Restaurants with the Best Value in Salt Lake City

Budget Eating in Salt Lake City Synonymous with Fresh and Tasty Food

Great news for those on a budget: you don’t need to spend a lot of money to eat like royalty in Salt Lake City. In fact, some of the city’s best and most popular restaurants serve their food for as little as $10 a plate. Delicious, authentic flavors of many cuisines await those with hardly more than pocket change to spend on a meal.

One of the most to-die-for eateries in all of Salt Lake City is Red Iguana. Owned and operated by Mexican-born geniuses, this restaurant serves nationally-famous moles slow-cooked according to secret family recipes. However, if you feel like grabbing a speedier bite hailing from the same country, swing by Barbacoa Mexican Grill for an enormous, build-your-own fresh-Mex burrito. Pack it with vegetables, grilled meat and tasty salsa, and you’ll be able to get two meals out of it.

Another of the most in-demand restaurants in all of Salt Lake City is the Himalayan Kitchen. Visit during the evening for a totally affordable and delicious dinner, or during lunch for their legendary, all-you-can-eat buffet–a remarkable deal, and a great way to sample the cuisines of the Himalayan Mountains.

Chanon Thai is yet another of the city’s most coveted restaurants. A tiny hole-in-the-wall just north of Liberty Park, Chanon Thai is filled with fresh aromas of herbs and is usually packed with customers. This eatery, which serves some of the best and most flavorful Thai food in all of Salt Lake, is an excellent candidate for takeaway. 


Soup Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Perhaps the most classic lunch meal of all time is the "soup and sandwich" partnership. And while many restaurants offer one or two choices in this category, the Soup Kitchen offers eight soups on any given day, as well as 15 deli sandwiches, combinations thereof, and weekly specials. Additionally, the restaurant's grill produces a variety of hot sandwiches, burgers, fries, deserts, and drinks. Given its central Sugarhouse location, this restaurant is both a popular choice among the business persons and the shoppers of that area. Whether you want to dine on the premises, or order a quart of soup to take back to your coworkers in the office, you'll find what you're looking for here � vegetarian or not.

Local Expert tip: Catering is available for large groups; call to inquire.

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Located on 700 East and 2100 South, and quite near I-80 and I-15, Sampan is easily accessible from any location within the Salt Lake Valley. As such, it has become the area's go-to restaurant for fast and affordable Chinese food. And when you're talking about quantity and speed, this restaurant can't be beat. Offering innumerable dishes and combinations thereof, Sampan will fill your belly with appetizers, soups, and an entree for as little as $10. Whether you enjoy your meal in the restaurant, or at home as take-out, you'll find your meal filled with delicious sauces, and generous amounts of vegetables and meats. Keep it healthy, and order your meal without MSG; this option exists for all of Sampan's dishes.

Local Expert tip: Sampan has an excellent online ordering system; if you find yourself needing extra time to sort through the options, consider using it.

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Tony Caputo's Market & Deli
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Tony Caputo's offers deli-style Italian cuisine in a prime downtown location. Creating incredible sandwiches made-to-order, and sitting in the center of Salt Lake's business and conference district, this restaurant is likely the most popular of all Salt Lake's lunch eateries. Tony Caputo's sells sandwiches, soups, pasta dishes, and salads. The main draw, the sandwich, is created with homemade bread, gourmet and imported meats and cheeses, delicious sauces, and fresh vegetables. The soups, pasta dishes, salads, and various daily specials can be taken in combination with sandwiches as a side dish, or as a self-standing meal. If you enjoyed your lunch, pick up any of their food products - like olives, honey, coffee, and meats - to take home with you.

Local Expert tip: Tony Caputo's offers many classes throughout the year on various subjects like Italian cooking and fine cheese tasting.

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South Salt Lake City
Curry in a Hurry
Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC

Situated on State Street and immediately north of I-80, Curry in a Hurry provides tasty, filling curries designed for quick takeaway. Offering a handful of meat and vegetarian dishes daily, Curry in a Hurry allows you to pick and choose as you desire. Take a combination plate or a single curry. Both options come with a side of naan and rice. Curry in a Hurry is primarily a takeaway establishment; however there is a very small dining area for those who wish to eat on the spot. The restaurant serves no alcohol; however, a number of soft drinks and juices are available. Though this won't be the most richly flavored curry you've ever tasted in your life, it is nevertheless a satisfying, savory, affordable, and incredibly speedy way to enjoy lunch or dinner.

Local Expert tip: It is a very little known fact that Curry in a Hurry offers cooking classes; for more information, call the restaurant.

