A shortlist of eateries where you can feed for cheap
Published: August 24, 2011
Abe's Coney Island 402 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-448-5200: This popular after-bar stop has a kind of self-deprecating humor, billing itself as "Ypsilanti's finest four-star coney dog, steak-and-egg joint." Whether you're stopping in for eggs over easy with hash browns "burned" in the morning, or sopping up booze and making ironic jukebox selections at 3 a.m., Abe's will hit the spot.
Aladdin Sweets 11945 Conant St., Hamtramck; 313-891-8050; aladdinsweet.com: You might see the name and think it's a sweets shop, but it's much more than that. Aladdin serves some of the best Indian-influenced food you can buy with the coin under your car seat. It's really that cheap — and well-done. What's more, they have a commodious outdoor dining space with tables and umbrellas, so you can enjoy your fare al fresco.
Alcamo's Market 4423 Schaefer Rd., Dearborn; 313-584-3010: We asked our friends for tips on eating on the cheap, and our former photo intern Antal Zambo told us about the ultimate turkey sub deal. He told us, "There's an Italian deli in East Dearborn called Alcamo's that serves up big turkey subs for $3," adding, "I'm kind of loath to give up this secret, but they're nice people — so I don't mind waiting in line." We appreciate it, Antal!
Bucharest Grill inside the Park Bar, 2040 Park Ave. (enter off Elizabeth), Detroit; 313-965-3111; bucharestgrill.com: Who knew so many people wandering the neighborhood west of Foxtown had a hankering for Eastern European food? How else to explain the success of Bucharest Grill, a small counter setup in back of the Park Bar. For just a fistful of singles you can have affordable shawarma sandwiches and creative hot dogs. For the health-conscious, Bulgarian goat cheese replaces chicken on the veggie version of the shawarma — though some object to the use of mayo. Warning: Take your meal out to a seat in the Park and the bottles and taps of their formidable bar are sure to call your name.
BTB Burrito 810 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-222-4822; 1140 S. University, Ann Arbor; 734-222-3715; btbburrito.com: A friend of ours says it's "the best burrito joint in town," and it's always open nice and late, 11-4 a.m. at their smallish State Street spot, and 11-3 a.m. most days at their "cantina" location on South University. A regular vegetarian burrito sets you back just $3.75, $4.75 with sour cream and guac, or $7.25 for a big, two-tortilla burrito with the trimmings. And it's that simple. Add $2.25 to these base prices for chicken or roasted veggies, $2.75 for steak, or $3 for a steak-chicken mix. It never gets more expensive than $10 for a giant steak chimichanga. What's more, the tax-inclusive prices mean you never have to fumble for anything smaller than a quarter at 2 a.m.
Byblos Cafe and Grill 87 W. Palmer, Detroit; 313-831-4420; bybloscafeandgrill.com: Located near Wayne State, this busy shop has held its own for several years, being all things to all people. Their massive menu offers more than 90 dishes, including Lebanese, Middle Eastern, American and even quesadillas, fettucine Alfredo, and fish and chips! Also has bargain prices for pita wraps, at $4-$6.
Cass Cafe 4620 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-1400; casscafe.com: A fixture on Cass Avenue for years now, this hip eatery's big-room bistro has really kicked up the kitchen in the last few years, with creative specials centered on such exotic foundations as ahi tuna and Creole-blackened sirloin. And everything's prepared and plated consistently better than the old kitchen ever could. But nothing ever costs more than $15, most things are less, and what hasn't changed is that trusty lentil burger, a low-rent Cass Corridor classic itself. It seems to have been only $6 forever.
Circa 1890 Saloon 5474 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-1122: This place is a mainstay for Wayne State faculty and students, with homemade soups, pizza, and notable burgers. This is also the place where, since the 1980s, they've staged a mock funeral for Old Man Winter.
The Potato Place Restaurant and Bakery 107 W. Warren, Detroit; 313-833-8948: Now in its 20th year, the Potato Place has a casual menu centered around stuffed backed potatoes, but rounded out with soups, salads, sandwiches, subs, ice cream, and such baked goods as brownies and cakes made on-premises. Ice cream. And some of those potatoes are doozies, like the "taco" potato (ground beef and cheese), the "chicken and cheese," and the "steak, cheese and mushroom." In all there are 24 different kinds of potatoes with different toppings. Between Cass and Woodward, near Old Main on Wayne State campus.
Duly's Place 5458 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 313-554-3076: The little eatery with a big following of late-night spouse-soppers draws on grizzled Detroiters as well as hungry hipsters, making for an interesting cultural tension. And when we say people rub elbows here, we mean it: The railroad-style diner has low seats before a long lunch counter, with a few tables tucked in the back. It's not just the ambience Duly's has going for it — with its timeless plastic-lettered marquee menu and a toilet hidden somewhere back in the kitchen — but the food is solid dinner fare. Enjoy a late-night plate of scrambled eggs with jalapeno peppers. The management doesn't tolerate any nonsense, but if you behave yourself the staff may give you a free Dum-Dum sucker on the way out.
Earthen Jar 311 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-327-9464; earthenjar.com: Earthen Jar's buffet-style eat-by-the-pound cuisine is cheap; most of it's vegan. They have everything from Indian specialties to vegan mac 'n' "cheese" to scrambled tofu. And, in the spirit of keeping it local, the dairy they use comes from legendary Calder's. You get a pound of food (literally — it's weighed by the pound) for less than six bucks, which is great for these times, with the R-word always looming over us.
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