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Cheap Eats: Dine out for $10 or less in Utah

Published January 8, 2013 10:42 am

Dining • We've eaten our way across the Salt Lake Valley to compile our list of favorite bargain-priced dishes.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Forget the two-for-one coupons and early bird specials. If you're like the The Salt Lake Tribune features staff, you just want to get an affordable meal without all the hassle. So we did a little bit of culinary sleuthing — so readers don't have to — and uncovered a host of local diners, neighborhood cafes and ethnic eateries that offer hearty plates of food all for $10 or less. Plus we've included three hall of fame finalists, entrees that serve up to four diners for around $20.

$9.99 • Curry fried chicken plate

Curry Fried Chicken serves up a hearty platter of mouth-wateringly delicious chicken. For $10, you get a plate of vegetable curry, basmati rice, dressed salad and warm pita bread. The stars of the show are the two pieces of extra crunchy fried chicken boosted with Indian seasonings, making every bite a sweet and spicy treat. It's so good, you'll want to go right ahead and order additional pieces of chicken at just $1.49 apiece.

Curry Fried Chicken • 660 S. State St., Salt Lake City; 801-924-9188.

$9.95 • Pad see-ew

Sala Thai Kitchen's version of pad see-ew features one of the better sweet black bean sauces in the valley. The sauce coats the fresh flat rice noodles, which are stir-fried with garlic, crunchy broccoli and carrots, cabbage and scrambled egg as well as your choice of chicken, beef, pork or tofu.

Sala Thai Kitchen • 677 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City; 801-328-2499.

$9.75 • American Diner

Who says vegans only eat rabbit food? Vertical Diner specializes in vegan versions of stick-to-your-ribs classics. The American Diner plate is a prime example: two thick sticks of vegan fried "chicken" atop a pile of potatoes — mashed, hash browns or french fries (your choice) — and a savory gravy. Oh, and there's a plentiful salad on the side. The place has a lot of old-fashioned diner ambience — except that instead of a gum-cracking waitress in a beehive, you'll get your food from a very nice tattooed-and-pierced young hipster.

Vertical Diner • 2280 S. West Temple, South Salt Lake; 801-484-8378.

$9.50 • Two-taco fish platter

At Mariscos Ensenada restaurant, Tejano music thumps on the stereo, Mexican soap operas play on a flat-screen TV and fresh fish is the house specialty. The pescado tacos are generous finger-size strips of deep-fried mahi mahi, topped with lettuce, tomato and a slightly, spicy green chile sauce. One taco is only $2.25; For variety, try a shrimp taco, $2.99 each.

Mariscos Ensenada • 4855 S. Redwood Road, Taylorsville; 801-269-4535.

$9 • Short rib sandwich

Slow-braised short rib, fontina cheese, fresh green leaf lettuce, sweet and sour red onions, horseradish aioli — all packed into a grilled ciabatta. Yes, this short rib sandwich at Blue Lemon tastes as good as it reads. The tender beef, hefty bun and spicy horseradish all combine to make a first-rate sandwich. If you're feeling peckish, consider a side of sweet-potato fries ($4) to round out the meal and tuck in.

Blue Lemon • 6910 S. Highland Drive, Cottonwood Heights; 801-944-7787; 11073 N. Alpine Hwy, Highland; 801-756-7993; and 55 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City; 801-328-2583.

$9 • Juicy Lucy burger

A word of warning: This burger is messy yet delicious. This big, juicy, half-pound double-patty Angus burger is topped with your choice of cheddar, Swiss, blue cheese, feta or pepper jack and regular burger fixings, served along with a generous handful of napkins. Lucy comes with a side of soup, salad, fries, tater tots or cottage cheese.

Bourbon House • 19 E. 200 South (basement of Walker Center), Salt Lake City; 801-746-1005.

