the spot:El Norteño Pollos Asados 4925 Craigwood Drive Austin TX 78725
the eats: tacos, carnitas by the pound, chicken and ribs grilled over hardwood charcoal
the bucks: $2 a taco, carnitas $10/lb, whole chicken $17, ribs $18 a rack
the full nelson: a real deal cheap taco truck that smokes up chicken and ribs + carnitas by the pound
El Norteño Pollos Asados is the kind of Cheap Eats find you want to keep to yourself but you just can’t because good food always tastes better when you brag about it. At $2 a taco, you have a legit Cheap Eats find in Austin where far too many tacos are nestling around the $3-$4 mark. Though sized like street tacos, you will find 4 tacos will cover your craving. My instincts told me to graze away at a few of the meaty offerings but one taco stood out by a mile . . .
The Carnitas taco: best of the bunch. The meat struck that perfect balance of slightly crisped edges and moist interior. As far as the rest went . . . I kept things pretty beefy.
Suadero, Barbacoa and Asada rounded out the rest of the plate. Despite being three different cuts of beef with their own signature cooking method, all tasted oddly the same. Look, a $2 taco means meat cooked in advanced and then heated up. The barbacoa was not superbly juicy, the Suadero was not smeared in delicious fat and the Asada was definitely not fresh off the grill, but you know what? They all tasted pretty damn good. In typical Austin taco truck fashion, expect only two salsas: red and green, the latter being the ubiquitous jalapeño salsa made famous by Taco Deli(though not nearly as good). The red however is completely forgettable so the green will have to do. Still, I would hit this joint back up in a heartbeat. Especially for what I didn’t try on the menu.
You will know when you park the car, open the door and smell the smoke off the grill that getting either the ribs or the chicken is the move to make at El Norteño Pollos Asados. And since the carnitas tacos was the pick of the litter, I’ll be getting a pound of that as well.
From the signage, the clientele(no hipsters), and the location which is pushing towards the outskirts of the rapidly gentrified East Austin, you know that El Norteño Pollos Asados serves up that Bang for your Taco Buck. Can’t believe I’m spilling the beans on El Norteño Pollos Asados, but a find this good is one you can’t keep to yourself.
the spot:Uroko 1023 Springdale road bldg 1 ste C Austin TX 78721
the eats: handrolls all day!
the bucks: $4.50 – $7 per roll, factor about $20-$25 per person for a reasonable meal
the full nelson: Quality sushi hand rolls at an almost hand roll only sushi spot
Uroko is a fascinating sushi concept: a high quality hand roll only joint that moonlights as a sushi school on Thursdays and a Omakase(Chef’s tasting menu) restaurant by reservation only, on weekends. What this means is if you want to go hard and drop major coin, you have to really mean it. Sushi ain’t cheap and if it is . . . that’s not a good thing. Don’t take short cuts on raw fish a wise ER doctor once said. TBH I didn’t actually hear a doctor say that but I’m sure it has been said before. Back to Uroko and Bang for your Sushi Buck: you can waltz into this little “food hall esque” restaurant and for as little as $20 you can walk out full with about 4 hand rolls in your belly, maybe more if you go for the beef tenderloin or the salmon belly, but not by much.
But is Uroko as good as a premium sushi spot? Well the answer lies in the chef’s pedigree . . .
Chef Masazumi Saio worked at the venerable Uchi for 16 years. I have yet to go to Uchi(though I have dined at their other restaurant Uchiko) and I can tell you Uchi ain’t Cheap Eats. Their prices are staggering, even by NY or LA standards but if you wish to eat top tier sushi . . . it’s where one goes in Austin.
At least, it was. Several restaurants have spun off the chefs from Uchi that also offer a premium sushi experience. And by premium I mean like like four dollar signs on Yelp premium. Uroko is not that. In addition to offering quality hand rolls for about $6 bucks on average, they do a chef’s choice Omakase for $65. Granted it’s a 45 minute meal consisting of 12 offerings but it is still a very reasonable deal for high caliber sushi.
