The Best Places To Eat In Boston On A College Budget

Boston is a city of students. Students from Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Tufts University, Berklee College of Music, and many other schools stream into the city starting September 1 every year. Sure, they may be ready to learn, meet new friends, and spend a career's worth of money on a degree, but they're also ready to eat — all that studying takes its toll, after all.

The only problem? Boston is also an exceptionally expensive city (via CNBC). Tuition costs are high, of course, but so is rent and pretty much everything else, including food. That doesn't mean college students have to relegate themselves to the sad reality of constant dining hall use. Boston boasts a wide array of less-expensive eats that are more suited to a college student budget than are Back Bay and Beacon Hill's more high-end offerings.

All across the city, students can find top-notch food that won't require them to sell their blood plasma just to pick up the tab. From classic Italian spots to Caribbean food to experimental healthy fast food restaurants, Boston delivers on the cheaper eats. Let's take a look at some of the best in town.


Boston University students looking for a late-night snack know that Ajeen is the place to go for fantastic Middle Eastern food. The casual spot located in the heart of Allston serves up a wide variety of flatbreads, ranging from the slim za'atar (for those who just want a light bite) to the heartier lahm ajeen (a thick layer of beef and lamb on flatbread with savory tomatoes and onions). You can easily get away with a full meal for less than $10, and you're guaranteed to walk away full and satisfied. If the weather's nice, eat on the restaurant's outdoor patio, or just grab takeout on your way home.

The best part? While much of Boston closes exceptionally early, you won't have that problem at Ajeen. Most nights, the shop closes at 1 a.m., but on Fridays and Saturdays, it's open until 3 a.m. Whether you've been studying or out "studying," it's a solid spot any time of the day or night.

Kaju Tofu House

Another top-notch restaurant for college students on a budget located in the Allston area is Kaju Tofu House. This spot specializes in sundubu-jjigae and other Korean classics. The silken tofu soup is really the way to go, though, especially when you're trying to survive Boston's notoriously freezing cold winters. The soups are hearty and super-customizable, which means you can take your whole crew — even the pickiest eaters among you.

Yes, there are cheaper restaurants in the city, but when you want to go to a sit-down restaurant that's still casual (and serves some of the best Korean food in the city), it's a fantastic option. If you go around dinnertime, it can be kind of busy. Plan ahead, go later in the evening or earlier in the day if you want to avoid the rush. Even if you have to wait for a table, that spicy tofu soup is well worth the few extra minutes you'll be waiting.

J.P. Licks

The original J.P. Licks was in Jamaica Plain (hence the J.P.), but you can now find the ice cream chain all over Massachusetts. When you have a sweet tooth and need to take a break from studying, there's nothing like grabbing your roommate and getting a cup or cone from this iconic spot. They offer a wide variety of flavors, some of which are seasonal, and we love the fact that so many of them are vegan and dairy-free. Even if you eat dairy, the sorbets are perfect for those hot summer days when your lack of air conditioning gets in the way of studying for your finals.

J.P. Licks isn't only for dessert, though. Head there in the a.m. to try a savory croissant or a MorningStar sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich, or grab a sweet pastry and a cup of coffee before you head to class. Since there are multiple locations throughout the city, you'll never be far from the sugar rush you need to get through your next class.

Singh's Roti Shop

When you're looking for Caribbean and Indian food that will make you forget about the blustery, snowy weather Boston is famous for, make your way to Singh's Roti Shop in Dorchester. It's where you can fill up on some of the most flavorful and heartiest dishes in town without breaking the bank. The chicken roti dinner is a classic, but if you don't mind paying just a bit more and want to experience something really special, order the goat roti dinner.

And with so many sides to choose from, you can easily grab a snack or get something a little extra if you're feeling super hungry. From the beef patties to the veggie samosas, you can't go wrong with anything you order. The spicy fries and sweet plantains are solid options when you just want something small to snack on. It's also worth it to swing for the polourie when you want something to fill you up.

