Springfield Cheap and Free Guide

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The College Student's Guide to Cheap & Free Stuff in Springfield, MO.

Here you are in Springfield, home of Missouri State University! Go Bears! While you will be spending much of your time in class or working diligently on your homework, you have got to hang out with your friends or just get away on your own sometimes. But what can a “poor college student” do? You are hoping to spend little or no money. Fear not! We have been around Springfield for many years and our students are experts at finding cheap fun and inexpensive food. Here are some suggestions:

Thank you to Christian Campus House for putting together this valuable student resource!  Christian Campus House Logo


Alli’s Family Restaurant
4525 West Chestnut
Are you hungry? REALLY hungry? How about a five-pound breakfast burrito? OK, they changed the name of it because someone complained that it wasn’t really 5 pounds, but it ishuge. A half-dozen eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, peppers, and chili all under a huge tortilla and topped with sour cream and salsa. Less than $7. All their other meals are equally super-sized at Alli’s Family Restaurant. North on National Avenue to Chestnut Expressway, then left (west) for about 5 miles until you are almost out to I-44.

Big Momma’s House
217 East Commercial Street
How about a peanut butter and granola burrito for breakfast? A multi-grain scone? Vegetarian quiche? Big Momma’s has tasty, filling, and inexpensive breakfast foods and good coffee, too.

The Cedars Restaurant
3322 South Campbell Avenue
This is a great family-style cafe where you can buy a breakfast featuring the meat of the day, 2 eggs, biscuits and gravy and hash browns for $4-5. For lunch, they have chicken-fried steak and other daily specials for under $5. Good stuff real cheap. From MSU head west on Grand Street then go south on Campbell Avenue past Battlefield Road. The Cedars is across from the Wal-Mart Super Center just north of Walnut Lawn Street.

220 East Walnut Street
This is not the cheapest place to have breakfast but it is so good you will be glad that you went. You can get a great breakfast for around $6.

1935 S Campbell Ave
This restaurant is more than $4, but it is the best breakfast buffet in town. Hemingways is the restaurant in Bass Pro Shop’s Outdoor World. Pancakes, biscuits and gravy, various meats including catfish, fruits, apple dumplings, eggs, potatoes--you name it-for about $6.

Steak and Shake
Maybe you never thought of them for breakfast, but they have some great breakfast specials. Check ‘em out. The closest one to the MSU campus is north on National Avenue to St. Louis Street. But, there is another one a bit further off that is well worth the drive. Take Grand Street east to Glenstone Avenue, then turn right (south) for several blocks and you will see it on your left.

You know about “five dollar footlong” and that guy named Jared, but did you know that Subway serves breakfast? Here’s the crazy thing--you can get the same meat that goes on a 6" Philly steak sub at lunch (which sells for over $5) on a steak and egg breakfast sub for just over $3! Pretty tasty. Closest one to campus is on Harrison Street and Kimbrough Avenue.

Ziggie’s always has bacon and eggs specials for $2.99 until 9am each day.

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Little Tokyo
1635 North Glenstone Avenue
Japanese is never really cheap, but this place has the cheapest in town. You can get chicken, noodles, rice, salad, and veggies for $8. That is half of many of the other Japanese places in Springfield.

Price Cutter
Price Cutter seems a little out of place in the Japanese section, being that it is a grocery store, but it does have great cheap sushi. It can be ordered at the deli counter and it is really good!

Canton Inn
205 West Sunshine Street
What appears to be another hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant is actually the home of the best cashew chicken in Springfield. The combo meal is $4.50 and you get your choice of cashew chicken or sweet and sour chicken.

1128 South Glenstone Avenue
Really close to the MSU campus, Chopsticks’ food tastes good and several entrees costs less tan $5.

Lucy’s Chinese
3330 South Campbell Avenue
Cashew or sweet and sour chicken for $3.75. This comes with three crab rangoons. Don’t bother getting all white meat--they charge an extra dollar.

