Not the top college basketball teams, but Tucson’s most flavorful, inexpensive eateries
Downsizing your dinner tab because of rising prices and a stagnant economy?
Check out our Sweet 16, a collection of reasonably priced eateries pulled from the last year or so of Cheap Eats reviews, which run Thursdays in Calendar Plus, www.calendarplus.com. A “Cheap Eats” restaurant is where two people can eat for a total of $20 or less.
In some cases, you’ll have to give up silverware and fine china for plastic utensils and foam plates, but you won’t be sacrificing flavor. You may even find your new favorite place, regardless of cost.
CHECKERBOARD CAFE 2261 N. Oracle Road, 622-1334
Hours: 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday Bar: No Tom’s take: Great, old-style diner service. All items, including the Checkboard Melt ($5.58) have quality ingredients.
LAVERNA’S COFFEE SHOP 220 S. Plumer Ave., 623-1389
Hours: 5 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Bar: No Tom’s take: Truck-stop heaven without the truck stop; try the homemade Chicken Fried Steak ($6.25).
BAI THONG: AUTHENTIC THAI CUISINE 4853 E. Speedway Blvd., 881-5068
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. weekdays, 5-10 p.m Saturday and 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday Bar: No
Tom’s take: The entrees are fresh-tasting, spicy and rich; its lunch specials run about $5.50 each.
PHO 88 VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT 2744 N. Campbell Ave., 881-8883
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily Bar: Beer & wine Tom’s take: Eighteen variants of exquisitely rich, yet delicately flavorful pho and good Vietnamese broken rice. Most entrees are around $7.
SAMURAI 3912 N. Oracle Road, Suite 100, 293-1963
Hours: 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. weekedays, noon-8:30 p.m. Saturday Bar: No Tom’s take: The Cold Ramen ($5.92) is a great hot-weather lunch choice that sings with simple, fresh flavors.
EAST COAST SUPER SUBS 187 N. Park Ave., 882-4005
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily Bar: Beer & wine Tom’s take: Subway’s wonder boy Jared would be refilling those jeans he holds up in commercials before too long were he to stumble onto this memorabilia-stuffed joint. The No. 7 East Coast Special ($6.50) will have you hooked.
PJ’S SUBS 4500 E. Speedway Blvd., Suite 37, 798-1400
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily Bar: No Tom’s take: PJ Subs features well-stuffed sandwiches with good ingredients at reasonable prices, served by workers who seem to enjoy their jobs. The Chizzo ($6) features hot Italian sausage, grilled onions and bell peppers and melted provolone.
FRONIMO’S GREEK CAFE 3242 E. Speedway Blvd., 327-8321
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily Bar: Beer & wine Tom’s take: That it can serve Greek food this authentic and good for prices this low is astounding. Take the gyro sandwich at only $4.88.
SABRA MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT 4210 E. Speedway Blvd., 795-6060
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, Saturday schedule varies, 4-9 p.m. Sunday Bar: No Tom’s take: Not the cheapest (Shawarma sandwich, $7.75, and Kefta Kebob sandwich, $8.75), but everything is glatt kosher and made from quality ingredients.
TORK’S CAFE 3502 E. Grant Road, 325-3737
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday Bar: No Tom’s take: This family-run eatery excels at just about everything on its menu. Combos plates are a little less than $8.
EL POTRERO RESTAURANT 5404 S. 12th Ave., 889-5651
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 a.m. Friday and Saturday Bar: No Tom’s take: It does a chile relleno combination plate ($7.50) that may have no equal at any price. Its cocido ($5.45) and tostadas also are great.
EL SUR RESTAURANT 5602 E. 22nd St., 748-1032
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. weekedays, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday Bar: No Tom’s take: Great service and food for reasonable prices – Tacos Caseros ($5.50) and Bistek Picado ($5.50).
HABANERO’S FRESH MEXICAN GRILL 6875 E. Sunrise Drive, 529-8048
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily Bar: Beer & wine Tom’s take: It serves decidedly delicate and refined Mexico City-style food, including its vibrant Fish Tacos platter ($7.99).
MOLCA’S MEXICAN GRILL 2425 S. Sixth Ave., 295-4466
Hours: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday Bar: No Tom’s take: You’ll wait a little longer than you’re used to waiting for fast-Mexican, but it’s more than worth the wait. The Tacos Dorados ($3.75) are great.
BRUSHFIRE BBQ CO. 2745 N. Campbell Ave., 624-3223
Hours: 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday Bar: No
Tom’s take: Fare fine enough to merit a fine dining review, but affordable enough for “Cheap Eats.” Sandwiches with one side are $6.50 and $8. Meals with two sides and bread are from $8.20 to $13.
MR K’S BARBECUE 1830 S. Park Ave., 792-9484
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday Bar: No
Tom’s take: Top-rate Texas-style barbecue with slow-smoked flavor. Pulled pork (from $4.95 for a sandwich) and hot links (from $4.25 for a sandwich) are my favorites.
TUCSON RESTAURANT GUIDE
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