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hidden meal deals in boston?

i know this is sort of a difficult question to answer (and probably pretty gauche to ask of 'chowhounds'!), but i'm trying to compile a list of places that have decent, affordable food for those times that you'd really like to go out, but don't feel like you can spend much money. perhaps you know of some gems that are really affordable? or, maybe even some sort of special deals around happy hour or something? i feel like i often hear about places that i should try, but then forget them when it actually comes to planning an evening... can anyone help contribute to my list?

my ideas:
1. mccormick and shmick's $1.95 bar menu mondays through fridays from 5-7, i think?
2. johnny d's half-price menu mondays through fridays from 4:30-6:30
3. bukowski's cheap burgers at lunchtime during the week
4. the summer shack had some sort of deal during happy hour, but can't recall what it is
5. i'll add more as i remember them...

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  1. Well, pretty much everything in Central Square, Cambridge is a good deal - you can have a complete meal (dinner, drink, even dessert) for under $10 any (PM) time of any night. A lot of restaurants have lunch buffet specials that can be $7, $6, or less for all-you-can eat. Finally, I believe the new Spike's Junkyard Dogs by Mass Ave. on Boylston has some special deal at a certain time, but no idea what it is.

    1. There's Grendel's Den's half-price food during off-peak dinner times, but the quality ain't great. They also have 5 items for $1 on Sunday nights.

      1. When I lived in Allston, I used to go to Our House, a bar close to Comm/Harvard Ave that had 2-for-1 burgers and appetizers from 4-7 on weekdays. They make a pretty good burger and have great cris-cut fries, and their honey hot wings are awesome. It's the kind of place where you could go with a buddy for dinner and watch the Simpsons or Family Guy on TV while sitting on a comfy couch eating good burgers. And all that for a grand total of 10 bucks including tip for two people (2-for-1 burgers plus fried = $6.50).

        1. Not really hidden, but I rarely see folks order off the fixed price menus at many Chinese restaurants. That's usually a good deal relative to ordering a la carte.

          1. At pretty much any pho restaurant you can easily spend less than $10 and have a full, happy belly.

            1. The 88 food court.

              Whatever your favorite dimsum place is in chinatown.

              1. There's a sush place on Newberry near the Copley stop that great, $1 per piece - even uni, the pieces are small (which I like as it seems to enhance the "healthy" feeling I get from sushi), the restaurant is nice inside, no alcohol though.

                5 Replies
                1. re: steinpilz

                  If this place is basement/garden level, yeah, that place WAS awesome. Since their renovation last year-ish, the quality has gone from good to downright terrible. Stay away.

                  1. re: mchang

                    I wonder why you say this, I've been there a couple of times within the last month as it was fine (I wouldn't say extraordinary, but the sushi I had was fine)?

                    1. re: steinpilz

                      Are you talking about Shino Express? When I went the first time over a year ago (happened to just stumble upon it), I really enjoyed it. The last time I went when I was in Boston this past January, the sushi was definitely not as good as that first time. It wasn't awful, but I don't know that I would go back unless I heard otherwise from more people.

                      1. re: snoangel

                        Yes. Shino Express got the renovation and then the suckage. I don't know if the original poster meant this place. But yeah, not going back.

                        1. re: snoangel

                          What is it you guys don't like about this place, more specifically?

                  2. North street grille in the north end has a burger/steak tip dinner with a 16oz harpoon for ten bucks.

                    1. Masa in the South End has their $1 tapas menu in their bar area in the evenings. Keep in mind that each of these tapas is about 2 bites worth. But, the few times I've had them they were pretty good.

                      For awhile (I think it may've jut been a winter thing) Blackfin on Huntington Ave. had a sushi hour one night a week. On Tuesday evenings from 5:30 to 6:30 you could sample free sushi in the bar area. They generally wouldn't offer you the sushi until you had ordered a beverage. If they aren't still doing this, maybe they will bring it back next winter.

                      Finian's in Quincy center on Hancock Street has dinner for two on weeknights for around $14. You get to chose from a list of about a dozen entrees. Not the best food ever... but it is halfway decent American/pub-style fare.

                      1. the greek corner at 2366 mass ave cambridge has good, reasonably priced food and is a nice little neighborhood spot. the gyros and homemade sausage sandwich are in the range of $5.50-6 or so, veggie sampler plate, moussaka or pastitso are in the $9-10 dollar area.

