Cheap & Good Eats: Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Old Downtown

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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.)

Today it's old downtown that gets a closer look. With plenty of bars and restaurants popping up around Market Square Park and the expansion of the METRORail, we have high hopes for the area's continued success.

Though there are tons of great dining options, here's our list of the best cheap (less than $10) lunch spots that this area has to offer:

Honorable Mention: Treebeards, for Cajun classics like red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya; and Niko Niko's Market Square, for falafel and gyros in the park.

5. Goro & Gun

Though the ramen and wing joint started offering lunch service just a few months ago, it has quickly become one of our downtown go-tos. Come in for standouts like the bonito-flake-topped seared tuna salad, a pulled short rib and brie grilled cheese, or their signature pork belly ramen, all just $10. The menu is constantly changing, but we think that's all the more fun.

4. Phoenicia Specialty Foods

It's worth the trip to Phoenicia's downtown market just to see the custom pita bread conveyors, which transport piping hot, freshly baked bread around the store all day long. Stop by the shawarma station for fried falafel or succulent chicken, beef, lamb or sausage pitas ($6), and don't forget to ask for the spicy tahini. Seasonal soups are just $3.50 to $5, and freshly made salads and sides (we love their baba ghanoush and walnut beet salad) are all sold at the salad bar. Dining at the upstairs MKT Bar may cost you a couple of extra bucks, but the hip wine and beer cafe's unique pizzas, sliders and small plates are worth it.

3. Macondo Latin Bistro

Come to this petite cafe for fantastic Latin American fare -- like fresh Gulf Coast Ceviche Purano ($10) dressed with cilantro-lime and hints of habanero, which is a meal in and of itself with the side of crisp plantain chips; or the Colombian Pollo Guisado ($8), chicken legs drenched in rich yucca-creole sauce and served with rice, beans, and green or sweet plantains. Tilapia- and mango-stuffed tacos are just $8, while a classic Cubano sandwich, loaded with roast pork, ham, pickles and mustard, will run you $7.

2. Bombay Pizza/Fusion Taco

Both of these downtown spots show just how good fusion cuisine can be.

Head to Bombay Pizza for thin-crust naan-like pizzas topped with spicy Bombay tomato sauce, tandoori chicken and saag paneer. Pies are just $9 for an 8", and a few are even available by the slice. Come with friends so you can try a little of everything.

Taco-truck-turned-Market-Square-hot spot Fusion Taco is the place to go for an extraordinary fast-casual lunch. The tacos -- priced around $3 and $4 -- blur the boundaries of global cuisine, fusing tempura shrimp with jalapeño and wasabi; or char siu-glazed pork with black beans and corn salsa. We can't tell which we love more, those or the short rib vindaloo taco, piled high with 24-hour braised beef, cucumber relish and creamy raita.

1. Hubcap Grill

The combination of juicy hand-formed burgers, innovative toppings, and Houston's best fries makes this quirky burger shack take the cake. We can't get enough of the messy-as-hell Frito Pie Burger, loaded with caramelized onions, chili, cheese, jalapeños, and, you guessed it, Fritos; or the aptly-named Sticky Burger, topped with bacon and crunchy peanut butter that oozes with each bite. Both massive sandwiches are just $6.99. Pair your burger with a side of Hubcap's fresh-cut, double-fried potatoes and spicy-mayo...then thank us later. Remember, this lunch-only spot is also cash only, so bring enough dough with your healthy appetite.

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

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