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Photo by Beth Furgurson
La Parisienne Bistro & Cafe
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Photo by Beth Furgurson
The Naked Onion
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Photo by Ian Hurdle
Mama J's Kitchen
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Photo by James Dickinson
Lemon Cuisine of India
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Photo by Jay Paul
Nicole Sanhamel at The Continental Westhampton
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Photo by James Dickinson
Jojo's Famous NY Style Pizza & Subs
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Photo by Jay Paul
Chayanut Meeboom and Sucheep Natrsan of Thai Diner Restaurant
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Photo by Ian Hurdle
Full Kee Restaurant
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Photo by Steve Hedberg
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Photo by Beth Furgurson
The Dog Wagon
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Photo by Ian Hurdle
What can you get for $10 or less when you're hungry? Richmond is blanketed with food — the good, the bad, the pricey and the cheap. We wanted to find out which restaurants were both good and good to your wallet: You'll always find cheaper options out there, but our first criterion was taste — then price. We chose some of the most popular dishes on menus around town — things like tacos, sandwiches or pizza — as a jumping-off point, but we don't want you to limit yourself to those particular things when ordering out. Think of each one as a window into the restaurant that we're recommending, and then go ahead and open the door and discover all the rest that they have to offer.
Breakfast: Let's go to the center of Richmond's business district, East Canal Street, downtown. Inside the Williams Mullen Center, past views of the James River, waits a Parisienne breakfast. You'll find savory buckwheat crêpes stuffed with ham and Gruyère, or sweet ones with roasted apples and Chantilly cream — and less than $10 each. Lavazza drip coffee ($2), with free refills, keeps on coming, and waiters invite you to take one to go, on the house.
Breakfast: Meet your U.S. senator or eavesdrop on other Richmond power brokers mixing with the average joe(s) at this straightforward two-egg, breakfast meat, toast and a side diner. Breakfast arrives whiplash fast, and you don't get a chance to see the bottom of your bottomless cup of coffee unless you're dedicated to the task. At $4.75, you'll have plenty left over to generously tip the warm and attentive waitresses who are the real reason to make this your a.m. destination.
Breakfast: A longtime North Side diner and neighborhood gathering spot, Dot's Back Inn serves up a daily breakfast to fuel your day. Eggs any which way you'd like with grits and biscuits like your grandma made ($4.50) are always a good choice, and if you are feeling extra hungry, splurge on Dot's Famous Breakfast Club ($6.75) with ham, egg, cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato and a side of home fries.
Sandwiches: There's a menu of sandwiches, but at The Naked Onion what you will order, should order, is one thing and one thing only — arguably the one good thing to come out of a century of colonialism in Vietnam: the bánh mì. It's $9.50, and although you can find cheaper ones elsewhere, here it's a perfect sandwich — that crisp yet soft texture of a respectable Parisian baguette, the interplay between the herbs, pickles, chilis and, most important, the thick, rich, beautifully rendered pork belly whose greatness both exalts and transcends the sandwich's humble ingredients.
Sandwiches: At Nick's, there are more than 20 specialty lunch items that start below $5, so it's pretty tough to choose from a menu that includes a traditional Greek gyro, chicken salad sandwiches, or a No. 13 sub "all the way" with sopressata, mortadella and prosciutto — a sandwich that could and should be the subject of a doctoral dissertation. Just make sure you're ready to order, or you'll risk the sandwich monger's good-natured ribbing during the mid-day rush.
69004 Quioccasin Road, Henrico, Virginia 23299
Sandwiches: Jameel and Saba Abed have been feeding Richmonders great Middle Eastern food for the past 15 years. Their 12-inch chicken shawerma ($7.50) features warm pita bread wrapped around moist chunks of marinated chicken slathered with a garlic and tahini sauce, and slices of Lebanese wild pickles, lettuce and tomato. Falafel sandwiches ($4.50) are earthy crunches with tahini, pickles, lettuce and tomato. Pick up a sandwich and you'll also find the area's best selection of olives, feta and other goodies.
Fried Chicken: If Miracle Gro were available for fried chicken, I'd swear that chef Gary Carter sprinkles it in his breading. Drumsticks are battered up, sized like they're seeking a softball. Chicken wings could be mistaken for turkey flappers. Mildly seasoned, with skin that shatters, this chicken gives Frank's Hot Sauce purpose —to make fried food extra wicked. Two drumsticks and fries are $7, or splurge on a two-piece, two-side dinner with cornbread for $12.
