Twenty-six inspired ideas for how, where, and (sometimes) when to eat phenomenally well in Boston for $15 or less, alphabetically cataloged from Allston to zhoug.
Edited by Leah Mennies
Not to imply that Chinatown and Eastie arenât terrific terrain for scoring affordable meals (see: B, C, etc.). But in our opinion, in the year 2014, neither area, nor any other in Boston, for that matter, holds a candle to Allston, that gritty neighborhood brimming with undergrads and eateries priced accordingly. The meager-budget mecca is stacked with standout restaurants specializing in everything from Lebanese to Mexican to comfort-driven diner grub. Here are 10 pilgrimage-worthy dishes to get you startedâbut seriously, we could have devoted the entire issue to this stuff.
Ten Great Affordable Dishes in Allston
Dewei Meng spent his college years in Boston missing the puffy steamed Tianjin pork buns he grew up eating in China. So late last year, the 22-year-old launched the food truck Mengâs Kitchen, which serves northern Chinese sandwiches, dumplings, and, yes, said buns ($1)âa more savory variant of the sweet pork-stuffed Cantonese char siu bao that abound in Chinatown. Filled with ground pork and either leeks or cabbage, they can be found in all their warm, squishy glory most mornings from 7:30 to 10 near the Chinatown T stop.
Go to cityofboston.gov for the most up-to-date schedule.
Web Extra: Go behind the scenes at Meng’s Kitchen.
A rejuvenating antidote to a night spent throwing back tequila, this Mexican breakfast staple is built atop tortilla chips sautĂ©ed in either red or green tomato sauce until theyâre soft in the center and crisp around the corners. Then: zigzags of crema, queso fresco, raw onion, a fried egg. Avocado and shreds of chicken grace the tomatillo version ($11.95, pictured) at Angelaâs CafĂ©. At Taqueria El Carrizal, find a pared-down red-sauce take ($9.99) with luscious refried beans.
For a chocolate-frosted blast from the past, we turn to the other DD, where doughnuts start at $1.20. That said, the family-run bakery has also managed to keep up with the times: Enter the new maple-bacon doughnut, a custard-filled, syrup-frosted confection topped with two sizzling strips ($3).
199 Mystic Ave., Medford, 781-395-8422.
Sure, the eggs get all the titular glory, but a breakfast sandwich is only as good as the meat inside. Thatâs the philosophy of Joshua Smith, chef-owner of Waltham newcomer Moodyâs Delicatessen & Provisions. Drawing inspiration from porcine memories of his New Jersey childhood, he created a gourmet take on pork roll, a breakfast meat usually of the âyou donât want to know whatâs in thisâ ilk. For his refined version, Smith grinds together house-cured bacon and sausage, ferments it, adds maple syrup, smokes the whole thing, then slices it into rounds. The roll is seared to order with an American-cheese omelet, which gets cozy with Tabasco-spiked ketchup inside a buttery griddled English muffin ($5.50).
468 Moody St., Waltham, 781-216-8732, moodyswaltham.com.
Imagine, for a moment, that you could extract the charred, crusty exterior of a backyard burger and meld that with the porky texture of a sausage. And then deep-fry it. And then smother it with mayo, curry ketchup, and chopped onions before nestling the entire mess into a brioche roll. So anyway, the Dutch and Belgians call this street-food snack frikandel, and you can find an awesome rendition ($8) by way of downtownâs Sausâno imagination required.
Boston staffers confess to their naughtiest edible indulgences with a huge dose of pride (which, not for nothing, rhymes with âfriedâ).
$4.50, Mamaâs Place,Â gomamasplace.com.
âA great, half-melted chocolate shake is my Saturday ritual. Always chocolate, and always on a Saturdayâcalories, quite simply, donât count on the weekends.âÂ âMichele Snow, Designer
$6.50 for a large, Kellyâs Roast Beef,Â kellysroastbeef.com.
