Food & Drink

The 18 Best Things to Eat in Houston for $5 & Under

Published On 07/06/2015 Published On 07/06/2015

Though it’s pretty awesome that we could have made this entire list about tacos, we’re not going to do that, because 1) you live here, so you already have your favorite taqueria, and 2) we don’t feel like getting yelled at for not including it. So without further ado, here are the best sub-$5 foods this city has to offer (don't worry, there are SOME tacos):

Tamales

Pretty much anywhere
Hit literally any Mexican eatery or market along places like Airline or Navigation for tamales better than your abuela makes. And you should always be on the lookout for the Texas Tamale Company at pop-ups and festivals, where five bucks will get you a half-dozen of them.

BB's Cafe

Maw Maw’s Gumbo

BB’s Cafe (address and info)
Montrose
A fiver will earn you a cup of BB’s dark-rouxed gumbo crammed with chicken and sausage or shrimp. Whoever’s Maw Maw made this bit of Creole paradise, thanks for sharing her.

Fountain View Cafe

Short stack of pancakes

Fountain View Cafe (address and info)
Galleria
The $3.95 double stack of pillowy, crisp, whipped butter-soaked pancakes makes an equally excellent breakfast, lunch, and pre-dinner snack.


Tornado Burger

Spicy double cheeseburger

Tornado Burger (address and info)
Stafford
They may be teeny, but with garlic, jalapeños, and spices injected right into the meat, these patties pack a punch. And for $4.75, a double stack with cheese can be all yours.

BROOKE VIGGIANO/Thrillist

Breakfast tacos

Laredo Taqueria (address and info)
Washington
In Houston, the breakfast taco is king. Stand in line at Laredo or head to any of these places to have the BEST MORNING EVER.
 

Spicy Szechuan-style dumplings

Xiong’s Cafe (address and info) or Mala Sichuan (address and info
Chinatown/Montrose
Plump, delicately wrapped Szechuan-style dumplings come swimming in a plate of seriously hot red chili oil for less than a Lincoln at both of these Chinatown heavyweights. And now with Mala’s newly opened Montrose location, city dwellers won’t have to (gasp) leave the loop to get in on the action.

Frenchy's Chicken

Houston’s finest fried chicken

Frenchy’s (address and info)
Multiple locations
So you can’t afford a whole meal, but $5 is enough to get you a two-piece crisp and tender chicken breast, plus your choice of thigh or leg. Or screw it and go all leg and thigh, because it’s cheaper and you’re a leg man, anyway.

Slices & Ices

A specialty slice

Slices & Ices (address and info)
Pearland
If you’re ever in Pearland (and don’t have the cash to shell out for a meal at Killen’s), hit up this NY-style pizza shop for a slice in the style of grandma's, Buffalo chicken, or mac & cheese. Every one is $3.49 and under.

James Coney Island

Chili cheese coney

JCI Grill (address and info)
Multiple locations
James Coney Island (now JCI Grill because it's fancy like that) has been a Houston institution since 1923. Get the famous all-beef chili cheese dog for $1.89, or go for the footlong for $3.99 (because you fancy, too).

Very important bonus info: to celebrate its 92nd anniversary, original coneys will be $.92 on every third Thursday of the month through September 17.

Fusion Taco

A globally-inspired taco

Fusion Taco (address and info
Downtown
Standard street tacos are taken to the next level with globally-inspired foodstuffs, including but not limited to tempura shrimp and wasabi aioli, short-rib vindaloo, and BBQ Berkshire pork. For less than $4 each, they make one helluva mid-bar crawl snack.
 

Donuts & kolaches

Hugs & Donuts (address and info)
Heights
If you play your cards right and hit the shop up when it has things like “kolache happy hour,” you can snag a Gatlin’s brisket kolache AND a chocolate-glazed, caramel-filled donut for under $5. But even if you miss something as amazing as that, everything on this menu is between $2 to $3.

Common Bond

A mammoth croissant

Common Bond (address and info)
Montrose
If you've ever wanted a croissant as big as your head (but fluffier!), hit this much-beloved bakery to get one -- available in flavors like chocolate and almond -- for $4 to $5.
 

Bánh mì 

Cafe TH EaDo (address and info)
Chinatown
This fresh Vietnamese spot is a neighborhood hangout for a reason. And that’s because (besides having one of the most awesome owners/front-of-house guys in town), the food is just as bomb as it is cheap. Locally sourced, impressively tasty French bread stuffed with things like pork meatballs, pate, and fried egg can be yours for $3 to $5 at lunch and dinner.

Pondicheri

Exotic baked goods

Pondicheri Bake Lab (address and info)
Upper Kirby
Chili oatmeal and masala cookies, ginger clouds, chocolate and orange saffron brioche buns, and crack balls (yeah, you heard us right) are all $5 or less at this Indian-fusion bake lab.

BROOKE VIGGIANO/THRILLIST

Alllll the tacos

Tacos Tierra Caliente (address and info)
Montrose
If there’s ever a place where $5 will get you far, it’s this permanent food truck parked across from West Alabama Ice House, where you can get fresh corn tortillas stuffed with fall-apart-tender barbacoa, lengua, huevo con chorizo, and no-joke fiery house salsa.
 

Falafel

Zabak’s Mediterranean Cafe (address and info)
Galleria
Each fried to a crisp, moist, and crumbly falafel from this Galleria-area mainstay is just $.75. Get the full $5 worth or order a few stuffed into pita with l + t, za’atar spice, tahini, and hot sauce for $4.49.