$8.99 • Beef waterfall

A heaping salad platter of seasoned and barbecued beef, served atop a mound of crunchy lettuce that could easily be split with a friend. The beef is brought to life with copious amounts of zippy lime juice and fish sauce. Red onions and a confetti of cilantro and mint leaves also help to power up a vibrant dish. Spice lovers should consider ordering this dish toward the hotter end of the spectrum for a truly explosive mix of flavor and sensation.

Thai Aroy-D • 271 W. 900 South, Salt Lake City; 801-359-2275.

$8.99 • Artichoke and tomato grilled cheese with tomato basil soup

What better way to make a grilled cheese sandwich gourmet than to add marinated artichokes and roasted tomatoes to melted provolone and pepper jack cheese between two thick slices of bread? Add a cup of hot tomato basil soup on the side for dipping.

Melty Way • 1036 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale; 801-566-5056.

$8.99 • Rogan josh

Saffron Valley's rogan josh is a delicious meal at a great price. This Indian wrap, also known as a kati roll, is filled with spicy lamb tikka and sautéed onions, peppers and spinach and then rolled in Indian flatbread. It's served over a bed of refreshing mango vinaigrette salad and accompanied by a cup of soup.

Saffron Valley Indian Street Food • 1098 W. South Jordan Parkway, South Jordan; 801-438-4823.

$8.95 • Garlic burger

It's obvious the guys at Fiddler's Elbow, stalwarts of the Sugar House neighborhood for more than a decade, know what they're doing. Affordable, consistent bar food is available seven days a week alongside TV broadcasts of every sport under the sun. The garlic burger with fries always hits the spot, packing in tons of fresh roasted garlic into a juicy patty. Come for a burger, stay for the game and order one of the more than 30 cold beers on tap.

Fiddler's Elbow • 1063 E. 2100 South Salt Lake City; 801-463-9393.

$8.95 • Limone pizza

Pizzeria Limone's namesake pizza, the Limone, is an eclectic mix of taste sensations. There's the zing of fresh lemons, bite of red onion, burst of fresh garlic and basil, earthiness of olive oil and smoothness of aged and fresh mozzarella as well as Parmigiano reggiano — all on top of a bubbly thin crust. Another customer favorite, according to the servers at the new Salt Lake City location, is the Viola, which combines the cheeses and olive oil of the Limone, but mixes things up with prosciutto, basil and fresh blackberries.

Pizzeria Limone • 1380 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale, 801-733-9305; and 613 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City; 801-953-0200.

$8.75 • Machu Picchu

A mountain of flavors is what you get with the Machu Picchu, an aptly named entree at Cafe SuperNatural. Forming the base of your dish are steamed and sliced potatoes (or your choice of quinoa) and a colorful mix of steamed seasonal vegetables, all slathered with a roasted chile cashew cream sauce reminiscent of a homestyle gravy with a chile kick. It tastes so good it's hard to believe it's healthy.

Cafe SuperNatural • 600 S. 700 East, inside Trolley Square, Salt Lake City; 801-363-1000.

$8.62 • Curry combo

Ekamai Thai is a perfect stop if you want delicious curry on the go. The green curry is a little bit spicier and includes chicken and bamboo shoots. The yellow also has chicken, but is served with carrots and potatoes. If you can't decide what to order, don't be afraid to ask for samples.

Ekamai Thai • 336 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-363-2717; 1405 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City; 801-906-0908.

$8.49 • Combination plate

With a name like Best Chicken and Ribs, a restaurant had better deliver. This mom-and-pop joint has a menu that's stacked with reliably delicious Greek food, most under $9. The pick of the menu is the combination plate, which provides a chicken breast kabob, beef kabob and shreds of gyro meat all piled high over your choice of rice, fries, beans or potatoes. It's enough for dinner and then lunch the next day.

Best Chicken and Ribs • 111 E. 2700 South, Salt Lake City; 801-466-8311.

$8.49 • Lamb sliders

Landmark Grill's lamb sliders are the perfect combination of Greek flavors and American presentation. Two well-spiced, house-made lamb burger patties are grilled and then topped with a thick slab of feta cheese and dollop of tzatziki (cucumber yogurt) on quaint slider buns. The results are cool, creamy and delicious.

