There’s no sugarcoating it: life during a pandemic is tough right now. Many of us are low on optimism and cash but high on the desire to support local businesses, feed our families and still enjoy life’s little moments — and cooking at home all the time gets tiresome. Luckily, Houston-area restaurants are serving plenty of meals that still suit a modest weekly dining budget. So to help soothe the soul, hunger and pocketbook, we’ve rounded up local options that average just $10 or less.
Want more budget friendly options at local restaurants? Watch for a second installment of our picks for $10-or-less meal picks next week. Shoot us an email to nominate your favorite cheap eats in Houston for a future list.
Antone’s Famous Po’Boys, multiple locations: Not to make too fine a point, but the historically frugal po’boy is, in essence, created for these very times, and this long-standing sandwich enterprise has lots to offer. Just about everything on the menu of hot and cold po’boys, sandwiches, soups and sides is less than $10, which makes it a snap to create a personal feast. Try The Original filled with ham, salami, provolone, chow chow, mayo and pickles for $6.95 (make it “Super” with extra meat and cheese for $1 more), the hot Cubano with house-roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, spicy mustard, pesto and dill pickles for $8.95 or a bowl of the essential housemade red beans & rice for $6.95. There are also sides such as hushpuppies for $1.95, hummus for $3.95 and fruit salad for $2.95. Fountain drinks cap out at $2.15 for a large.
El Rey, Multiple locations: Load up on Cuban and Mexican fare at this vibrant spot with three area locations. Much of the menu comes in under $10 with many items under $5, which makes it a cinch to sample a few dishes or get a large number of favorites. For breakfast, try tacos starting at $2.75 each or the El Rey Breakfast Burrito, which is $5.75 and comes filled with eggs, bacon, potatoes, refried beans and cheese; get the same fillings in a torta for the same price. There are several plates for $6.75 each plus fresh bakery muffins for $2.25 each. Midday tacos top out at $3.85 each, with most costing between $2.85 and $3.25. Choose from 12 styles such as ropa vieja with Cuban style slow cooked beef; beef or chicken fajita; grilled shrimp, fish, and veggies; or Cuban styles that include black beans and plantains. The tortas are a filling option that cost $7.25 to $7.50 each: choose from 10 options with many featuring the same toppings as the tacos; each also includes a spread of pinto beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado, shredded cheese and sour cream. There’s also a Cuban Sandwich for $8.50 that is a toasted baguette stuffed with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese and pickles. Pair any of the above with drinks such as housemade horchata, lemonade, cantaloupe juice for $3 to $3.75 and squeezed-to-order orange juice starting at $5 plus sodas and water.
Molina’s Cantina, 7901 Westheimer and 3801 Bellaire: This long-standing, family-owned Tex-Mex spot has plenty of tasty budget-friendly sips and nibbles. Try cups or bowls of Sopa de Tortilla ($5.95/$7.95), Sopa de Poblana ($6.25/$8.25) and Old-Fashioned Chili con Carne ($6.95/$8.95). Choose Baja-Style Fish Tacos filled with veggies and fried fish for $4.95 each or a Grilled Shrimp or Fish Taco for $5.95 each. In the mood for tamales? Classic Pork Tamales cost $4.95 for three in the husk or $7.95 for three topped with chile con carne. Several desserts ring in under $6: tres leches cake, sopapillas and flan. Regardless of your order, each table service experience includes bottomless chips and salsa plus a complimentary housemade praline! For a late afternoon snack, visit for happy hour Monday through Fridays from 2 to 7 p.m. for free chips and queso at the bar with assorted drink specials.
Stadia Sports Grill, multiple locations: Satisfy cravings for classic American fare at either of the two Pearland locations. (There is also one in The Woodlands.) Pick up Fried Pickles or Jalapeños for $6, Pretzel Bites with cheese sauce and honey mustard for $7 or feed a crowd with the ever-popular hot wings. Stadia offers boneless and bone-in wings served smothered in your choice of 10 sauce flavors, such as spicy garlic and mango habanero. Get six boneless wings for $7; share two orders with a friend to keep the total under $10. Bone-in wings are only $1 more per order. There’s also a soup and salad combo for $8 and five variations of sliders that cost $8 per order of three: Pork Belly, Bacon Cheeseburger, Buffalo Chicken, fried Country Chicken or Pulled Pork. The kids’ menu for children 10 and under has six items for $6 each and includes chicken strips, sliders, shrimp and pasta Alfredo.