Fried Chicken: Jackson Ward's Mama J's Kitchen, a nominee for the 2014 Elby award for best service, does a great job with their food as well. The fried chicken entrée ($7) comes with a dinner roll or corn muffin, and never mind your proclivity for white or dark meat, the choice is yours. It's crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside. In other words: perfect. You can get it to take away, but why not hang around to experience their "welcome home" kind of service?
Fried Chicken: Prepare to get your fingers messy eating The Roosevelt's delicately breaded — and gluten-free — fried chicken thighs. Smothered in a honey Sriracha sauce and topped with chives, these $9 boneless thighs come four to a plate and can be shared (or not). Just add a few sides à la carte to make it a meal for two. But you won't find them on the regular menu — this fried chicken is available only on Tuesdays, and you need to get there early, because when it's gone, it's gone.
102824 E. Broad St., Richmond, Virginia 23223
Spaghetti: When Anthony's opened in Church Hill, they served lunch. Then they didn't. Now that they do again, go for the meatballs floating in red sauce, topped with basil and Parm. A blend of beef, veal, sausage and pork, bound by egg and garlic, makes a hearty half-pound appetizer at $5.50, or it can fill a melty mozzarella sub at $8.50. Cinematic bowls of spaghetti and meatballs are classics, but a little pricier ($12.50 at lunch and $14 at dinner).
Spaghetti: Starving student or not, sometimes you just want a ginormous plate of spaghetti. Bonus points if it's actually good. When contemplating the Starving Student Spaghetti for $8.50, and after a brief decision-making process of light marinara or meat sauce (and the slightly tougher decision of whether or not to top the mammoth mound with baked mozzarella for an extra dollar), let your mind rest and load up on those hug-like carbs so you can focus on midterms. You'll even have enough left in your wallet to do laundry.
Spaghetti: The Robin Inn prides itself on the no-frills neighborhood Italian comfort food that it's served for half a century. And it's next to impossible to beat the value of their daily pick-up special, which features a surprisingly generous portion of spaghetti with your choice of meat or marinara sauce, side salad and pillowy Italian bread for just five bucks.
Chicken Tikka Masala: Lemon's lunch special is one of the best deals in town. A grand total of about $10 gets you tender, tangy chicken tikka masala (among other choices) with a slew of accompaniments: cucumber salad or homemade soup, basmati rice, the veggie side dish of the day and dessert. If you need further coercing, the chicken comes dressed in their fine-tuned makhni sauce — and "makhni" means butter.
Chicken Tikka Masala: Come for the comfort food of Indian eats, and stay for the soft, buttery, clay-oven-baked naan and a fully stocked, all-you-can-eat, $10 buffet of vegetarian and meat entrées. Each dish's distinct flavors give diners a broad profile of the restaurant's offerings, including tender tandoori or curry chicken, freshly fried pakora (vegetable fritters), slow-cooked aloo baingan (eggplant and potato), tangy matar paneer (peas and cubed cheese), rice, fresh salad and house-made hummus.
Chicken Tikka Masala: Walking into West Broad Street's India K'Raja alone is a treat. The Punjabi-inflected room is filled with gentle lighting, inviting colors and silky fabrics with sinuous sitar music swirling from the speakers. Their chicken tikka masala, available at their lunch buffet for $8 or as an entrée at dinner (pricier at $15), is creamy with generous hunks of white meat, and a little more tart and tomato-heavy than most, but divinely laced with the powerful ancient spice, asafetida. This is a perfect example of why it's a greatest hit of a dish. Not to be missed are the Raja's special naans, like the Kabuli, crisped with dots of nuts, raisins and honey.
161201 E. Main St., Richmond, Virginia 23220
Pizza: Jojo's Famous Pizza is the complete New York pizza experience right here in RVA. Maybe it's the owner, Enrico, loudly barking completed orders to waiting customers that creates the big city vibe, but it's more likely the impressive selection of foldable New York-style pizza, with options as varied as artichoke pesto and Buffalo chicken. It's located at 12th and Main Streets near Capitol Square, and lunch-goers can enjoy two slices and a fountain drink for $6.50 — best deal this side of the Big Apple.