High caliber sushi doesn’t just mean superbly fresh fish either. The rice is as important believe it or not. I mean, would you want to eat tuna that costs anywhere from $40 to $250 and higher a pound on a mound of Uncle Ben’s? Exactly. Sushi chefs must master the art of preparing rice for years before they can move on to fish. Once you have gone to a premium sushi restaurant and then to an All You Can Eat, or worse, eat Supermarket sushi, little details like the rice all of a sudden become huge details.
And the seaweed that wraps the hand roll matters too. That seaweed wrapper(Nori) ain’t the stuff you can find at the “ethnic” aisle of your grocery store. The good stuff costs money and Chef Saio springs for that and the rice. Lesson here is that it just ain’t about the fish. You factor in quality nori and rice and these little torpedoes of pristine seafood goodness are downright steals at $4.50-$7 a pop.
A longtime go to of mine is Spicy Tuna where the mix of intense, beef like raw tuna pairs addictively well with the spice from Sriracha and the creaminess from Masago(Japanese Mayo). Also pictured is the Salmon Belly(always a crowd pleaser), beef tataki and the Saba(mackerel). Mackerel has a reputation of being a fishy fish, which is true of any fish with a high oil content. But when it is fresh, mackerel is a welcomed flavor change from buttery salmon, beefy tuna and ponzu soaked albacore. Add to that minty cool bite of shiso leaf, and you have a mackerel sushi experience usually reserved for a meal that will run you $50 and up.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll say it flatly: Uroko is a total gem, serving Bang for your Buck Sushi with an emphasis on quality over quantity. In a town where sushi gets abhorrently expensive, Uroko is a sushi refuge for the masses.
the spot:40 North 900 W. 10th St. Austin TX 78703
the eats: 40 North Burger
the bucks: $13.40
the full nelson: a double cheeseburger for grown ups and with a grown up price tag
It might surprise you to learn that Austin TX has a respectable pizza scene, including the likes of Neapolitan, NY style, New Jersey Bar pizzas and Detroit style pies. Within that flurry of pizza know how, 40 North stands out with some very tempting sandwich options like a Porchetta(roasted pork belly) on baguette, a fried chicken sandwich and one damn good and good looking burger. The 40 North burger also commands a somewhat hefty price tag of $13.40. Does it deliver some Bang for your Burger Buck? Read on to find out!
As far as pizza goes, 40 North is gonna come at you with the Neapolitan style, a kind of pizza that I have really taken to as of late. These pies are kinda fancy and delicate in my opinion. Not the kind of pizza you are looking to take down around 2am. Regardless of whether pizza should be consumed in a drunken stupor, the pizza at 40 North is definitely worth a try and worth the bucks as these kinds of pizzas don’t often come cheap. You’re also paying for some pizza pedigree, prior to opening 40 North as a food trailer, Clint Elmore studied pizza making in Naples and Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn. As far as the burger goes . . . well looks like Clint ain’t just a one trick pizza pony . . .
Two 3 oz patties with three slices of American cheese pretty much anchor the concept of the 40 North burger: a double cheeseburger for grown ups. There is also pickle and chopped raw red onion as well. The menu leads me to believe that there is a mustard aioli as well but to be honest, I really didn’t detect much of any sauce. If you have been reading my burger reviews since the Los Angeles days, you know that I am a whore for Thousand Island dressing. I don’t think the 40 North Burger needs Thousand Island but it does need something to counter the creaminess of the three slices of American cheese and the big beef hit of two 3 oz patties.
If you’re looking closely, you’ll notice those patties looking darn juicy . . like almost dripping with jus. Well, if you happen to reach for a knife and cut into the 40 North Burger . . . it’s gonna look like this:
I requested a medium rare on my 40 North Burger and it almost came out a hair under done, BUT the steak tartar effect of mid rare to rare beef mixing it up with the chopped red onion and the brine from the pickles is WELL WORTH IT. For the record, I did try one cooked more thru –
Disappointing to say the least. Do yourself a favor and get the 40 North Burger medium rare and savor the interaction of raw red onion with a burger cooked like you were at a steakhouse. The bun is damn near perfect, super soft, high quality and the sesame seeds seem like perfect call with a double cheeseburger style burger.