Aim Thai Restaurant, 9734 West Montgomery: This woman-owned and family-operated café in Acres Homes boasts a vast menu of dishes that are high on flavor and low on cost. Practically everything is under $10. Even more alluring is that many of the dishes are seasoned with herbs and spices grown in the restaurant’s kitchen garden, including lemongrass, makrut limes and leaves, turmeric, Thai basil and galangal root (for curry). Savor noodles such as Pad Thai for $8.99 that includes choice of meat or tofu (seafood or mixed is extra), six kinds of curry filled with vegetables and meat or tofu for $7.99 each and meals like Stir Fried Crispy Pork with Chinese Broccoli, Stir Fried Garlic with Black Pepper and Meat, Orange Chicken/Fish and Pineapple Fried Rice with cashews, raisins and meat or tofu for $9 or less. (Several dishes are $6.99). Rice is just $1 per serving for Jasmine and sticky or $1.50 for brown. There are plenty of drinks for less than $2, plus fresh young coconut is just $3.50. Sip the refreshing juice, and then scrape the meat out of the interior for a wonderful treat.
Thuan Kieu Com Tam, 10792 Bellaire: If a plate full of “small bites” for lunch or dinner sounds like your style, check out this restaurant’s excellent bánh khọt, or savory rice flour pancakes made with coconut milk, then each topped with a big shrimp, chopped green onion and served with prepared fish sauce alongside. A plate of seven is a mere $7.99. On the other hand, the bánh xèo, or crispy pancake (the name actually means “sound crepe” for the sizzling it makes when the batter hits the pan), is impressively huge, very crispy and is also $7.99. Encased within are shrimp and sprouts, and a large tray of fresh herbs, lettuce and pickled carrot and daikon comes alongside for eating with hunks of crepe, if desired. Even though both of these dishes are filling and worthy as budget meals, the don’t-miss dish is Vietnamese sugar cane shrimp. Called chạo tôm, it’s made of fresh shrimp paste densely packed around a stick of sugar cane, then battered and deep-fried. A plate of four costs only $6.99.
Kenny & Ziggy’s, 2327 Post Oak Blvd.: Start your morning with hearty comfort food. This Jewish deli and restaurant is offering an Egg MIT (with) Bagel and cup of Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee for $10 during breakfast hours 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. It includes your choice of artisan, hand-rolled bagel, eggs your way and savory crispy bacon with melted American cheese. You can order it the rest of the day and on weekends for $11.95. Enjoy the charm and history of the original location while you can; Kenny & Ziggy’s is moving to a bigger building in 2021.
burger-chan, 5 Greenway Plaza: Although the surrounding offices are closed due to the pandemic, this burger joint is still slinging tasty bites available for socially distanced inside dining (two-hour parking validation included), takeout, curbside pickup and delivery. Choose from breakfast sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs or veggie burgers that all start at $6 or less. Each item includes the base ingredient, filling “freebies” such as lettuce, tomato and onion plus additional toppings for a dollar or two more. The latter includes cheese, fried egg, bacon and sautéed onions. Orders support other Texas businesses, too: the beef comes from 44 Farms in Cameron and the buns are sourced from Sweet Mesquite Bakery in Houston.
The Pupusa Bar, Urban Harvest Farmers Market, 2752 Buffalo Speedway: Although this El Salvadoran kitchen is in Independence Heights, its namesake dish is only available for pickup at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market or private catering. Pupusas are a versatile, comforting and gluten-free delight made with a thick corn masa stuffed with assorted fillings. The Pupusa Bar offers three plates of two pupusas each for $10. Choose from pork and cheese, bean and cheese, or the vegan option made with Daiya “cheese” and spinach. Each plate comes with pickled cabbage plus housemade red and green salsas.
