Some Initial Thoughts on Cheap Eats
Seattle is a foodie town. There are some aMAZing restaurants here. Popularity of bioregional and organic ingredients (of which Cascadia has a wide variety being ocean-side, temperate, and rich in splendid farmland) and strong pan-Asian influences create a foundation for creative, flavorful and varied cuisine.
Fine dining in Seattle can be very expensive, however, with entrees ranging from $18-$35. However, if you can forgo ambiance (and sometimes waitstaff) you can find some very tasty meals for $6-15. Here are a few ideas for affordable dining downtown and in the International District
Food courts have a bad wrap, and usually it's deserved. However, in Seattle they are often a treasure-trove of affordable ethnic dining. This would include the third-floor of Westlake Center which is smack-dab in the middle of the shopping district. You can find Asian noodle dishes, Indian, Greek , sushi, & Mexican, (as well as a McDonald's, which amazingly has the longest line). Prices are mostly around $5-$7.
In the International District, the Uwajimaya Food Court is another gem. A wide range of country-specific Asian and Pacific Island eateries, from Thai to Hawaiian to Korean and more!
If you like spicy middle eastern food/Indian-type food, Cafe Zum Zum will be your Mecca. Fabulous Pakistani lunches for about $7. In the same little outdoor food court, upstairs, there is a Thai place that makes really good Thai sandwiches for about $4.
Tamarind Tree is a particular hidden favorite of mine. Tucked away in the back of an International District strip mall, your search will be gratified by luscious Vietnamese food, priced from $7 for a dinner entree. Parking is horrible, so walk, bus, or carpool if you can.
FareStart, a non-profit that provides gourmet food service training to the homeless, has two cafes that serve fabulous lunches priced from $6-$11.
Here are some links to additional recommendations from local food critics (you may see some overlap):