On this week’s Dining section on WMFE-FM, I speak with 90.7’s Nicole Creston about good places for cheap eats — not just restaurants where you won’t spend a lot of money, but places where you’ll get good food and a better bang for your dining buck. My segments air on 90.7 at 5:45 p.m. Fridays during All Things Considered and again on Saturday mornings at 9:35. In addition, you can hear the podcasts online at wmfe.org/dining. Here are some of the restaurants we talked about:
Ethnic restaurants are usually good bets for getting a lot of bang for your buck. Look to your Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese restaurants — these kinds of restaurants are able to offer something substantial because many of the entrees feature either noodles or rice, which helps give you a full feeling, but then there are also vegetables and a protein to make it a good, round meal. Thai restaurants have been creeping their prices up a bit, but they’re still a bargain. You can go to one of the Vietnamese restaurants that specializes in pho, the big bowls of beef noodle soups, and eat yourself silly for under $10. Consider Pho 88 on Mills, or Anh Hong, or Pho Vinh for Vietnamese.
Latin American is another cuisine to look to for good bargains. I like La Abundancia in Winter Park, which is part bakery and part cafe and features daily specials. I had a special of plantain soup, which sounds pretty measly, but this was a huge bowl of chicken broth with lots of chicken, vegetables and sliced plantains. I was stuffed for about seven bucks. Rincon Cubano, also in Winter Park, is another favorite where you can leave quite satisfied for under $10.
Soul food is reliably reasonable. Try Lowe’s Good Eaton Soul Food restaurant in Eatonville. Have the meatloaf or the fried chicken. And if you leave still hungry, you really ought to consider seeing a gastroenterologist.
Hawkers Asian Street Fare combines the affordability of Asian dishes with smaller portions, always a good way to go a bit cheaper.
And that’s a good way to turn any moderately priced restaurant into a cheap eats restaurant. Consider splitting an entree between two people. You may get charged a little extra for two set-ups — the plate with starch and vegetable, but you’ll still come out ahead. Or let your favorite restaurant know that you’d be interested in having a half-portion option. Some already offer it, like Le Coq Au Vin, and I think that’s very smart.
What are your favorite cheap eats restaurants? Tell us in the comments below.