cheap eats- top 10 under $10

30 07 2010

ok, i’m done with my hopeless wallowing from yesterday.  i’m still feeling hopeless, but i’m taking a break from wallowing for a while, at least publicly. the brilliant @amycasey (worth the follow for you twitter geeks out there) recently suggested that i try the “small changes” plan, and i’m starting to think that it might be a good idea. perhaps if i can just force myself to focus on succeeding at one small element of life, i can use that momentum to pick up other small things as i go- eventually resulting in me actually having accomplished some of my goals (e.g.,having 2 month’s pay in my savings account, and fitting back into my size 8 jeans).

small task #1: stop spending so much goddamn money on eating out. i love eating out, and hells no i’m not going to stop, but i have decided that it’s time for me to take a big vacation from pricey pig-fests.  for the next month, unless it is a very special occasion (sort of like a very special episode, but with more gluttony and less emotional breakdowns), i’m going to try to keep my eating out budget to $10 or less. daunting, yes. but the benefits are two-fold! i will both A) spend less money, and B) by cutting out extras like appetizers, desserts, & booze… i should cut some calories as well. at least i hope so, because these size 12s are at MAX CAPACITY, and i will get back alley liposuction before i allow myself to go up another pants size.

in honor of this historic decision, i have decided to list my top ten things in town that are worth eating for under $10. not necessarily full meals, and definitely not always high end, but goddamn delicious and easily accessible.   i will probably be calling on this list fairly often over the next few weeks, so help a girl out, and gimme some more recommendations.

1. amatosbreakfast sandwich $2.29: cheap and dirty (and so simple, but shockingly delicious), but my absolute go-to whenever i’m broke and starving. it’s sort of like when i smoked, and cigarettes were only $2. you can always find enough couch/purse/street change to get a breakfast sandwich, and if you get them on toast (delicious non-wonderbread italian toast), it is both bigger, and better.

2. micuccisicilian slab $4.50: we’ve all heard what i have to say about the miraculous qualities of the sicilian slab. cliff’s notes version- shit is GOOD, and 1 piece will fill you up for at least two meals. also, totally worth getting into a noisy altercation with a stranger.

3. gilbert’s chower house grilled cheese $3.25: basically, this is what i get when i’m hungrier for more than just a breakfast sandwich.  simple and unpretentious, it’s got like an inch of cheese and really good bread. oh, and it comes with chips.

4. caiola’spolenta fries $5.95: caiola’s is my favorite restaurant in portland, perhaps anywhere. i have never had a bad meal there ever (from their superb sangria to that salty caramel cake that haunts my dreams), but if i had to choose only one food to eat for the rest of my life, it would probably be their polenta fries. no florid description of their crispy perfection and accompanying red chutney stuff could really do them justice. i know they’re not even close to a whole meal, but seriously, GO EAT THEM RIGHT NOW.

5. green elephantspicy vegetable medley stir fry $9: along with being the only 100% vegetarian restaurant in town, the green elephant is both totally tasty and extremely reasonable. they have a multitude of $9 entrees on the menu, but the spicy veggie medley is my favorite. but if you’re in the mood for something a little less healthy, i also recommend the king oyster mushroom tempura- rock ’em sock ’em fried mushroom action.

6. the maine squeezeamanda berry $5: i have a bigtime starch and fat problem. potatoes, bread, pasta… butter, cheese, cream sauce… you might notice that the majority of my top 10 faves are a combination of those very elements. however, every now and again even i hit the wall, and i start to feel like if i don’t get some fruits and veggies fast- i might die. maine squeeze will make you a giant-ass smoothie of delicious healthfulness for a mere five bucks. the amanda berry has the distinction of being one of the few smoothies on the menu without bananas (my arch nemesis), but you should eat them, they’re full of potassium and they’re good for leg cramps.

7. kamasouptraloaded baked potato soup $5.50: again, you’ve heard me do the dance of love for these guys, so i’ll keep it brief. a bowl of incredible soup (at a place that has more veg options than meat options) + a piece of bread roughly the size of small watermelon.

8. norm’s mashed potatoes $2.50: norm’s is tricky for me because it’s a BBQ joint (meat fiesta!), but the trick is in the side orders. a cereal bowl filled with buttery garlicy mashed potatoes and/or a hunk of home made corn bread that can double as a personal flotation device are only a few of the tasty, filling, and dirt cheap options on their side order menu. there might even be some vegetables in there, but who gives a crap about those?

9. otto–  cauliflower & mushroom pizza $3.00: i sing a lot of (well deserved) praises about micucci, but in the land of the thin crust, otto reigns supreme. innovative and flavorful, with a rotating cast of flavors from mashed potato to cheese tortellini, 3 big slices for 9 small dollars is a dinner to be proud of. actually, it’s kind of freaky that maine has such kick ass pizza. i thought we could only make lobster rolls and whoopie pies?