One last hard question remains: is this burger worth almost $14? It does come with a salad or chips but I was interested in neither. This burger goes down quick and not because it’s small but because once you take that first bite, you’re just not gonna want to stop. If you’re a die hard about your burger experience being a classic American cheeseburger experience, then the 40 North Burger is for you and worth the money. For myself, at that price, I like to see a Gruyere get thrown into the mix. It was a close call but I would go back for the 40 North. It’s not the best burger deal around but by far the best use of red onion in a cheeseburger I have found to date. And that’s worth my $13.40 right there.
the spot:Tacos El Gordo 3049 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
the eats: Cabeza, Al Pastor, Buche, Suadero
the bucks: $2.40 – $2.60 per taco
the full nelson: celebrated San Diego taco joint serving up Baja California/Tijuana style street tacos in Las Vegas
Vegas baby, Vegas.
One expects to come to Las Vegas and drop some coin. The usual M.O. for Sin City taking your money is of course, gambling, though strip clubs and steakhouses seem to fit well with playing $500 hands of Texas Hold ‘Em. In the last 20 years Las Vegas has become a foodie destination with world class chefs and their Michelin stars dotting the strip. Hell, I went to a Starbucks and dropped $17 on a coffee, a yogurt, a banana and a bottle of water. But just off the strip is a well celebrated taqueria that is slinging some Bang for your Taco Buck . . .
Originally from San Diego’s Chula Vista area which is spitting distance from Tijuana, Tacos El Gordo serves up Tijuana/Baja California street style tacos that very much take me back to my days of living in Los Angeles. Their Al Pastor has its own line and just to clarify, they call it Adobada, like Los Tacos No. 1 in NYC. Another line deals exclusively in Carne Asada(steak) and Chorizo(sausage) and around the corner is a gleaming stainless steel pan with deep edges where all the nasty bits(and I say that lovingly ala Anthony Bourdain) are simmering away in lard. This is where one finds pork stomach(buche), beef breast(suadero) and beef cheek(cabeza). And that is exactly what brought me here . . at 10 in the freaking morning.
From left to right, you are looking at Buche, Suadero and Cabeza. I was fired up for all three but the Cabeza was hands down the best of the bunch.
If I see Saudero on the menu, I get pretty excited. This version was more like a braised beef/birria de res version than the carnitas like beef I have come across. Must admit I was not that impressed with their Suadero. I did catch them about 30 minutes after they open and I wonder if the Suadero would improve with a longer simmer in the lard. The Suadero taco, like all the tacos here are dressed to the 9s if you ask for the works: diced raw onion, cilantro and spicy salsa. Unapologetic garnish for an in your face street meat meal.
The buche, or hog’s maw, or pork stomach, if you want to come across like veterinarian, also could have used a longer simmer time in the pan of lard. I love buche, especially at Carnitas places so in a more perfect taco world, had this pork stomach been hit on a hot flat top, we just might have had a crispier and overall richer offal experience.
The beef cheek stole the show. Intensely beefy, salty, tender and paired with an acidic, citrusy tomatillo salsa, I could live off the Cabeza tacos at Tacos El Gordo. It’s 11pm at night as I write this, I’ve eaten dinner and am ready to brush the chompers and hit the sack and I would jack up all of that just to eat one of these tacos right now.
But that trompo . . . that’s what draws in the crowd. You’re gonna want to also wait in the Al Pastor/Adobado line for at least one of these . . .
A damn solid Al Pastor taco. The rub/marinade on the Al Pastor was a little sweet for my tastes but the combo of that sweet pork plus a sliver of pineapple and then spicy salsa is how taqueria empires are built. You would be remiss not to get one of these.
Granted this was at around 10:30am, but four tacos was plenty and will set you back around $10. These tacos were just hefty enough thanks to a fair amount of meat. Not as cheap as LA or Mexico, but in Las Vegas . . . you are no doubt getting some Bang for your Taco Buck.
Fair warning, even at opening, the line was forming and apparently at night, the waits are serious. But I don’t mind waiting in line for legit Tijuana style street tacos. Especially if the alternative is playing slots next to a couple who came all the way to Vegas from Canada only to find Celine Dione is no longer in residency.
the spot:The Collins Quarter 151 Bull Street Savannah GA 31404
the eats: Lamb Burger
the bucks: $15
the full nelson: a bougie take on an under appreciated burger genre: the lamb burger
When most people think burgers they think beef burgers. Or veggie/Impossible burgers. For a while turkey burgers were the rage and when a place does a good tuna burger, yours truly takes notice. What does get lost in burger contemplation is the lamb burger. It’s not really considered a healthier alternative nor is it something for the veggie/vegan crowd. However if you’re from the land down under or a regular at the Melbourne inspired The Collins Quarter . . . lamb is where its at.