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Siegfried's Delicatessen
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Lunch provides the perfect opportunity to sample new cuisines. A relatively fast and small meal, it gives you the chance to try something different without committing to an expensive, multi-course dinner in a totally unfamiliar flavor spectrum. And while Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Mexican foods have become immensely popular in the Utah and across the nation, it's not often that you'll find a German restaurant in Salt Lake City. Siegfried's has been open since the 1970s, providing high-quality, artisan German foods in a downtown location. Located quite near the Captiol Theater, this restaurant gives you the opportunity to enjoy a sit-down meal, sip on a coffee, or grab a bite to go. Beyond bratwurst, this offers all kinds of traditional German entrees, sandwiches, sausages, and desserts. Whether German food is new or totally familiar to you, this top-notch, local favorite will allow you to enjoy this underrepresented cuisine.

Local Expert tip: Siegfried's has over 70 varieties of meats, as well as cheesecake, strudel, and other German classics.

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Barbacoa Mexican Grill
Photo courtesy of Symic

Located in Salt Lake's fun and hip 9th & 9th neighborhood, Barbacoa serves a fast and nutritious version of Mexican food. Rather than sit-down service and cheese-smothered burritos, this Mexican grill offers fresh wraps, made-to-order at the counter. Customers have their choice among meats like Barbacoa pork, grilled steak, and chicken. They can then select their type of beans, sauces, and vegetables. If you're not in the mood for a wrap, order a salad instead or possibly a burrito bowl, taco, or soup. All meals at Barbacoa are made with fresh, high-quality ingredients � and are of rather large proportions. Come hungry, or plan to save half of your burrito.

Local Expert tip: Excepting the wheat and flour tortillas, all foods (including the cookies) are gluten-free at Barbacoa.

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Lunch is all about flexibility. Business persons require fast service. Solo travelers might enjoy catching a basketball game at the bar, and eating a plate of nachos. Old friends might want to relax for a few hours over a beer. And those on a casual first date would appreciate quiet conversation and easy-to-eat food. Red Rock Brewing Company offers any and all of that. Whether you're looking for a long, relaxed, multi-course meal, a drink at the bar, or a 20-minute sandwich, you'll find what your looking for. Red Rock Brewing Company has a lengthy and varied menu, as well as a bright and open dining room, subtly divided into multiple sections.

Local Expert tip: Open since 1994, Red Rock Brewery has won numerous local, state, and national awards, including "Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year" in the Great American Beer Festival.

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Chanon Thai Cafe
Photo courtesy of Jennfer Boren

If you're a fan of Thai food, you're in luck whilst visiting Salt Lake City. Chanon Thai may seem like just another hole-in-the-wall Asian restaurant; however, within the small confines of this tiny establishment, you'll experience some of the best Thai cuisine in the entire state of Utah. From the moment you walk through the door (and possibly even earlier), distinctive aromas of fresh ingredients and individual spices will foreshadow the delicate and flavorful dishes awaiting inside. Though the entrees may carry the same name as in other Thai restaurants, the excellent sauces and abundance of vegetables and meats in these dishes will outdo any competitor's offerings.

Local Expert tip: If you're in a rush, consider trying take-out; service at Chanon Thai is rather relaxed.

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Himalayan Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Given the immense popularity and customer loyalty of the Himalayan Kitchen, it is astounding that the restaurant has only been in business since 2005. Located in central downtown, the Himalayan Kitchen serves savory, traditional Nepali and Indian cuisine made from scratch daily. Though dinners here always draw a crowd, this restaurant is one of Salt Lake's best lunch locations. Serving an incredible buffet 11:30-2:30 Monday-Saturday, the Himalayan Kitchen provides you the chance to sample a generous selection of dishes for one low price. For those working downtown, this couldn't be more convenient. This restaurant has won countless awards in local and state competitions, as well as national recognition from The New York Times.

Local Expert tip: Vegetarians will find more than enough options here.

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Red Iguana
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

The Red Iguana has been in operation since 1985. One of Salt Lake City's most popular restaurants, The Red Iguana draws queues of waiting customers - stretching as much as half a city block from their door - during peak dinner times. Given the restaurant's authentic cuisine, imported straight from Mexico, the wait is definitely worth it. However, if you eat at the Red Iguana during lunch time, you can enjoy the same incredible food, and often avoid the queue entirely. The Red Iguana is most famous for its seven unique Oaxacan moles, prepared from scratch. In addition to these, the kitchen cooks up excellent renditions of classic dishes like burritos, tacos, steaks, enmoladas, and carnitas. Whether you order a beef burrito or the Red Pipian Mole, your meal will shatter your expectations.

Local Expert tip: If eating at the Red Iguana, do yourself a favor and try their specialty dishes; you'd be hard-pressed to find these anywhere else.

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Meet Christine Balaz

Christine Balaz began her unexpected writing career in Salt Lake City with her first book on Wasatch Skiing and Travel in 2006. On the subject of Utah, Christine has written numerous...  More About Christine