The Big Deals
Our hungry researchers attack the city in search of the ultimate dining bargains—from high-to lowbrow, and everything in between.
Pizza :: Posto, $14.95
A large pepperoni from my local mom-and-pop makes me a happy girl. But I’ll eagerly shell out a few more bucks to set up at Posto for a Neapolitan thin-crust, wood-fired pizza covered in kale, caramelized onions, and smoked bacon. Each 10-inch pie starts with dough made from refined Caputo double-zero flour (what they use in Italy) and fresh cake yeast, thrown together for a long, cold fermentation to give the crust that soft, chewy edge. The cheese, a fior di latte, is made daily. But the clincher is the local farm-fresh egg dropped onto the center of the pizza before it slides into the 900-degree brick oven for no more than 90 seconds. The blistering, slightly charred crust and over-easy yolk might break tradition, but this is one meal that won’t break the bank. 187 Elm St., Somerville, 617-625-0600, pizzeriaposto.com. — N. K.
Burger :: The Butcher Shop, $18
I’m a lover of great burgers. But I’m no snob — I enjoy a paper-wrapped, politically incorrect version as much as one served on fine china. But for a burger deal, it has to be the hand-ground one at the Butcher Shop, which, even at $18 a pop, is gastronomically worth it. This badass bundle of pasture-raised prime beef requires two hands. The exquisite bun (courtesy of Hi-Rise Bakery) is light yet sturdy brioche, and the meat-to-bread ratio is just right. The burger arrives medium-rare and well rested (meaning the bottom of the bun is not soaked with leaking juice). Butcher Jonathan Sellitto’s secret? He adds butter during the grinding process. I’ve considered stacking the accompanying crispy onion rings into the burger, too, but why gild a lily? 552 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-4800, thebutchershopboston.com. — Annie B. Copps
Chacarero Sandwich :: La Mamma, $8.75
Sure, everyone knows Chacarero, the Downtown Crossing staple that serves up its eponymous Chilean sandwiches. It’s all right, I guess. But if you want the best chacarero — one full of greasy goodness made with straight-from-the-oven bread — go to La Mamma in Allston. Okay, it’s odd that there are two separate “specialties of the house” sections. But a bright spot on the menu is the small selection of Chilean sandwiches. The pizza oven (which most of the other guys don’t have) bakes the delicious, doughy bun, which, because it’s steaming hot, just plain makes the sandwich. And at $8.75 it’s a steal, since it’s big enough to share. Though I probably never would. 190A Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-783-1661, lamammapizza.com. — Jason Schwartz
Burrito :: El Pelón, $6.50
The burrito, sadly, is the siren song of dining value. It shimmers up there on the menu board like some kind of beacon of thrift at just $4.50…but then leaves you shattered at the register when you discover that the guacamole, sour cream, and house-special salsa have pushed your outlay north of eight bucks. So where do I spend this much on a collection of simple ingredients and still feel like I’m getting a deal? At El Pelón, where it’s always the pescado for me, with its base model price of $6.50. I add the guac for 75 cents and the complimentary homemade hot sauce, and beat it out of there feeling like I’ve taken them for a ride. 2197 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton, 617-779-9090, elpelon.com. — John Wolfson
Cocktail :: Rendezvous, $10
“Student budget” doesn’t have to mean cheap vodka. I prefer to spend my precious drinking funds on a cocktail made with care, which is why I save my dimes for a “Nehru” at the dimly lit, relaxed Rendezvous. The house-made lemon-cardamom syrup gets mixed with saffron-infused gin and orange bitters for a stellar tipple, one that’s served with a side of good conversation, courtesy of the charming barkeeps. 502 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-576-1900, rendezvouscentralsquare.com. — Katherine Brooks