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Cheap Eats

The 99 best splurges in the metro under $10

Cheap Eats
Photo by Todd Buchanan

(page 2 of 8)

W. A. Frost

Cold-smoked-salmon gravlax club sandwich, $9.50

The bar menu at W. A. Frost is a must-know for any penny-pinching gourmet. It offers bargain treats like duck-confit flatbread, fennel-scented mussels, and roast-mushroom linguini—all priced at $10 or under. If you try only one dish on the remarkable menu, though, make it the cold-smoked-salmon gravlax club: The fish gets a melodic vibrancy from its traditional Swedish cure, and the sweet toasted brioche and dill cream combine to make the sandwich taste posh and important. ☛ 374 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-5715, wafrost.com
 

Spoonriver

Savory wild mushroom-pistachio terrine, $8

All the big food-thinkers in the country have now concluded that the key to a healthy body and a sustainable planet is for all of us to eat more plants. But is this a yummy way to live? Proceed to Spoonriver for a strong affirmative, as evidenced in dishes like this mushroom terrine which is bursting with the fifth flavor, umami, also known as meatiness. The dish will have even the most dedicated lovers of pork rillettes in full swoon. ☛ 750 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-436-2236, spoonriverrestaurant.com
 

The Strip Club

Pig’s Eye poutine, $9

According to legend, St. Paul was settled by trappers, many of them French or French-Canadian. Just as legendary is the Montreal dish poutine, in which French fries are combined with cheese curds and gravy in a way that tests the skills of Canada’s famed national health service. But of all the versions of poutine ever made in Minnesota, the Strip Club’s is the only one worth busting your diet for: The gravy is just like your great-great grandma used to make, only gussied up with truffles and earthy-tasting potatoes and tangy real cheese. Is it the spirit of those old trappers that makes the Strip Club’s poutine so good? Perhaps, but let this story serve as an alert to the citizens of Minneapolis: Those seeking the most craveable poutine in the Cities have good reason to portage east. ☛ 378 Maria Ave., St. Paul, 651-793-6247, domeats.com
 

Masa

3-for-$10 lunch special, $10

In assembling this cheap-eats guide, I largely steered clear of happy hour and other time-sensitive specials. It’s too complicated for average eaters to track these things. That said, the Masa lunch special is really worth knowing about, even though it’s only available during weekday lunches from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., because during those blessed hours a mere 10 bucks gets you your choice of three of the top-flight Mexican dishes on Masa’s regular menu. Try the tortilla soup, with its intense broth and half-a-dozen garnishes, or the rich and meaty torta carnitas submarine sandwich and a shredded chicken taco with chipotle crema, for instance, and you’ll be taking a whole culinary tour of the best that Mexican cuisine has to offer—at little more than fast-food prices. ☛ 1070 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-338-6272, masa-restaurant.com
 

Jasmine 26 Restaurant & Bar

Sweet apple salad, $7

How craveable can a salad be? Try this one and find out: Long strands of julienned green apple mingle with toasty, creamy cashews, fresh cilantro leaves, a zingy lime juice dressing, and your choice of chicken or tofu to create a salad that will have you clicking your heels together in joy. It’s one of those rare utterly healthy dishes that has the power to stir the soul. ☛ 8 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-870-3800, jasmine26.net
 

Be’Wiched Deli

Soup and half sandwich, $8.50

Be’Wiched is what happens when a couple of fine-dining chefs open a sandwich shop. But while the individual sandwiches each deserve their own rhapsodic due (is the asparagus sandwich the best in the world?), it’s the soup and half-sandwich combo that is a frugal gourmet’s ace-in-the-hole. Maybe today it’s an Italian minestrone soup, rich with crisp green beans and paired with a tuna-confit-and-preserved-lemon sandwich. Maybe tomorrow it’s a lobster-apple bisque, alongside a house-smoked turkey sandwich stuffed with Medjool dates. Factor in bonuses like the stylish décor and it’s obvious that Be’Wiched is one of the top date-night destinations for the tastily thrifty. ☛ 800 Washington Ave. N. Mpls., 612-767-4330, bewicheddeli.com
 

Tanpopo Noodle Shop

Agedashi tofu teishoku, $10

Agedashi tofu is among the world’s most lyrical dishes, the fried tofu cubes garnished with wisps of tuna bonito that wave and wiggle on the plate like something under the sea. At Lowertown’s airy little Japanese restaurant Tanpopo, this lyrical and tasty dish is also a bargain, served as it is with rice, miso soup, vegetables, and a lively ginger-dressed salad. ☛ 308 Prince St., St. Paul, 651-209-6527, tanpoporestaurant.com
 

