By Gray Chapman


After the heady spending frenzy of the holidays, the dismal month of January is rearing its ugly head, once again. Bank accounts have taken a dip, and considering the state of the economy, very few people (particularly us thrifty college students) will be heading out for steak and lobster anytime soon. So, why not spend this dreary month scoping out the cheapest eats in town? A little dive appropriately named Eats should be the first stop on your penny-pinching scavenger hunt.

Perched on the main drag of Ponce, Eats is a low-key hangout with a simple menu that packs a punch. The nondescript grey brick building (characterized by a big painted “Eats” sign on the side of the building) hides a warm interior full of old-school red wooden booths and “non-décor décor,” as they like to call it. Eating at Eats is a fairly simple procedure: just walk up to the register, pick from the five or six items on the menu, shed a couple bucks and get your red plastic cafeteria-style tray full of food.

“More bang for the buck” is the best descriptor for the fare at Eats — big portions of warm, filling comfort food that will make hardly a dent in your wallet. Although Eats is known for its jerk chicken, the turkey lasagna plate is my personal favorite at the place. Come up with $6.50 and you get a side salad, a giant, warm chunk of buttery garlic bread and the biggest — no exaggeration — most massive piece of lasagna you’ll ever attempt to eat. Seriously, the thing measures nearly half a square foot. And with the motherload of cheese, turkey and marinara, the dish tastes just as big as it looks. Good luck finishing it, though (Eats always has to-go boxes at the ready). As an ever-hungry, spendthrifty college student, this is probably the best bargain I’ve found in the ATL.

This Italian dish is about as fancy as it gets at Eats. Pasta lovers have a “build your own” option, and the more meat-and-potatoes types can choose the Meat and Two plate for a whopping $6.90. Pick your meat (their famous jerk chicken, lemon pepper chicken, chicken chili or turkey meatloaf) and your two veggies. Options range from just-like-home corn on the cob to good ol’ mac and cheese (yes, only in the south does mac-n-cheese count as a vegetable). If you can muster the strength, top it all off with a homemade brownie for an extra buck fifty.

Although Eats has been around for a while — more than 15 years, to be exact — the place has a worn-in comfort that makes it feel like it’s been there forever. And the bargain-filled menu is particularly relevant nowadays, when people are turning away from overpriced mini portions at one-word-named, trendy restaurants in favor of some good, old-fashioned comfort food. Going out to eat is hard when you’re trying to save money, but every now and then, there’s nothing like a big, heaping plate of lasagna or meatloaf to sooth your worries. And Eats makes it easy to enjoy yourself without splurging. So, say goodbye to the overindulgence of yesteryear. Just because the economy stinks doesn’t mean your food has to.