We've been rounding up our favorite budget lunch spots in different neighborhoods around town. So far, we've covered Montrose, River Oaks, Midtown, Upper Kirby, EaDo, Rice Village, the East End, and the Galleria. But we're not done yet ...
Today, we're moving just outside the loop to the neighborhoods of Garden Oaks and Oak Forest. Young families have been flocking to the area ... and a booming restaurant and bar scene has followed. With area favorites Petrol Station, Cottonwood, and Plonk Bistro, there are plenty of places to get your dinner-and-drink on. But that doesn't mean there aren't tons of great places for lunch, too.
Here's our list of the best cheap (less than $10) lunch spots that this area has to offer:
Note: For purposes of this post, Garden Oaks / Oak Forest is defined as north of Loop 610, east of Highway 290, south of Tidwell and west of Shepherd.
Honorable Mention: Mi Sombrero for their vintage Tex-Mex and all-day weekend breakfast, Miller's Café for old-fashioned burgers on poppy seed buns, and El Rey Taqueria for the superb tacos and sides (look out for a different location on an upcoming neighborhood list).
This local craft-beer house serves upscale pub grub at its best. Though not every item on the menu fits the bill, there are enough $10-and-under items for it to warrant a spot on our list. Like Texas Red's Chili ($6), a crock of spicy short rib stock, lean Akaushi beef, and shredded Cheddar that will knock your socks off; the hearty Black Bean Veggie Burger ($10), a teriyaki-smothered black bean patty topped with avocado, pepper jack, and sprouts and served with fresh-cut fries; or the Thai Curry Chicken ($10), a sweet-and-spicy coconut curry served over coconut rice. A pint of local brew may throw you over the limit, but some days you just need it.
4. Pho Dalat
This family-owned gem lies tucked away in a strip mall off of Tidwell and 290. Come for authentic home-style Vietnamese cuisine. A "small' bowl of beef pho will cost you just $6.50, but it's anything but small. Even better than the pho are the rice and vermicelli bowls ($7 to $8), loaded with shredded and char-grilled pork, lemongrass chicken, and shrimp. There's a $10 minimum for credit card transactions, so bring cash or come with a friend to keep your lunch on the cheap.
When it comes to cheap lunch, you can't beat a slice of pizza. Loyal fans of this New York-style pizzeria were thrilled when the restaurant opened up its almost in-the-loop location early last year. For just a few bucks, come in and enjoy freshly baked thin and chewy pizza by the slice (we think it's best eaten plain or light on the toppings so the crust keeps its integrity). For just a few bucks more, you can get some pretty hefty hot and cold Italian subs, like the mushroom-pepper-and-onion-smothered Philly Cheese Steak or the classic red-sauce Chicken Parmigiana (each $7.50).
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This little bitty restaurant may have recently changed hands, but don't worry -- the new owners don't plan on changing anything. That means your smothered Chili Cheeseburger ($5.75 for a quarter-pound, $7.25 for a half), Little Bitty Sliders (4 for $5), and Chicken Fried Pork Sandwich ($7.25) are just as available and delicious as ever.
Special bonus: You can head down the block for a beer at Crazy J's Icehouse and have your burgers delivered to you at no extra charge.
Thank you to our reader rgwalt for noting Crazy J's Icehouse (unfortunately) closed earlier this year.
1. Facundo Café
It may be housed inside a car wash, but this tiny kitchen turns out some serious burgers, sandwiches, salads, and lunch plates. Grilled fish tacos are just $4.25 each (or $7.95 for two) and come with a house-made mango salsa that will have you second-guessing where you're eating lunch. Also winners? The half-pound Hot Wing Burger ($8.95) -- smothered with hot sauce and crumbled blue cheese; or the Maholo Chicken plate($9.25) -- topped with pineapple and honey teriyaki sauce . With food like this, the oil change is just a bonus.