If you’ve spent any time dining out in C-U, you’ve probably realized that $10 can go a pretty long way for a meal. If you’re a student, or on a strict budget, I’m certain you have your spots marked and know where you can get a bunch of food on the cheap. What sort of deliciousness can you get for five dollars? I’ve done my best to consider tax, but alas, some items are $5 plus tax, so dig through your couch cushions for change. This list does not include beverages because you can walk into any bar in C-U and find a decent beer for $5 or less. Cocktails, not so much, but we’ll save that for another article.

Have a favorite bite (or two) for under $5? Share in the comments.


Morning Bender | Cracked Truck ($5)

Sometimes I like to eat simple things. Sometimes I like to eat simple things between two slices of bread. The Morning Bender is one of the best breakfasts-on-the-go, and not only because it’s served out of a food truck. Your basic breakfast items — eggs, hash browns — are carefully and generously placed between slices of a ciabatta roll, topped with some cheese and cream cheese, and some jam, if you’re into it (I am). It’s a carb-overload with a healthy dose of protein, and it is delicious. It’s also a great meal to down if you’re hung over. Even though there are some really tasty options on the Cracked menu, I often return to the Morning Bender because sometimes you just have to go back to the basics and shove them between some bread. And did I mention that the Cracked Truck delivers?

The Cracked Truck changes location, so check out the website for more info. 

Almost anything | Sam’s Café (generally $3-$5)

By “almost anything,” I really mean French toast ($4.35).

Sam’s Café is a little grungy, but don’t dismiss it at face value. The food is good, diner-style, greasy spoon deliciousness at super affordable — dare I say cheap? — prices. The French toast is dipped in pancake batter, so it’s sort of like eating pancakes and French toast all at once (for the price of one!). For what it’s worth, the pancakes are killer, too (tall stack, $4.05). If you’re a fan of biscuits and gravy, you’ll not be disappointed ($4.20).  It’s a cash-only joint, so plan accordingly.

Sam’s Café is located at 115 N Walnut Street in downtown Champaign, and open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Stuffed croissant | Mirabelle ($3.22)

There aren’t that many places in Urbana where you can run in and grab a quick yummy lunch to go, save for the fast-casual/fast food joints at Cunningham and University. Mirabelle always has something available, and the stuffed croissant is a steal. The buttery croissant is always delicious, warm, and stuffed with some meat and cheese (ham and cheese, for instance), you’ve got a hand-held lunch that’ll definitely satisfy some hunger. No, it’s not particularly healthy, but it is under $5.

Mirabelle is located at 124 W Main Street, Urbana, and is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Chili Cheese Dog | Meatheads ($4.75)

Look, sometimes you need to eat meat atop of more meat, with plenty of cheese to wash it down. Meatheads has a chili cheese dog for less than $5, and it’s certainly enough meat for one day. The Vienna Beef dogs are served on New England style buns, which are superior to regular buns, in my humble opinion. The dogs aren’t small, so don’t scoff at the thought of a $5 hot dog. You may suffer from heartburn and indigestion later, but I’m confident that you’ll thoroughly enjoy it while you’re eating it. (Regular dogs are only $3.75.) The milkshakes are also very delicious, and at $4.25, also under $5.

Meatheads is located at 1305 S Neil Street, Champaign, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Image from Facebook. 

Doughnut(s) | Carmella’s ($.89 - $.99 each, about $5 for a half-dozen)

Carmella’s has some of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had in my life. The doughnuts are only available in standard flavors: old fashioned, sugar, chocolate cake, cinnamon twist, long john. I’m partial to all of Carmella’s yeast doughnuts (personal preference), but I’m a huge fan of the cinnamon twist, cinnamon roll, and the apple fritter. They are so, so good. It’s a crime, really. The cake doughnuts are also super delicious and moist and tender and wonderful. Carmella’s only takes cash, so bring your bills. The drive-thru feature is quite convenient, and doesn’t require you to look put together early on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Carmella’s is located at 1611 W. Springfield Ave., Champaign and open Monday through Saturday, 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The shop is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Photos by Jessica Hammie. Meatheads logo from Facebook.