By Ron Donoho and Robin Kleven Dishon
(page 1 of 3)You’re an upwardly mobile person of means and affluence. Your palate is discriminating; your clothes, impeccable. You never ask the price —knowing full well you can afford whatever it is, at whatever it costs.
Or maybe you’re none of those things. The opposite, even.
Whatever your tax bracket, wise is the consumer who looks for a good meal at a good price. How did the rich get rich? By watching the bottom line, of course.
To that end, we searched high and low and came up with a dozen eateries where the food is tasty—and the bill is equally delicious.
Mimmo’s Italian Village
1743 India Street, Little Italy; 619-239-3710
Long before Little Italy became the trendy destination it is today, Mimmo’s was dishing out terrific Italian cuisine at bargain-basement prices. The dining room and front patio have been considerably spiffed up since the restaurant opened in 1973, but the deals just keep on coming. A favorite choice here is the generous combo of four deli salads plus a side of garlic bread for just $5.79. Salad selections include caponata (a blend of eggplant, tomatoes and peppers), marinated octopus, shell pasta with tuna and dill, feta-flecked green salad and linguine with pesto. Also on the menu: the restaurant’s signature grab-and-go sub (provolone, mortadella, salami, tomatoes and a sassy dressing) for $3.69. At prices like these, you can afford a half-bottle of Ruffino Chianti ($5.95) to wash it all down.
111 Washington Street, Hillcrest; 619-291-3341
In New York, where emotions more often ride on sleeves, it’s acceptable for a pizza man to bark at his customers. Big Apple customers will woof right back. At least half of that give-and-take comes from behind the counter of arguably San Diego’s best pie dispenser. An 18-inch thin-crust cheese pizza is $11.50. The real deal, though, is the $5 special: two slices (with any topping) and a refillable drink. Just remember to enter with a sense of humor. It gets crowded for lunch and dinner. You may opt to sit at a table with total strangers. And when the employees—most are from New York, or somewhere back East—bellow, “Pick up two pepperoni!” they’re not yelling at you. They’re yelling for you.
540 University Avenue, Hillcrest; 619-297-8424
Young owner Alex Thao has created an atmosphere with genuine Thai artifacts—and a menu with more than 100 mouth-watering offerings. Most of the lunch and dinner selections range in cost from $6.95 (drunken noodles, with garlic and spicy Thai chili) to $9.95 (pineapple fried rice with chicken and shrimp, served in a pineapple shell). One of the most delicious dinner items—choo chee shrimp, in curry with coconut milk—is just $10.95. The eats that come cheapest are also delectable. A $5.95 lunch special gets you a choice of soup or salad and a main course such as gai qua: stir-fried flat noodles with chicken and squid (or substitute shrimp or scallops).