If you’ve not been to Savannah, you need to make the trip. I was down here for Cheap Eats in 2018 and Savannah reminded me a lot of Charleston, another city Cheap Eats visited, with its history and unique architecture. The Collins Quarter is a lovely cafe in a lovely corner of scenic Savannah, GA. One of those perfect lunch dates for stuffy in laws or a place to take your boss or a client. This means The Collins Quarter ain’t that cheap, in fact the $15 I dropped for my lamb burger, and that was one of the cheaper items on the menu. But I didn’t go hungry either, the lamb burger and fries is enough food to cover a medium sized butcher block.
Seasoned with a Middle Eastern spice rub and hit with an Aleppo pepper relish which shares a flavor profile with Ancho chiles, this lamb burger comes with some bite. This is a thick patty that can easily accommodate a requested medium rare temp. The burger is smartly ordained with shredded bib lettuce, a thin slice of tomato, a little red onion, whipped feta and feta cheese crumbles. Feta and ground lamb are fabulous together, the tartness of the cheese pairs so well with lamb’s distinct gaminess.
The burger comes on ciabatta but I opted for a brioche bun. As overused as that bun is, I’m a sucker for brioche. They aren’t stingy with the fries either but I could take or leave ’em. I’m in it for this big, thick, well seasoned and well dressed lamb burger.
$15 for a burger is not the definition of Bang for your Burger Buck but it is the going rate for a bougie burger experience, which the Lamb burger at The Collins Quarter certainly is. It’s also a somewhat unique burger experience in an under represented genre: the lamb burger genre. For that alone, I give the Collins Quarters a few extra points in my book for delivering a compelling burger experience for the lamb lover.
If you find yourself in Savannah and looking to feast beyond Cheap Eats, and are craving a little lamb, make you’re way over, or should I say down under, to the Collins Quarter, get that lamb burger.
the spot:Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum 1203 W. 6th Street Austin TX
the eats: Xiao Long Bao, Chao Shou, really all the dumplings + anything else on the menu you can afford
the bucks: $20 a person and you will be stuffed with premium dumplings
the full nelson: Top shelf Dim Sum in the heart of Austin TX
My first forays into legit Chinese food were in the modestly appointed eateries of Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley, which boasts the largest concentration of Asian American communities in the United States. When it comes to Chinese food, Los Angeles is second only to Vancouver as the Mecca of Chinese eateries in North America. This kinda spoils you on Chinese food. A couple years back I went to the legendary Lan Zhou dumplings in NYC’s chinatown and while the site of a dude hand pulling noodles was impressive, NYC takes a backseat to LA’s Chinese scene. So what does that mean for a much smaller city like Austin TX? Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find this . . .
Chao Shou aka Sichuan Pork Wontons. Sichuan cuisine has been trending over the last few years nationwide, thanks to a greater interest in regional Chinese cooking and the fact that spicy food is just awesome, particularly Sichuan’s brand of addictive and numbing heat. The wontons are all made to order and by hand. The fillings are the usual suspects: ground pork, black vinegar, garlic, soy sauce and ginger, among others but what makes it is the sauce called Mala. Mala is a mix of dried chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, oil and various spices like anise and cardamom. Mala is like a good addictive salsa, you want to put it on as many things as you can. The Chao Shou alone will make you become a Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum fan 4 life.
The Xiao Long Bao aka the Soup Dumplings are the reason why you come to Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum. If you don’t know, soup dumplings are delicate buns made of dough typically filled with meat and broth, sometimes vegetables or seafood, and they are the bees knees of Chinese eating. This is like the taco of Chinese food, it just makes you an instant addict. Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum’s Soup Dumplings feature a duck broth which is a full on game changer. Add the essential dipping sauce: black vinegar, into the mix and you have one of the best flavor bombs you can put in your mouth. They also have a giant Soup Dumpling as well, one that requires a straw to slurp the broth out but be careful! That soup be hot . . .
