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Inexpensive but Delicious food in Boston?? Help!

Hi all,

My best friend is flying into Boston from Chicago for three days and nights over Thanksgiving and we will probably eat every meal out. Because of that, as well as a general lack of funds at the moment, we want to do a high quality, low price tour of Boston restaurants.

I am thinking Mom and Pop places, local restaurants that no one but you and your neighborhood know about, basically unique, delicious and inexpensive food off of the beaten path.

We enjoy all kinds of food and are welcome to any suggestions.

Thank you!

To further define "inexpensive", as requested, anywhere from $10-$35 each before liquor would be ideal, although there exists a bit of wiggle room. (if $35, apps and entree, or all really great apps etc...)

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  1. Just to clarify: you're gonna have to define "inexpensive" more clearly than that. Set a price range, because different people have different ideas of inexpensive. For example, the $39 tasting menu at Ten Tables is one of the biggest bargains in the city, but it's still $39, y'know?

    But to start: the banh mi at PhoViet in the Super 88 food court at Packard's Corner are delicious, and even though they've gone up to $3 from $2.50, they're still just about the yummiest bargain in town. I like the chicken best myself.

    1. Cheap eats abound in:
      East Boston
      East Somerville
      Est Cambridge

      Do a board search for specific recommendations.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gini

        Add Allston as another neighborhood with some great cheap eats. Cafe Brazil, Grain and Salt, YoMa, Buk Kyung II, and Shanghai Gate are all places where you can eat really well for $25 or less per person. (However, if you're intent on alcohol with your meals, not all of those places have liquor licences.)

      2. To further define "inexpensive", as requested, anywhere from $10-$35 each before liquor would be ideal, although there exists a bit of wiggle room. (if $35, apps and entree, or all really great apps etc...)

        1. Lets see....I love grand Chau Chau iin chinatown I think its on Beach St. The food is awesome and they have won many Best of Boston awards....you can have dinner for 2 for under 30 .00 a couple, with food even left over to bring home! Also try pho pasteur around the corner on Washington St. Yummie and cheasp Vietnamese...Also for Unbelievable non italian sanwiches try Volle Nolle on Hanover ask for Torrie the owner is great, locals all hang there....Also try Figs in Charlestown for delicious flat bread Pizzas..

          1. Some ideas:
            - Pasta and crostini at Trattoria Toscana in Fenway.
            - Mexican at Angela's in East Boston.
            - Have had really good duck and steak frites (and apps) at the Garden at the Cellar in Cambridge.
            - Pizza at Grangusto (this is a restaurant not a casual pizza place) in Cambridge.

            These places all put out great food and the chef/owners are in circulation so you get a local feel.

            1. Dok Bua in Brookline (on Harvard St. a few blocks over from Comm Ave) is not only inexpensive and arguably the best Thai to be found in the Boston area, it also allows brown bagging, which keeps it REALLY cheap! Dinner specials at about $10 each plus a six-pack of beer and you've got a great meal for under $30 for two. Delve deeper into the menu and it still stays well within your budget.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BobB

                Duk Bua is a great rec.
                Definitely no frills though.
                If you want to go just a tad more upscale (and trendy), check out Gaslight. I've been there a bunch of times and I think it's great food, very reasonably priced. It gets busy though, so make a reservation.

              2. One strategy for keeping costs down would be to go to better restaurants for lunch. Some of Boston's better restaurants actually have a reasonably priced lunch menu. For example, L'Espalier serves a three course prix fixe lunch for $24. Best way to find out is to check the web sites.

                1. If you are near West Newton, the Blue Ribbon BarBQue is the best bang for the buck around. Their dinners are about $10 which includes two sides and are all very good. No liquer license but a ginger beer or lemon aid are around $2 and dessert are around $3. That puts you at $15! And there's usually too much food to have dessert. Lee's (formally Pho Pasteur) in Allston/Brighton has terrific food cheap. Two apps and two large pho's and drinks and you're out of there for under $20 total. Trattoria Toscana is good too, but will run a bit higher. Good luck on your chow quest.

                  1. The prix fixe at Grotto just squeaks in at $35. Also, Gaslight in the South End, and Parish Cafe in the Back Bay.

                    In Cambridge, there's the Helmand, and Burdick's or Hi Rise for lunch.