âThe fries are swimming in a suspension of perfectly engineered yellow-orange glop, and the name of the game is to mow through the pileup before the sauce turns to rubberâor your buzz wears off.âÂ âCarly Carioli, Editor
$6.79 for a three-piece meal, Popeyes,Â popeyes.com.
âThe crustâs texture is flawless. I like to bite open a pickled jalapeĂ±o (59 cents) and squeeze the brine onto the chicken, which cuts through the fat, and, you know, adds a little green veg to the mix.âÂ âJolyon Helterman, Editor at Large
CHINESE FRIED DOUGH
$1, Great Taste Bakery,Â greattasteboston.com.
âThe Chinese name (youtiao) literally means âoil stick.â Which is pretty accurate: Itâs a bread stick thatâs fried to such perfection that you need a napkin the second you tear off a greasy hunk.âÂ âYiqing Shao, Associate Digital Editor
$2.50, Sound Bites,Â soundbitesrestaurant.com.
âInstead of crunchy hunks of potato, you get a creamy, griddled-till-golden brick of garlicky mashed potatoes that, semantics aside, is no-bite-left-behind good.âÂ âCourtney Hollands, Senior Lifestyle Editor
Those who thrive on dining at off-the-beaten-path spots would be smart to bookmark Bostonâs Hidden Restaurants (hiddenboston.com), an invaluable website from local blogger Marc Hurwitz. He surmises that he eats out 125 nights a year, scouring the Greater Boston area and beyond for no-frills, reasonably priced meals that score major points in the satisfaction arena. As fans ourselves, we asked Hurwitz for a cheat sheet to some of his current go-tos.
Five Hurwitz Faves:
INDONESIAN FRIED RICE
$10.50, 3 Country Bistro, Woburn.
âThis savory veggie-studded dish from a tiny Asian eatery comes with a fried egg on top.â
MAC âNâ CHEESE
$7.95, Winthrop Arms, Winthrop.
âAvailable by request, this off-menu mac features tubular cavatappi, a multi-cheese blend, and a beautifully browned crust.â
$13.95, Mrs. Jones, Dorchester.
âAvailable on Sundays, tender slices of turkey from this Lower Mills soul-food spotâwith two sides and cornbreadâare among the cityâs greatest treats.â
$7.95, Kelley Square Pub, East Boston.
âA great rendition of an old-school appetizer from a very old-school spot in a residential part of Eastie.â
CAJUN CHICKEN SOUP
$3.95 a bowl, Croninâs Publick House, Quincy.
âA very spicy and flavorful soup from a friendly bar located near the old shipyard.â
In theory, choose-your-own-adventure pasta shopsâwhere you pick a noodle, sauce, and toppings from a run-on listâshould be cheap-eats heaven. In practice? Not so much. During a no-holds-barred carb crawl with Salty Pig chefâand pasta maestroâKevin OâDonnell, we were foiled by pitfalls aplenty: unseasoned fettuccine, wan add-ons, insipid sauces. But the day wasnât a total wash. We found one place that nailed the conceptâBottega di Capri, where combos start at $6.50.
41 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-738-5333, bottegadicapri.com.
This protein-packed snack isnât just for survivalists anymore, as chefs and purveyors take it to molar-menacing new frontiers. Three to order: Sarmaâs slender beef slices with date molasses, fenugreek, cumin, and red pepper ($6); M.F. Dulockâs peppery ground-style strips (about $2 apiece); and BĂĄnh MĂŹ Ba Leâs sweet, thirst-inducing âmeat candyâ (our nickname; $10 for a half-pound).
Pad thai, shmad thai. Thai diners actually prefer this wider-noodled dish of chicken, scallions, egg, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sometimes squid, and always white pepper. Find quality renditions at Sâ&âI to GoÂ ($7.50) and Pho BasilÂ ($8.50).