Landmark Grill • 760 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale; 801-566-3664.

$8 • Technicolor Tempeh Kale Salad

Salads traditionally occupy the status of starter or appetizer. Not at Frisch Compassionate Eatery, which offers an array of fresh salads at budget prices ($4 for 8 oz., $8 for 16 oz.) that can easily pass for a meal. The Technicolor tempeh kale salad is a hearty bounty of chopped kale, organic veggies including red cabbage, toasted almonds and tempeh (fermented soy, a speciality of Indonesia) that's savory to the last bite. The tangy dressing doesn't overpower the taste of fresh vegetables, instead complementing the salad's overall flavor.

Frisch Compassionate Eatery • 779 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City ; 801-532-2216.

$8 • The Peto

What do you get when you cross a French dip sandwich with a Philly cheesesteak? The Peto at Roots Cafe. Thinly sliced roast beef mingles with melted, peppery cheddar cheese before being placed on a fresh baguette smeared with a flavorful horseradish avocado spread, caramelized jalapeños and sweet onions. A house-made au jus is served alongside. The Porto, the vegetarian version of this sandwich, features a marinated and grilled portobello mushroom instead of beef.

Roots Cafe • 3474 S. 2300 East, Salt Lake City; is 801-455-1799.

$8 • Lazy Day deluxe

The concept of this dish is simple: The Lazy Day deluxe consists of a fried chicken breast half that is placed atop a feather-light biscuit and topped with bacon, then cheddar, then a fried egg. Made-from-scratch hash browns help to sop up the sausage gravy that smothers the lot. Sure it's deluxe, decadent even. But considering the use of wholesome ingredients and the care with which each component was prepared, every forkful is necessary. A word of warning, though: This stuff is addictive, and the true breakfast of champions.

Lazy Day Cafe • 2020 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-953-0311.

$7.99 • Gyro and fries

Cottonwood Heights Cafe has a flavorful gyro plate of fresh lamb, purple onions, tomatoes and a tasty sour cream sauce — not yogurt — all stuffed into soft pita bread. Add steak fries with some of the state's best fry sauce, and it's a filling meal.

Cottonwood Heights Cafe • 2577 E. Bengal Blvd., Cottonwood Heights, 801-947-0760.

$7.95 • Soup and salad lunch combo

Cinegrill's namesake salad is a classic: lettuce topped with provolone cheese, pepperoni and peperoncini and served with a dressing of olive oil, wine vinegar, garlic, Gorgonzola cheese and herbs. Add in a generous bowl of minestrone and two garlic rolls, as well as a great atmosphere and quick service for the perfect lunch.

Cinegrill • 344 S. 300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-328-4900.

$7.50 • Burrito al pastor enchilada style

Fast-casual restaurant that serve massive burritos are everywhere, but Chunga's Mexican Food feels like the real deal. The burritos come stuffed with beans, rice, cheese and your choice of meat. The restaurant's specialty is al pastor — pork with pineapple. The reddish-colored meat spins on a rotisserie behind the counter, something akin to Greek gyro meat. Regular burritos are $6.50, but pay the extra dollar to get it smothered with enchilada sauce. It's big enough to split with a friend or save for leftovers.

Chunga's Mexican Food • 180 S. 900 West, Salt Lake City; 801-953-1840.

$7.50 • Liberty's special burger

Vegetable burgers are notorious for coming straight out of a box. Not at Washington Square Cafe, where Liberty's special burgers are made fresh from quinoa, a touch of curry and other fresh ingredients and topped with sliced avocado and hummus. This lunch favorite comes with Greek salad and grilled veggies, and its name pays homage to cafe owner (and dancer) Liberty Valentine.

Washington Square Cafe • 451 S. 200 East, Salt Lake City & County Building, first floor; 801-535-6102.