10. corner roompapparadelle & mushroom pasta $9: i can easily take down $60+ worth of food and beverage at the corner room without even thinking about it, but the beauty is that assuming i lay off the booze & desserts (although their stiletto & tiramisu are positively worth shanking for), i can get a perfectly serviceable and incredibly delicious dinner for just $9. all their pasta options come in whole or half orders ($15/$9), and the half order portions are more than enough food to constitute a full meal (especially if you ask for extra bread). the papparadelle dish is full of perfect home made hand cut pasta (double wide), floating in the kind of pitch perfect cream sauce that grocery store pasta dreams about.

HONORABLE MENTION hot suppa– fried green tomato eggs benedict ???: i’m fairly certain that it’s less than $10, but i couldn’t confirm, so i don’t feel like it’s fair to put it on the official list. regardless, even if you’re a canadian bacon loving carnivore, this is still one of the very best things to eat on the peninsula at ANY PRICE. it has the perfect balance of salt and fat and acid, and by far the best benedict i’ve ever had anywhere ever (and if there’s benedict, i will eat it).

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27 responses

30 07 2010
MKV

Yeah the fried green tomato eggs benedict is <$10, I agree it's stunningly good. Wish they could step up their game with the potatoes, though.

Front Room has a veggie version of their gnocchi and poached eggs that is <$10 and is also stunningly good.

2 08 2010
bessmarvin

wait, gnocchi and eggs? you just said the magic words. thanks for the tip! i definitely know where my next breakfast will be coming from. (oh, and totally agreed about the potatoes from hot suppa- too crispy… venturing into leathery territory).

30 07 2010
Rebekah

You should check out the food menu at Novare Res – amazing food and EVERYTHING on their menu is under $10. Of course, the drawback to eating there is that the temptation to order a pricey and high-calorie beer may be too great to overcome. But still, kick-ass, cheap food and an awesome patio to eat it on!

2 08 2010
bessmarvin

the three cheese mushroom panini sounds like it might be my new boyfriend. and a pint of really great beer is always worth the money and the calories. i think i might have to make a companion list, because apparently there’s a lot of great cheap eats that i haven’t yet experienced.

30 07 2010
Michelle

My go-to backup when I “forget” to pack a lunch is getting a breakfast sandwich at The Works for lunch. It’s like $3 for a spinach/egg/cheese on a bagel. The actual lunch sandwiches are ridiculously huge and twice the price.

2 08 2010
bessmarvin

it’s never occurred to me to have a breakfast sandwich there! will definitely check it out. although i can live off the “farmer’s veggie and cheese” for two full meals. still only like $6 though, and double worth if if you get them to slather on the red pepper mayo.

30 07 2010
Jami

two words: Tu Casa http://www.tucasaportland.com/

my absolute favorite restaurant in Portland, always.
pupusas are the ultimate cheap and wonderful food!

2 08 2010
bessmarvin

love tu casa! especially now that i’m an east endy. i could live off nothing but pupusas (with that slaw stuff) indefinitely. perhaps the perfect location for bananagrams fest with @amycasey?

4 08 2010
Jami

we could definitely meet up there for some snacks and then head over to the joint that Amy suggested – mama’s crowbar? which is the new incarnation of the old George’s space, right? sounds good to me! we’re in Portland on the Sunday-Monday of Labor Day weekend.

5 08 2010
bessmarvin

pupusas + beer + bananagrams + very excellent company = legendary labor day weekend. just you wait.

30 07 2010
nick

hi there. Thanks for your site – I do enjoy it.

Couple additions:

If you’ve never been to Kim’s Gift Shop on Saint John St they have a terrific Vietnamese tofu and veggie sandwich on a toasted baguette for $3 (including tax). So good.

Also, the side salad at Portland Pie, though not overly creative, is a great deal at around 3 bucks if you are a body short on greens (and green!).

Another good one is the Belgian Waffles at Peanut Butter Jelly Time at the Public Market House. Just $2! (add the fresh berries and cream for another buck – totally worth it!)

Finally, at The Crooked Mile, one can get a bagel toasted with butter and a red-eye coffee for under 4 bucks.

I had a Maine Squeeze earlier this week (great minds … yada yada) but it has been waaaay to long since I had a slab from Micucci’s: new item at the top of the todo list for today!

Keep up the great work!