For a city that largely pumpkins out by 2 a.m., Boston has a lot more going for it than you might expect when it comes to quelling hunger pangs after the clock strikes 12. Fancypants sashimi bar Uniâs excellent $10 ramen (served after 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays) may be the cityâs biggest breakout success in the after-hours-grub department, but itâs hardly alone. Here, eight additional options (some new, some old standbys) for eating well, cheaply, and lateâin some cases, until 4 a.m. âJoe Ricchio
Food until 1 a.m.
The Scene: Sharing most of the same patrons from bars in nearby Union Square, Area Fourâs little Somerville sibling is ideal for collecting your thoughts while listening to a soundtrack of â90s-era hip-hop.
The Order: When the kitchen closes at 11, all leftover thin-crust pizza is offered at half price until 1 a.m. (on a first-come, first-served basis, for dine-in only). Toppings-wise itâs a mixed bag, but itâs tough to go wrong with anyâespecially once your order is warmed up in the roaring wood oven.
445 Somerville Ave., Somerville, 617-764-4190, areafour.com.
Food until 1:30 a.m.
The Scene: A relaxed dining room that buzzes with Brookline residents seeking a snack after a night swigging Belgian brews across the street at the Publick House (which stops serving food at 11 p.m.). Itâs generally quite busy, so be prepared to wait a bit for the food.
The Order: Truffle fries may now border on clichĂ©, but this generous bowl ($5)âserved with a small tub of roasted-garlic mayoâwill remind you why they gained popularity in the first place.
1657 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-730-8040, abbeyrestaurant.net.Â
Food until 1:30 a.m.
The Scene: The dimly lit hangout, complete with Tiffany-style lampshades and plenty of old wooden booths, seems custom designed for hiding awayâand many locals come here to do just that. And enjoy the aroma of tomato sauce and garlic that permeates the air, of course.
The Order: Basic cheese pizza ($9, with toppings ranging from $1 to $3) has a crunchy, buttery crust and sweet, tangy sauce and is substantial enough to warrant the time required to finish an entire bottle of bargain-priced chianti.
433 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-266-5088, anchoviesboston.com.Â
Food until 1:30 a.m.
The Scene: This sprawling urban brasserie has established itself as the one place that label-hating hipsters, Fenway bros, trust-fund kids, service-industry professionals, and cougar packs can coexist in harmony.
The Order: Stick to classics like the superlative steak tartare with cornichons ($12) or the moules ProvenĂ§al ($12), served in a fragrant broth and accompanied by warm, chewy bread. Once the late menu kicks in (11 p.m. weeknights, 12 a.m. weekends), four or five changing specials go up on the mirror above the bar, keeping matters interesting.
528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-9100, easternstandardboston.com.
Food until 12:30 a.m. (Sunday to Thursday); 1:30 a.m. (Friday and Saturday)
The Scene: The eclectic vibe of this Washington Square hot spot matches its varied following, most notably a contingent of off-shift servers, cooks, and bartenders perched at the bar on any given night.
The Order: Because even the shortest wintertime stumble from a nearby bar can chill you to the core, request the meaty, aromatic cumin-dusted lamb ribs ($13) finished with spicy vinegar and fish sauce.
1704 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-396-8752, fairstedkitchen.com.
Food until 1:15 a.m. (Monday to Saturday)
The Scene: A preferred haunt of the cityâs service-industry folks after a long day spent serving the general public.
The Order: The late-night menu is made up of two categories: burgers and âconcretes,â the latter essentially Dairy Queen Blizzards on steroids. Those who opt for burgers are given the option to âhook them up.â We do so by tacking on a fried egg and veggie patty to our beef cheeseburger. The result is the mother of all burgers ($12, when all is said and done). Stoners would do well to order the Crunchy Hipster concrete ($7), which whips white-fudge pretzels, bacon, Mâ&âMs, and Butterfingers into vanilla ice cream.
Food until 3 a.m.
The Scene: Dining in what is basically a brightly lit basement dotted with Pepto-pink tablecloths, the crowd here can range from post-revelry college students to dancers who work at Centerfolds down the street. Youâll almost always spot a round table packed with chefs and cooks after a long shift.