                        1. As opposed to the more recent threads which aren't giving any good tips on true hidden meal deals...

                          Whiskey's on Boylston has 10 cent wings M-Th from 5-10 along with 2 dollar-ish appetizers. I believe the specials are only at the bar though.

                          The wings aren't anything to rave about, but you can't argue the value.

                          Also, I thought I saw a sign at Tommy Doyle's in Kendall Square for a 14.95 twin lobster dinner on Tuesday evenings.

                          1. $0.25 wings at Cherry Tree pub in Newton during Bosox games.

                            1. mccormick and shmick's also has $1 oysters on Tuesday nights.

                              Their burgers are in my opinion only worth two bucks. The Quesadillas are pretty tasty as are the wings.

                              Peach Farm in Chinatown also has a really great lunch special, it is like 5 or 6 bucks for a cup of soup a eggroll and a large dish of food with rice. Only during weekdays though.

                              Umberto's is also an amazing deal, 1.10 for a sicilian slice of pizza, one of the best pizza's in boston. They are closed till the end of July though. I cannot wait for them to be open. Also only open for lunch.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: JamesHH

                                What sort of oysters do they serve up on special? Are they quality?

                                1. re: mhoffman

                                  They usually have a pretty good selection of oysters. I would say about 8 different types, both east and west coast, and then maybe one or two clam options. They are the same ones they serve in the resturuant for normal price, so I think they are a pretty good quality.

                                  1. re: JamesHH

                                    Yeah, it depends on what they have available. It seems to me they generally have 6 oysters, 2 claims as I tend to get 2 each of the 6 oyster types for an even dozen.

                              2. If you're in the mood for Chinese, prices are very reasonable (and portions are large) at Zoe's on Beacon Street in Somerville. You can also BYOB, which always helps to save a bundle. . .

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: phoebek

                                  Zoe's, by the way, boasts that they were Julia Child's chinese takeout place... I believe them.

                                2. I like the three sides at Bob's Southern Cuisine, among the choices, mac n cheese, collard greens, yams, cabbage.
                                  $10.00

                                  1. As I saw on the Phantom Gourmet -- Morton's Steak House has free sirloin burgers at the bar during typical happy hour. Free.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: mchang

                                      yep- been to the mortons layout- you have to get a drink ( twist my arm ) but they put out some crudite and decent bar type snacks, along with burgers (presumably a churning of the extra inventory) but I didnt notice any thing stanky. It remains a free for all as of last month, and as far back as last april 2005 as far as I know.

                                      1. re: blacknbleu

                                        Sounds interesting - what hours do they offically consider "happy hour" at Morton's?

                                      2. thanks for all these great tips! i will definitely be checking out the m & s oyster deal! oh, and i had forgotten about masa until i went there this past saturday. nice atmosphere there, too.

                                        i have a few more to add:

                                        east asia in somerville (at powderhouse rotary) is kind of a dive, but their lunch specials (for those who work close, like me; eat-in only) are around $5 for soup, appetizer, little cabbage salad, fried wonton crisps, rice and entree. i usually can make two meals out of it.

                                        news (i think?) has a wednesday night ladies' night where women can get a 3-course meal for free, i think! crazy.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: melle76

                                          News says that you are supposed to order a drink to get the free meal. I am not sure how much of a stickler they are about that. When I went, everyone in my group ordered a drink anyway.

                                          They still charge you tax (gratuity also added for larger parties) on what they say the full value of the meal is, which if I recall correctly, the valued at around $40 per person. So, after the 1 cocktail a piece and the tax & tip we each ended up paying around $15.

                                          1. re: mangorita

                                            I know some girls who went to this and were very dissappointed in the food and drinks. They said the servings were small and were not very good. they are not super picky eaters either so I would not recommend it.

                                            1. re: JamesHH

                                              I wasn't very impressed with the food or the serving size. And they didn't seat my group until an hour after our reservation was for. The hostess kept telling us they were almost ready to seat us and told us that in the meantime we could order more drinks from the bar.

                                              The meal itself wasn't an extravagant 3 courses. The first course was a basic field greens salad. The 2nd course was a choice between grilled swordfish, roasted chicken or veggie parm. The veggie parma was really, really small in size. No bigger than 3"x3"x3". The sizes of the swordfish serving varied quite a bit amongst people in my group. some got almost a whole swordfish steak, others got barely half. The chicken was decently portioned. The desert was a 1/4" sliver of cheesecake. We all laughed at the dessert sreving size when the waiter brought it out.