The Great Wall
3130 South Glenstone Avenue
Create your own Chinese combination and they will cook it before your very eyes. Want a steak? They’ll grill that for you, too. $6.50 at lunchtime. They also offer a typical Chinese buffet, complete with a great dessert bar.

Dragon Inn
625 South Kimbrough Avenue
Dragon Inn is within walking distance from any residence hall. You can get either cashew chicken or sweet and sour chicken with rice, eggroll, and 2 wontons for only $3.85. Take Bear Boulevard or Harrison Street west to Kimbrough Avenue. Turn right on Kimbrough Avenue, and you will see it on your left.

New China
2725 N Kansas Expressway
Lunch is $4.35, which includes an entree, pork fried rice, fortune cookie, and soup or soda. (It might seem a little strange but the soda is in a can, not from a fountain.)

2811 S. Campbell
Oh, come on and get adventurous! Thai food can range from mild to wild and the lunches at Nipa come with a good salad bar. OK, this one is borderline not-so-cheap at around $6 for lunch, but your tongue will thank you for giving it a try. Every Wednesday they do a “lunch all day” special.

Thai Express
948 South Glenstone Avenue
You can get some spicy Thai food pretty close to campus for not too much money. You can even stroll east of MSU on Grand to Glenstone, and you’ll see Thai Express on the northeast corner. Lunches around $6.

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Potter’s House
724 South National Avenue
The Potter’s House on National Avenue at Bear Boulevard, right across the street from campus is a great place to get reasonably-priced coffee and other drinks.

Dancing Mule
1945 South Glenstone Avenue
The Dancing Mule Coffee House offers high-quality, fair-trade coffee, and sometimes on weekends, they offer live music.

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Mexican food

1779 South Glenstone Avenue
Busy at lunch time because of their lunch specials for $5 or less. Good chips; good food.

2118 South Campbell Avenue
Amigos offers good Tex-Mex and really low prices. Have $5 fajitas at lunch, plus other lunch specials for even less.

Cielito Lindo
730 N Glenstone Avenue
Lunch fajitas for about $6! Other daily specials under $5. Cheap, fast and very plentiful food. North from MSU on National then right on Chestnut to Glenstone, then left, and you’ll see Cielito Lindo on your right by Krispy Kreme.

Taco Wagon
This is really a wagon in a parking lot. They serve authentic Mexican tacos and tamales. Take Grand west to Kansas Expressway, then left (south) on Kansas Expressway to Sunshine where you turn right (west). It is just past the intersection of West-by Pass and Sunshine.

Tamale King
1342 West Sunshine Street
Great, authentic Mexican food, including--surprise--tamales! They also have the best Cubano sandwiches in town. You can also pick up some imported groceries and music there.

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24-hour Options

Sometimes you just need someplace to go hang out late. Here is a list of some of the 24-hour joints for all-nighters:

  • Ziggie’s
  • George’s
  • Waffle House


400 East Walnut Street
It was a great year...and now is a video arcade featuring all your favorite 80's games at the corner of Jefferson and Walnut. Here’s the concept: open Wednesday-Saturday from 4-11PM, $5 for playing all the games in the joint until you can’t stand up! www.1984arcade.com

The first Friday of each month, you can visit a variety of art galleries around Springfield for free. Some even provide free snacks. Go to any of the art galleries downtown for a directory of all places participating and follow the map. www.springfieldarts.org

Baker Observatory
MSU’s observatory is way out in the middle of nowhere, and usually is only used by astronomy students. But each year in September or October and again in April or May, they hold an open house and set up several telescopes to provide some breath-taking views of the planets and stars. Check with the department of Physics and Astronomy for this year’s dates. It’s free!

Barnes and Noble
3055 South Glenstone
In addition to being one of the few non-bar places open until 11 for hanging out, they also have artists and/or bands play many weekend nights. Good coffee, too.

