One of the main things I’ve learned from working downtown – at Broad and Walnut to be exact – over the past year-plus is that the plethora of lunch spots is both a gift and a curse. On one hand, within a few blocks in each direction there are countless food options spanning a wide variety of cuisines (and prices). On the other hand, the costs of dining out can add up quickly, particularly if you splurge on a few $13-15 lunches per week. As such, for the past 14 months I’ve slowly built up an arsenal of nearby lunch deals and cheap eats. Below are quick hits on some of my favorite sub-$10 lunches in downtown Center City.
$7 at Double Knot goes a long way for lunch, where you can mix and match a base (rice, noodles, salad, or banh mi) with a protein (pork, shrimp, tofu, chicken, meatball, steak). My personal favorite is the meatball banh mi. The fixins are fresh, and the cabbage and pickled carrots add a nice crunch to go along with the meatballs.
With the fried chicken sandwich costing $7.50, there’s room to add a donut on top and still stay under budget. Sure, it’s not the healthiest option, but there’s always coffee to go along with the donut if you need a post-lunch kick. The pickles, American cheese, and buttermilk ranch seasoning give the sandwich a unique flavor, and the fried chicken itself is well-crisped without being overcooked.
If you’re looking for a delicious kabob, look no further than Sahara Grill. My go-tos are the beef shish kabob and the kafta kabob sandwiches ($8). “Lebanese style” is well worth the extra 50 cents – not only does it add french fries to the wrap, but it also allows the finished wrap to be lightly grilled again right before it’s handed off. With a thin and slightly crispy outer wrap combined with delicious fillings and sauce to boot, this has recently become one of my regular weekly take out options.
$8.50 for any sauce, any cheese, any meat, and any toppings. And these aren’t just your standard toppings. Everything from fried egg to apple slices to fresh basil to chili oil can be included. My main go-to is straightforward yet delicious – pepperoni, house made mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and basil.
At $7 flat, it’s hard to find a better falafel sandwich for a better price in the city. The actual falafel itself has an amazing texture, and avoids the common falafel pitfall of being overly dry. The harissa sauce, which gives the sandwich a little spice, is my personal favorite. If you want to treat yourself, though, add the french fries ($3) and milkshake ($4) for a full combo.
Inconspicuously located in the lobby of the Wanamaker building, Passero’s soups singlehandedly got me through this past winter. With a soup menu that rotates daily, there’s always something new that catches the eye, and at only $6 for a large (plus a roll on the side), it’s a pretty good deal as well. My personal favorites are the Buffalo Chicken (very Buffalo-y, just a warning) and the Tomato Feta.
Nothing fancy, just solid sandwiches at a good price. There is a wide range of paninis if you’re looking for something hot off the grill, but I generally find myself gravitating toward the turkey club hoagie ($8). Great portion size and quality ingredients.
There are too many other good options to name everything here – from hearty breakfast sandwiches at Bill’s and Jean’s to Ellen’s chicken cutlet wraps in the Bellevue food court. Is it cheaper than bringing lunch from home? Probably not. But, it still goes to show that you can enjoy a few extra take out lunches in the city without breaking the bank.