Free lunch? No such thing. $5 lunch? We have just the thing. From burgers to bratwurst, there’s a nearby eatery that keeps both your wallet and stomach full at lunchtime.
1. Kel’s Home Cooking
$5 » Ham and cheese sandwich
$4.75 » Classic BLT
$4 » Bowl of chili
$4.75 » Turkey sandwich
$4 » Hamburger
$3.75 » Grilled cheese
The vibe: This greasy spoon, with its retro diner counter and fluorescent lighting, is a relic from the early ’60s when it opened, and that’s just the way neighbors like it.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Keeping true to its home-cooking roots, the food is always hearty and the servings are always more than enough.
For a few more dollars: Most sandwiches are about $7, and most entrees won’t run you more than $8.
Tip: Don’t overlook the breakfast here, which is served all day. You could, for example, go for a $3.25 cinnamon roll or $4 pancakes or French toast — and then add a couple of eggs, bacon or sausage for a couple of dollars.
FOREST & TOLLWAY
2. Best Thai
$4 » Chicken or shrimp Tom Kha soup
$4.95 » Fried tofu in a sweet and sour sauce
$5 » Chicken dumplings
The vibe: Tucked in the back corner of Preston Royal Village, this tiny Thai restaurant makes for a quaint little lunchtime getaway.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: If you’re still hungry, you can order a side of noodles, or brown or white rice for about $2.
For a few dollars more: For about $8, you can get virtually any stir-fry, curry or noodle bowl on the menu — and in fact, only one item is more than $9.
Tip: This place is closed Sundays.
PRESTON & ROYAL
3. Tin Star
$5 » Quesadilla topped with fresh pico de gallo
$4 » Bowl of chicken tortilla soup or red curry chowder
The vibe: This casual café offers Tex-Mex staples, with a few American dishes peppered in.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: The portions here are plenty, but if you’re still hungry, fill up on the free chips and salsa.
For a few dollars more: If the quesadilla won’t suffice, add a side salad for a few more bucks, or go for the $5.50 taco plate, which comes with rice and beans.
Tip: If you dine in here Sunday after 4 p.m., kids eat free.
PRESTON & NORTHWEST HWY
4. New York Sub Co.
$4 » sub sandwich
The vibe: This hole-in-the-wall is a classic New York-style deli, complete with the Big Apple décor to boot, as it has been since 1974.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: These sandwiches come stacked with provolone, tomato, onion, lettuce and a house dressing — and if you want an extra heaping of meat, it’s just a buck more.
For a few dollars more: For about $7 you can get a giant sub sandwich, which will feed two people.
Tip: Because this place is so small, there’s virtually no seating, so plan to get your order to go, or snag a spot on the patio.
ASBURY & HILLCREST
5. Burguesa Burger
$3 » Hamburger
$4 » Double patty hamburger
The vibe: Mexican food meets hamburgers at this funky, orange little shack. Order at the window and dine al fresco at one of the picnic tables.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: All the prices here already include tax, plus you can add a fried egg, ham, avocado or bacon to any burger for just 50 cents.
For a few dollars more: Make it combo with fries and drink for just $5.50. Or, if you’ve got a monstrous appetite, take on La Monumental: two patties, a slice of ham, double cheese, refried beans, avocado, tomato, onion, lettuce and crispy tostada all between two buns for $5.50.
Tip: This place also serves $1 breakfast tacos all day, which come in your choice of chorizo, bacon or ham — plus you can add hashbrowns for $1. There’re also several bottled Mexican sodas, like Jarritos, made with pure cane sugar.
INWOOD & REDFIELD
6. Howard Wang’s China Grill
$3.25 » Crab velvet corn soup (creamy broth with crabmeat, corn, peas and carrots)
$4.25 » Snow White seafood soup (shrimp, scallops, crabmeat and calamari in a light broth)
$4 » Thai basil rolls
$5 » Crispy tofu in garlic sauce
The vibe: Clean lines and glossy bamboo floors abound at this trendy Asian fusion grill.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: You can find your run-of-the-mill fried rice at other places for about $5, but the Asian fusion food here offers a unique mix of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai influences.