175700 Patterson Ave., Richmond, Virginia 23226
Pizza: If it's good enough for Super Bowl champ and America's sweetheart Russell Wilson, it's good enough for us. Known for take-and-bake pizzas, Superstars also serves dine-in customers with red, white and pesto pizzas by the slice, nearly all less than $4. Grab a hefty single cheese slice for $2.40, create your own, or go for a daily special like the spicy Corleone, a red slice with sweet Italian sausage, pepperoni and hot cherry peppers for $3.90.
Pizza: With locations in the Fan and Lakeside, Arianna's has caused pizza addiction throughout the city. With a crust that's on the thinner side of the continuum, and zesty red or white sauces, these pies are the perfect platform to lavish with a host of specialty toppings like artichokes, capers or eggplants. The best value is on Tuesday, when pizzas are half price after 5 p.m. (that's $6.25 for a large cheese pizza). You can use your savings to splurge on one of their 15-plus designer pizzas that include eggplant Parmesan, The Florentine, chicken Parmesan and roasted vegetable.
191703 E. Franklin St., Richmond, Virginia 23219
Tacos: Fillings-wise, Tio Pablo is like a taco encyclopedia. There's the requisite cast of delicious characters for $3 each — carne asada, carnitas, al pastor, chipotle chicken — plus harder-to-find goodies like eggs and chorizo, beef tongue, cactus, and shrimp sautéed with tomatoes and garlic. Tortillas are handmade and adorn taco platters ($10) with insanely tasty fried potatoes, guacamole, bacon-laced beans or lime-cured onions.
202 N. Sixth St., Richmond, Virginia 23219
Tacos: Fish tacos ($3.75) used to be a twice-a-week special, but now they're available for lunch every day. Blackened tilapia is topped with red cabbage, lettuce and a pear-and-apple salsa. The sweet fruit salsa is a nice foil to the heat of the tilapia, and tacos come with chips and a thin but deliciously cumin-laced salsa. Expect longish lines at this lunch-only spot downtown.
216406 Horsepen Road, Richmond, Virginia 23226
Tacos: It's a crazy deal: One dollar taco Mondays at Original Mexican Restaurant (known to most West-Enders as simply "Mexico"). Choose from the standard ground beef or pulled chicken hard tacos topped with lettuce and cheese, or make it a meal for a few bucks more with side items like beans or guacamole. If you're feeling even crazier, splurge on one of the lunch specials, all $8.50 or less, such as arroz con pollo or grilled chicken and avocado salad.
229047-1 W. Broad St., Richmond, Virginia 23294
Pad Thai: Crunchy, crushed peanuts, tender chicken, a mound of tamarind-spiced noodles with egg and green onion, and a fresh wedge of lime make up Ratee Thai's pad thai — plus a crispy spring roll for an $8.25 lunch. Ratee's extensive menu has all the familiar favorites: curries, noodles and rice dishes, along with three "southern specials" for dinner, such as the sour yellow curry (shrimp with papaya in Thai southern-style curry for $11.25).
238059 W. Broad St., Richmond, Virginia 23294
Pad Thai: Pad thai: There's a reason we didn't tire of it during the Reagan era. It's undeniably hard not to order the tasty — even thrilling — bundles of rice pasta slicked with orange oil, sweetened with palm sugar, tossed with some chicken or a few shrimp, sprinkled with ground peanuts and plopped on top of a mass of bean sprouts and that requisite squirt of lime for $8 at lunch. Their pot stickers in red curry are also not to be missed. Thai Diner is a classic that's got it right and, what's more, has the interior design to make you feel like you're inside a Swatch watch.
242811 W. Cary St., Richmond, Virginia 23221
Pad Thai: Balance, the key to a fulfilling life and the perfect yoga pose, is what makes some pad thai better than others. With Mom Siam's expansion downtown, you can find it twice as easily. Here, mounds of peanuts and bean sprouts are fanned out on the edges of the plate, but it's Mom's Siam's crushed smoked chili condiment that highlights pleasant taste-bud inversions of sweet, sour, hot and piquant ($8 at lunch; $10 at dinner).
