The month of October is sandwiched between two major money-suckers: the start of school and the upcoming holidays. It may be time to get creative with your dining-out habit.
If you need to take a break from $20 entrees, we suggest embracing Fort Worth's vast selection of cheap eats. We're not talking Taco Tuesdays, burgers, and pizza specials. Those are the obvious options; how boring.
You, of course, are a more astute, discretionary diner, and you will unearth inexpensive options at cool and classic restaurants whose cuisine goes beyond the typical cheapskate norm. Here, we'll help:
Ellerbe Fine Foods
The stigma attached to many of Fort Worth's best fine-dining restaurants is that they're out of reach for those who keep close eyes on their bank accounts. Since it opened six years ago, Ellerbe has consistently gone against that grain, offering a lunch menu with dishes $12 or under, turning this white-tablecloth restaurant into a valid cheap-eats option. Typical offerings might be a roasted portobello sandwich with herbed fries, an $11 burger, or a bowl of chilled roasted tomato soup with horseradish croutons for $7.
Fort Worth is dotted with small mom-and-pop cafes serving familiar comfort food at reasonable prices. Among the better ones is Hatch's Corner, a small, charming restaurant located in the Fort Worth suburb of Forest Hill that serves classic comfort and soul food dishes such as chicken fried steak, pork chops, and fried catfish; plates with a meat and two sides start at $6.99.
Hedary's Mediterranean Restaurant
To-go containers should come with each dish at this west side Mediterranean spot, run by lovable grump Joseph Hedary. Monolithic slabs of pita bread, fresh out of a brick oven, give you a good idea of what's in store: a ridiculously huge $4 fatoosh salad that can feed two, thick-crust pizzas that start at $3.95, or a gyro for $6.50 with veggies stacked so high you can't even see the bread. You'll be stuffed for the rest of the day and, with all the leftovers, the rest of the week.
McKinley's Fine Bakery and Cafe
The days of good $10 lunches are over, you say? Locals who flock to Stacey Rumfelt's upscale University Park Village cafe might argue otherwise. Here you can have a gourmet sandwich, a side of skin-on potato salad, a bite-size muffin, and a generous slice of pie for less than $10. Sandwich options include green chile pimento cheese and orange honey cranberry chicken salad, both scratch-made, both excellent. Praline, Key lime, and peanut butter are among the flavors of the dozen or so pies, all freshly baked in-house.
Oliver's Fine Foods
This downtown deli and market is as underrated as it is inexpensive. Typically, you can get out for lunch for $10 or less. Breakfast is where you'll find the real bargains, though. Plate-engulfing omelettes range from $6 to $8, and there's a gargantuan housemade biscuit, stuffed with fried egg, sausage, and American cheese, for $5. Breakfast tacos come with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and cheese and cost only $1.35 Monday through Friday.
Thanks to the popularity of ramen and pho, Asian food is a cool commodity. Double the coolness when you can find an undiscovered gem like Pan Asia, recently relocated from Arlington to Fort Worth's west side. Pan Asia touts an expansive menu of sizable, moderately priced Japanese, Thai, and Korean dishes. Moo shu beef, chicken, or pork are good, cheap options. Half-portions are a mere $6.50 and come with a ton of food: steamed rice, stir-fried meat and veggies, sweet hoisin sauce, and two large flour tortillas to scoop up everything.
Pulido's Mexican Restaurant
Mexican food in Fort Worth is generally inexpensive, and we have hundreds of restaurants to thank for keeping it that way. Pulido's, a family-owned regional chain, does its part, especially on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when it offers $5.49 enchilada dinners — one of our city's most beloved cheap-eats outings. The 'chiladas are of the chicken, cheese, or beef variety; those in the know order them "old fashioned," topped with an off-the-menu red chili gravy.
Many longtime Fort Worth barbecue lovers can recall a time when barbecue was less hipster bait and more working-man, blue-collar food. You could load up on meaty, filling sandwiches super cheap, and maybe even have one or two left over for your buddies. That's still the case at the original outpost of regional 'cue chain Riscky's BBQ, a staple of Fort Worth's north side since it opened in 1927. The restaurant offers a special of five chopped beef sandwiches for $7, any time, any day, except Sunday when the restaurant's closed. Onions, sauce, and pickles are free, so load up.
The Magnolia Avenue dragstrip of trendy restaurants is not exactly known for cheap eats. Vegan hot spot Spiral Diner is one of the exceptions, with sandwiches hovering in the $6-$9 range. For those sweating bullets until their next paycheck, there's the $2.95 pickle and mayo sandwich, served with a side.
Zeke's Fish & Chips
Dining at this 40-year-old haven for fried Icelandic cod can add up fast if you order unwisely. A smart way to keep it low-cost: the $8.50 Cod Snack Plus, consisting of a long plank of fried cod, French fries, coleslaw, drink, brownie, and, above all, tubular hush puppies that you can freely dunk in the complimentary butter. We're not the only ones who do that, right?