, ziascafe.com
Get juicy (and healthy, so they say) with made-on-the-spot juices and smoothies, plus coffee and a small menu of sandwiches, if you’re looking for something solid.
Near University of Maryland Baltimore County
5309 East Drive, Arbutus, (410) 242-9832, arbutusbiz.com/leons
Leon’s has been dishing out the home-y, diner-y favorites to UMBC students and townies forever, and it can be depended on for affordable, reliable breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Now that’s how you stay in business for decades.
5401 East Drive, Arbutus, (410) 242-6474
This casual joint sports a massive menu featuring everything from carryout-style fare (fried chicken, pizza) to diner-type dishes (hot roast beef with gravy, fried shrimp dinners) to homestyle specialties (chicken and veal parmigiana).
Worth Seeking Out
11007 York Road, Cockeysville, (410) 527-1226, andynelsonsbbq.com
Way up York Road in Baltimore County lies the best commercially available barbecue in the Mid-Atlantic. Go ahead, show us better. The ribs and pulled pork are so amazing that we hesitate to recommend anything else off the menu, but it’s all good. Closed Sundays.
1019 E. Lombard St., (410) 563-2666, attmansdeli.com
Take your place in the looong line that doubles back on the looong counter, squeeze past your fellow Baltimoreans, and figure out whether you’re getting the corned beef on rye or the pastrami on rye. When it’s your turn, you better know which you want, and don’t mumble. It’s a tasty rite of passage.
Lexington Market, 203 N. Paca St., (410) 727-4898, faidleyscrabcakes.com
Lexington Market alone is an essential Baltimore spot to visit, and the cheap grazing is superb. But you’ve got to do Faidley Seafood at least once. Order one of the giant crab cakes at the counter and eat it standing up, or belly up to the raw bar for a half-dozen shucked right there. A beer goes great with either one.
840 N. Eutaw St., (410) 225-5874, thelandofkush.com
Vegans and vegetarians have to check out the vegan soul food dished out at this midtown spot. The veggie “ribs” might even make believers out of carnivores, and the live kale salad is as good for you as it is garlick-y tasty. Closed Sundays.
1716 Eastern Ave., (410) 276-3741, tortilleria-sinaloa.com
As you might figure from the name, teeny Fells Point storefront Tortilleria Sinaloa specializes in fresh tortillas, but the tacos are amazing (try the al pastor if it’s on the specials menu). No credit cards.
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