256403 Rigsby Road, Richmond, Virginia 23226
Pho: Located in the Crestview neighborhood behind Horsepen Avenue, Pho So 1 is usually packed. They have one of the best broths in town, almost silky with the richness of the marrow, slightly sweet and savory. I find myself here almost weekly, usually ordering the same dish, the No. 12 ($7.25), pho tai chan (with brisket and sliced eye round steak). But if bible tripe, fish balls and tendon are your thing, they have it all.
266215-B W. Broad St., Richmond, Virginia 23230
Pho: Slurrrrrrp. You should be hearing that when you're at Vietnam 1, because it means that their full-flavored, basil- and sprout-adorned pho is being eaten properly (i.e. hungrily inhaled from the extra-large spoon, around a large mouthful of perfectly-cooked noodles). These guys really know how to bring on the soup, and it shows in the balance of flavors and fresh ingredients. Perfection should be pricey, right? Nope: just $6.25.
276328 Rigsby Road, Richmond, Virginia 23230
Pho: In the row of Monopoly-sized coffee houses serving Vietnamese snacks on Rigsby Road, there is one soup shack that tastes more Park Place than Connecticut Avenue. They specialize in pho that is a rich beef broth warmed by fish sauce that smells like a cardamom-infused, umami tea, for $6.50 a bowl. On the side rests a spring-green side plate of Thai basil, saw-leaf herb and lime. Pert rice noodles slip and slide down as they pass Go. (Cash only.)
286400 Horsepen Road, Richmond, Virginia 23226
General Tso's Chicken: It makes perfect sense to order the more, say, colorful dishes at Full Kee, like the congee, cuttlefish and pig knuckle, or to even hit them up on the weekends for dim sum. But really, don't be afraid to be a tourist and order some of the more Americanized dishes, too. Their General Tso's chicken for $7.50 at lunch is made with succulent dark meat swaddled and deep fried in a sticky, slightly sweet, slightly spicy batter that is magically neither too cloying nor heavy. This General Tso would have been a proud son of Hunan, indeed.
General Tso's Chicken: On a menu filled with adventurous dishes, it's comforting to know an old familiar is an option, especially as a $7.50 lunch special that includes soup, a spring vegetable roll and rice. The legendary Peter Chang's take on this Chinese restaurant staple isn't too sweet, or too hot, or too breaded — it's a perfect crowd-pleaser for diners who may be under 10 or who might not be in the mood for a whole braised fish or a hot and numbing hot pot.
General Tso's Chicken: Under a pagoda roof on the South Side remains a timeless guilty pleasure — a platter of General Tso's chicken big enough for two, $8 at lunch and $11.50 for dinner. Crisp nuggets of deep-fried heaven, shelled by eager mouths, release puffs of steam with every bite. Yen Ching's secret sauce, chunked with garlic and chilis, spikes the taste buds with naughty flavors that even white rice can't impale.
315200 Lakeside Ave., Richmond, Virginia 23228
Burgers: Like all good burgers, it's about the texture, and for over 50 years Roy's Big Burger has gotten it right: the crunch of the shredded iceberg lettuce, the charred, slightly friable surface of the meat, the crisp little bits of finely chopped onion, the acidic snap of the pickle chips and a couple requisite smears of ketchup and mustard, all wedged between the two sides of the satisfyingly squishy bun jacketed in white paper for $3.25. And the cheese, should you opt in for an additional 50 cents, is of the classic American yellow variety. If it ain't broke...order two.
Burgers: Tucked into the menu of $10 big-daddy burgers at Station 2 is a secret: the $4 griddle burger. It's a 100-percent Angus beef patty, press-grilled and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. And cheese, should you be so inclined. It's the (way more mouth-watering) indie answer to a fast food burger, sans pink muck and freeze-dried onions — and if you're not pregnant or an NFL player, one will fill you up just fine.
Burgers: Various locations Burger lovers rejoice! Capital Ale House's Monday Burger Night special doesn't skimp, even though burgers start at just $2. These are full-sized and suitable for framing. Stop in anytime after 4 p.m. for beef or black bean options, coupled with their encyclopedia of craft beers. À la carte toppings include applewood-smoked bacon, fresh avocado, pineapple salsa and Gruyère cheese, but you can easily build a burger with all the fixins' for just a few dollars more.