Strolling into Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum you might thing you are rolling into just another swank Chinese restaurant in a swanky part of town but you would be greatly mistaken. This place serves up some of the best dim sum I have had while it may not be the cheapest, Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum ranks up there with Din Tai Fung amongst the best dim sum you are gonna get this side of the Pacific.
the spot:Night + Market 2533 Lincoln Blvd Venice CA 90291
the eats: Pretty much whatever you want on the menu – GET THE CLAMS!!!
the bucks: Plan on spending about $35 a head on food
the full nelson: A hyped Thai spot that satisfies with an respectable level of Bang for your Thai Food Buck
It’s not every night that you get to dine with the likes of Sterling K. Brown and Slash(framed pic) but in Los Angeles, anything is possible. Beyond gloating that an old high school comrade is now one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and keeps it real with the old homeys like George Clooney(or so I’ve heard) I had the pleasure of checking out the much hyped Night + Market and when the dust settled . . . the bill was . . . surprisingly not that bad . . .
Night + Market has been a well touted Thai restaurant thanks to official propers from likes of the late Jonathan Gold, Eater LA, James Beard and the Infatuation. Being a former resident of Thai Town in Los Angeles, I’m no stranger to a good Thai meal. Usually these meals have been among the cheapest I have ever had. But this time I was saddling up to a trendy Thai restaurant’s third location in one of the hottest neighborhood in Los Angeles. I had a feeling I would eat well but would it honor the excellent cheap meals of my past? I was pleasantly surprised.
Night + Market is popular, hence the third location and you are encouraged to do your ordering quickly. We rolled in at about 7pm on a weeknight and it swelled to capacity within an hour. And an hour later, we were pretty much done with our meal. We ordered family style which is really just the move at any Thai restaurant and ate like we were all back at the high school cafeteria. It did help that my comrades and I all went to high school together as well. First up was this Thai beef jerky. Now if you are ordering beef jerky at a restaurant chances are its gonna be a bit more memorable than a bag of Jack Links you pounded while stuck in traffic. And that, this jerky truly was. A Must order.
A couple Singha beers in and my memory gets foggy but I’m pretty sure this was the Nam Khao Tod, a crispy rice salad with soured pork, raw ginger, peanuts, onions, cilantro and chili. Hard to believe that a fried rice dish can make a play for a salad but if this is what happens at a salad bar in Thailand . . . then I need to go to Thailand and spend a day grazing at the salad bar. Pretty much every dish rocked at Night + Market but if you do some digging in Yelp, you will see the Nam Khao Tod is a fan fav.
My fav dish of the night was not my best pic but you know what? Whatever. The clams at Night + Market are worth the shellfish priced splurge and really set it apart from your fav pad Thai joint in college.
Then a bunch of fried chicken happened, which I suppose is never a bad thing. Lately I feel like fried chicken sandwiches are the it food of the moment. This sandwich was fine but divided amongst four dudes might not do the sammich justice. The fried chicken plate was a gift from the kitchen . . . clearly some This is Us fans were working at Night + Market that night. Fried chicken is a big deal as far as street food in Thailand goes and I was drinking beers so this definitely was a well received dish. Still, dishes like the clams stood out just a bit more.
This was a dish I had to order on principle. Drunken noodles that get hit with Pastrami from Los Angeles’ most famed deli: Langer’s. This epic collab has all the feels of ultimate foodie bragging rights but to be honest . . . it was a little too salty and really just a little too much. Langer’s is great and Night + Market is great but I don’t need it both at the same time, let alone in the same bite.
Not pictured are a few other dishes like sweet potato in a Massaman curry, which happened to be the best thing to dunk the fried chicken in. All told we spent $200 for 4 people with a couple rounds of beers. And I mean a couple rounds for some guys who have known each other for 20 years kinda rounds. I would wager one would spend about $30 a head for food and since its family style, the larger the group, the more bang for your buck.