The Order: Pair cold Tsingtaos with a bowl of clams simmered in a pungent black bean sauce ($12.95). The spicy dry-fried squid ($11.95) is the best in the city, with a crunchy, aggressively seasoned crust and tender seafood.
4 Tyler St., Boston, 617-482-3332, peachfarmboston.com.
Food until 4 a.m.
The Scene: A laid-back bar scene turns into an absolute circus upstairs on the entrance level between 2 and 4 a.m., as an entire inebriated neighborhood descends in search of super late-night sustenance.
The Order: While the burgers ($4.25â$5.85) are a no-brainer, Tastyâs hot dogsâlovingly called âshaftsââare equally great, particularly when covered in chili, jalapeĂ±o cheese sauce, and chopped onion ($5.25).
40 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-425-4444, tastyburger.com.
These local grocers offer ready-to-eat takeout thatâll fill you up right.
Five Local Markets
This Armenian market and wine shop offers a host of tempting salads and spreads. For a truly portable bite, order a warmed-to-order creamed-chicken-and-onion-stuffed bogacha ($2.29), essentially a puffy, triangular Hot Pocket (in the best possible way).
This Iraqi-owned market resembles a smoke shop from the outside, but itâs really a hub for Middle Eastern pantry essentials. Donât leave without a fresh-made kefta sandwich ($5.99), with grilled beef patties, diced tomato, tahini sauce, and a smear of harissa.
WALTHAM INDIA MARKET
Jarred curries, condiments, and sacks of basmati rice dominate the shelves here, but downstairs the mini food court is stocked with ready-to-eat kebabs, Indo-Chinese dishes, and salty-good fried chicken ($2.99 for two pieces).
DJâS EUROPEAN MARKET AND DELICATESSEN
More convenience store than full market, DJâs boasts a deli counter in back serving up Polish comfort food (a dozen pierogi with onions and bacon, $5.95) and tons of sandwiches (like house-made kielbasa with sauerkraut and onions, $3.95 for a small). 617-436-9766.
HONG KONG SUPERMARKET
Formerly known as Super 88, this Asian superstore benefits from the food court flanking itâand we recommend not entering without scoring an order of soft, herbaceous fresh rolls ($4.40) from the Pho Vietâs stand, which come with a thick, savory peanut sauce.
Gene Wu, who spent his formative years working at his parentsâ eateries in the northern Chinese city of Xiâan, always dreamed of opening a place of his own. After coming to the U.S. to study, he instead became a chemistâand worked in Billerica in that field for more than a decade before deciding to pursue his lifelong ambition. In 2011, he opened Geneâs Flatbread CafĂ© in Chelmsford, which became so successful that last year he opened a second location on the fringes of Bostonâs Chinatown. And itâs with a chemistâs precision that he approaches each 17-hour day, arriving at the downtown shop at six oâclock every morning to calibrate and portion out the dough so he and his staff can hand-pull each order of thick, ropey noodles Ă la minuteâthen toss them with chili oil, garlic, and cilantro ($6) or immerse them in a meaty broth with slices of lamb ($11). This diligence only pays off, however, if you eat Wuâs noodles the right way: âWe try very hard to make them fresh,â he says. âThey are made with flour, so they will stick together if you donât eat it right away or mix it up. Freshest is best.â In short: If you canât eat his noodles immediately, itâs best to hold off until you can.
257 Littleton Rd., Chelmsford, 978-256-6789; 86 Bedford St., Boston, 617-482-1888; genescafe.com.
We flock to Korean-fried-chicken chain Bonchon for its signature crunchy-fried poultry, but thereâs a Japanese dish on this decidedly pan-Asian menu thatâs just as much of a crowd-pleaser (and filler-upper): okonomiyaki ($13.95), a giant, crispy pancake loaded with squid, shrimp, cabbage, and bits of bacon. The massive dish is topped with thick, sweet barbecue sauce, Japanese-style mayo, and curls of bonito flakes. Yup. Itâs a $14 pancake. Trust us.