Cantina Barba, 3701 North Main: This taco joint gained a loyal following as a food truck and now has permanent digs near the Heights. Load up on eight kinds of tacos that cost $2.50 to $4 each. The chicken with grilled guajillo chile and fresh orange adobo chicken, fresh cilantro and onions on a corn tortilla is $3 as is the smoked pork and papas con rajas, which is tender potatoes with poblano pepper, beans, grilled onions and corn. There is also a carne asada taco for $3.50 with tender marinated and grilled skirt steak and a barbacoa taco with slow-smoked adobo-rubbed beef cheeks that is also $3.50. The Steak N Eggs is $4 and comes filled with carne asada, eggs, cheese and grilled onions. Breakfast tacos include two per $2.50 order. There are six kinds of quesadillas, too, and all cost $8 or less: chicken, smoked pork, cheese, carne asada, papas con rajas and barbacoa. Burritos cost $8 for the Classic stuffed with beans, fries, cheese, guacamole and salsa in a flour tortilla or $7 for the breakfast option with eggs, bacon, queso, potato, avocado and beans. Plus, don’t overlook the excellent cheeseburger for $6. Wash down the goodies with $2 hot coffee, $3 Mexican Coke, Squirt or Topo Chico, $4 slushies, $3.50 cucumber agua fresca, or $4 hibiscus tea, cold brew or horchata.
Golden Bagels & Coffee, 3119 White Oak: This Heights locale makes and serves 11 varieties of bagels with flavors such as plain, blueberry, garlic onion and everything. They cost just $1.25 each and are available in six-piece bags for $6. There are also bagel dogs for $1.50 and packaged bagel chips for $1. Purchase an assortment for snacks or breakfast on the go alongside 13 flavors of cream cheese such as Scallion Dill, Maple Pecan and Honey Habanero that are $2.50 to $4.45 per four-ounce container (larger containers available). Sandwiches that make the $10 cut-off include the $9.50 open-faced Avocado Toast, which is an Everything bagel topped with avocado spread, radish, herbs and black pepper; the Fried Egg Bagel filled with egg, cheddar cheese and bacon for $9.95; and the BLT stuffed with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise for $7.95. Everything on the kids’ sandwich menu is less than $7 including grilled cheese for $4.95, breakfast bagel for $6.95 and PBJ for $3.95. Drinks start at $1.50 and include drip and espresso-based coffees, juices, milk and specialty waters. Currently orders are available for take-out only.
Chung Wang BBQ, 23119 Colonial Parkway, Katy: Order up succulent, flavorful Chinese barbecue at this family-owned restaurant in Katy, which is available as-is or as a budget-friendly rice plate. There are plenty of dishes for $10 or less. There are 21 options including BBQ pork, roasted pork belly or BBQ spare rib for $7.99; or roasted duck and chicken or the Three Item BBQ Combo for $9.99 each. There is also a special available exclusively for Houston Food Finder Readers: roasted duck, BBQ pork and roasted pork belly on rice for $10. (Mention this article for the deal since is not included on the online ordering page.) You can also make a meal of appetizers such as Steamed Shrimp Dumplings or Steamed Shao Mai, which are both $3.50 for four pieces. Choose from six variations of fried rice like vegetable, B.B.Q. pork, chicken, shrimp, beef and fried chicken wings that cost $6.99 to $9.99 per order. There are plenty of noodle soups, too, plus lo mein and other traditional Chinese dishes. Order online or visit the storefront.