$7 • Hummus 'n' olive sandwich

It takes a little work to find Cafe Solstice, as it's inside a Salt Lake City import shop. But customers who find this hidden gem will enjoy a reasonably priced menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and baked items all made from scratch. The hummus 'n' olive sandwich contains the restaurant's signature olive tapenade made with a mixture of black and green olives. With carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and a choice of bread, this sandwich is good enough to turn even an olive hater into a fan. It's served with chips and salsa and a side salad.

Cafe Solstice • 673 Simpson (2240 South), inside Dancing Crane Imports, Salt Lake City; 801-487-0980.

$6.99 • Grilled Reuben

I've never been able to eat an entire grilled Reuben sandwich at one sitting at Penny Ann's Cafe. The sandwich is served loaded with thinly sliced corned beef, juicy sauerkraut, melted swiss cheese and tangy Thousand Island dressing and then grilled between two slices of marbled rye breaded. Make it a combo for just $2.49 extra and get a choice of chips, fries, soup, coleslaw, or a garden or Caesar salad and a drink.

Penny Ann's Cafe • 1810 S. Main St., Salt Lake City; 801-935-4760.

$6.75 • Cevapi sandwich

All the food at Cafe on Mainis affordable, but for something unique try the cevapi, considered the national food of Bosnia. Finger-sized links — usually made from ground beef or lamb —are grilled and served inside a thick, chewy pita bread known as lepinga. Raw white onions, a mild red pepper spread — called avjar —and either sour cream or a creamy feta-like cheese complete this hearty sausage sandwich.

Cafe on Main • 2701 S. Main St., Salt Lake City; 801-487-9434.

$6.50 • Keiko's luau ribs

If it's Wednesday, it's Keiko's Luau Ribs day at Out of the Box Café. These tender ribs come with a choice of salad — go for the popular Asian chicken salad with lettuce, shredded chicken, carrots, cucumbers, green onions, rice sticks and wonton strips — and a huge mound of rice, a serving large enough to feed two. The rest of the Japanese-American menu includes bento boxes, salads and Hawaiian favorites.

Out of the Box Cafe • 50 W. Century Parkway (2950 South), Suite A, South Salt Lake; 801-463-4905.

$6 • The Spicy meatball sub

Vegetarians who can't keep up with the on-again, off-again schedule of the yummy Union Street Eats food truck are in luck. Buds, a storefront restaurant that opened the last week of September, features a couple of Union Street's favorites on the menu. Buds' original menu items are also a treat. The spicy meatball sub features tasty vegan "meatballs" — made with pinto beans and grain — grilled peppers and onions, a tangy marinara sauce and a nice "cheese" sauce, all on a toasted hoagie. It's a little messy, but tastes quite good.

Buds • 507 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-521-4522.

5.99 • Kalua pig plate lunch

Mo' Bettah Steaks specializes in the plate lunch, a quintessential offering of Hawaii cuisine. The hearty kalua pig plate lunch starts with tender pig (you can also order steak or teriyaki chicken), and is served with two scoops of rice (white or brown) and a side salad (green or macaroni). There's also a choice of sauce. If you like it slightly sweet, order the restaurant's signature sauce — you can even buy a bottle and take it home for your leftovers. The small plate lunch is plenty big, but hungry diners can order a large for $7.99.

Mo' Bettah Steaks • 335 W. 1830 South, Salt Lake City; 273 West 500 South, Bountiful; and 2095 North Main St. Logan.

$5.99 • Philly steak sandwich (6-inch)

Moochies' fans argue this is the best Philly steak sandwich in town and with good reason. Generous portions of sliced steak (or chicken), melted American cheese and onions and, if you wish, jalapeño sauce all served on a fresh bun. Grill peppers or mushrooms are worth the additional $1. If you're really hungry, there's a 12-inch sandwich for $9.99. If Philly steaks aren't your favorite, try the other specialty, the meatball sub.

Moochies • 232 E. 800 South, Salt Lake City; 801-596-1350.

