When I first got to college, for about 48 hours, I was satisfied with the dining hall food. As I quickly got sick of the food, I decided I needed to get out and find some places with good food that wouldn't put too much stress on my ATM card. That's when I realized how affordable chain restaurants can be—I can assure you, it'll hard to spend $20 at these fine establishments (thanks, corporate America!). 

Texas Roadhouse

Now this place is so low key good, it's literally unreal. You feel like you're in Texas with the decorations, the country music, and the abundance of BBQ food options. Also, the rolls here are like little balls of heaven. Add some cinnamon butter and you'll never be able to eat the rolls at another restaurant again. And in addition to the cheap food, you can get $2 margaritas on Mondays!

Olive Garden

Never ending pasta bowl? Sign me up. Despite the corny TV ads, the food at Olive Garden is really good. If you're in the mood for a cheap Italian feast, this is the place to go. There are hardly any college towns that don't have one within a 15-minute drive. And who doesn't love unlimited breadsticks and house salad?


Since some diners don't have the lowest prices around, you can always count on IHOP to get some quality pancakes. Little know fact: their menu holds a lot more than just pancakes. You can get any breakfast food and even some delicious lunch and dinner options. 


I know, I know. Maybe it shouldn't be on the list, but you all crave this at one time or another while you're at college. When you can't get your hands on that fresh burger from Dad's grill, you might just have to settle for the one from McDonald's instead.

There are a variety of items on the dollar menu, which is extremely helpful if you're working with very little money. However, make sure you know what's been discontinued...because you may show up disappointed like I was when they didn't have Chicken Selects anymore.

Outback Steakhouse

This is a little on the pricier side, but come on, think about what you're getting: a steak dinner for a reasonable price. Instead of heading to the Palm or Capital Grille, head to Outback with some friends for any special occasion. Make sure to get the Bloomin' Onion when you're there—it's the best appetizer in the world for the whole table to share. 

Red Robin

It's perfect for any type of noms you have or need because they have an amazing variety of foods. And their seasoning for their french fries is to die for (you can even buy it and bring it home yourself!). 

Hopefully the next time you just can't do dining hall food, you can get off campus to one of these fine establishments. Gather up some friends, crack open the piggy bank, and head on over.