Cheap & Good Eats: Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Chinatown

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We've been rounding up our favorite budget lunch spots in different neighborhoods around town (See the complete list at the end of the post).

This week, we're moving to the dining mecca that is Chinatown. With its huge number of incredible and authentic restaurants -- from family favorites like Fung's Kitchen to younger, hipper joints like Mala Sichuan Bistro (where you'll want to spend more than $10) -- it was hard to narrow the list down. But, of course, we did.

With a focus on fantastic cuisine and even more fantastic prices, here's our list of the best cheap (less than $10) lunch spots that this area has to offer:

Honorable mention: Chicken pho at Pho Ga Dakao and Pho Thai Binh (for dry pho), the two lobster special at Confucius Seafood, sushi lunch specials at Sushi Miyagi.

5. Xiong's Café

If Beijing-style dumplings are your thing, try Xiong's Café. Steamed, broiled, and pan-fried dumplings are handmade, large, and cheap. Walk up to the counter at this unassuming hole-in-the-wall to grab a menu (the menu on the wall is written in Chinese). Once you pick out and pay for your dumplings (credit cards accepted), head over to the DIY sauce station, which offers garlic, vinegar, ginger, and spices in addition to a pre-made dumpling sauce and hot millet porridge. Plump but thinly-wrapped spicy Szechuan wontons (12 for $4.50) are served with hot chili oil and crushed peanuts, while pan-fried pork jiaozi (8 for $5.95) are meaty, thick and doughy.

But it's not all dumplings here; come also for outstanding Peking noodles, hearty beef soup, crispy fried chicken wings, and bubble tea.

4. Saigon Pagolac

Lunch specials ($5.25 to $6.50) at this Vietnamese joint located in the back side of Dynasty Mall include roasted Cornish hen, charbroiled beef, and pork chops served with steamed pork cakes, rice and lettuce. Bowls of pork meatball or shrimp vermicelli and pho filled with flank steak, brisket and tripe will run you just $4.95 to $6.95.

If you're dining with a group, skip the lunch menu altogether and head straight to the DIY Vietnamese fajitas. Matchsticks of carrots, sliced cucumbers, sprouts, basil and mint are brought to the table, along with rice-paper wrappers and a butane-fired cooktop with a sizzling cast-iron skillet. Cook your own lemon grass-marinated beef, shrimp, squid, or a combination of all three, for just $13.95 to $21.95. Squeeze on a few drops of fiery hot sauce, then get ready to rock and roll.

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3. Fu Fu Cafe

When a restaurant is one of our most-named places in our Where the Chefs Eat series, you know it's gotta be good. At Fu Fu Cafe, find everything from noodles, dumplings and clay pots, to salted fish fried rice and pork blood with intestine and pickled vegetable.

Stop by for one of the city's best green onion pancakes ($2.50), lunch specials including sweet and sour fish, salt and pepper squid, and roasted spare ribs ($5.99), or an incredible clear flat noodle dish with Szechwaun chile sauce ($5.99). Another must-have dish is the steam pork bun (4 for $4.25); The soft and doughy soup dumplings are certainly hot, so be sure to slurp them up in one delicious bite.

2. Banana Leaf

The original Banana Leaf is almost always packed at lunch, but lucky for us they've built a newer restaurant right across the street. Check out either for a taste of Malaysian cuisine, including a mix of southeast Asian dishes like sweet and spicy sambal beef, Indian chicken curry, or kang kung bachlan, a stir-fried spinach dish made with shrimp paste.

Lunch specials are available Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for just $5.50 to $6.50. For another $2, add your choice of spring rolls, satay or shrimp todmun, along with soup, salad, and hot or iced tea.

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1. House of Bowls

This Hong-Kong-style street food joint won our 2013 Best Neighborhood Spot in Chinatown for a reason -- it serves up delicious, no-nonsense food that's great no matter the occasion. Come for lunch to try can't-miss dishes like the dry-style beef chow fun served smoky with freshly made flat noodles, Hong-Kong-style fish burgers, or huge and crunchy deep-fried salt-and-pepper wings with chopped scallions.

Noodles and rice plates range mostly in the $4 to $8 zone, while sandwiches, porridges, and snacks can be had for just $2 to $6. If you can, save room for one of Houston's most stunning desserts -- a French toast stuffed with peanut butter and topped with sweetened condensed milk.

See our other Top 5 Budget Lunch Lists:

Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Montrose Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in River Oaks Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Midtown Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Upper Kirby Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in EaDo Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Rice Village Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in the East End Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in the Galleria Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in The Woodlands Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Old Downtown Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Pearland Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in the Heights Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Lazybrook/Timbergrove Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Clear Lake

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