$5.95 • Golden Spike burger

The rocket scientists at Alliant Techsystems in Promontory say the hamburgers atGolden Spike Burgers in nearby Corinne are out of this world. It turns out those brainiacs do know more than just how to send astronauts into space. The namesake burger is a gigantic meal, stacked with a grilled beef patty, cheese, lettuce, fried onion rings, bacon and thick slices of avocado. You could add fries and a drink for an extra $2.85, but the Golden Spike Burger is more than enough, even for a starving aeronautical engineer.

Golden Spike Burgers • 3960 W. Highway 13, Corinne, 435-744-2400.

$5.95 • Eggplant parmigiana

The eggplant parmigiana is on the appetizer list at Per Noi Trattoria, a tucked-away Sugar House neighborhood eatery, but it's the perfect vegetarian entrée or shared dish with tablemates. The eggplant isn't breaded and fried but rather sliced and seared before being stacked between layers of moist mozzarella and bright marinara sauce.

Per Noi Trattoria • 1588 E. Stratford Ave.; 801-486-3333.

$5.85-$8.85 • Peruvian roasted chicken

Originating in 1950s Lima, pollo a la brasa is Peruvian roasted chicken, and boy, it's good. At El Rocoto, you can order your pollo by the quarter ($5.85), half ($8.85) or full bird ($15.85). Orders come con papas y ensalada — that's a side of thick fries and dressed green salad to you and me. Whatever size you choose, this mild chile-rubbed chicken is flavorful and some of the best around.

El Rocoto • 3904 W. 3500 South, Suite B, West Valley City; 801-963-2657.

$4.40 • Chicken cordon bleu

Chicken cordon bleu is the Friday special at the Intermountain Medical cafeteria, a place that smashes stereotypes about hospital food. There are lots of choices and the atmosphere is decidedly non-medical — it's a really nice place. The food is decent cafeteria fare. And if you really want hospital food, there's always Jell-O. Add red potatoes and a vegetable to the Chicken Cordon Bleu and it's plenty of food for $6.90.

Intermountain Medical Cafeteria • 5121 S. Cottonwood St., Murray; 801-507-5000.

$4 • Frank Lloyd Wright pizza slice

Amore, a sister restaurant to Cannella's restaurant, specializes in pizza by the slice and gelato. Pizza slices cost $3-$4, including the Frank Lloyd Wright with marinated mushrooms, fresh arugula and a drizzle of black truffle oil. Or opt for a whole pizza (12 inches, $11-$14; 18 inches, $16-$20) to enjoy at one of two cozy tables or take it to go. Gelato comes in a variety of flavors (3 ounces, $3; 5 ounces, $4.50).

Amore Pizza & Gelato • 208 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City; 801-532-3562.

$3.99 • Swedish meatballs

Order IKEA's trademark Swedish meatballs, and you get 15 meatballs, mashed real potatoes (not instant) and a side of lingonberries — just like a Swedish mother would make. Add a salad, a drink and apple cake and it's still under $10, and you don't even have to negotiate the mind-numbing IKEA furniture maze first.

IKEA restaurant • 67 W. IKEA Way, Draper 801-572-4532; Mon-Sat. 9:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

$3.98 • "Original" (cold cuts) bánh mì

The bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich served on a baguette, can be found at various Asian markets around town. One of the best is at Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen. The classic bánh mì includes pork roll, head cheese and paté, as well as thin, crunchy strips of jalapeño, pickled carrots, cucumber and daikon. At this price, you might as well throw in a pair of fresh shrimp spring rolls for just $1.88.

Oh Mai • 3425 S. State, South Salt Lake; 801-467-6882; and 6093 S. Highland Drive, Holladay; 801-277-9888.

$3.50 • Miso soup

This corner eatery Koko Kitchen is known for its fresh, financially reasonable ramen, udon and sushi. But when the weather turns chilly, we like this large bowl of hearty, savory broth simmering with chunks of potato, carrots and onions. This soup, which can be accompanied with rice or meat, goes down like a meal.