57 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-868-0981; 123 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-254-8888; bonchon.com.
Forget cronuts. This year, the pretzel is the baked good of choice for culinary hybridization. Overblown fast-food gambits aside (Ă la Chiliâs, Wendyâs), thereâs still some genius to this trend, exemplified locally by the following not-so-knotty twists on the crunchy German snack. âJanelle Nanos
From left to right (shown above):
$2.50, Bagelsaurus at Cuttyâs, Brookline Village,Â cuttyfoods.com.
Baker Mary Ting Hyattâs in-demand bagelsâavailable at Cuttyâs Friday and Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. until they sell outâare dipped in lye before baking and finished with sea salt. The perfect shmear? A dollop of mustard butter.
$2.50, SwissbĂ€kers, Allston,Â swissbakers.com.
Order any sandwich at this expansive bakery and the default bread is this squat, 6-inch mini loaf thatâs also great on its own. The dough is doused in a salt solution before baking, rendering the loaves an appealing tawny brown. Theyâre then topped with a touch of salt or pumpkin seeds.
$3.30, Clear Flour Bread, Brookline, clearflourbread.com.
Buttery and flaky, this savory croissant is flecked with black sesame seeds and sells out quickly every weekend. Arrive mid-morning to snag one.
America may be home to the stuffed-crust pizza, but weâve got nothing on Bolivia when it comes to gut-busters. See: Eastie spot Que Padre Taqueria y Masâs classic Bolivian dish pique a lo macho ($13.95), an eye-boggling platter of fried potatoes, seared chuck steak and Kayem hot dogs, fresh jalapeĂ±os, tomato wedges, and sliced onion, all crowned with a spider web of mayo and mustard. The locoto pepper sauce that pools at the bottom? Owner Victor Duranâs family recipe. Itâs but one of many hand crafted dishes at Que Padre, which also sells empanada-like salteĂ±as ($2.50 each) and bacon-wrapped Sonora hot dogs ($4 each).Â 617-418-7278
The North Shoreâstyle roast beef sandwich is a rite of passage for locals. But how to choose one from the infinite field of competitors? After visiting more than a dozen old-school joints, it became apparent that in its best form (the larger, onion-bunned Super Beef, usually available), the sandwich has thin, rosy beef; a griddled roll; and masterfully applied James River barbecue sauce, mayo, and American cheese (called the âthree-wayâ). With this in mind, we sleuthed out the best, and these five outmuscled the rest. âRichard Chudy
STEVEâS ROAST BEEF
$6.05, Malden,Â 781-397-8801,Â stevesroastbeef.com.
With rare, tender beef thatâs practically shredded, a slightly charred buttered onion roll, and evenly dispersed sauce, the Super Roast Beef (pictured) at this unassuming sub shop is the leader of the pack.
Pumped out of an open kitchen, this version masters the art of balanced excess: lots of sauce, lots of beef, and a heavily buttered roll.
JIMBOâS FAMOUS ROAST BEEF & SEAFOOD
$5.99, Reading,Â 781-944-0588.
In this anything but subtle sandwich, itâs all about the meat, which is piled high into a giant roll.
MINOâS ROAST BEEF
$5.95, Lynn,Â minoslynn.com.
$6.40, Melrose,Â libertybellmelrose.com.
The neatest, sexiest-looking sandwich of the bunch, this rendition boasts a slightly thicker slice of meat and a bun thatâs crispy on both the top and bottom.
Bostonâs full-boil obsession with ramen is actually quite logical. After all, itâs sweater weather here for at least seven months of the year, and the chronic wind chill sends us scurrying for steaming soups with a near-Pavlovian fury. Of course, one canâtâmake that shouldnâtâsubsist on a single buzzy style of brothy goodness alone. The next time youâre in need of a liquid lunch (or dinner), try one of these hearty meals in a bowl instead. âCourtney Hollands
Seven Souped-Up Soups
Web Extra: Check out seven warming bowls of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup).