Big Rock Climbing Gym
916 N. Cedarbrook Ave
Not all that cheap, but gets you ready for the real thing. You can buy memberships and blocks of tickets. For more info, coupons, and direction, go to bigrockclimbinggym.com

Christian Campus House
In addition to our large worship and sharing times on Tuesdays at 8:01 PM in the Plaster Student Union Ballroom and small groups throughout the week in various places, CCH offers chances to make a difference in the lives of the elderly, at-risk students, international students, and the homeless on a weekly basis, and also offers free (or cheap) activities almost every weekend. See www.christiancampushouse.org for up-to-date info.

Also, CCH has a house at 622 Bear Boulevard, which is set up for you to study or hang out. Wi-Fi, quiet, a COKE machine and gourmet coffee for $1. Check it out! We call it “The Ground Hog”

Classic Car Shows
Springtown is a great place to cruise around in a ‘55 T-Bird or ‘63 ‘Vette, and on the first Saturday evening of the month, many of those classic rides make their way to the Steak’n’Shake on Glenstone just north of Sunshine, where you can “ooh and ahh” over them for free.

Dickerson Park Zoo
1401 West Norton Road
Not exactly the St. Louis Zoo, but it does have some very cool animals. $7. Open 9-5 April through September; 10-4 the rest of the year. Dickersonparkzoo.org

The Discovery Center
438 East Saint Louis Street
The Discovery Center markets itself to kids, but it is fun for all of us. Ride the high wire bicycle! Play with science! Check out the Student Activities Council’s (SAC) calendar to see if there is a free college night coming up!

Drive-In Theaters
April through October, or so, you can get the retro feeling at the Sunset in Aurora (about 30 miles west of Springfield on highway 60) or at the Owen in Seymour (about 40 miles east of Springfield on highway 60). Usually a whole carload is really cheap.

Fun Acre Miniature Golf
2500 South Campbell Avenue
Only $2.25 per game! They have cheap batting cage, too.

History Museum of Springfield
830 North Boonville Avenue
Why does Springfield exist? Anyone famous from around here? The History Museum of the Ozarks can help. The Museum is in the castle-looking building at Boonville and Chestnut. No admission charge. $2 donation suggested
Hours of operation are 10:30 AM - 4:30 PM, Tuesday thru Friday.

Ice Hockey
635 East Trafficway Street
Ice hockey in the Ozarks – Mo State has a club team that plays at Jordan Valley Ice Park. $3 student tickets. Check out their schedule on the Missouri State web site.

Jordan Valley Ice Park
635 East Trafficway Street
Play in the fountain for free in spring, summer and fall, or pay a small amount to ice skate any time of year.

Sometimes you need to use a library, but you just can’t stand to spend one more hour in your own library. Good news! For one thing, students at any of Springfield’s colleges and universities can use the libraries of all the others. But also, the Springfield/Greene County libraries are pretty nice. Springfield’s big library center is on Campbell way south, just past the James River Freeway, and the branch on Kansas just north of Kearney is new and very cool. The downtown library at 128 Park Central Square also offers really neat pods to sit in and a great book selection.

Missouri Sports Hall of Fame
3861 East Stan Musial Drive
Stan Musial. George Brett. You? Springfield is home to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. Lots of exhibits and memorabilia for just $5. www.mosportshalloffame.com

Skate Park
945 West Meadowmere
Catch some big air! Springfield’s got a rocking skate park. If you buy a $25 membership it is only $5 per session. Get more info at sk8springfield.com

Skinny Improv Theater
301 Park Central East St
Live, clean comedy? What a concept! Downtown every Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., student rush tickets are only $10 for big-city, off-the-wall improv.

At each of the colleges in town, students get to attend varsity athletic games for free. Take advantage of the free entertainment and support your team!

Springfield Art Museum
1111 East Brookside Drive
Near campus and pretty diverse in its collections, this museum is free and worth spending some time in. They offer special exhibits at various times of year.

