The cheap list
A few days ago, I posted my favorite "upscale" restaurants. Those were pricey. The ones on this list are cheap. You can eat well at all of these for under $15, and at many for less than $6.
Houston has so many great cheap restaurants of so many varieties. The cheap ones are even more fun to find than the pricey ones.
This list is completely subjective because I don't have enough time to eat at every cheap restaurant in town. So I list the taqueria I enjoy the most, but I have not tried even half the taquerias in Houston. Nor have I eaten at even one fourth of the Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants on Bellaire. These cheap restaurants just happen to be my favorites.
My top 10
1. Asia Market and Thai Fast Food (Cavalcade). I go once a week to this Thai food store with a small kitchen on the back wall. I am working my way through every item on the menu, and each one has been outstanding. Nothing is over $7. I reviewed it here.
2. La Sani (Hilcroft). Pakistani food. Great lunch buffet. More sheer spice (not heat, spice) than any restaurant I know. I reviewed it here.
3. La Jaliescience (Yale). Tongue tacos. Fish soup. For breakfast, a whole pork chop, two eggs, beans, and potatoes with chips costs $3.50. Best and hottest salsa in Houston. It helps to speak some Spanish. I discussed the tongue tacos here.
4. Cafe Mezza & Grille (Westheimer). Looks like a bad chain restaurant. It isn't. This Mediterranean-American fusion cuisine may be the least authentic and most creative food on the list. Everything is delicious. Plus they let you bring your own wine. I reviewed it here.
5. Vieng Thai (Long Point). Wierdest, spiciest, and most challenging Thai and Laotian food in Houston. (That's a good thing.) I reviewed it here.
6. Teotihuacan Mexican Restaurant (Airline). Houston has a lot of restaurants that serve massive Mexican plate meals for cheap. Teotihuacan just happens to be the best, and one of the cheapest. I recommend carnitas, anything grilled, and homemade corn tortillas. But everything here is better than the same dishes at every Mexican chain restaurant in Houston, even the taco salad with grilled chicken fajita. I reviewed it here.
7. Mary'z (Richmond). At the moment, my favorite Lebanese restaurant in town. Mary'z marinated grilled chicken is the best I have had.
8. Thelma's Barbecue (Live Oak). Best brisket, best fried catfish. One helluva wait. I discussed it in my post on barbecue.
9. Lankford Grocery and Market (Dennis). Unless CFK is the daily special, get the burger. Nothing else matters.
10. Udipi Cafe (Hillcroft). Vegetarian Indian food, which is completely different from other Indian food served in America. The lunch buffet is amazingly good, and amazingly cheap.
Pico's (Bellaire) - Too cheap for my upscale list. Mostly too expensive for the cheap list. Still, Pico's is one of the best Mexican restaurants in Houston. Their moles are unbeatable.
Ko-Mart food stalls (Gessner) - Korean food stands in a Korean supermarket. I reviewed one stall here.
Mint Cafe (Sage) - fresh Middle Eastern food that is a step above most other Houston Lebanese restaurants
This Is It! (Gray) - Mmmmm. Oxtails.
Mai's (Milam) - My favorite Vietnamese food for so long that it is hard for me to branch out and try new places. I'm working on it, but haven't found anything I like more - yet
Cafe Montrose (Westheimer) - Belgian restaurant specializing in mussels. One large order with Belgian fries and mayo will feed two. Great beer made by monks. I talk about the mussels here.
the breakfast klub (Travis) - Very good breakfast food that is pricey for breakfast food, but cheap enough to make my under-$15 cut off. Grits are the best in town.
Oporto Cafe (Richmond) - Portuguese tapas bar. I reviewed it here.
Pepper Tree Veggie Cuisine (Richmond) - Who knew there were so many delicious dishes to be made with tofu? I reviewed it here.
Les Givrals Sandwich and Cafe (Travis) - Now that my favorite Banh Mi shop (Huang Banh Mi - The Original Givrals) closed, this is the next best one I know. It is only a matter of time before I find one better. My Banh Mi comparison is here.
Treebeard's (various locations downtown) - If you have never worked downtown, you probably have not eaten at Treebeard's. That is a shame because Treebeard's has the most distinctive, though perhaps not the most authentic, Louisiana-based food in Houston. Some prefer Zydeco's Louisiana Diner, Rajin Cajun, and Brennan's. For red beans, etoufee, and corn bread, I want Treebeard's.
Chinese Cafe (Richmond) - Good cheap Chinese food. This is the cheapest place I have found in Houston to get good-quality, whole, steamed fish. The stranger-sounding Chinese dishes are pretty good too. Avoid the Americanized part of the menu, including anything fried.
100% Taquito (SW Freeway) - I may like the idea of this authentic Mexico-City-style taqueria on the edge of West U than I like the flavors. No one else has the guts to bring this sort of food to West U. Who knew it would be so successful?