Kimberly Park

Lunch Lady fries

Bernie’s Burger Bus (address and info)
Bellaire
A regular order of this burger bus-turned-burger bus stop’s roast beef-, cheese-, and gravy-loaded Lunch Lady fries will run you $4.75. Had these been available in any actual HS, we’d likely still be in 10th grade.
 

Churros (two ways)

Sunny Flea Market (address and info)
North Houston
In addition to the usual cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted, deep-fried sticks, get your fill of Guadalajara-style churros, which are more like cajeta-smothered beignets than regular churros. That can happen at this bustling flea market, where you’ll find both varietals for a mere two bucks a pop.

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1. BB's Cajun Cafe 2710 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006 (Montrose)

This Cajun eatery in Montrose is a neighborhood staple serving up Texas and New Orleans cuisine in a laid back atmosphere. Get your hands on Cajun classics like ettouffe and crawfish boils in addition to full loaded po-boys. All of the food is pretty gut-busting, so bring some friends to go in on shareable apps like loaded fries. BB's is open late, making it the perfect stop after a night out.

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2. Fountain View Cafe 1814 Fountain View Dr, Houston, TX 77057 (Uptown)

If you’re gonna have pancakes for lunch (or as pre-dinner snack), this is the place to do it. These bad boys come stacked with crisped edges and a mound of oozing, whipped, and salted butter. All they need is a soak in syrup and BOOM -- you’re never having a kale salad for lunch again.

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3. Tornado Burger 505 FM 1092 Rd , Stafford, TX 77477

Tornado Burger, a Stafford neighborhood fast-food burger joint, offers greasy, divey burgers that feel so wrong but taste so right. The patties are hand-formed in-house, using onions, jalapenos, garlic, and other peppers that get mushed right in. Tornado burgers air on the slim side, so be sure to double up on your meat-to-bun ratio with the Double Cheeseburger. And while you’re ordering at the counter, don’t forget to bulk up on loaded fries, which you can customize to your waistline’s desire, with toppings like feta, bacon, ranch, and grilled onion.

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4. Laredo Taqueria 915 Snover St, Houston, TX 77007 (Washington)

This bright orange shack is hard to miss -- right off of Washington Ave with a line out the door as a result of their seriously delicious breakfast and lunch tacos -- get in line and prepare for some fluffy, handmade tortillas stuffed with chorizo, barbacoa, and chicharrones.

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5. Xiong's Cafe 9888 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

It's all legit at Xiong’s Café, but the real winner is the Szechuan-style dumplings that come in a plate of seriously hot red chili oil for less than 5 Lincolns at this Chinatown spot.

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6. Slices & Ices 300 W Bay Area Blvd, Webster, TX 77598 (Pearland)

Hit up this NY-style pizza shop for a slice. They've got the usuals, like Buffalo Chicken, but also Mac & Cheese.

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7. Fusion Taco 801 Congress St, Houston, TX 77002 (Downtown)

Part taco truck, part restaurant, Fusion Taco blends Asian and South American flare for exciting dishes like Chili con Queso and Chicken Tikka Masala tacos.

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8. Hugs & Donuts 1901 N Shepherd Dr Ste 4, Houston, TX 77008

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, the owners of popular food truck H-town StrEATs opened a brick-and-mortar donut and kolache shop. Gorge yourself on freshly baked gourmet goodness, including (but not limited to) options like lemon-curd filled lemon meringue pie donuts and Gatlin’s BBQ brisket kolaches.

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9. Common Bond 1706 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098 (Montrose)

Once you get your hands on the kugelhopf, you'll understand why this Montrose bakery and breakfast-ery has lines out the door. Butter-brushed and sugar-glazed, this German marble Bundt cake only rivals one other item on the menu: fried egg on a croissant bigger than your head. This breakfast sandwich is made with a perfectly yolky 63 degree egg that blends harmoniously with a slab of pork sausage, melted cheddar, aioli, and a buttery, fluffy sesame roll. A number of pastries and savory dishes are also available at Common Bond.

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10. Café TH EaDo 2108 Pease St, Houston, TX 77003

The food at this neighborhood hang out is as bomb as it is cheap. French bread stuffed with things like pork meatballs, pate, and fried egg can be yours for $3 to $5 at lunch and dinner.

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11. Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop 2800 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098

At this Indian fusion bake lab chili oatmeal and masala cookies, ginger clouds, chocolate and orange saffron brioche buns, and crack balls (oh yeah) are all $5 or less.

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12. Tacos Tierra Caliente 2003 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77098 (Montrose)

This food truck is permanently parked across from West Alabama Ice House, which means you can count on fresh corn tortillas stuffed with fall-apart tender barbacoa, lengua, huevo con chorizo, and no-joke fiery house salsa without fear of it driving away.

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13. Zabak's Mediterranean Cafe 5901 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77057

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.

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14. Sunny Flea Market 8705 Airline Dr, Houston, TX 77037

Sunny Flea Market is open on weekends serving up all kinds of hot Mexican food, face painting, carnival rides and occasional special events. And don't you dare go home without trying the churros!

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15. Bernie’s Burger Bus Stop 5407 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77401

Some of Houston's best burgers and fries come straight out of a big yellow school bus, otherwise known as the kitchen of Bernie's Burger Bus. Bernie's still has waiters and seating though, not to mention milkshakes, wines, and beers on tap. The gourmet burgers, all of which have school-themed names like "The Principal" and "Homeroom," are constructed from a blend of house-ground black Angus beef and served on locally-baked buns. Add in homemade condiments and you've got the best school lunch ever.

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