Super 88 Food Court

For college students (and really anyone else) who live in Allston, the Super 88 Food Court is the place to be when you want a cheap meal that's still satisfying. This food court is located inside a supermarket, so if you want to do some shopping after you've satisfied your initial hunger pangs, you're in the right place. At this gem of a neighborhood spot, you'll find several vendors selling Chinese, Korean, Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese food, plus a ton of other options. The best part? Most of what you'll find there is pretty affordable.

The food court has a few tables where guests can sit down and enjoy their meal, but many diners opt for takeout instead. Whether you decide to eat on-site or are just looking for something to grab before you head home from class, the Super 88 Food Court may just become one of your new favorite places in Boston. And hey, when you finally get sick of making instant ramen in your dorm room, promise us you'll check out the grocery store too.

South Street Diner

If you're doing it right, college comes with a lot of late nights — late nights studying, of course, but also late nights on the town with your friends and classmates. Unfortunately, Boston is not a city that's known for its late-night dining options. That's why South Street Diner is such a gem: It's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The restaurant was built in 1947 and originally fed factory workers living in the area. Boston is a different place now, and many of the people who frequent South Street Diner these days are students. 

The fare you'll find at this iconic joint is pretty standard diner food, including a long breakfast menu as well as burgers, sandwiches, and wraps. They serve alcohol as well if you're over 21. Otherwise, take advantage of the frappes or root beer floats. When it's the middle of the night and you're looking for eggs Benedict, there's no better spot than South Street Diner.

Twin Donuts

One thing that all newcomers to Massachusetts should know is that Dunkin' calls the state home. There is seemingly a Dunkin' on every corner. But let's be honest: Who actually orders donuts from Dunkin' anymore? If you're looking for some truly fantastic donuts in Allston, head to Twin Donuts. The first thing you'll notice about this place is the sign: It's truly an iconic part of Allston's skyline.

Twin Donuts is where you go for coffee, breakfast, and yes, of course, donuts, first thing in the morning. If you're lucky enough to pass it on your commute to school, you may just make it part of your routine — the smell of the fresh bagels is so strong, all you have to do is walk past the front door to take a whiff. It's certainly not fancy, but it has a retro diner vibe that makes it feel fun. And since pretty much everything on the menu is reasonably priced, you can make visiting Twin Donuts a habit without blowing all your tuition money.

Bánh Mì Ba Le

Blessedly, there is no shortage of amazing Vietnamese food in Boston. But if you're looking for some of the best bánh mi in town and you don't have a ton of money to spend, you just have to head to Bánh Mì Ba Le in Dorchester. This place boasts truly legendary sandwiches, and luckily, they're well within the price range of many college students. 

In August 2022, the bánh mi options were all under $7. And keep in mind, they're definitely not skimping on the ingredients here; one of these sandwiches, and you're full. The care and attention that goes into the sandwiches are immense — even the bread is freshly baked in the store — so you know you're getting quality stuff.

Don't sleep on the other menu items, either. From the xôi (sticky rice) to the papaya salad, pretty much everything on this menu is a treat.

Clover Food Lab

If you're a college student and don't have a ton of cash to spend on food, but you're still trying to eat healthy while maintaining a busy, stressful schedule, then Clover Food Lab will be one of your new favorite restaurants. It's a venture by an MIT/Harvard grad who wanted to make healthy food as accessible as the stuff from McDonald's. The difference? You're getting high-quality food that's in season from Clover.

The menu is vegetarian, with a ton of vegan options for those who don't partake in animal products at all. It also changes on a regular basis, so you may not always find your old favorites there, but there are always new options to try. Standard offerings include sandwiches featuring ingredients like mushrooms and seitan and salads utilizing fresh, crunchy veggies. The platters are always a good option if you want to try a variety of different foods. If they have the chickpea fritters when you visit, you have to give them a try.

Dumpling House

You'll to find some jaw-dropping (and affordable!) menu items at Dumpling House, a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge. While the outside of the building may not look remarkable, order pretty much anything on the menu, and you're bound to be blown away. You can binge on 10 dumplings without spending much over $10, so you don't have to worry about how to get your dumpling fix. While some of the items on the menu are on the more expensive side, you can always save those for a special occasion and opt for the more affordable bites when you visit.

