Lunch shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s not fancy, and you’re probably not trying to impress anyone. You’re just hungry. Maybe you’re hangry.
You need nourishment! Why pay more than 10 bucks? And why not pay five?
Across town, there are plenty of tasty options for the budget-conscious foodie.
Try Bing King, home of the fusion jian bing, at 725 Olive St. Jian bing is a traditional street food — think of it like a Chinese burrito — with layers of savory meat and delicate veggies, flavored with roasted sesame, toasted nori flakes, green onion and chili, studded with crunchy wanton crisps or chopped-up Chinese youtiao, like a rice flour donut or churro and swaddled in a soft, tender flat bread.
Meat and fried carbs are your friends! My favorite jian bing is stuffed with crispy chicken and bacon. I also like the pork belly. You heard me. Add some greens, if you like, or grab a cup of cold fried noodles with Spam. Yes, Spam.
Get over yourself and put it in your face. You will be glad you did. Your very own jian bing will set you back about $6.
If you’re in the mood for Oaxacan fare, checkout El Buen Sabor, a food truck at 650 Blair Boulevard. Try the tlayudas, a large, thin, crunchy tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, asiento (pork lard, yum) lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat (I’m into the chicken), oaxacan cheese and salsa. Fried corn masa memelas — like a savory pancake of your dreams — make a perfect midday snack and can be topped with a variety of salsas.
El Buen Sabor also features more familiar fare, including mouth-watering quesadillas, nachos and a “Big Burrito” that could shelter a small family. Nothing on the menu tops $7.
If you’re looking for a meal that could be all the calories your body needs for several days, look no further than Toxic Wings & Fries. With locations on River Road, West 11th and Valley River Center, they draw in big-time fans for their juicy burgers, crispy fries and bone-in or bone-out chicken wings, featuring a variety of sauces, from mild pesto ranch to “crazy spicy” Toxic Lava. Yes, it is crazy spicy and yes, we warned you. Though your cardiologist advises against it, you can order double or triple meat. The intoxicator burger features four meat patties. Good luck with that.
Another go-to in the cheap-but-tasty eats category is Albee’s NY Gyros, with outposts on West 11th and West 18th avenues and on Willamette Street. This former New Yorker’s favorite lunchtime choice is Albee’s spanakopita salad — with light and flaky spinach filo dough pies served atop a bed of crunchy greens. Because every salad should feature pie!
Another grab-and-go option is the falafel gyro or Albee’s beef-lamb original, served with a variety of toppings for just $8. (I get the junior for $6 so I can also justify ordering pie salad.)
And once you’ve run this veritable cheap food gauntlet and you’re in need of something a little lighter, we recommend Govinda’s Vegetarian Buffet, at 1030 River Road. Since 2007, Govinda’s has been offering fresh, healthy salads and soups, a variety of breads (this is gluten-free/fussy diet heaven) as well as simple and delicious hot foods like savory rice, mixed vegetable stir fries and daily curries.
Soul-satisfying and probably good for your karma, Govinda’s offers a daily lunch buffet for $10.95 for all-you-care-to-eat, or an even more economical option for lighter appetites, featuring the same fare at $5.99 per pound.