Springfield Cardinals Baseball
955 East Trafficway
Take me out to the ballgame! Pro baseball is here in Springfield with the Springfield Cardinals. Hammons Field is just a few blocks from campus. North on Hammons to Trafficway. General admission seats are only $6. Check out the schedule at Springfieldcardinals.com

Lunch and dinner

Breadeaux Pizza
2810 East Battlefield Road

Every now and then you’ve just got to munch down at a pizza buffet. Breadeaux Pizza offers pizza, pasta, soup, salad, and several desserts for less than $6.

Buckingham’s BBQ
2002 South Campbell Avenue

This is some of the best BBQ in town, but it is not known for being cheap unless you go through the drive-through and get the special. The drive-through special is always changing but it is usually a really good deal. A sandwich, drink, and side will be somewhere around $5. To get to the closest Buckingham’s in Springfield take Grand west to Campbell and turn left on Campbell. It will be about a mile down Campbell on the left across from Bass Pro.

Buffalo Wild Wings
Most of the time this place is not a very cheap place to eat, but on some days they have specials. Tuesday is 50 cent traditional wing day. Wednesday and Thursday are 60-cent boneless wings days. Wednesday is 75 cent legs.

601 West Walnut Street

Casper’s is Springfield’s legend for great chili. The decor cannot be beat and must be seen to be appreciated, including the hand-painted menus on the wall. You can get the Frito Pie with tons of cheese with a drink for about $5. Go easy on the Arizona Gunslinger hot sauce your first time there! Arrive BEFORE noon or be prepared to wait in line a long time. (Open Labor Day-Memorial Day.) Cash only!

1950 East Primrose Street

You will find this restaurant several times in this guide. It is a great place to get dessert but it is also good for a meal. The food would be comparable to Applebee’s but about 25 percent less. Take Glenstone south. It’s at the corner of Glenstone and Primrose, a few blocks south of the Battlefield Mall.

Chicago Cheesesteak
319 East Walnut Street

It’s a hole-in the wall, with only a few chairs and a counter where you can eat standing up, but Chicago Cheesesteak offers student discounts. Just show your student ID. Their cheesesteaks are some of the best in town!

Chicago Gyros & Deli
2027 North Glenstone Avenue

This is a great place to get a really good Gyro, but that is not why they are in the cheap and free guide. The best deal that they have is a one topping medium pizza for $5.99 after 5:00 p.m.

CiCi’s Pizza
All-you-can-eat pretty-decent pizza, salad bar, and dessert for $4.99 In the Food-for-Less shopping center near Battlefield and Campbell.

Cook’s Kettle
1715 N. Boonville

Cook’s Kettle is a restaurant that is run by Springfield Victory Mission and helps train students to work in restaurants. Cook’s Kettle is open from 6 am until 1 pm Monday thru Friday. Breakfast buffet $3.50. Lunch Buffet $5.00.

314 West Walnut Street

What?! Isn’t that one of Springfield’s priciest steak houses? Yes it is. But between 4 and 6 each day in their lounge, Flame offers burgers made of freshly ground steak for $3.50, along with a variety of other specials.

Lili’s Diner
431 S Jefferson Ave

Lili’s Diner actually is a good place to eat any meal, but they have some great lunch specials. On “Fifties Fridays”, you get a burger, chips and drink for $2.99. Their homemade pie is outstanding, but not cheap.

Little Caesars
1540 South Glenstone Avenue

Pizza! Pizza! You can’t eat it there, but you can carry out $5 pizzas from Little Caesars.

Louie’s Drive-in
2415 West Division

If you want a real local drive-in experience, take National north to Division, then turn left and keep driving until you’ve passed Kansas Expressway, then start looking for Louie’s Drive-in on the right. There are tables inside for about ten people. Classic drive-in food with daily specials.

