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Cheap & Good Eats
Best budget lunch spots in Midtown.
Last week, we rounded up the Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Montrose and River Oaks. Today it's all about Midtown. With some remnants of the old Little Saigon and plenty of bars and restaurants, this area has no shortage of great food.
Here's our list of the best cheap (under $10) lunch spots that Midtown has to offer:
Note: For the purposes of this post, Midtown is defined as south of I-45 (the Pierce Elevated), west of Highway 288, north of Highway 59 and east of Bagby.
Honorable Mentions: Harry's Restaurant & Café, which falls just outside the border but has massive breakfast plates and Greek and American cafeteria-style lunch specials, most all of which are under $10; and hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese joint Kim Tai, famous for its duck soup and popular comfort food banh bot chien.
5. Cali Sandwich & Les Givral's
Both Les Givral's and Cali Sandwich (pictured below) are mostly famous for one thing: their cheap and delicious banh mi ($3 to $4). You can't go wrong with either spot, so we'd go with whichever has the shorter line during their booming lunch hours. Expect no frills but extremely quick (albeit a bit curt) service and tasty sandwiches with authentic Vietnamese flavors. We like the Xiu Mai, a classic sandwich with tender and plump pork meatballs and all the usual fixin's — carrots, cucumber, cilantro and more.
4. BlackFinn American Grille
On Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., BlackFinn offers $7.99 to $9.99 lunch specials in addition to its regular menu. We like the crab cake sliders, topped with apple slaw and served with fries; or the Pick 2 special — with choices of soup, appetizer salads and half-portioned flatbread pizzas. Service is fast, making it a perfect workday pick-me-up.
3. Pho Saigon Noodle House
If you follow our series Where the Chefs Eat, you'll find many of them frequent this midtown pho spot. And if there's one thing we know, it's that you can trust a Houston chef. Start with a pork and shrimp spring roll ($1.25, or $2.40 for two), then finish with a comforting bowl of chicken, beef or seafood pho ($6.15). We like the #18 because it's packed with all types of beef — eye of round steak, well-done flank, fatty brisket, soft tendon and tripe.
With wood-fired pizzas available by the slice and an outdoor bocce court, this mom-and-pop pizzeria is the perfect spot for a lazy lunch. Bring a six-pack or a bottle of wine and relax on the patio with a slice of New York-style pizza. We like the Caprese ($3.19), topped with fresh basil, plump tomatoes and creamy buffalo-style mozzarella. If you're in the mood for something more, try the hearty beef lasagna ($8.99), which is served with breadsticks and a small salad; or the pepper- and onion-studded cheese steak ($6.99), served on crusty French bread.
1. Spec's Deli
Loyal patrons of the midtown Spec's know it's more than merely a liquor store. Its deli makes some of the best sliced-to-order sandwiches in town. Like the Reuben to Die For, stuffed with hot corned beef, sauerkraut and Russian dressing; or the California Dreamin', with sliced turkey, Havarti, avocado, cucumber and sprouts. Both sandwiches are loaded with one-third of a pound of meat for a reasonable $7.99. But that's not all this place has. Check out the daily lunch specials, soups, burgers, fries and more.
Torchy's Tacos Suit Against Texas Taco Co.
Alleged theft of food-prep bible.
Back in August, we reported on the anticipated opening of a new taco joint in Houston called Texas Taco Co.The Friendswood location was the third store set to open in Texas — the other two are in Baytown and Magnolia — and though it sounded like a delicious addition to the Houston-area restaurant scene, we andEaternoticed a striking similarity between the menu at Texas Taco Co. and the menu of another much-lauded Texas taco spot: Torchy's Tacos.
Apparently we weren't the only ones.
As soon as the first Texas Taco Co. opened, in Baytown, diners started sending messages to Torchy's asking, essentially, what's up with your new restaurant? People assumed, because of similarities between the two menus, that Texas Taco Co. was somehow affiliated with Torchy's.
For example, the Torchy's menu offers a breakfast taco called the "Monk Special," which is described as "'Hold the potatoes.' Eggs, bacon, green chilies & cheese. Served on your choice of tortilla."
Texas Taco Co. offers an "Alamo Special," described as "'Hold the potatoes.' Eggs, bacon, green chilies & cheese. Served on your choice of tortilla."
You see the issue?
Torchy's saw an issue, too, especially when people there remembered that back in March a former employee, Mario DeJesus, had allegedly stolen the Taco Bible, "a proprietary start-to-finish recipe and food process guide for all Torchy's food products." As a condition of employment with Torchy's, workers must sign papers agreeing not to disclose the confidential inner workings of Torchy's Tacos, including recipes.
DeJesus initially denied he had stolen the Taco Bible, but according to his testimony, Forrest Harrell, an employee at Torchy's, convinced DeJesus to admit he had taken the document and to return it. DeJesus told Harrell he would leave the book on top of a car in the parking lot of an Exxon station just south of the restaurant. Harrell was able to regain possession of the book, and DeJesus was fired.