Blonde Biscotti, 1000 West Gray: This bright and cheery Midtown café is known for its biscotti with a softer texture, but it also offers other sweet and savory treats that are just as happy on the wallet. The Breakfast Egg & Cheese Bagel is $4.50 and the Veggie Bagel with cream cheese, cucumber and tomato is $4.99. Yogurt fans can order a Build-Your-Own Yogurt Parfait that costs $5.75 and includes your choice of four toppings or pick one of four biscotti-based combinations like Honey Blonde, Chocolate Crave, Rock N Roll, or BYO for $7.99 each. A single biscotti is $3 and regular flavors include chocolate chip, cinnamon roll, Natural Blonde and Rich Red, which is a red velvet-inspired option dipped in white chocolate. There is even a parfait/biscotti combo: Biscotti Dunkers are $3.99 for choice of one biscotti, a four-ounce cup of plain or vanilla yogurt and choice of topping. Contrast the crunch with hot or cold coffees, espresso drinks and teas.
Green Seed Vegan, 4320 Almeda: Everything on the menu at this Black-owned vegan hangout is under $10, with the exception of the three-day juice cleanse. The extensive menu offers textures, tastes and flavors for every palate. Paninis start at $7 for the Grilled Cheese with vegan cheese and tomatoes on fougasse, a type of French bread, and the PB & P, which is grilled plantains topped with spinach and peanut butter on fougasse. The Zen is a flavor bomb filled with lemongrass garbanzo tempeh, arugula, carrots, cilantro, jalapeño and lemongrass aioli on fougasse for $8 and Garden Fresh is made with eggplant, zucchini, roasted red peppers, cheese and spinach with a balsamic glaze and sunflower pesto on fougasse for $9.
There are seven burger alternatives like the Cali with chicken fried cauliflower, arugula, red onions, tomato, pickles, mayo and spicy aioli on a wheat bun for $8; the Lil Red BBQ of barbecue jackfruit, caramelized onions and pickles on a whole wheat bun for $8; and Fungus Amongus, which is a housemade buckwheat quinoa patty, portabella mushrooms, cheese, grilled onions, tomato, microgreens, mayo and mustard on a wheat bun for $9. Additional wraps and breads are available for additional costs but include gluten-free brown rice wrap for $2, raw collard wrap for $1, mixed greens base for $2 and gluten-free vegan bun for $3. Extra toppings range from $2 to $4 including green chile, vegan cheese, avocado, raw zucchini bacon and grilled portabella mushrooms. Raw vegans can find budget-friendly bites, too with six choices all under $10 like the Solburger, Tigerbowl, Notyo Salad, Rockin Tacos, Rawritto and Mega Salad. Additional selections include sides, desserts, smoothies, juices and elixirs.
Think Tacos, food truck at various locations: Nothing on the menu at this family-run food truck is over $10, which is good news for your wallet and taste buds. You often find it parked outside Black Hole Coffee Wednesdays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Antidote Coffee on Tuesdays evenings and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (check social media for more details and updates on locations and hours). Bestsellers include quesadillas, which cost $10. Orders consist of two 10-inch flour tortillas filled with melted Monterey Jack cheese and your choice of marinated pork al pastor, beer-marinated beef steak fajita, braised pork carnitas or seasoned chicken breast with onions; and are served with crispy breakfast potatoes drizzled with creamy sriracha mayo, salsa, onions and cilantro. Breakfast tacos cost just $2.50 each and include a generous scrambled egg base with choice of chorizo, potatoes, cheese, sausage, bacon or Mexicana flavor. There are street tacos, too, that cost $10 for five and mixing and matching is encouraged. Choose from the same fillings as the quesadillas; tacos are accompanied by red onion, guacamole salsa, chipotle salsa and sides of lime and grilled sweet onions. Single tacos cost $3.50 each. Visit for Taco Tuesday when all tacos are $1 from 3 to 8 p.m. You can also get the meal-sized Candy’s Potatoes, which are covered with melted cheddar cheese, fresh Mexican-style cheese, red onion, cilantro and sriracha mayo for $7.50. The food truck does not sell beverages, but coffee, beer, wine and more are available in the coffee shops.