Muducks Pizza
603 S. Kimbrough

This is one of the closest pizza places to campus and the pizza is good. You can get a large thin crust for $3.99 or hand-tossed crust for $5.99.

Papa Murphy’s
Not to be confused with Papa Johns, Papa Murphy’s is some of the cheapest, highest quality pizza in Springfield. The only catch is that you bake it yourself. Just call in your order, pick up your pizza, bake and then enjoy. With coupons, you can get a large pizza for as little as $5.

Pappy’s Place
943 N. Main

Pappy will sell you BBQ sandwiches that are so big many people are not able to finish them. Pappy’s is a little hole-in-the -wall so when you go there you have to take a close look to find it. The daily special (usually brisket or pulled pork) is around $6. Take National north to Chestnut, left on Chestnut until N. Main and then right to 943 N. Main.

Sub Shop
1721 East Seminole Street

A great local place to get a sandwich, chips, and a drink for around $5. If you want to try it make sure you bring cash in your wallet because they do not take plastic or checks.

When you think of Wal-Mart you probably do not think about lunch, but you should. The deli counter at Wal-Mart has chicken strips, potato wedges, fried chicken, fried okra and much more. Usually you can get a lot of food for around $4. There are five Wal-Mart stores in Springfield: north on Glenstone, south on Campbell, north on Kansas, one on Independence at Glenstone, and one west on Sunshine at West Bypass.

Wheat State Pizza
3821 S Campbell Ave

Some of the best pizza in town can be enjoyed inexpensively at the lunch buffet at Wheat State Pizza. Pizza, salad, and drink is only $5.99.

Whisler’s Burgers
208 W McDaniel Street

You’ve got to get ‘em to go, but Whisler’s Burgers are cheap and tasty (5 burgers for $6!).

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Gas station food

Some people see gas station food as inherently disgusting; others enjoy it as fine cuisine. Here are some local suggestions:

Kum & Go
Kum & Go has a wide selection of food, now including “roller cheese burgers”, which like everything else on the roller grill is “2 for $2".

Casey's General Stores
949 South Grant Avenue
Casey’s has the best gas station pizza around, especially their breakfast pizza. And how about those raspberry/cream cheese flips? Outstanding.

Fast and Friendly
The Fast and Friendly gas station at Chestnut and Main has a wide array of fried treats. Everyday they offer something at 2 for $1 (burritos, hot dogs, etc.). You can’t go wrong.

Route 66 Food Shop
700 N Benton Ave

And, at the corner of Benton and Chestnut, the Route 66 Food Shop not only has fresh kettle corn, but an amazing assortment of entrees. Ever had a deep-fried breakfast burrito? At the Route 66 Food Shop you can.

Places where kids eat free or cheap

Applebee’s – Monday Night (only at the south store - 1855 East Primrose Street)

Backyard Burger – Tuesday Night

Cedars - Tuesday Night

Lone Star – Monday Night

McAllister’s Deli – Tuesday Night

Rib Crib – Daily

Planet Sub – Sunday Night

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These two theaters offer student discounts. Call them for show times and prices.

Campbell 16
4005 South Ave.


Hollywood Theaters
415 W. College Station

The Palace Theater
2220 West Chesterfield Boulevard

Second-run movies are only $3.00. On the first Monday of the month MSU students get into the late movies for free. Timewarp Tuesdays – All movies, all day are just $1.http://www.palacemovies.com/springfield.html

Moxie Cinema (Indie Films)
431 South Jefferson

You are not likely to see “Little Fockers” at the Moxie, but you are likely to see the films the big theaters ignore. $7 tickets with student ID. $6 for all shows before 5:00 pm and all day Monday. www.moxiecinema.com/

Landers, Vandivort and MSU Theaters
Most shows at all these venues offer discounted tickets to students. The only catch is you must show up a half-hour before the show with a student ID to purchase tickets. The Landers and Vandivort are downtown on Walnut between South and Jefferson.

