$7 at Bell Street Cafe

Where: Bell Street Cafe, 800 Bell Street (under the Exxon Building)

What $7 gets you: Surprisingly fresh and cheap food.

Dining under the Exxon building, right next to the Houston Press building, means that you will be eating with a million suits who do business just a few floors up. There's a lot of guys in dress clothes and delicate comb-overs who probably make an untold amount of costly and wide-sweeping decisions before they belly up to the salad bar, or settle in with a fresh-grilled cheeseburger and fries with the boys from accounting.

Nothing gets one in the mood to chow down better than Fox News reporting how we're all gonna die of swine flu. There's a huge screen television on one side of the dining room beaming Fox News in. Dire headlines about the economy and sly Obama-bashing abounds. Just recently, news of the swine flu turned each lunch break into a sobering half-hour of introspection on mortality, with dizzying crawls on the bottom of the screen to match.

But hey, the food's awesome.

Today, Chicken Veronique was the featured dish from the main gourmet station. This section of the café offers up juicy prime rib, barbecue and all manner of fancy chicken dishes, with heaping helpings of vegetables and other sides galore, five days of the week. All for the price of a pack of cigarettes.

The plate included a slice of battered chicken, smothered in a mushroom and grape sauce, a scoop of lightly oiled pasta and a scoop of brussel sprouts.

Recommended? Yes. For seven bucks, you could get a bag of "blech" from a fast food place, or ride high at high at a puny sub shop. But at Bell Street, you can eat like a king for the same amount of scratch. Okay, not exactly. But you can eat like a well-fed corporate minion with a J. Crew addiction.

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