It’s another edition of our monthly cheap-eats roundup. A tasty lunch shouldn’t cost more than $10, so every month we give you 10 suggestions. Got one for us? Send nom-nominations to email@example.com.
Bento Café multiple locations, bentocafesushi.com Choose a presentation (bento box, noodle bowl or over rice), choose a preparation (there are dozens) and choose a protein. With so many choices, you could eat here for months without repeating, but we find ourselves alternating between the surprisingly spicy red curry over rice ($7.75 with chicken or tofu) and the Korean beef with peppers and scallions over noodles ($8.75).
Blaze Pizza 4100 N. Alafaya Trail, 407-282-9453, blazepizza.com Blaze Pizza blazed into UCF students' consciousness when they opened earlier this month by giving away free pizza all day. While not free, the 11-inch pies are still startlingly inexpensive – $7.95 for any pie, whatever toppings you choose. Flat broke? The simple pie (red sauce, mozzarella, parm) is just $5.
BurgerFi multiple locations, burgerfi.com One of the area's first "better burger" joints, BurgerFi elevates the classic cheeseburger, fries and milkshake into something much swankier. With American cheese, bacon, maple syrup, grilled onions, a hashbrown patty, ketchup and a fried egg, the monster-size Breakfast All Day burger ($7.49) turns tomorrow into (You Better) Fast All Day.
Chicken Salad Chick 12101 University Blvd., 407-867-4900, chickensaladchick.com The Alabama-based chain serves up (almost) nothing but chicken salad, with a hefty down-home sprinkling of y'alls and sugars. The Original Chick special gets you a scoop or a sandwich made with one of 15 different varieties of chicken salad (we're partial to Fruity Fran, with apples and grapes) plus a side, pickle and cookie for $7.69.
Hawkers Asian Street Fare 1103 N. Mills Ave., 407-237-0606, eathawkers.com Almost every small plate on the menu is under $10, but it's not easy to get two and still stay under, so the trick is to know which are satisfying solo. Soup is always a good bet for filling up, and Hawkers' roast duck noodle soup ($8.50) is among the best: fat, chewy udon noodles bathed in savory broth and swimming with crunchy yow choy and lush slices of roast fowl.
Hubbly Bubbly Falafel Shop 3405 Edgewater Drive, 407-985-5841, hubblybubblyfalafel.com The meats are delicious and their falafel is justifiably famous, but the sneak star of the menu is Georgie's Lentils ($6.99). The lentil bowl is a perfectly seasoned protein bomb that you can top with various fresh and pickled vegetables (seriously do not pass up the hot-pink pickled turnips) plus a swipe of hummus. Add a bit of pita and you hit the cheap lunch trifecta: delicious, filling and healthy.
Hummus House 862 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-636-9722, hummushouse.comA Middle Eastern assembly-line type place, with six different types of hummus. Choose pita sandwich or rice bowl, choose a protein (we think the grilled chicken is the best option, and it's also the cheapest at $7.39), choose your toppings. Unfortunately tabouli and fried cauliflower, two of the menu must-haves, are an extra 99 cents each. Our advice: Add the cauli to a rice bowl or the tabouli to a sandwich.
Latin Square 250 S. Orange Ave., 407-608-4181, latinsquarecuisine.com Smack in the middle of downtown's Central Business District is this café serving warm, homey Latin cuisine. The menu is mostly Cuban, but there's a South American twist here and there – like the roasted chicken served with garden-green chimichurri sauce. A quarter-chicken with a side of roasted potatoes ($4.99) is garlicky comfort on a plate.
This N That Eats 1811 N. Orange Ave., 407-757-0810, thisnthateats.com Chef Jason Schofield serves as a chef-consultant to a roster of high-profile restaurants throughout Central Florida, which may account for the gourmandise in the anything-but-simple sandwiches he serves from behind the This N That counter. We can't get enough of the Mexican torta ($7): a sesame seed-paved roll spread with refried beans and piled with chorizo, queso fresco, avocado, tomato and leafy greens.
Zona Fresca 1035 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-4840, zonafresca.com We're flirting with breaking the no-fast-food rule with this one, but since there are fewer than a dozen locations and Zona Fresca's SoCal-style Mexican is genuinely choice, we're including it. Stack a two-taco combo plate (with beans, cilantro rice and chips, plus your choice of salsas from the bar) with one char-broiled shrimp on a soft corn tortilla and one machaca beef in a crunchy shell for $7.99.