112 Eatery

Bacon, egg, and harissa sandwich, $7

The crisp salt of the bacon, the lush salt of the fried egg, the spice of the Moroccan harissa, and the foil of the plain yet good bread combine to make this sandwich one of the most important in the history of Minnesota dining. After all, it’s arguably the signature taste that launched one of Minneapolis’s most perennially popular restaurants, 112 Eatery. If you’ve been whiling away your visits gorging on 112’s high-end offerings, like the foie-gras meatballs, think about reserving a few bucks to taste the cheap thrill that helped to take Minnesota chef-driven cuisine to the next level. ☛ 112 N. Third St., Mpls., 612-343-7696, 112eatery.com
 

Ginger Hop

Kimchi Reuben, $9.95

Anyone who hears about the kimchi Reuben at the new Northeast microbrew-centered pan-Asian restaurant Ginger Hop immediately cringes: spicy fermented Korean-cabbage pickles on a corned-beef Reuben? But it’s great, the spice giving the meat variety, the meat giving the kimchi weight. The sweet-potato fries on the side add to this strangely wonderful combination. Is this Multiculturalism 2.0? ☛ 201 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-746-0304, gingerhop.com
 

Birchwood Café

Chipotle barbecued tofu sandwich, $10

In the right kitchen, tofu can sometimes be rendered into a state that makes even avid meat lovers admit it’s unspeakably delicious. And the Birchwood is one of those kitchens. This tofu is glazed with a house-made apricot-chipotle-barbecue sauce, and paired with guacamole, cilantro, watermelon radishes, carrots, and sweet onions. It’s the only veggie barbecue in the world that would stand a chance of winning at a rib cook-off. ☛ 3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474, birchwoodcafe.com
 

Anchor Fish & Chips

Fish and chips, $8.50

This new northeast pub was the talk of the town last year. The sustainably caught, crispy, and craveable halibut fillets were so big they flopped over the edges of plates the size of footballs. The cozy, Victorian-casual atmosphere made the place feel like a spot in the British Isles that had been going strong since the Edwardian era. If you missed it last year, don’t miss it this year: These are the fish and chips by which Minnesota fish and chips will forevermore be judged. ☛ 302 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-676-1300, theanchorfishandchips.com
 

Pairings Food & Wine Market

Duck-confit pizza, $9.95

The idea of putting duck confit on a pizza might seem silly—until you try Pairings‘s brilliant version. Tangy goat cheese nestles beside rich strands of duck meat, which itself cozies up to tart dried cherries and peppery tangles of arugula. Each bite is a charming sweet-sour-salty-rich contrast, but also benefits greatly from the toasty buoyant pizza crust. It’s so much more than a pizza, but costs so much less than a fancy restaurant meal. In other words: an idea whose time has come. ☛ 6001 Shady Oak Rd., Minnetonka, 952-426-0522, pairingsfoodandwine.com
 

Black Forest Inn

Potato pancakes, $4 (two for $7.25)

Potato pancakes are one of the many great foods in life that are easy to make but hard to make well. Black Forest, the classic German beer hall and restaurant, makes perfect ones, the potatoes mixed with just enough onion and parsley to give them savory flavor and texture, but then fried and served simply with applesauce or sour cream. Pair them with a good imported German beer for a decadent meal made from the most basic ingredients. ☛ 1 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-872-0812, blackforestinnmpls.com
 

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

Nasi Lemak, $7.95

Think of this ultra-traditional Malaysian meal as the meat-loaf-and-potatoes plate of a spice island where coconuts grow. The centerpiece—the “potatoes” side of the equation, if you will—is coconut rice, a not-sweet-but-pleasantly-complex-and-rich rice, scented with cloves and pandan leaves. The meat is potently curried chicken, cooked on the bone and served in a little heap beside the rice. Then there’s a half hard-boiled egg (just like the one you’d find in a meat-loaf slice?), cucumber slices, and a salad of dried sambal anchovies. Ignore the anchovies if you must, but this is everything a comfort food should be: mild but confident, complex but unified, satisfying, and priced for everyday budgets. ☛ 2608 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-871-8282, peninsulamalaysiancuisine.com
 

Vincent

Omelette du chef, $8.95 

 One of the surprising pleasures of eating on the cheap is that it gives you a chance to taste just how much cooking technique really matters. For example, try the Caesar salad or the omelet of the day from Vincent Francoual’s lunch menu sometime and you’ll be amazed: The Caesar is simple and intense in exactly the right way, and the omelet, light as a bubble, is so understated and exquisitely executed that most people could attend cooking school for a lifetime and never equal it. ☛ 1100 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-630-1189, vincentrestaurant.com
 


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