All in all I would hit this place back up which is a fine compliment considering the sheer number of tempting new restaurants LA keeps churning out year after year. Not the cheapest Thai dinner I have ever had, and it might not be better than Uncle Boon’s in NYC but Night + Market def serves up some Bang for your Buzz Worthy Thai Buck.
the spot:Birrieria Gonzalez multiple locations in Los Angeles, tested and approved in Compton CA
the eats: everything, tacos de birria de res, dorado tacos, mulitas, basically whatever you feel with birria de res
the bucks: $2 a taco and the tacos are fat(for LA street tacos), plan on spending $7-$10 to be stuffed
the full nelson: my first run at birria de res and it lived up to the hype
When it comes to digging deep into the wonderful world of Mexican food, some eats hit you like a Mack Truck. Carnitas tacos in a vibrant and creamy avocado salsa with pickled habanero and onion come to mind. Or for the more pedestrian eater, chips and salsa. Some Mexican foods are a bit more complex and require repeated experiences to fully comprehend and appreciate the flavor. Chicken Molé comes to mind and to a lesser extent, birría de res.
Birría typically arrives in a bowl to your table, but the meat lurking in the intense red broth has a toothsome quality that indicates the cooking does not involve simply braising as much as a moist roast(to borrow a phrase from Rick Bayless). Like Barbacoa, birría means meats cooked till very tender and can be served in tortillas or on their own with a bowl of consommé on the side or sometimes in a bowl with the consommé. The deep crimson broth is half the draw thanks to a generous use of dried chilis like guajillo. Yeah, birría is pretty f****ing hardcore.
The first time I had birría was with goat. The deep earthy flavors of the chiles used in the adobo marinade pair perfect with the gamey flavor profile of goat. Sometimes lamb is used. Now being a the child of Bengali immigrants I got no problems stepping up to a plate of goat. But I was chasing something new: birría de res, a Tijuana version of birría where beef is used, hence the res(if you didn’t take Spanish in school).
Birría de Res was straight trending on my Instagram feed thanks to sites like LA TACO and I knew the next time I was in LA, I had to try it. I would have thought Teddy’s Red Tacos would have been my first stop, but thanks to my boy Hadley Tomicki, LA based food writer(for the LA Times no less), I made a trip to Birrieria Gonzalez.
With multiple locations in LA plus like 60k followers on Instagram, Birrieria Gonzalez must be doing something right. I dipped over to this truck after a bowl of menudo from a guy literally named Mr Menudo that was on the same block in Compton. Yeah, I did a hardcore Mexican food crawl in Compton. God, I miss LA.
And I definitely miss these. At $2 a pop, Birrieria Gonzalez delivers some damn good Bang for your Taco Buck. These tacos were stuffed with beef, well coined by Hadley as “meat doobies”. The beef was tender and flavorful like only slow cooked meats can deliver. I still love goat and lamb versions of birría but I have to admit I can see how people with an aversion to game meat can find themselves more than content with birría de res.
DAMN. SOLID. TACOS. Getting these birría de res tacos with the tortillas soaked in the consommé was like eating the taco version of an Italian Beef.
the spot:Dan’s Hamburgers multiple locations in Austin TX
the eats: Double Medium Cheeseburger
the bucks: $6.04
the full nelson: an Austin classic hamburger joint that sizzles up a true working man’s lunch
I started Bang for your Burger Buck to tell the world about places like Dan’s Hamburgers: an honest refuge for the Working Man’s Lunch. That’s how Armando Fernandez, a Cheap Eats fan and Instagrammer described when it when he treated to me to a Dan’s Hamburger lunch a few weeks ago. Anyway you slice it, at Dan’s Hamburgers, you are gonna be set for one cheap and tasty lunch.
The signage, menu and decor at Dan’s are frozen in time. This joint is straight out of 1973 and it just feels perfect. The only bummer with vintage joints like Dan’s Hamburgers is that the taste is locked in the memories of yore. The affinity for these burgers loyalists tend to espouse have been forged back in their Wonder Years. And for those interlopers like myself, who come to Dan’s to judge a burger on its present day merits, disappointment tends to lie in wait. But not so at Dan’s . . .
