Cheap & Good Eats: Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in the East End

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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, and Rice Village.

With head honcho Ninfa's on Navigation, its newly aquired neighbor El Tiempo, and plenty of hole-in-the-wall joints, the East End has its fair share of great lunch spots. Today, we're bringing you our favorites.

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, the East End is based off of the this official map, which roughly places its boundaries at Clinton Drive to the north, I-45 to the south, 610 to the east and parts of 59 to the west. This does not include EaDo, but does include plenty of other neighborhoods, such as Eastwood, Magnolia Park and the Second Ward.

Honorable Mention: Moon Tower Inn, for its intricately-topped, punch-packing wild game dogs (the later opening hours -- 2:00 p.m. on Mon. through Thurs. -- is the only reason it did not make the final list) and Bohemeo's, for its laid-back atmosphere and cheap Baja-style shrimp and fish tacos.

5. Mandola's Deli

This family-run neighborhood restaurant and deli, nestled on the corner of Leeland and Cullen, has been serving classic Italian fare since 1975. Come in for Italian-style po' boys -- like the ham-salami-and-cheese-packed Deluxe ($4.59 for a small, $5.39 for a large); or the Italian Beef ($7.39), stuffed with gravy-drenched roast beef and melted mozzarella cheese. Be sure to try their traditional Italian red sauce in the form of Spaghetti and Meatballs ($6.99), spinach Lasagna ($7.99), or a Chicken Parmesan sandwich ($8.99). After the home-style meal and a chat with the friendly Mandolas, you're sure to feel like family.

4. Champ Burger

Another family-run neighborhood favorite, this old-timey burger joint has been serving up some of the city's greatest burgers since 1963. And the prices are old-timey, too. Get a greasy Champ Burger w/ Cheese for just $3.89; or up the ante with the "original Texas Size Steak Sandwich" -- stuffed with chicken-fried steak -- for just $4.39. Overflowing baskets of steak or chicken fingers with fries, salad, Texas toast and thick gravy can be had for $5.49 and $7.49, respectively, and a good 'ole chili cheese dog is just $2.69. Be sure to grab an umbrella-covered table while you wait for your order, and remember, they are open on weekdays only.

3. Oak Leaf Smokehouse

Oak Leaf Smokehouse opened just last year, but it is already making a name for itself in the Houston barbecue scene. Post oak-smoked ribs are sweet, buttery, and just $9.95 with a choice of two sides. Order them or a juicy and woodsy half chicken (same price) alongside thick-cut, freshly-fried potato chips, cranberry-studded broccoli slaw, or a golden-crusted, ultra-creamy corn pudding. Sandwich baskets, including house chips and a drink, are just $7.95 for a small (4 oz of meat on a 4-inch bun) and $9.40 for a large (6 oz of meat on a 6-inch bun). And if you can't decide which meat to choose, just get the brisket-pulled pork-and-queso-smothered BBQ Monster Sandwich ($8.95).

2. Kanomwan Thai

Another long-running East End gem, this restaurant has been serving home-style Thai since 1984. The restaurant offers smaller portions of most of its entrees for just under $10 during lunch hours (Mon. through Fri., 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.). Come here for one of the best green curries in town, or try a classic Pad Thai, loaded with shrimp, sprouts, and ground peanuts. Adjust the spice level as you please, but be warned -- when you ask for extra-spicy, extra spicy you will receive. 1. Villa Arcos Taquitos / Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito

We love all-day breakfast ... and we love it even more when it comes in taco form. In addition to authentic chicharrones and barbacoa, Villa Arcos has been whipping up some of the city's best breakfast tacos all day long for more than 30 years. Come in Tuesday through Sat., 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m; or Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For just a few dollars, try the "Super" taco, a greasy classic made with eggs, chorizo, potatoes, beans, and cheese. It may take a while, as even the tortillas are made to-order, but we think it's well worth the wait.

Trompo is the name of the game at Taqueria Monterrey. Though the tacos de trompo are not cooked in the authentic fashion because of health regulations, this taqueria's thin wisps of griddled, brightly-colored pork remain just as juicy and tender. Stuffed into golden and crisp corn tortillas, you won't be disappointed with the substitute -- especially since a plate of five tacos remains just $5.50 to this day.

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