Hot dog from Dr. Dawg

Best Cheap Eats in Milwaukee Under $15

Big appetite, small wallet? No problem. All the dining picks in this guide are both delicious and affordable – meaning they’re right at home in Milwaukee.

(Download a PDF map of all the Cheap Eats restaurants from our August, 2013 feature.) 

1. The Gyros Stand

A place for custard-slurping and gyro-chewing. This custard stand/Grecian joint ticks a lot of boxes for us, and we’re sure it will for you, too. Serious cheapskates might get a burger, but for a few dollars more, you’re in for some pita pleasure.
1110 E. Oklahoma Ave., 414-747-1103

2. Jimmy’s Grotto

Resembling a calzone redesigned by H.R. Giger or a kind of shellfish, the “ponza rotta” here starts ultra-cheap and rises in price with each topping added. This is technically the only place in the world to buy one of these, as Jimmy’s Grotto trademarked the name. Instead of being baked like a calzone, the ponza rotta is folded over and deep-fried. Oh yeah.
314 E. Main St., Waukesha, 262-542-1500
$4.75 and up

3. Benji’s

Enjoying a Reuben at Benji’s in Shorewood while overlooking the lake is a perfect Sunday afternoon in our book. But as our waitress noted, “Sitting at the counter is cooler.” At Benji’s L-shaped counter, it’s easy to just be – stick your nose in a newspaper and tune out the world, if you want.
4156 N. Oakland Ave., 414-332-7777

4. Dr. Dawg

For your dog-loving pleasure, the Doctor offers a 6-inch Vienna beef, Chicago-style wiener with the works ($3.89). But that’s not all. Ramp up to the next level with the footlong in a monster of a bun ($6.99). Take a photo. It’ll last longer.
6969 N. Port Washington Rd., 414-540-0400

5. Triskele’s

A tad afield of the hustle and bustle of First Street in Walker’s Point, Triskele’s is a chill place to roll into on a weeknight. And a Tuesday it should be. They mix up the sauces for their all-you-can-eat mussels. One week, you can get tomato basil or parsley-garlic butter; the next week, it’ll be poblano pepper cream or shallots and chardonnay. Sop up that gorgeous broth with slices of toasted baguette.
1801 S. Third St., 414-837-5950

6. Swingin’ Door Exchange Saloon & Eatery

The half-rack of ribs and seared ahi tuna appetizers are just a couple of the tasty, low-cost plates that satisfy at this old Downtown bar laced with history and chemistry. Also dependable: the onion strings served with Cajun ranch.
219 E. Michigan St., 414-276-8150

7. Speed Queen

You’re not going to mistake it for Arthur Bryant’s, but Speed Queen’s barbecue scratches a certain itch. The shoulder dinner begins with a layer of tender pork atop white bread and ends in a little cup of heaven, er, coleslaw. All in all, the sweetest, tangiest, spiciest sauce around.
1130 W. Walnut St., 414-265-2900

8. Martino’s

Italian beef sandwiches are a study in simplicity with supremely satisfying dividends. The recipe? Italian bread, mozzarella cheese and thin slices of succulent sirloin that were soaked in au jus. Topped with your choice of mild or hot peppers, you’ll likely be thinking about this sandwich days after it’s disappeared from your cafeteria-style tray.
1215 W. Layton Ave., 414-281-5580
$5.95 + extras

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.