                                              1. re: mangorita

                                                I totally agree - News is a scam. It works out to be close to $20 with the drink, tax and tip, and the portions were so small, i was still hungry.

                                          2. re: melle76

                                            Yay on East Asia.
                                            Also, Wangs - south from EA on Broadway about half a mile - specializes in dumplings, which are cheap by the dozen.

                                          3. I thought mortons had little steak sandwiches during happy hour, not burgers. can anyone confirm or deny? i haven't been, but i've read about it.

                                            1. oh- another:

                                              5-4-3-2-1-0 at Noir! (at the charles hotel in harvard sq.)

                                              $5 Sandwiches
                                              $4 Flatbreads
                                              $3 Salads
                                              $2 Skewers
                                              $1 Sweets
                                              $0 Nuts

                                              5-7 pm
                                              Monday through Friday

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: melle76

                                                That's a good one. Thanks for the tip.

                                                1. re: yumyum

                                                  Curious to hear if you tried this and what you thought. I quite like the cocktails at Noir but in the past found their food to be pretty bad, actually (how can you mess up a flatbread?)

                                                  1. re: MB fka MB

                                                    Hey there -- haven't had a chance to check it out yet. I think Noir is a sexy bar but not for the food. I was thinking flatbread sounded harmless enough. If I can stand the heat I'll get over there this week.

                                                    1. re: MB fka MB

                                                      I was there a couple months ago, it was great. Full portions, choice of menu, great deal. Of course, the $12 drinks aren't a deal but it's a good time. That and the Blu "9 to 5" are great deals in fairly swanky places.

                                                  2. Whatever the daily specials are at ES can be a real bargain at dinner time. I had a blood sausage, egg and brioche for eight dollars, it was like a large twenty dollar appetizer anywhere else.

                                                    If I want to sit down to a quiet, cheap and good dinner I like Tamarind House for Thai food on Mass Ave near Porter. Surprisingly good service and food and I typically bring home a doggie bag.

                                                    1. $7 lunch pasta at Trattoria Toscana is a treat.

                                                      1. I never thought I'd be posting to Chowhounds about this place, but last night I had an incredible piece of local, fresh-caught striped bass at the Galway Pub in Jamaica Plain. Usually my wife and I go there to watch the Sox and have a burger (which are decent when cooked properly, but nothing special). Its just a typical neighborhood "old man's" bar that's been part of the neighborhood for decades. It still smells like smoke and stale beer and thats the best that can said for the atmosphere.

                                                        Last night we were on our usual mission, but I noticed the bass special on the blackboard and decided to check it out. The 1st course salad was like you'd expect from a place like this and side veggies of mixed squashes were mushy and unappealing.

                                                        But the fish was amazing. It was very simple, just broiled in butter, but the freshness came through and it was delicious. Excellent fries, too...all for $14.95. The exact same piece of fish would of been 25 or 30 bucks, or more, in the South End.

                                                        This kind of thing doesn't show up too often on the Galway's specials board, but when it does its worth the effort to get some great food at a ridiculously cheap price.

                                                        1. So last night my friends and I went to the free concert at City Hall Plaza, and afterwards were looking for something to eat. Being near the North End, I wanted to head that way, so me and another friend broke off from the group. I'd been hearing about the North Street Grille here and elsewhere, so I wanted to check it out. A little off the beaten path, but we found it.

                                                          Anyhow, last night they were having a special, either a burger or a mini Clam Basket and a beer for 10 bucks. Sounded like a good deal to my DC and I, so we both got the clam basket and a Harpoon Summer. The fried clams were tasty, they came with some cole slaw and a little stack of potato chips.

                                                          We each had another beer, so our total came to 32.55 each before tip. Not half bad for two people!

                                                          1. The new menu at 75 Chestnut is full of good deals. Relatively cheap prices for steak tips, salmon, burgers, etc. And it's all really good food--they have a new chef, but I haven't detected a drop in quality.

                                                            1. I noticed that Redbones is offering half-off appetizers in their bars from 4-6. Its not a place I normally go for a meal, but I do enjoy their appetizers (BBQ hash, sausage), beer selection, and the "Underbones" part of the bar which I thought opened later. I was there for the late night menu and that also has some changes, but remains a decent "cheap eats" option.