The (cheap) Live Music scene
Some calendars of music events (including cheap and free concerts) can be found at:

On weekends, often Barnes and Noble and/or Borders bookstores feature live music.

The Front Porch downtown is a (cheap!) coffee house that has lots of free live music. You can access their calendar viawww.thecoredowntown.com/frontporch.html. North on Hammons to Walnut, then left (west) to South. Right (north) on South a half block and you’ll see the Front Porch on the right.

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ABC Used Books
2109 N Glenstone Ave

Any kind of books you might want, really cheap and well-organized. They buy used books, too.

1645 East Kearney Street or 421 East Battlefield Street

Not just a bargain-basement grocery, but one of Europe’s most admired corporations (REALLY!), Aldi’s gives you the best prices for stocking up your room or apartment food stash for very few dollars. Two locations.

Surplus City
3114 West Sunshine Street

This is a great place to get all kinds of cool stuff: camping gear, climbing gear, clothes, tools, pots and pans, canoes, honest-to-goodness military surplus from around the world, and tons of other cool stuff.

Bass Pro Outlet
2011 S Campbell Ave

Bass Pro is the most-visited site in all of Missouri because of all the cool stuff that they have. If you would like some of this cool stuff and do not want to pay full price for it check out the outlet store that is just south of the main store on Campbell.

Big Lots
303 East Battlefield St

You can never be sure exactly what they are going to have, but what they have, according to one student, is “Wal-Mart quality at Dollar Store prices.” Everything from shampoo to furniture.

If you need a short road trip idea, just head to Branson and drive around. It’s cool and it’s nearby. There are a ton of places to eat, shop (three outlet malls) and see shows. Just head south of Springfield on highway 65.

DAV Thrift Store
You can find all sorts of cheap books, clothing, videos, etc. Several locations in town.

Ebenezer Thrift Store
On Saturday, get all the stuff you can fit into a bag for $1. From MSU take Grand west to Kansas, then turn right (north) and head up past I-44 until you see signs pointing to Ebenezer, then follow them.

659 West Sunshine Street

Except for Valentine’s Day, you can get a dozen wrapped roses at Flowerama for less than $15. Even on Valentine’s they are cheaper than anywhere else and they are nice roses. Other flowers are available at inexpensive prices.

Food for Less
313 East Battlefield Street

It’s really true. Pretty amazing deals on food. Just east of Campbell on Battlefield.

Joe’s Tire Shop Inc.
1927 W Division St

At some point in your college career you will most likely need new tires. Joe’s is a good place to start because if they have what you need you will get a great price.

Loftis Pawn
410 West University Street

If you are looking for tools or musical instruments this is a place where you might be able to find a good deal. The thing that you have to remember is the price written on the tag is not set; everything is negotiable in a pawn shop.

Ralph Foster Museum
This is located on the campus of the College of the Ozarks which is in Point Lookout, just south of Branson. It houses the original car from the Beverly Hillbillies and has a large gun collection among many other things. Admission is $4.50. Open Monday-Saturday, 9-4:30.

Redeemed Music and Books
4140 South National Avenue

Redeemed has a good range of inexpensive books, plus CDs and videos. If you get a valued customer card everything is always 15 percent off.

Smart Buy Tire
1045 South Campbell Avenue

If you own a car, eventually it will need some work. The guys at Smart Buy Tire are honest and reasonable. They will get you back on the road as inexpensively as anyone in town.

The Bus
Yes, Springfield does have public transportation, but no, not many people use it. Too bad. It is safe, cheap and fairly easy to figure out. Check out their web site at http://www.cityutil.com/services/ser_transport.htm

Victory Vintage Thrift Store
824 West Commercial Street

Help the homeless by buying vintage clothing and other cool stuff.

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Helpful websites


Coupons can be some of your best friends for eating cheap. Pick up a student coupon book at the PSU front desk, or go online and print out coupons from for your favorite places. Check out www.ozarkrewards.com to get discounts at some local venues.

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