Dan’s Hamburgers is why we will always have a place for fast food in America. Greasy, cheap and satisfying to the soul, the ingredients in this burger might not be seasonal or farm to table but it still satisfies like oily hash browns on a hung over Sunday morning or that rush one gets when the TV tells you that McRib is back. Sure, one might find regret after eating both of those aforementioned meals but Dan’s manages to settle in the tummy without too much heartburn. They say each burger takes exactly 8 minutes to make and while I didn’t set my watch, I know my burger was made after I ordered it. Not bad for a double patty cheese burger for under $6.
And the man to thank for finally dragging me to Dan’s after being on my list for nearly four years? Armando Fernandez, who not only picked up my tab but also rolled in with his lists of Cheap Eats in Austin.
Do yourself a favor Cheap Eaters and make Dan’s Hamburgers a stop on your burger bucket lists. In a world saturated with copy cat brioche, fancy cheese and caramelized onion burgers priced in the mid teens, Dan’s offers a legit fast food burger that stands tall along with Fatburger, In-N-Out, Smashburger and Five Guys. And it’s on the cheaper end of that list too.
the spot:Kingfish 337 Chartres St. New Orleans LA 70125
the eats: Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Jambalaya Risotto, Shrimp n Grits, Ribeye steak(special)
the bucks: $9, $12, $22 and market price respectively(around $30-$35)
the full nelson: one of the few restaurants in New Orleans I have gone to more than once
New Orleans is my favorite food city in America. I love Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Austin and Los Angeles but Nola is just the gem that rises above them all. I lived in LA for 20 years which included numerous weekend excursions to San Francisco. Because of that, the cities I regret not living in, especially during my 20s, are Chicago, NYC and Nola. When one factors cost, food and character, New Orleans rises above the rest.
In 2017 I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in New Orleans shooting Spring Baking Championship Season 4. Armed with a decent per diem(more than a day on Cheap Eats), I went to town in New Orleans and ate to my heart’s content. Kingfish was the kick off Nola restaurant bender and one of only two places I ate at twice in those two weeks. In those two visits, I went deep into the menu. Just how deep? Well . . read on to find out!
There is loads more to Nola than just Cajun/Creole but there is no denying the absolute pleasure of getting a legit gumbo. Great ones can be found in both dives and posh dining rooms, Kingfish sits right in between, and they served up what could have been the most memorable one of the trip. The key was that roux: dark, rich, meaty and just enough spice from the andouille sausage. Honestly you could come here just for that bowl and call it a meal. But you know me better than that.
So in New Orleans you’re gonna see a lot of BBQ shrimp on menus. That ain’t lil’ shrimp swimming in bottled bbq sauce mind you. It’s fat shrimp from the Gulf, swimming in butter, garlic, Worcestershire and loads of spices, like paprika, which gives it the red color. I don’t know whats in Kingfish’s shrimp, I don’t know how they do their grits, but believe me when I say this dish is as good as it looks. Looking back on this plate a good year and a half later, I’m so damn ready to hop on a plane back to New Orleans.
So my second visit to Kingfish was not quite as impressive as my first, but that was most likely due to the fact that I had been going to town on Cajun/Creole food for a solid two weeks and the magic(plus my mojo) started to wear off a little. Well even still, Kingfish churns out a solid meal despite my weariness from all out gluttony. On this visit I started with the Jambalaya Risotto, which was as hearty as risotto studded with sausage and chicken should sound. Still I missed the piquant kick from the Gumbo so if given the choice between the Gumbo or Risotto, I would go Gumbo every time.
House Special Rib Eye Steak with melted butter and some tasty corn on the side.
Now here’s the thing: you can get a good steak almost anywhere, including my backyard, so this dish was a bit of a calculated misfire. Not bad in any way but why waste your time and valuable stomach real estate with something you can get in any number of cities when you can dine on New Orleans classics like Gumbo, Étouffée and Jambalaya? That’s on me for thinking I needed a steak to feel sated in a town like New Orleans. Yeah,you know you’re in a good food town when steak takes second place. And a good restaurant for that matter.
Kingfish is right in the French Quarter, has a modern but still very Nola atmosphere and you can saddle up to the bar solo, like I did, and feast it up. Though I have eaten here twice and still have many more restaurants to hit up in Nola, I would easily come back to Kingfish for a round 3. And when I do, I will be going all in on the Gumbo and Shrimp ‘n Grits, two classic dishes thats are served up as correct as it gets in New Orleans.