Cheap & Good Eats: Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Greenway/Upper Kirby
The barbecue pork belly at our #5 spot is one of our favorites.
Photo by Troy Fields
Today we're diving into Greenway/Upper Kirby's restaurant-packed 'hood.
Here's our list of the best cheap (under $10) lunch spots that this area has to offer:
Note: For the purposes of this piece, Greenway/Upper Kirby is defined as west of Shepherd, east of Weslayan, north of Bissonnet and south of Westheimer.
Honorable Mention: Old-time favorite House of Pies, which serves up classic diner food at classic diner prices; and Pondicheri, where they serve a number of under-$10 Indian-fusion curries and stuffed rotis as well as daily breakfast until 3:00 p.m.
5. Fat Bao
A few of Fat Bao's takes on the classic puffy steamed buns may have been misses, but they've definitely hit more than a few out of the park. And with a $9.25 lunch special (available weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) that includes any two bao, a side, and a fountain drink, we certainly think they are worth a taste. Tried and true favorites are the Crab Daddy (as confirmed by our very own Kaitlin Steinberg), stuffed with fried soft shell crab topped with spicy mayo and ginger-spiked Asian slaw; and the Memphis Bao ($3.50), stuffed with a braised, barbecue pork belly that melts at first bite, fresh scallions, and a creamy slaw that brings the rich pork some needed tang. As for the included sides, you can't go wrong with the refreshing ginger miso salad, fresh-cut, lightly sea-salted chips, or the incredibly thin and crisp fries. You'll want a side of the housemade kimchi mayonnaise for those as well; trust us.
Our No. 4 spot offers a healthy turkey bolognese in a snap.
Photo by Christina Uticone
4. Snap Kitchen
If you're looking for something easy on the waistline, Snap Kitchen is the way to go. And lucky for us, the Kirby location of this health-conscious take-away joint is one of Snap Kitchen's flagship stores, meaning in addition to prepackaged (but daily made) lunches, juices, and snacks, this location offers handcrafted salads ($6.25) from their in-store kitchen. The meals are catered to a number of different diets, from vegan and vegetarian to paleo and gluten-free, and are each available in small, medium, and large portions. We love the Chicken Tikka Masala ($7.25 for a small), with cauliflower, tomatoes, and peas served over brown rice; and the Spaghetti and Turkey "Bolognese" ($5.50 for a small), a meaty marinara served over brown rice spaghetti. Stop in for cold salads or pick up your food to go. Whatever you do, be prepared to eat well and feel good.
Oishii's $1 sushi and sashimi are a must-try.
Photo by Christina Uticone
Both of these Greenway Center sushi spots have excellent sushi ... and excellent lunch specials. Try Sushi Wabi's $7.95 set lunch (available weekdays, from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.; Saturdays, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.), which includes a California roll, vegetable tempura, steamed rice, and your choice of teriyaki with chicken, beef, or shrimp; or vegetable or shrimp tempura. They also offer specials ($5.95 to $7.50) including chicken fried rice and vegetable udon, complete with a miso soup or ginger house salad. The sushi itself is also a great deal, with maki rolls ranging from $2.50 to $8.50 and a 9-piece chef's selection sushi or sashimi special for $8.95.
Similarly, Oishii offers lunch specials (available weekdays,11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Saturdays, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.) like the maki combo ($7.95), a sushi plate with a spicy tuna roll, eel roll, and California roll; the broiled salmon teriyaki ($6.95), served with steamed vegetables and fluffy white rice; or our favorite, $1-per-piece sushi or sashimi, including fresh cut red snapper, smoked salmon, escolar, and more.
For these prices and flavors, you can't go wrong at either place.
Lunch is always hopping at this Greenway hotspot. And rightfully so -- the service is quick, the food is great, and the price is right. Lunch specials start at $6.25 and include a crispy spring roll, soup, and salad. Try the Southern Thai Yellow Curry ($6.75), with potatoes, carrots, red onions, and your choice of meat; or the traditional Chicken Pad Thai ($6.50), with crushed peanuts and lime. Several dishes are served on a spice scale from 1 to 5, so choose carefully and trust your instincts (and your server) when ordering.
Nielssen's egg salad is the kind of stuff dreams are made of.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Sometimes, you just want your lunch between bread. For a simple sandwich that tastes fresh out of your mom's kitchen, it doesn't get simpler than Nielssen's Delicatessen. The sandwich spot is just outside our Upper Kirby lines, but since they've been making Houston bellies happy for more than 50 years, we think they deserve a spot on the list. You can't go wrong with the classic roast beef or a creamy egg salad with homemade mayonnaise that will be creeping into your dreams for days. Both sandwiches are less than $7, and are more than filling. Just be sure to get your sandwich to go, as seating at the counter is scarce.
The sandwiches at Hobbit Cafe are certainly not hobbit-sized.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
If you're looking for something a little fancier, try Hobbit Cafe. All of the sandwiches here -- like the turkey-roasted red pepper-and melted cheese-stuffed Frodo, or the avocado-and-tabouli-topped Shire, shown above (both $8.49 for a slim, $9.79 for a classic) -- are served on fresh whole wheat bread and come with shredded carrots, black beans, rice, or chips. But it's not only sandwiches here. Try a Wild Salmon Burger ($7.99) or the Blackened Fish Tacos ($8.99), both of which are equally scrumptious.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.