For a few dollars more: At $1.75 a pop, you can add a few egg rolls or spring rolls.
Tip: The lunchtime portions here are pretty large, so if you order an extra side of rice, you can probably get away with sharing with a friend — and you’ll each only spend about $6.
NORTHWEST HWY & MIDWAY
7. La Paloma
$5 » Taco platter with beans and rice
The vibe: This little shack, which sits in the center of the parking lot at Lakeside Village, dishes out real-deal Mexican food. Expect Mexico City-style street tacos, and hearty stews, like posole.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Thanks to the generous helping of meat, most people will be full after three tacos. Want more? It’s another $1.25 for another taco.
For a few dollars more: For $5.95, you can upgrade to one of the deluxe platters, like flautas, enchiladas or grilled steak — all of which come with beans, rice and tortillas.
Tip: This location has a drive-thru, so you can get your order on the go, and in fact, that’s a good idea considering the limited seating space.
WALNUT HILL & CENTRAL
8. Pizza by Marco
$2 » Slice of pizza and a drink
The vibe: A no-frills pizzeria — order at the counter, and expect to eat your order standing, as seats fill up fast during lunchtime.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Not only are the pizza slices here the size of salad plates, you also get them piled with your favorite topping.
For a few dollars more: Finish off with a $2 cannoli.
Tip: Vegan pizza also is available with choices like soy sausage and pepperoni, but that’ll run you an extra couple bucks.
PRESTON & ROYAL
9. Zinsky’s Delicatessen
$4 » Potato pancakes
$4 » Cheese blintzes
The vibe: With its bright and airy décor, this doesn’t look like your typical deli, but the menu delivers the pastrami and bagels you’d expect.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Breakfast items tend to be cheaper, and luckily, this place serves breakfast all day. For example, you can add a short stack of pancakes or hash browns to your order for $3.
For a few dollars more: If you’re not feeling breakfast, $4.50 will buy you a cup of chili topped with cheese, chicken noodle soup, matzo ball soup, or beef and barley soup.
Tip: If you want your order to go, walk straight to the back of the restaurant and order at the deli counter.
PRESTON & ROYAL
10. Scotty P’s Hamburgers
$4.50 » Hamburger
$4.50 » Hotdog
The vibe: Thanks to its kid-friendly menu of hamburgers, hot dogs and milkshakes, this place is usually packed with families, and it’s one of the most popular after-game hangouts.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: These burgers are no joke — they come with all the fixings, and patties are six ounces of ground chuck. If that’s not enough, add another patty for a few more dollars.
For a few dollars more: Add onion rings or fries to your order — or, do it real big with the “Cardiac Fries,” which come topped with cheddar, bacon, jalapenos, chives and buttermilk ranch. Just beware, because the portions here are big enough to share. If you’re dining alone, get the “junior order”: It’s half the size.
Tip: Believe it or not, this place serves Dom Perignon. Of course, that’ll run you $300 per bottle, but on the bright side, you can add two burgers and two fries to that for just a buck.
PRESTON & FOREST
11. Taj Mahal
$3.25 » Chaat salad (chicken, potatoes and cucumber marinated in a tangy sauce)
$4 » Chooza Pakora (chicken marinated in yogurt and Indian spices)
$4 » Samosas (crispy patties stuffed with ground meat, peas and Indian herbs)
The vibe: This shoebox-shaped hole-in-the-wall, decked in ornate wallpaper and tiny chandeliers, has been doling out Indian food for more than 25 years.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Thanks to cream-based sauces, potatoes and plenty of rice, it doesn’t get much more filling than Indian fare, and this place is no exception.
For a few dollars more: You can add fresh baked bread to your order for about $2, add soup for $2.50, or one of the many appetizers for about $3. And for about $9, you can get the lunchtime buffet, which includes salad, bread, several entrees and dessert.
Tip: This hole-in-the-wall gets pretty packed around lunchtime, so try to beat the rush — or better yet, call in your order to go.
MEADOW & CENTRAL
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