For foodies, Boston is a veritable playground of adventurous, delicious, and even cutting-edge cuisine. And it’s diverse: Over the years, international influences have made their mark, from downtown to Eastie, Dorchester, and beyond.
For the past five years, we’ve scoured the area for creative and tasty menu items — documenting our explorations on TikTok and Instagram. Under the name Two Taste Buddiez, we’ve dined at hundreds of local restaurants, finding dishes that taste as good as they look.
Now, if the idea of fabulous food makes you picture posh restaurants where the bill is as eye-popping as the cuisine, think again. Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t find options that are daring and unique — but you have to know where to look.
When we launched our social media pages, we were college students who wanted to find the best food within our budgets, and finding these affordable eats to share with others has always been a key part of our mission. So we know that, even in a tough economy, there are plenty of foodie adventures to be had without breaking the bank.
From ice cream to sandwiches to cocktails, we’ve compiled a list of 15 of our favorite food and drink selections, all of which cost less than $20.
1. Stuffed croissant at Cocorico
Tucked away in the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport, Cocorico Boulangerie is known for its breakfast sandwiches made on butter-toasted faluche, a type of French breakfast roll. But don’t sleep on their Instagram-worthy gourmet stuffed croissants, the flavors of which rotate weekly. Highlights include the peanut butter and jelly, raspberry pistachio, and blackberry cream varieties. These pastries — which typically sell out by 1 p.m. or earlier — are almost too pretty to eat, but once you take that first bite, you won’t be able to stop.
450 Summer Street, Boston, 617-476-6664, cocoricocafe.com
2. Shishito peppers at ilona
An upscale yet cozy lounge-style bar in the South End, ilona has an atmosphere perfect for intimate groups. The menu features shareable Mediterranean plates and the shishito peppers should absolutely be part of your spread. These put all other shishito peppers to shame. Topped with jalapeños, creamy manouri cheese, sesame seeds, and a parsley vinaigrette, they are packed with flavor. A gorgeous char makes them tender and smoky, and they melt in your mouth.
783 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-207-7742, ilonasouthend.com
3. Regular cone at Far Out Ice Cream
Walk into this New Zealand-style ice cream shop and you’ll be instantly greeted by the welcoming smell of freshly-made waffle cones. Far Out Ice Cream serves up a treat known to Kiwis as “real fruit ice cream” — soft serve made on the spot by churning ice cream with fresh fruit. It’s all customizable — you have the choice of a dairy or nondairy base as well as several fruits to blend in, including mango, blueberry, and a mix of berries they call kookaberry. The result? Perfect soft-serve swirls with a creamy yet refreshing texture.
419 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617-487-8102, farouticecream.com
4. Birria tacos at Taqueria Jalisco
Birria tacos have taken over the taco scene in recent years, and Taqueria Jalisco is no exception. This family-owned East Boston spot serves authentic Mexican cuisine from the state of Jalisco in a fast-casual atmosphere. The beef in the birria tacos is slow-cooked with chilies and spices to create the most tender and flavorful bite. Each order comes with a side of broth for dunking, adding unrivaled flavor to each mouthful.
291 Bennington Street, East Boston, 617-567-6367
5. Classic Italia Twist at Suasday Sandwich Co.
Looking for a bang for your buck in the North End? Stop by Suasday. Opened by Cambodian Americans Jessica Chiep and Menghong Hak, sandwiches here pay homage to the founders’ culinary roots — at affordable prices. Our recommendation: the Classic Italia Twist, their ode to the neighborhood. A toasted baguette is smeared with a Khmer-French-inspired pate, made from scratch, and aioli — then piled high with prosciutto, mortadella, black forest ham, and provolone. Reminiscent of a Vietnamese bánh mì, the cucumber, as well as pickled carrots, daikon, and green papaya, add freshness and crunch to every bite.
227 Hanover Street, Boston, 857-829-1299, suasday.com
6. Salty Pig board at The Salty Pig
For a great deal, try the charcuterie board off the lunch menu at the Salty Pig in the Back Bay. It comes piled with a selection of house-made meats and carefully selected cheeses. The board includes prosciutto cotto, pork rillette, manchego, a smoked shallot marmalade, and house-made pickles and mustard. Pair these with slices of their crusty bread for the perfect salty, savory, and sweet bite.
130 Dartmouth Street, Boston, 617-536-6200, thesaltypig.com
7. Buffalo chicken stuffed pretzel at Harvard Gardens
This Beacon Hill pub is a perfect spot to chill with friends after work. Grab a round of drinks and a Buffalo chicken stuffed pretzel to share. Served warm and golden brown, it glistens with a buttery sheen and is topped with flaky salt. Rip open the soft pretzel for an epic cheese-pull that reveals the Buffalo chicken goodness within. This appetizer, which comes with a side of blue cheese, can be shared between two to six people, but we can’t promise that you won’t want to order seconds.