                    1. Went to Boston for my first time in April, stayed at Westin at Copely place and found a place a few blocks away--Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe--not much to look at but FANTATIC breakfast and cheappppp

                      1. I put it on another post yesterday, in the NorthEnd "Pagliuca's" 14 Parmenter St. hits right in the middle of your budget. I learned of it years ago from a UPS driver while I was looking for a place to eat lunch. Very good Italian, I've sent dozens there and they always are happy.

                        1. Wihout doubt, one place has to be Silvertone. Great food, exceptional wine list that prices bottles with only 10 or 15 dollars above cost, great vibe, too. Importantly, it is where the chefs of Boston hang out after working. The prices of the entrees are roughly 15 dollars, but the quality and portions are 25 dollars. Really a treat.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: herculesmulligan

                            Yes, Josh is a sweetie and his food is great, I always forget about silvertones, thank you.

                            Also, Grotto, I didn't know that they had such an affordable prix fix. Thank you all for the great ideas! I know that we will be eating well.

                            I have decided that one of the mornings we will be doing dim sum and there apears to be argument over whether China Pearl or Some place by the gates (moon something) is better. Not to sound silly, but what kind of food is served at a dim sum? Because neither have an online menu and all I can find is vague reviews of both with no mention of specific food.

                            Thank you again!

                            1. re: foodie07

                              "Moon something" would be Hei La Moon - several regulars here insist that this is the best Cantonese dim sum in Boston currently, but my one visit there did not impress. I've had decent experiences at Empire Garden and at Chau Chow City, but my standard fall-back continues to be China Pearl - always good and sometimes excellent in my experience.

                              Basically most things are served in little dishes or small steamer baskets with 3 or 4 items per serving. Most items range from bite-sized to a little bigger (the filled buns are a little smaller than a tennis ball) so you can try a bunch of things. Don't know if it's going to be just you and your friend or a bigger group - my personal preference is a party of 4 to 8, because that way you can try more things. However, even if it's just the two of you you'll have a great time!

                              Here's an enormous Flikr pool of dim sum photos, just so you can see the kinds of things that might turn up.


                              Hei La Moon
                              88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                              China Pearl Restaurant
                              9 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                              Empire Garden Restaurant
                              690 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111

                              Chau Chow City
                              81 Essex St, Boston, MA 02111

                          2. El Pelon and Rod Dee in the Fenway. Bartley's Burgers and Cambridge 1 in Harvard Sq., Charlie's for a fun cheap dive. Chacarerro downtown for Chilean sandwiches, which he may not get in Chicago. Miracle of Science in Central and Audobon outside Kenmore for cool, well priced food and a fun bar scene. The 1-2-3-4-5 deal at Noir, weekdays from 5-7. And the $7 before 7 at the bar of Excelsior.

                            1. Hi,

                              Brookline Family Restaurant in Brookline Village. It's unique, delicious and inexpensive Turkish food. It's easy to get to via the Brookline Village green line stop.

                              In the Back Bay, on Gloucester St., I really enjoy Cafe Jaffa, which is an Israeli/Middle Eastern place. Their food is very tasty, and inexpensive as well.

                              In Chinatown, Kaze Shabu-Shabu might be a good choice. It's not expensive, and it's definitely fun. You get platters of meat/fish and veggies, to cook at your table in a choice of different broths. Very tasty (and healthy too).

                              Over in Cambridge, you should definitely try some Portuguese food. Although my favorite place has recently closed (sigh), a good place to try is Portugalia, on Cambridge St.

                              If you like Indian food, which is not expensive, try India Quality House, on Commonwealth Avenue, just outside Kenmore Sq.

                              Finally, if you are really adventurous, one of my favorite haunts is the Addis Red Sea Ethiopian restaurant, on Tremont St. in the South End. It's definitely unique and delicious, and very reasonable.


                              5 Replies
                              1. re: mwk

                                What East Cambridge Portuguese place recently closed?

                                  1. re: mwk

                                    Crushing news about O Cantinho. It was my favorite Portuguese (more like Azorean) in East Cambirdge, too. I'd written about it twice, once for the Dig and another time quite recently (Sept 20) in the Phoenix. I'm glad I ate there a bunch of times this summer. <sniff>

                                1. re: mwk

                                  Wowsers, ALL of those places look amazing! That is exactly what I was thinking of, Thank you!

                                  1. re: mwk

                                    Also Brazilian. Muqueca in E. Cambridge, Oasis in Medford, Churrasco in E. Somerville (the latter is buffet + grill). Note that portions tend to be enormous so you could save $ by splitting a main.