Living in Houston may have been reasonably affordable in the past, but the times are changing. While we’re totally cool with all of the improvements the city’s made over the past decade or so, we are greedy humans who prefer to keep our cash in our pockets instead of, say, in our stomachs after we’ve downed a $65 eight-decker sandwich (yes, that exists, and, yes, it is kinda awesome). So we’ve scoured the streets for Houston’s best sandwiches that are also still totally cheap, to satisfy both your appetite and your 401k. Here are 11 of them, in all of their $6-or-less glory.
Classic grilled cheese
Golden GrillAddress and Info
This grilled cheese kitchen on wheels makes a mean classic grilled cheese sandwich for the cost of a Lincoln. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can make a better one at home because you have a sick, secret trick where you make a smiley face out of the butter on both sides of the bread; Golden Grill’s version is undoubtedly cheesier, crispier, and better. If you want to spend a few extra bucks, you can tack on things like bacon ($6), buffalo chicken ($7), and slow-roasted pork carnitas ($8).
Texas Size Steak Sandwich
Champ BurgerAddress and Info
This family-run neighborhood stalwart has been serving up some of the city's greatest burgers since 1963. As such, the prices are old-timey, too. While of course you can go for a greasy old-fashioned burger, we’re talking sandwiches here, and Champ’s "Original Texas Size Steak Sandwich" is one for the books. The big ol' bread can barely contain the chicken-fried steak stuffed inside. It’s a sandwich best enjoyed at an umbrella-covered table with a Hershey chocolate shake.
Zabak'sAddress and Info
Houston’s best falafel gets packed into fresh house-made pita before being packed right into your mouth. The Old World-style chickpea & parsley patties are beautifully spiced with a house blend, then deep-fried to a crisp and smothered with creamy, garlic-studded tahini, a sprinkle of sumac, and a dash of hot sauce, which you then add more of, because we’re in Houston, damnit.
Tex-Mex Cheese Steak
Antone's Famous Po' BoysAddress and Info
North Loop (& West Loop)
Cost: $5.49 (half)
Houston’s original po-boy spot brought the crunchy, spicy, hot-pepper-loaded condiment “Chow-Chow” to the forefront. Since then, Houstonians have been chow-chowing down on Antone’s overstuffed sandwiches on the daily. You can go for the Original, an Italian packed with ham, salami, provolone, and the proper dressing, but we’re suckers for this Texas meets Philly hybrid. The cheesesteak plays to the local palette with a stack of bell peppers, banana peppers, and jalapeños, plus pepper jack cheese and a generous smear of chipotle mayo.
Refinery Burgers & WhiskeyAddress and Info
Get totally unrefined with a seriously tasty fried bologna sandwich that’s way better than anything you had growing up. The lunch meat gets pan-fried and slapped between two pieces of bread with the only accouterment that makes any sense: mayo. It’s like you’re in kindergarten all over again, only this time, there’s beer!
Char-grilled pork banh mi
Cafe THAddress and Info
Price: $3.50 to $4.50
There’s a reason this hole-in-the-wall in the tiny EaDo neighborhood draws a steady weekday lunch rush, and that’s because the fresh bánh mì sandwiches are damn good. Go for the quadruple-pork meatball "Porter’s Balls," or the everything-topped, man-sized "Zombie" if you’re feeling particularly ravenous, or keep it even more wallet-friendly and stick with normal people-sized sandwiches like the incredible char-grilled pork.
Build your own banh mi
RoostarAddress and Info
Spring Branch West
Price: Starting at $4-$5.75
Crafting a sandwich at this Westside jewel is sort like crafting a sandwich at Subway, except the meat is legitimately good and the add-ons aren’t questionably colored. Get your banh mi stuffed with everything from grilled pork, pork belly, and chopped rib-eye to ham and crispy tofu, then stack it with pickled veg stuff like pate, avocado, and egg.
Banh Mi Xiu Mai
Thien AnAddress and Info
Did we mention we could make this entire list about banh mi? If you want to stay in the loop, this Midtown darling offers one of the best versions of the sandwich around. Order whatever staple tickles your fancy (go for the meatballs), and if you have extra money to spend, do so on the banh xeo, a Vietnamese crepe that’s just as crazy-big as it is crazy-good.
Grilled Cheese Doughnut
Pena's Donut Heaven & GrillAddress and Info
Price: $2.50 to $3.50
Doughnuts are delicious. Grilled cheese is delicious. This sandwich is delicious. It just all makes sense. The grilled cheese doughnut comes offered with cheddar, bacon cheddar, or pepper jack, and it’s so cheap, you can probably afford two. The question is, should you. The answer? Yeah, man.
Brooklyn Meatball CompanyAddress and Info
Price: $5.99 (half)
You probably didn’t watch NBC’s Chipotle-inspired restaurant contest, America’s Next Great Restaurant (because no one did), but if you did (who are you?), you’d know that Joey Galluzzi doesn’t mess around when it comes to his grandma’s meatballs. Galluzzi was runner-up on the show, which ended up being a good thing for Houston, because he ultimately left New York for good and opened this Downtown meatball shop that is totally worth venturing into the tunnels for. Choose your meatball and sauce from options like classic Grandma-style with red sauce or eggplant balls with bright pesto, then thank your lucky stars that show totally sucked.
