F&W’s Kate Krader asks chefs around the country to tell her where they go for food that’s inexpensive but deeply satisfying—whether it’s a burger, an enchilada or (for the nose-to-tail crowd) whole roasted goat.
© John Valls
Helvetia Tavern Hillsboro, Oregon
Recommended by: Jenn Louis Lincoln, Portland, Oregon
Just off of Highway 26, this old-school tavern is popular with bike riders, motorcyclists and other beach-bound Portlanders in need of a beer-and-burger pit stop. At Helvetia the patties are cooked on a griddle (“The meat takes on the flavor of the griddle, in a good way,” says Louis’s husband, David Welch). Louis and Welch get their burgers topped with yellow American cheese, then eat them on the fabulous patio overlooking rolling hills. The tab: $4.50 per person. Though Helvetia has a good list of local microbrews, the couple usually orders Pabst Blue Ribbon.
© Robert Thompson
Kasa Indian Restaurant San Francisco
Recommended by: Jamie Lauren Absinthe, San Francisco
Lauren, a contestant on Season 5 of Bravo’s Top Chef, lives just around the corner from her favorite cheap restaurant, Kasa. She loves the homestyle Indian food, including a handful of curries and especially the kathi rolls—she calls them India’s version of burritos. Lauren’s favorite roll has a turkey-kebab filling made with ground free-range turkey flavored with garlic, then grilled, smashed and wrapped in buttery roti (pita-like bread). Even with raita and lemony salad on the side, it still costs less than $5.
© Dawn and Eric Wright
Pike Street Fish Fry Seattle
Recommended by: Rachel Yang Joule, Seattle
Year-old Pike Street Fish Fry in the Capitol Hill district specializes in fried-fish sandwiches made with a daily changing selection of fresh seafood. Yang and her husband, Seif Chirchi, are partial to the smelt sandwich ($5), which is topped with house-pickled cabbage and crispy lemon slices that are fried in the same batter as the fish. “The place is open until 2 a.m., so we can go after work,” says Yang, adding, “It’s set in between two nightclubs, so the people-watching is great.”
© Peter Medelik
Hale & Hearty Soups New York City
Recommended by: Daniel Boulud DBGB, New York City
Now that Daniel Boulud is busy with his new DBGB in downtown Manhattan (in addition to restaurants like his flagship, Daniel), he’s not eating out very often. Hale & Hearty Soups, the New York–based chain, is his take-out standby. “At midday, there’s not much in the way of cooked food at Daniel,” says Boulud. “Hale & Hearty is a great fix.” He favors the lentil chili, made with brown, green and red lentils and a bit of cumin and paprika; a large container is $5.40.
© Rebecca Stepler
The Victory Brooklyn, NY
Recommended by: Gabe Thompson L’Artusi, New York City
This tiny café covered in stainless steel shines on a quiet corner in Boerum Hill. Gabe Thompson of Manhattan’s L’Artusi might stop by for a cup of the excellent coffee (brewed with beans from Ancora in Madison, Wisconsin). At lunchtime he opts for the soppressata sandwich ($9), made with dry-cured meat from Brooklyn pork specialist G. Esposito & Sons. Thompson also recommends the crisp-chewy oatmeal cookies baked by owner Patrick Downey’s wife, Alison. Secret ingredient: maple syrup.