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 and the East End. But we're not done yet.
This week, it's the upscale Galleria neighborhood that gets a closer look. Here's our list of the best cheap (less than $10) lunch spots that this area has to offer:
Note: For purposes of this list, the Galleria is defined as anything west of Loop 610, south of Woodway, east of South Voss/Hillcroft and north of Richmond Avenue.
Honorable Mention: Fountain View Fish Market, for their fresh fried fish and shrimp baskets; Argentina Cafe, for their hand-formed empanadas and choripán (Argentinian sausage) sandwiches; and Bubba's Texas Burger Shack, for their succulent beef and buffalo burgers.
5. Cafe Mawal
This Middle Eastern restaurant is one of our favorite places for al fresco dining. And rightfully so -- it's not every day that you get to eat inside a traditional Bedouin tent. It sits perched outside the single-story home that the restaurant is housed in, and there is also an equally as pleasant oak-tree-lined deck.
Find a seat and enjoy the backyard grill, wafting scents of paprika-and-turmeric-spiced butterflied chicken, kafta kebabs and makanek, links of a lamb sausage flavored with clove and chile. Served with rice, vegetables and fresh salads, the grill plates are more than enough for lunch. Though roughly 40 percent of the menu is under $10, you can keep the prices of the more expensive entrées low by splitting one and an appetizer with a friend. But soon enough, you won't have to -- the owners are currently working on a special-priced lunch menu.
It just doesn't get better than a good ol'-fashioned hot dog. Oh, wait, yes it does. How about a Chicago-style dog ($2.79), with mustard, relish, hot peppers, celery salt and a pickle spear in a poppy seed bun; or a gourmet Baja dog ($4.99), smothered in chipotle mayo, guacamole and red onions.
Earlier this year, the 90-year-old hot dog institution started hosting a Houston Chefs and Show Dog series; each month a local chef creates an over-the-top hot dog, and a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the hot dogs is donated to that chef's charity of choice. The series will come to a close at the end of this month, so get Hugo Ortega's Holy Molé ($8.49) -- featuring smoked chicken andouille sausage, tinga, mole sauce, queso fresco and crema fresca in a Slow Dough pretzel bun -- while you can.
Enter the Fountain View Cafe any time of day and you're likely to be hit with the glorious scent of bacon. That's because the counter-service, old-fashioned restaurant makes breakfast (and some serious lunch) all day long (7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends). Check out the chalkboard menu, grab yourself a cup of Joe and wait for your short stack of crisp, vanilla-laced pancakes ($3.95), custom-made omelet (starting at $5.45) or classic tuna melt ($5.50) to arrive. Plump and juicy 1/3-lb all-beef burgers are fantastic and start at just $5. Add a cup of soup, side of slaw or pile of fresh-cut fries for just a few bucks more. You just can't beat these old-fashioned prices.
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Cafe Pita has made its name in Houston's dining scene for a reason, and the reason is its unbeatable Bosnian food. If you haven't tried it, do yourself a favor and visit the quaint one-story cottage on Richmond. There you'll find several dishes that you may be more familiar with than you realize, like the Bosnian musaka, a version of the popular eggplant-and-potato dish moussaka -- made here with layers of eggplant and zucchini, ground beef and a rich béchamel. Served in a zesty tomato sauce, it is not to be missed. Neither is the goulash, chunks of tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef stewed and served on a bed of basmati rice. Lunch specials are just $7.99 and include a soup or side salad, but gyros, stuffed burek (puffed pastry), kebabs and entrée salads are available as well.
If you are craving falafel, this walk-up service cafe is the way to go. Crisp on the outside, soft and delicate at the center, these deep-fried, za'atar-spiced chickpea patties are perhaps the best in the city. Enjoy them stuffed into a pita with all the fixin's ($4.49 for a small, $5.49 for a large) or just eat them as is with a side of creamy tahini sauce ($.75 each, $7.50 for a dozen or $6.99 for a platter with tabouli salad, hummus and pita). There's also plenty of shawarma, spinach pie and baklava to go around.