Koko Kitchen • 702 S. 300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-364-4888.

$3-$8 • Vietnamese hot pot

In this cook-your-own style of dining, raw ingredients including meats, seafood and fresh vegetables are delivered to your table along with a metal bowl filled with four possible varieties of broth. The broth is brought to a boil over a tabletop butane burner and ingredients are added. The result is a custom-built bowl of flavors over a selection of vermicelli or egg noodles. The dish costs $3 per person for broth, and then raw ingredients are added based on à la carte pricing, including vermicelli, $2.50, or egg noodles, $3.

Saigon Hot Pot • 411 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City; 801-906-0452.

$2.50 • Nigiri sushi rolls

The words "cheap" and "sushi" normally don't go together. The exception to this rule is Sushi Groove's 2.50 Tuesdays. Every Tuesday night, this hip Sugar House hangout offers all nigiri sushi rolls for $2.50 (two pieces) — a stunning bargain for exceptionally fresh fish. If they're on the menu, order the scallop nigiri for sure — and maybe wash them down with a $2.50 PBR tallboy.

Sushi Groove • 2910 Highland Drive Salt Lake City; 801-467-7420.

$1.95 • Pupusa

A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish, basically a thick corn tortilla stuffed with beans, cheese, pork or some combination of these. Topped with curtido, a vinegar-based cabbage slaw, one of these 5-inch-diameter treats makes a satisfying lunch.

Carlos's Kitchen #2 • 4247 W. 3500 South, West Valley City; 801-969-0752 (call for takeout).

Reviews written by David Burger, Ben Fulton, Vince Horiuchi, Heather L. King, Sean P. Means, Stuart Melling, Catherine Reese Newton, Scott D. Pierce, Kathy Stephenson, Autumn Thatcher and Tom Wharton —

Got a favorite cheap eats dish?

We've eaten our way across the valley to compile this list of Tribune staffers' Cheap Eats favorites, but we'd like to hear meals we've missed. Send your local favorite dishes ($10 or less) and hall of fame candidates (entrees that serve up to four people for around $20) to food@sltrib.com. Write "cheap eats" in the subject line of the email, and we'll consider your favorites for future dining stories. —

Cheap eats hall of fame

These are some of our favorite cheap-eats dishes that deliver enough food to feed two — or more — people.

$12.95 • Dinner platter

The dinner platters served at The Other Place, a Greek-American diner, includes a choice of moussaka, pastichio, or dolmathes as well as soup and salad, choice of potato, vegetable, bread and even dessert. If the soup of the day includes lemon-rice (avgolemono), order it. And when you order your salad, ask for the complimentary feta cheese the comes mounded on top. By the time you're ready for dessert, including red velvet cake, you'll probably have to ask for it to-go — which the cheerful staff will welcomingly do. The Other Place Restaurant, 469 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-521-6567.

$18 • Molcajete

The massive entrée, served at Rancho Market, gets its name for the hot lava rock in which it's served. It starts with a gooey fondue of homemade green salsa, chunks of Monterey Jack cheese and fried strips of prickly-pear cactus, called nopalitos. Well-cooked pieces of chicken and beef strips are placed on top, as are roasted green onions, fried whole jalapeños and strips of fresh Mexican cheese. The mound is then garnished with a few deep-fried shrimp. Served with tortillas and salsa, the dish arrives at the table sizzling and bubbling. Rancho Market, 4071 W. 5416 South, Kearns; 801-966-2400.

$21 •The Fat Kid pizza

This 20-inch New York-style thin-crust pizza at Maxwell's East Coast Eatery features spicy pepperoni, fresh spinach and creamy ricotta. It's perfect for folding; if a line of grease doesn't run down the back of your hand, you aren't enjoying it properly. Maxwell's East Coast Eatery, is at 1456 Newpark Blvd., Park City, 435-647-0304; and 9 Exchange Place, Salt Lake City, 801-328-0304.