O Ya chef-owner Tim Cushman is the man behind the cityâs priciest restaurant, where a 20-odd-course grand omakase rings in at $285 a head. His off-the-clock obsession is far cheaper: tacos. It makes sense. âSushi in its simplest form is rice and a piece of fish, maybe a dip in soyâvery simple. Same with a basic taco: a tortilla, cooked meat, onions, and cilantro,â he says. While Tim and his wife, O Ya co-owner Nancy, religiously take on taco binges from Chicago to San Francisco, in Boston they mostly make them at home. So we treated them to a local taqueria crawlâ13 places in two daysâto discover which ones warrant a spot on their feeding schedule. Here, the seven that made the cut.
$2, Taqueria El Amigo, Waltham,Â 781-642-7410.
Soft, pliable tortillas encase incredibly tender, well-seasoned cubes of beef tongue and come with a flavorful arbol-chili salsa on the side.Â Timâs Notes: âFrom the flavor balance to the quality, this is closest to the best Iâve had outside the Boston area.â
$2.25, Taco Loco, Somerville,Â tacolocomexican.com.
More reminiscent of extra-crisp carnitas than puffy pork skin, the pork strikes a great balance of tenderness and bite. Be sure to ask if you donât see them listed on the menu.Â Timâs Notes: âThese were a little crunchy, chewy, fatty, and porky.â
TINGAÂ CHICKEN TACOS
$8 for three, Beantown Taqueria, Central Square,Â cambridgebeantowntaqueria.com.
This place boasts some serious tacos anchored by from-scratch tortillasâthe best filling being the tinga, shreds of chicken in a fiery tomato-based sauce.Â Timâs Notes: âGreat heat and flavor. The tortilla is sturdy but gentle.â
$2.25, Taqueria Jalisco, East Boston,Â 617-567-6367.
Tender braised tongue is enhanced by the four house-made hot sauces that accompany the tacos.Â Timâs Notes: âThe tortillas are thin and delicate.â
AL PASTORÂ TACO
$2.50, Annaâs Taqueria, multiple locations,Â annastaqueria.com.
Served on a smaller tortilla than the rest of Annaâs tacos, this one showcases spiced pork shaved from a spit and paired with pineapple, avocado sauce, and dried-chili sauce.Â Timâs Notes: âItâs moist and the flavor is balancedâyou can taste some chili, and there is a nice floral quality.â
ENSENADA FISH TACO
$2.95, Dorado Tacos and Cemitas, Brookline,Â doradotacos.com.
On a big menu, the standouts are the Baja-style fried-fish versions, featuring fluffy, crispy beer-battered whitefish.Â Timâs Notes: âThe fish is nice and moist, and the taco has a tang to it. Itâs like having fish and chips with slaw.â
DALLAS SPICY BEEF TACO
$4, Lone Star Taco Bar, Allston,Â lonestar-boston.com.
Proof that Tex-Mex can be awesome, this homage to classic ground-beef tacos (pictured) is anchored by a fried, house-made tortilla. Timâs Notes: âItâs an open-faced crispy tacoâa clean version of Old El Paso taco night.â
For the truly hard-core cheapskatesâor big spenders caught light in the walletâwe upped the degree of difficulty, sleuthing out satisfying bites that top out at three singles. âPanicha Imsomboon
Eight Bites Under $3
Who better to guide us in the ways of hearty and thrifty eating than these three industry old-timers? A trip down memory lane, including plugs for their menusâ star items. âCassandra Landry
ARTHUR MANJOURIDES, 72
Chef and co-owner (with his brother and two sisters), Charlieâs Sandwich Shoppe, South End.