34, Richmond, Virginia
Jadean's Smokin' Six-O
Ah, the food truck. Post apex, they seemed to have finally found their niche: events. And whether you're looking for a succulent brisket sandwich on Texas toast for $8 to go with your beer at the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Friday nights or a hearty sausage, egg and cheese sandwich for $4 to keep you sated while shopping for the week's produce at the South of the James Market, Jadean's Smokin' Six-O has likely got you covered — all are served up with a smile sweeter than the sweetest of iced teas.
The Dog Wagon 314-9609; thedogwagon.com From farmers markets and special events to the Pleasants Hardware parking lot, you'll find The Dog Wagon serving up made-to-order all-beef hot dogs, slathered with onions, cheese, chili, slaw, sauerkraut, pickles, relish, sweet and hot peppers, and a host of other toppings. From $2 for a naked "Dog on a Stick" to $4.50 for a Coney Island dog with the works, you can satisfy all your cravings. And you can have fries with that, too.
Taqueria el Tacuerey 5348 Hull St., 232-0057 Couples dine on hand-rolled gorditas, slick with cream and stoked with super spicy chicken behind this fringy Hull Street truck. Tacos al pastor, arid with smoky seasonings, rest under an army of chopped onion and cilantro. There's more to try, like the elongated, grilled steak on masa, called huaraches. Nothing is more than $7, cash only.
35, Richmond, Virginia
Dating on a Dime
With a little planning, you can get a great meal at an even better price...
- Stop by Dutch & Co. Monday through Saturday for the famous perfect egg or any appetizer, plus entrée and dessert for $28.
- Get two menu items plus a bottle of wine for $30 every night after 6 p.m. at Garnett's .
- For a classic hit, Acacia mid-town Monday through Thursday until 9 or Friday/Saturday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. offers three courses for $24.
- Score three courses at Bistro Bobette for $23 Monday through Saturday from 5 to 6 p.m., or all night Thursday for $25 — plus a $22 multi-course vegetarian meal on Tuesday and $25 steak night on Wednesday.
- Also on Wednesday, visit Ironfish , order two entrées, and add a dessert and a bottle of wine for $9 more.
- Couch is calling? On Sunday, grab a Peruvian chicken with sides and fixins to go for $20 from Estilo .
36, Richmond, Virginia
Do You Deliver?
Whether you're tired or sick or simply inert, food delivered right to your door can change your life (or at least make it more bearable). Chinese food and pizza, however, can get monotonous.
- For something different, try Alamo BBQ. The minimum order is $8; you could get two pulled pork sandwiches at $5 each or a barbecue platter with two meats and three sides for $9 (592-3138).
- When only fried, crunchy deliciousness will do, Big Herm's Kitchen American Food is the answer. For a $10 minimum order, get a fried shrimp or fried oyster basket with cornbread or slaw for $9, and if it's Thursday, throw in a dessert such as sweet potato pie for just $1 (643-0202).
- Cask Café has an $8 minimum, and may we suggest a SausageCraft sausage plate with Czech-style potato salad for $9? Or grab two SausageCraft hot dogs for $5 each if you're really hungry (355-2402).
- There's no minimum at Thai Corner, where delivery deals include basil-fried rice with tofu, chicken, beef or pork for $6.50 or Thai curry for $8.25 (343-2009).
- Tasty tacos are just $2 each, with no minimum, at new Mexican joint Ándale Taco Chop Shop (225-8444).
- Carytown Burgers & Fries has no minimum either, and you can soothe your inner savage beast with a regular burger for $5.24 or The Bomb, a burger with chili, cheddar, bacon, grilled onions and mushrooms for $7.74 (358-5225).
- Fill up on a Parker Field sandwich with Kunzler bacon, avocado lettuce and tomato for $8.50, or order a couple of breakfast sandwiches, featuring two eggs and your choice of cheese and breakfast meat on toast or a biscuit for $4.50 each — and your $8 minimum at Lunch will be covered (353-0111).
- And late night, satisfy that sweet tooth with cookies and milk from Red Eye Cookie Co. There's a $10 minimum, and cookies are $1.50 to $2.25 each, with Homestead Creamery milk by the half-gallon running you around $5 (620-7280).