Fried seafood sandwich
Fountainview Fish MarketAddress and Info
Open since 1980, this old-school fish market and fry joint is a throwback to better days. It’s still thriving thanks to an emphasis on all things fresh, with the fish being delivered daily before being hand-battered in a house-seasoned flour and fried to order. Choose from shrimp, oyster, or catfish served with a drink and side for a very fair, throwback price.
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1. Champ Burger304 Sampson St, Houston
2. Zabak's Mediterranean Cafe5901 Westheimer Rd, Houston
3. Antone’s Famous Po’Boys11511 Katy Freeway Service Road, Houston
4. The Refinery Burgers & Whiskey702 W Dallas St, Houston
5. Cafe TH2108 Pease St, Houston
6. Roostar Vietnamese Grill1411 Gessner Rd, Houston
7. Thien An Sandwiches2611 San Jacinto St, Houston
8. Peña's Donut Heaven And Grill11601 Shadow Creek Pkwy, Pearland
9. Brooklyn Meatball Company930 Main St Ste T240C, Houston
10. Fountainview Fish Market2912 Fountain View Dr, Houston
The bright green awning with the cursive Champ Burger name scrawled across the front really doesn't lie. Both the burgers and the sandwiches at this diner-style eatery just east of Downtown can only be described as Texas-sized. They've got a sandwich for every meal of the day, and between the fluffy burger buns or crisp, thick toast slices, you'll find anything from beef and cheese, to bacon and lettuce, to ham and eggs.
The falafel at this Galleria area mainstay are each fried to a crisp, moist and crumbly. Come grab 'em stuffed into pita with l + t, za’tar spice, tahini, and hot sauce for $4.49.
The locally expanding 1950's diner-style chain accredited with bring the Po'Boy to Houston does the sandwich right with creations like the Original, an Italian packed with ham, salami, provolone and classic Po'Boys stacked with oysters, shrimp, or the strictly Southern catfish slathered with Chow-Chow, their signature sauce that's crunchy, spicy hot, and loaded with peppers.
This dive-y spot that calls Houston's Fourth Ward home are the masters of exactly what you'd expect -- big burgers topped with stuff like chili and guacamole with healthy sides of whiskey. The menu plays good cop/bad cop with "refined" options like chicken or turkey wraps and, the longer side of the menu, "unrefined" options like a friend bologna sandwich and smoked brisket tacos.
This Vietnamese eatery is packed for lunch because of its banh mi sandwiches and for dinner because of its banh mi bo tho, a beef stew that's so damn good you'll crave it even during Houston's hottest months. The aforementioned dishes, plus phos, curries, and vermicelli bowls, have given Cafe TH a cult following, even among the vegetarian crowd. Located in a strip mall, the tiny spot is BYOB and a great place for a cheap, casual, and hella good dinner.
This boxy, corporate-looking Spring Branch West spot may look like nothing more than the Subway of banh mi, but inside you'll find Vietnamese sandwiches made with high quality ingredients from fresh garlic aioli to house-pickled carrots. In addition to sandwiches, you can look forward to wings, soups and customizable combo boxes.
This Vietnamese sandwich shop may look unassuming, but it's become a fan-favorite for its flavor-packed banh mi and pho. The Banh Mi Xiu Mai will never let you down with its savory pork meatballs. Locals go crazy for its banh xeo, too, a Vietnamese crepe that’s big in size and flavor. Did we mention everything on the menu is crazy cheap, too?
"Where all good doughnuts go," Peña's Donut Heaven has been serving Texans since '96 and is still going strong with this family-owned Pearland spot. This ain't your average or generic donut shop; when you come here, you're met with a selection of creatively topped donuts and cronuts (oreos, maple bacon, Foot Loops) along with the options of breakfast tacos and breakfast plates stacked high with bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, potatoes and grits.
Chef/Owner Joey Galluzzi may not have won NBC's America's Next Great Restaurant (no one watched this, it's not just you), but after he came in second in the contest and left New York, he went on to open this downtown meatball shop -- a total win for Houston. Using his Sicilian grandmother's meatballs as inspiration, Galluzzi lets you choose your meatball and sauce from options like classic Grandma-style with red sauce or eggplant balls with bright pesto. Toss 'em on top of rigatoni or spaghetti, or on the Saucy Sub, a freshly baked baguette with cheese, herbs, and balsamic glaze.
This old-school fish market has been thriving since 1980, drawing in throngs of loyal customers thanks to its super-fresh fish, which is delivered daily and, for the market's beloved fried fish sandwiches, hand-battered in a house-seasoned flour and fried to order. You have a choice of shrimp, oyster, or catfish for your sandwich, served with a drink and side of fries, onion rings, cole slaw, or an egg roll -- all for a price that's similar to the one back in the '80s.