Today we're sharing our thoughts on the little section of the city known as East Downtown (or EaDo for all of you non-haters).
Here's our list of the best cheap (under $10) lunch spots that this area has to offer:
Note: For the purposes of this post, EaDo is defined as the triangle bounded by Highway 59 to the northwest, Interstate 45 to the southwest and the lines of freight railroad that stretch from Commerce to Cullen.
Honorable Mention: Sparkle's Hamburger Spot, the old-time burger shack that serves huge and messy hand-formed burgers on the cheap. We recommend skipping the line and calling your order in for pick-up during the busy lunch hours.
If you're on the hunt for authentic tacos in east downtown, Dowling Street's Brothers Taco House (open weekdays until 3 p.m. and weekends until 1 p.m.) is the way to go. Watch in awe as toothsome, fluffy tortillas are freshly prepared on a hot flattop right before your eyes. Then, check out the steam trays and decide what to fill said fluffy tortillas with. We love the thick, meaty lengua; the red sauce-coated chicharrón that bursts in your mouth with each bite; and the tender, fall-apart barbacoa (available only on weekend). The formerly cash-only spot now takes Visa and Mastercard, but you may not need it -- the massive tacos are only a couple of bucks each. Warning: Two of these tacos are considered to be plenty for one person.
We sometimes look to our city's top chefs to point us in the right direction when it comes to good eats. In our series Where the Chefs Eat, more than a few cooks have praised home-style Vietnamese restaurant Huynh for us to take notice. Both Seth Siegel-Gardner and Brandi Key can't get enough of the goi vit, a refreshing pulled-duck salad served with ginger dipping sauce that is yours for $8.95. Key even claims that it's so "light and crisp and fatty and acidic," she can eat it every day. Other standouts include goi cuon, pork and shrimp spring rolls (two for $2.95); bun bo xao, a stir-fried beef noodle bowl ($7.95); and bowls of aromatic pho ($6.95 for a regular, $8.50 for a large).
Formerly known as Calliope's Po-Boy, this creole hotspot is still serving up the same great comfort food with New Orleans flair. During lunch hours (daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), you can get your fix of cajun-spiced shrimp, catfish and fried oyster platters -- complete with fries and a salad -- for just under $9. Looking for something else? No worries. The restaurant's regular menu offers plenty of Crescent City favorites for less than $10. Try the rich, spicy chicken and sausage gumbo ($3.59 for a cup, $5.95 for a bowl); or fully dressed po-boys stuffed with fried crawfish and gravy-drenched roast beef ($9.25 and $7.25, respectively, for a small). They call the sandwiches small, but with 7-inch rolls and plenty of fillings, they are anything but.
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SHOW ME HOW
Want to impress your friends? Take them to Houston's first food truck park for lunch (weekdays from 11 a.m to 2 p.m; until 3 p.m. on weekends). There, you'll find a rotating lineup of some of the best food trucks in town. The hardest part will be picking between favorites like Bernie's Burger Bus, Mr. Sizzles Curbside and St. John's Fire...but that's a good problem to have. Follow them on Twitter (@Houfoodpark) or Facebook to find out the day's roster.
1. Cafe TH
When it comes to amazing food, fantastic prices and top-notch service, it doesn't get better than our favorite neighborhood banh mi and noodle shop, Cafe TH, which is run by one of the best front-of-house men around, chef and owner Minh Nguyen. Come in for incredible banh mi (we like the luscious xiu mai, or pork meatballs), starting at just $2.31 for a 6-inch and $3.24 for a large. Or try a plethora of curries, vermicelli dishes or our favorite, a rich bowl of bo kho -- a star-anise-laced beef stew served with French bread, rice or egg noodles, or, upon your request, all of the above ($5.55 for a small, which is in fact very large; $7.39 for a large, which is in fact huge). Whatever you decide on, we're sure you won't be let down.