3 08 2010
bessmarvin

thanks! i’ve never even heard of kim’s gift shop on st. john street. tofu and veggies on a baguette sounds FUCKING AMAZING. i will definitely b going to check that one out. you note about the salad at portland pie reminded me of my very favorite salad in all of portland at flatbread. it’s got the seaweed and the sesame seeds on top, and it’s huge. i don’t know what their house dressing is, but it’s perfection. PB&J time didn’t make the list because i only wanted one market vendor, and kamasouptra was the clear hands down. i do love it there though. organic crunchy and raspberry jelly on aroostook wheat rocks my world, and have you tried the samoon? it’s like a grilled cheese on garlic bread. i just found out about the crooked mile last month. good stuff, but my favorite bagel is still the onion bialy at mr. bagel (with butter, NEVER cream cheese). there is no competition. i hope you enjoyed your slab!

30 07 2010
kate

aaand el rayo. i went there and despite all the bad things i’ve heard, it was really good! cheap eats for def. less than $10. and their hibiscus refresco is great.

2 08 2010
bessmarvin

i find el rayo hit or miss. the corn is amazaing, and i love those smokey cheese fritter balls… but i found most of their veg options almost inedible (and their tacos way too small). their white sangria however, is worth the trip in and of itself.

31 07 2010
Corey

Good list! I’d like to see some more posts like this in the future.

2 08 2010
bessmarvin

thanks, although by looking at all the comments, there were a ton of things that i missed! any suggestions for what else you’d like to see?

1 08 2010
imogen flowers

When are you taking me to micucci’s, bess? I have still never been.

2 08 2010
bessmarvin

perhaps a post-burlesque celebration? i’m ditching the carbs until after my performance on the 12th.

2 08 2010
Portland's Cheap(er) Craft Beer | Brews and Books

[…] in the Portland area – was kinda partially wholly inspired by a recent post on broke 207. In cheap eats, Allie took a look at the top ten things in Portland that are a) worth eating out for, and b) under […]

2 08 2010
Tim

My go-to cheap eats downtown (other than kamasouptra, which you mentioned):

Federal Spice – filling wraps with interesting flavors (jerk! mango!) + fresh chips for $6-7

Market St. Eats – ah, more wraps, but also sandwiches and tasty ingredients, all $6.50

Spartan Grill – Falafel! Not sure on the price, but definitely < $8 and hella filling.

3 08 2010
bessmarvin

i’ve had really really bad luck with federal spice. i used to love it, but my last two meals there have been not only not good, but completely inedible. i don’t know what happened. but definite thumbs up to spartan grill & market street eats. both solid choices.

5 08 2010
delirious. « broke 207

[…] conditions. point being, tonight i was supposed to write a companion article about cheap booze to the food post i did last week. instead, i lapsed temporarily into a humidity induced coma (sort of a sloppily splayed out half […]

8 08 2010
weekend pickthrough- full puppy takedown edition. « broke 207

[…] thank you to original portland, brews & books, and portland maine daily photo for mentioning my cheap eats article (all excellent blogs absolutely worth checking out). what’s also crazy, is that not a single […]

14 08 2010
Elsa

Good call on Caiola’s polenta fries. It’s not often that we want to splurge and have a full dinner there, but an early evening glass of beer or prosecco and a plate of polenta fries? Ooooooh yes. Sometime soon I’m going to talk The Fella into a quick cocktail hour at Caiola’s, then going around the other side of the fence to the basketball court for a game of one-on-one.

At Hot Suppa, I’d have to pick the Plate of Three; you choose any three sides as your lunch. I always agonize over the choices, but my go-to is fried green tomatoes, dressed arugula, and those crispy-dark fries. Oooooh, Hot Suppa, I love you.

My favorite thing at Green Elephant is the tempura asparagus salad with peanut dressing. It used to be a special (and oddly enough is not listed on their online menu) but the past few times I’ve been, it’s been promoted to a standard item. Even as take-out it holds up okay if you get it home fast — unusual for a salad and for fried food. (Once when we ordered it to go, they packed the hot tempura and a container of dressing separately in a little vented box so it would stay crispy, and kept the greens cool in their own container. Thank you to the anonymous server who did that!)

15 08 2010
bessmarvin

i am so with you on the tempura asparagus salad! (they make it with fiddleheads in the spring which knocks my sock off). and yes, hot suppa can do no wrong in my eyes. i think my plate of three would be fried green tomatoes, macaroni & cheese, and either the fruit or the soup (depending on the season). as for caiolas… i would certainly challenge you to a pick up game of b-ball (loser buys winner polenta fries), but i’m a big time sports failure (i got a 72 in gym!), so it would surely be a massacre.

28 08 2010
Gooddogz

Hey Broke207 love your blog! You missed the best Cheap Eat.Evah.
Susan’s Fish and Chips has 2 fish sandwiches on Monday and Tues for 2.50.

31 08 2010
bessmarvin

thanks nancy! wow, that is cheap. and i’ve heard great things about susan’s! however, i’m a vegetarian, so my list is actually meat-free. i was actually thinking about asking the portland food coma guy to do a best meaty cheap eats list for my carnivorous readers.

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