316 Cambridge Street, Boston, 617-523-2727, harvardgardens.com
8. Duan’s Whip at Blossom Bar
James Beard-nominated mixologist Ran Duan runs this creative Brookline cocktail bar that also serves up Sichuan-style food. While the drink menu is stacked, Duan’s Whip is our go-to because, as fabulous as it looks, it tastes even better. Made of rum, orange vermouth, lime, a cherry-like fruit called acerola, and Dole Whip — the soft-serve pineapple dessert — the drink is essentially a boozy frozen-fruit smoothie ideal for sipping on a hot day.
295 Washington Street, Brookline, 617-734-1870, blossombarbrookline.com
9. Bánh mì đặc biệt at Ba Le
Dorchester is the place to be for some of the most delicious Vietnamese food in the area, and Ba Le is one of the absolute can’t-miss spots in the neighborhood. Half restaurant and half market, it has, for our money, the best combination-pork bánh mì sandwich in the city. Starting with house-made bread, it comes stuffed with pickled vegetables, charred beef and pork, pate, Vietnamese ham, cilantro, and homemade mayo, which adds a sweet kick. There are 11 different variations of the bánh mì here, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.
1052 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, 617-265-7171, balebanhmiboston.com
10. Nutella latte at Café Sauvage
Café Sauvage’s name translates to “wild,” which is apt for this Parisian-style cafe filled with plants, green-suede booths, and leafy wallpaper. The perfect complement to any of its fresh pastries or tasty brunch dishes is the Nutella latte. Take a second to admire the artful drizzle of Nutella lining the glass before stirring to combine the hazelnut, milk, and espresso. The sweetness of the Nutella, bitterness of the freshly-pulled espresso shots, and creamy milk come together for a comforting, deeply satisfying sip. Served iced or hot, it is a go-to no matter the season.
25 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, 857-277-0075, cafesauvage.com
11. Spanakopita grilled cheese at Committee
Committee has been one of our go-to restaurants in the Seaport for years, and with creative cocktails and a stacked brunch menu, who’s to blame us for coming back time and time again? It serves up Greek-inspired small plates, and the brunch menu is one of our favorites with staples such as shakshuka, Greek yogurt pancakes, and more. The spanakopita grilled cheese is an absolute can’t-miss, with a melty feta, kasseri, and spinach filling, toasted sourdough, and a side of creamy tomato soup that’s tailor-made for dunking.
50 Northern Avenue, Boston, 617-737-5051, committeeboston.com
12. Vegan shakshuka at Cafe Landwer
Cafe Landwer, the Israeli restaurant chain, has become a Boston staple with three locations across the city. Our favorite time to stop by is brunch, when you can try several versions of shakshuka — including a vegan one with Impossible meatballs. The ultra-flavorful meatballs are a perfect match for the spiced tomato sauce and soft pita bread. Make sure to scoop up every last drop. Cafe Landwer is friendly to those with dietary restrictions, offering vegan and vegetarian options across the menu.
Multiple locations, landwercafe.com
13. Roast beef scallion pancake roll at Taiwan Cafe
Taiwan Cafe in Chinatown is a casual eat-in spot, serving an extensive menu of classic Taiwanese dishes and a selection of Sichuan options as well. The star of the show for us is the roast beef scallion pancake roll, which is impeccably flaky and includes roast beef rolled between the layers. Accompanied by hoisin sauce on the side, it can be shared as an appetizer with friends or eaten alone as an entrée.
34 Oxford Street, Boston, 617-426-8181, ordertaiwancafe.com
14. Grilled breakfast sandwich at Mike & Patty’s
Mike and Patty’s has been a force on the Boston food scene since 2008, serving up our pick for the best breakfast sandwiches in the city. This particular sandwich is essentially a deluxe grilled cheese with bacon, egg, and a generous amount of melty cheddar, Swiss, and gruyere on buttered sourdough. (The menu calls it the “Grilled Crack,” but we wish they’d come up with a better name.) Their locations are no-frills spots with counter service, making it easy to stop by for a quick bite on your way to work.
Multiple locations, mikeandpattys.com
15. Karai shoyu at Ganko Ittetsu Ramen
Whenever we’re craving comfort food, Ganko Ittetsu is where we turn. Claiming to be the first restaurant to bring Sapporo-style ramen — which is prepared in a wok — to New England, this spot also adds its own modern spin. We always get the karai shoyu ramen, which features a masterful balance of shoyu kaeshi — a Japanese noodle sauce base — spices, and soup stock, and comes with a beautifully cooked egg on top. Delicious to the last drop, it’s a must-try.
318 Harvard Street #3, Brookline, 617-730-8100; 215 Thayer Street, Providence, 401-808-6383; gankoramen.com