Central Texas BBQ, 4110 West Broadway, Pearland: Support a local, family-run joint that’s been a Pearland favorite since 1969! The multi-generation family staff dishes up Texas-style barbecue classics such as smoked brisket, sausage, chicken, pulled pork, turkey and ribs. You can get everything as a sandwich or a plate, though the latter cross the $10 threshold. Sandwiches range from $8.25 to $9.25. The loaded baked potatoes are a great deal — filling too — and start at $6.95 for one topped with butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon and chives. Sides are just as diverse; choose from 16 options, including macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, baked or pinto beans, corn on the cob, broccoli rice and potato salad. A side costs $3.95 and a pint is $7.50, with larger quantities available. Sweeten your order with 10 desserts such as carrot cake, Pineapple Creamcheese Pie, Anna Banana Pudding and pecan pie.
Four Friends Tea Room, 3816 East Broadway, Pearland: Relax, sip and savor a pot of tea alongside tasty lunch nibbles at this cozy cafe near downtown Pearland. Visit solo or make reservations for a group of pals; the inviting rooms are perfect for parties of all sizes but orders are also available for takeout, curbside pickup and through third-party delivery services DoorDash and Uber Eats. Low-cost options abound and include a sandwich and side combo with two finger sandwiches and one side for $8, Triple Decker Club Sandwich with ham, turkey, bacon, cheese, veggies, chips and pickle spear for $9 and a spinach salad spiked with toasted almonds, Greek style feta cheese, strawberries and raspberry vinaigrette is $9. Finger sandwich selections include Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad, Creamy Chicken Salad, pimento cheese, egg salad, tuna salad, cucumber cream cheese, pumpkin bread with sweet cream cheese filling or choice of ham, turkey, Swiss or American cheese.
Shri Balaji Bhavan, 5655 Hillcroft: This Houston favorite specializes in South Indian vegetarian cuisine, especially chaat (Indian street-food snacks) and dosa (rice and lentil pancakes stuffed with a variety of savory fillings). The appetizer and chaat options are all under $10 and range from three potato-filled samosa for $4.27 to papdi chaat (crispy wheat wafers topped with garlic, tamarind and mint chutney; housemade yogurt, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and crunchy chickpea noodles) for $5.70. You can mix and match for a light meal, but be careful — everything looks so good you may blow your budget. For a heartier, budget-friendly meal opt for one of the dosa that are almost wider than a two top. The classic masala dosa filled with lightly spiced potatoes and onions served with coconut chutney and a side of sambhar (lentil soup) is $7.85. These tasty delights are available for dine-in, curbside pickup or via third party delivery services.
SÀI GÒN PHỞ, 28301 Tomball Parkway: This intimate and family-owned Vietnamese spot is full of hearty dishes that won’t break the bank. Bánh mì are $5.99 for choice of grilled pork, grilled chicken or combo; $6.99 for lemon grass; $7.50 for grilled beef and $7.99 for beef with lemongrass. The can’t-miss grilled-pork spring rolls stuffed with a smoky crunchy combo of grilled pork, vermicelli and cucumber served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce and Vietnamese spring rolls are both $4.50 for two; Vietnamese egg rolls are $4.99 for four. There are nine bowls of phở that cost $8.99 for small and $9.99 for large. Selections include tofu, white chicken breast, eye round and brisket and meatballs. Vermicelli bowls start at $9.99 for options such as egg rolls, grilled pork and grilled chicken. There are also bubble teas, boba smoothies and housemade French bakery goodies.
Washington Avenue/Rice Military
FM Kitchen, 1112 Shepherd: Sometimes it’s fun to make a meal of appetizers. Load up on fresh, hot wings that start at $10 for 8, $15 for 12 and $24 for 20; split the larger sizes with a friend to keep the cost down. Choose from sweet and savory sauces including buffalo, BBQ, honey sambal, hoisin and pique (house hot sauce). In addition, the classic FM Burger clocks in at $6 for a four-ounce patty with fixins, cheese and shhh sauce and $9 for the eight-ounce version; or opt for the FM Snack Pack, a four-ounce cheeseburger, fries or tots and a Montucky Cold Snack Tall Boy for $10 (available for to-go only). There are also fried and grilled chicken sandwiches, hotdogs and more for under $10. Order for dine-in or curbside pickup at the Shepherd location.
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