How to Eat in Chinatown for Under $5
Pho BasilAddress and Info
Nothing beats a bowl of chicken noodle soup on a cold winter’s day, says your mom. But what if your mom is Vietnamese? Well, then she might suggest this slurp-worthy supply of rice noodles, shredded chicken, and basil paired with a fragrant, slow-simmered broth. It’s not a heavy meal, but one that will leave you feeling warm and cozy inside.
Spicy lamb hand-pulled flat noodles
Live NoodlesAddress and Info
This hand-pulled Lanzhou “lamian” flat noodle dish is the perfect combo of cumin-spiced lamb slices and thick, chewy noodles. It’s the pulling of the noodles that gives them their signature bite, and if you’ve got the right seat, you can actually watch the chefs pull while you wait. So, really, it’s food AND a show for your money.
Taqueria JaliscoAddress and Info
Not only are the enchiladas rojas the real deal at this popular East Boston spot, but they’re also BIG. If somehow, though, they’re not big enough -- you can also score $1.50 tacos and still come in under budget.
Lunch malai kofta
Punjab PalaceAddress and Info
If there’s any place that can do vegetarian on a budget, it’s an Indian restaurant. The malai kofta at Punjab Palace is the economical move for anybody craving a satisfying meal without unsatisfying animal parts. The “kofta” vegetable cheese balls -- made with potatoes, vegetables, and homemade cheese -- are cooked with herbs, cashews, and a creamy tomato sauce. After you’re done with the kofta, stretch the buck some more and pair the leftover sauce with basmati rice -- it comes with every lunch.
Chicken and rice plate
Teriyaki HouseAddress and Info
Teriyaki House, a mom-and-pop spot near Tufts, may look like a takeout spot when the head chef assumes the role of delivery man, but the joint also serves dine-in customers some of the city’s most amazing pork baos and chicken & rice. No, it’s not a place you take a date (unless, maybe, you actually go to Tufts), but the portions are large and the customer service is some of the most attentive around.
Beef stew with rice & beans
Latino RestaurantAddress and Info
You get a lot of bang for your buck at this fittingly named Latin joint. And here’s how you do it:fFor $3.50, you order a pretty large “medium” portion of fluffy rice and savory beans with a hint of pork in the backdrop. Then, a hearty bowl of the carne de res guisada (beef stew) for $4.75. Mix them together and you have yourself the perfect Latin meal for just north of $8.
LocaleAddress and Info
The thin and airy crusts at Locale pack big flavor and serve as the perfect bed for the bubbly, fresh mozzarella and Italian canned tomatoes they pile on their margherita pizza. The space is small (about 18 seats), but modern -- think white subway tiles and industrial light fixtures.
Yasai katsu curry
WagamamaAddress and Info
You have to admit, the katsu curry here is pretty good -- especially for a chain restaurant. The vegetable “yasai” katsu is light and crispy and drenched with a generous amount of curry sauce. But another reason to visit Wagamama is, honestly, for the décor. Swanky yet economical, the mod interior rocks an open stainless-steel kitchen and symmetrical table layout, which means you get both food and ambiance for your limited cash.
Pika Miso Ramen
PikaichiAddress and Info
Pikaichi is known for its big-portion ramen, serving 6oz of noodles with each bowl, as opposed to the traditional five (who knew?). And the noodles -- which are made exclusively for Pikaichi -- always come out al dente. The Pika Miso Ramen is your move here, as it boasts a thicker broth and is topped with tender sliced pork, nori, ground pork, corn, and scallions. For an additional $2.49, you can (barely) bust your $10 rule and score a small curry rice bowl as well.
Tokyo Hamburg Set
Café MamiAddress and Info
Let’s be honest, there’s nothing more comforting than a bed of rice and hamburger meatloaf smothered in a sweet and savory gravy. Right? Right?!?! The utterly juicy Tokyo Hamburg (made from marinated ground beef steak) at Cafe Mami can only be described as comfort food at its best. And the $9.99 set also comes with a side of miso soup and unlimited rice refills!
Quarter Peruvian charcoal chicken with rice
Machu ChickenAddress and Info
At Machu Chicken, one of Union Square’s best restaurants, expect an amazing Peruvian charcoal- and spice-infused quarter chicken atop a bed of white rice. Plus, a side salad with two types of huancaina -- a creamy, spicy sauce that pairs perfectly with the ever-so-charred bird.
1. Pho Basil177 Massachusetts Ave, Boston
2. Live Noodles1026 Commonwealth Avenue, Brookline
3. Taquería Jalisco293 Bennington St, Boston
4. Punjab Palace109 Brighton Ave, Boston
5. Teriyaki House868 Broadway, Somerville
6. Latino Restaurant302 Centre St, Jamaica Plain
7. Locale352 Hanover St, Boston
8. Wagamama57 JFK St, Cambridge
9. Pikaichi1 Brighton Ave, Allston
10. Cafe Mami1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
11. Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill25 Union Sq, Somerville
This brightly lit, airy Back Bay standby known for their fresh flavors is a great place to catch a meal on the go. Known for their deliciously delicate vermicelli noodles, notes of ginger co-mingle with hints of spice in signature dishes like Bun Thit Nuong and Bun Goi Cuon.
Hand pulled noodles from the Chinese region Lanzhou rule this busy take-out spot near Packer's Corner. Also on the menu-- dried hot pots, spicy vegetable salads, and traditional dim sum.
At Taqueria Jalisco, mi casa es su casa. This charming hole in the wall serves up Mexican comfort food classics with welcoming service.
This Brighton spot specializes in gloriously spicy North Indian cuisine in a classy, sit down setting. Stay for dessert (kheer and kulfi!) and catch a Bollywood flick in the site's spare space.
This Tufts adjacent takeout joint offers generous portions of teriyaki, bao and satay on the cheap and serves up unique bubble tea flavors (avocado, taro).
This Centre Street family style spot changes up their menu daily. Dishes include BBQ ribs, roast pork, baked chicken, and everyone's fave, beans and rice.
A new spot located in Boston's North End, Locale is serving up piping hot pizzas in a warm atmosphere.
This mini-chain's Harvard Square outpost caters to students, families, and large groups seeking inventive yet approachable Japanese fare. Bring your squad and go all in on omakase.
Allston ramen spot Pikaichi offers a variety of broth styles and arguably the most generous portions of noodles in the city. Most importantly, it's the only place in the city where you'll be able to find ramen available for take out. The thoughtful folks over at Pikaichi package the noodles and broth separately and even include instructions for preparing at home.
This super kawaii
The smell of charcoal grilled chicken should guide you to Machu Chicken, where you can get chicken that is simultaneously juicy, smoky, and crispy. The price ($10 for half a chicken) only makes it better.