Beginnings: Peeling potatoes and working the cash register at six years old for his father, Chris Manjourides, a part owner of the original Charlieâs. âEvery morning at 4 a.m., 100 pounds of potatoes. I would start to fall asleep. My father would come by and shake me awake, and Iâd start peeling again.â
Top Find:Â A bag of guns left by a customer on top of the refrigerator. âA lost-and-found of guns! You never had to go to the movies.â
The Must-Order:Â Turkey hash, $7.15. Ground turkey, vegetables, and a blend of spices are combined, baked, then pan-fried to get those crispy golden bits a great hash demands.
HELEN METROS, 83
Server, Charlieâs Kitchen, Harvard Square.
Beginnings:Â A former waitress at the now-defunct Oxford Ale House, on Church Street, Metros worked a shift at Charlieâs Kitchen as a favor for a friendâand hasnât left yet. Although her current stint is going on 55 years, she says, âIâm not making a career out of it!â
Words to Live By:Â âItâs nice to be important, but itâs important to be nice.â
The Must-Order: Double cheeseburger, $5.25. The combination of classic toppingsâlettuce, tomato, pickles, and cheeseâlets the perfectly seared beef patties shine.
PAUL DEUTERIO, 65
Owner and operator, Galleria Umberto Rosticceria, North End.
Beginnings:Â There since the place opened in 1974. âMy father was a typical immigrant, doing whatever it took to get work, and back in those days it was a lot easier to open a small business than it is now. So we got drafted! Itâs like quicksand; once youâre in it, you canât get out.â
The Craft:Â âWe do things that are labor-intensive, and most places donât. We do things by hand. We make all of our stuff ourselves.â
The Must-Order:Â Sicilian-style pizza, $1.45. Burnt, caramelly cheese bubbles grace every thick, red-sauced square.
At $30, the âRotisserie Chicken Family Mealâ from Setaâs CafĂ© looks like the priciest item on our listâuntil you learn what it gets you: a mahogany-skinned rotisserie chicken, silky garlic sauce, creamy hummus, lavash, handcut fries, and a bracing salad of farmersâ market veggies, all made from scratch and served in a quantity designed to feed fourâmaking it $7.50 a person.
271 Belmont St., Belmont, 617-484-7823, setascafe.com.
Boston excels in all the expected categoriesâoysters, lobster rolls. Less obvious: xiao long bao, the steamed, soup-plumped mini buns from Chinaâs Jiangnan region. What makes Dumpling CafĂ©âs beauties ($6.95) the regionâs gold standard? Rich, salty broth; pillowy mounds of pork and crab; and delicate, thin skins.
695 Washington St., Boston, 617-338-8859, dumplingcafe.com.
Boston got its first taste of a yakitori joint, a Japanese small-plates eatery starring charcoal-grilled skewers of meat and vegetables (predominantly chewy chicken parts) a couple years back with the excellent but expensive Yakitori Zai. Now closed, the spot has paved the way for two new, more gently priced versions: Ichiban, near Symphony Hall, and Ittoku, in Brighton, both of which average $2 to $3 per skewer. Also at both, we suggest the following protocol: Gnaw the meat or veg off the skewer like a barbarian, take a sip of sake or beer, and repeat. Often.
Ichiban, 14 Westland Ave., Boston, 617-236-7907, ichibanboston.com; Ittoku, 1414 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton, 617-608-3630.
Full disclosure: CafĂ© Jaffaâs owners probably spell this garlicky, jalapeĂ±o-spiked, Yemen-born hot sauce the Israeli way (sâkhug), if they spell it at all: The gratis ($0) green goodness that gives the terrific lamb/beef shawarma salad ($9.95) its bracing zing and the chicken kebab ($7.50) its fiery subtlety isnât even listed on the menu. But we already had an S; moderately priced zebra isnât this townâs forte; and honestly, the punchy house-made condiment is so addictive it seemed more fitting to save for last.
48 Gloucester St., Boston, 617-536-0230, cafejaffa.net.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaurants/article/2014/01/28/cheap-eats-boston/