Of course, you have to try the dumplings here, but you shouldn't stop there. The sautéed rice cakes at this place are out of this world, and if you're sharing with a friend, make sure to try the sliced Szechuan fish. Give it a try, and thank us later.

Bova's Bakery

Another inexpensive late-night spot that's absolutely a must-try is Bova's Bakery in Boston's North End. This neighborhood can seem quiet at night but turn the corner to Bova's, and you'll see people crowding the small dessert shop. The sheer number of options at this place is slightly dizzying — your best bet is to go with a group of friends so everyone can try a little taste of whatever you choose. The cheesecakes are out of this world, but as you're in the North End (known as Boston's Italian neighborhood), you definitely need to snag a cannoli.

Why, exactly, should you go there at night? Bova's is open 24 hours a day, so whenever you need a late-night sweet fix, this is the place to go. Of course, you can also indulge in their treats any time of the day, but there's something magical about heading there at night. Just make sure the T is still running, or you may be in for an expensive Uber ride back to campus.

Armando's Pizza and Subs

Sometimes, you're in the mood for pizza, but the idea of shelling out enough money to buy a whole pie is unfathomable. That's when you need to make your way to Armando's Pizza and Subs. It is blessedly inexpensive, so you can fill up on pizza without completely emptying your wallet. On Armando's menu, a regular cheese slice comes in at just over $2, while a Sicilian slice is under $4, and the cost is minimal if you want to add toppings to your pizza. Of course, if you're really trying to save money, the cheese slice is excellent on its own.

The pizza at this popular Cambridge spot is reliable, so you know you're always going to get something good. It's open until 11 p.m., so you have plenty of time to snag a late-night pie. The hot subs, salads, and pasta dishes are also relatively affordable if you're looking for a bit of variety.

Anna's Taqueria

For tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and other Mexican-fusion favorites, make your way to an Anna's Taqueria. There are six locations throughout the city, so you are never far away from a fast and fantastic burrito. You can get a bean and rice burrito for less than $8, and don't assume it's boring — even the most basic version of this burrito is spiced to perfection. Tortillas, salad bowls, and Mexican bowls are all also under $10 (as of August 2022), making this spot a dream come true for any college student on a budget.

At Anna's, they can also cater your order to dietary requirements. Whether your diet is dairy-free or you want to avoid meat, they have you covered. Anna's locations are usually nice as well. If you want to eat there, you'll feel right at home, but it's also a solid spot for an easy takeout meal.

Kupel's Bakery

It's Sunday morning, you stayed out too late with your friends last night, and now you have to spend the whole day cramming for your upcoming test. Where do you head first? Forget about your local Starbucks and make your way to Kupel's Bakery for some of the best bagel sandwiches Boston has to offer. The sandwiches — and there are a lot of them — are all named after Boston neighborhoods, from the Coolidge Corner outfitted with chive cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomato, onion, and salt, to the Sullivan Square, which features plain cream cheese, peanut butter, and jelly. Try a new one every time you go to experience all that Kupel's has to offer.

The coffee and pastries here are also solid, but a word to the wise: If you're going on the weekend, expect to wait in line before you place your order. This place is popular, but it's well worth the wait.

Tasty Burger

Other cities may have Burger Kings and McDonald's, but only the Boston area has Tasty Burger. Tasty Burger is known for its tiny, intensely salty burgers that, as of August 2022, could be purchased for $8 or less. Keep in mind that you may need two of them to fill up, but if you're looking for a quick snack, it's hard to beat. Of course, if you want to switch it up, you'll find a variety of other sandwiches that aren't much more expensive than the standard hamburger. Enjoy the buffalo or crispy chicken sandwiches if you don't want beef, or opt for the veggie burger if you forgo meat altogether. The hot dog isn't bad either.

You know this is a fantastic spot for college students because there is literally a special on the menu called the "Starvin' Student." It comes with a hamburger or cheeseburger, fries, and a tall boy. (For all you new college students, that's a beer.)