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(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Chunga's Mexican Grill at 180 S. 900 West in Salt Lake City makes a mean al pastor tacos and burritos. Here, al pastor (pork) cooks slowly on a rotisserie as chefs work the lunch crowd on Friday, Oct. 12.
Cheap Eats: Dine out for $10 or less in Utah
Dining » We’ve eaten our way across the Salt Lake Valley to compile our list of favorite bargain-priced dishes.
First Published Oct 16 2012 08:13 am • Last Updated Feb 07 2013 11:31 pm

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

At a glance

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.

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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.

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$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

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