I am a cheapskate. I’m also a bit of a food snob.
You see the problem here.
Though I adore many Bend restaurants offering delicious lunches in the $8-$12 range, there’s a petulant toddler inside me throwing a tantrum and demanding my lunch cost no more than $6.
Lucky for me, oodles of Bend restaurants are happy to oblige by filling my belly at noontime for $6 or less. Allow me to share a few!
The secrets only locals know (a.ka. my personal favorites!)
From the outside, the D & D Bar and Grill in Downtown Bend looks like a dive bar. That’s probably because it is a dive bar, and a fine one at that. Most people don’t know they offer an excellent cheapskate lunch special. For $4.50, you get a half-sandwich, a cup of soup, and an order of fries. On Monday, I got two tasty slices of rye bread piled high with ham, tomato, lettuce, and assorted condiments. The lentil soup was hearty and packed with veggies and sausage, and though I never plan to eat the fries, I always end up devouring them anyway. It’s one of the best cheap lunch specials in town.
Around the corner on Minnesota Avenue sits Toomies Thai Cuisine. Though price-creep has boosted most of their lunches over the $6 mark, it’s not by much. Those who share my urge to keep it under $6 will appreciate the rotating daily lunch special. It’s always one of the regular menu items offered for a discount price of only $5.95 That gets you an entrée, a tasty noodle & veggie side, and a simple salad with lettuce, tomato, carrot, and hard-boiled egg. It’s big enough I can’t usually eat it all in one sitting, which gives me two lunches for the price of one.
Another local favorite is Parilla Grill on 14th Street. A hasty glance at the menu might lead you to think there aren’t many items under $6, but you just have to know how to order. Nearly every wrap on their scrumptious menu can be purchased in the 10-inch “bambino” size for $1 less. Trust me when I say you’re not getting shortchanged with the smaller size. I’ve ordered both the regular and bambino, and actually prefer the ratio of tortilla-to-filling with the bambino. My personal favorite is the Bombay bomburrito with chicken for $6. You can also snag their classic veggie burrito for $6 or three veggie tacos for $6.
Like Parilla, Longboard Louie’s might appear not to have tons of options under $6 (unless you count single tacos as filling enough to make a meal, which I don’t). But here’s the trick to getting a super-filling meal for the right price. Order the “recession buster burrito,” which is a small bean & cheese for just $3. Nice price, right? But we’re not done. Next, add your choice of meat for $1.50. I like steak, but you can also pick chicken, shredded beef, or pork. Then choose from an array of fifty-cent add-ons like rice, sour cream, fajita veggies, or fresh pico de gallo. You can pick three of those and still keep the price at $6. Then you raid the fresh salsa bar and stock up on tasty favorites like black bean & corn, or roasted tomatillo lime. You can get it at either the eastside location or the Longboard Louie’s on Galveston, and it’s hearty enough I can’t finish it all.
For a different Mexican option, try the Taco Stand, which is hidden away on NW Hill Street. There are oodles of low-cost options here, but I’m a big fan of the beef Colorado for $5.50 or two ooey-gooey cheese enchiladas for $4.50. They also offer excellent burritos for $5.75 or two fresh tamales for $4.25. Don’t forget to bring cash, and remember this local hotspot can fill up fast at the lunch hour.
Pizza, burgers, and sandwiches
Bend Burger Company specializes in gourmet burgers that can be a tad pricey, but they also offer a basic Bond Street burger with fries for only $4.95. If you’re hankering for a burger mid-week, try the bar at Pine Tavern, where you can snag their classic burger with housemade chips for $5 on Wednesdays.
If it’s pizza you crave, Pizza Mondo in Downtown Bend knows how to hook you up. $5.50 gets you a hefty slice of gourmet pizza, a side salad, and a fountain soda. They usually have several kinds of pizza to pick from, and it’s always hot and tasty. Another Bend favorite is Cibelli’s Pizza on the east side of the town. A humongous, foot-long slice of cheese pizza is $3, but what I love best is adding my own toppings for 25-cents each. I usually opt for sausage, artichoke hearts, olives, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and bell pepper, which keeps the price at $4.50 fills my veggie quota for the meal.
On the sandwich side of things, Jimmy John’s in the Old Mill District has tons of tasty options for great prices. They offer six different 8” subs for only $4.95, and ten more “giant” subs for $5.95. Check out their online menu to peruse offerings, and don’t forget to add sweet-hot peppers for only 25-cents. Low-carb or gluten-free diners will appreciate the “unwich” lettuce wraps. You can also hit Great Harvest in downtown Bend and snag a half-sandwich and a baggie of carrots for $4.50. I’m fairly certain Visit Bend’s CEO is addicted to the Deschutes chicken salad sandwich, which is packed with chicken, cranberries, and spicy pecans. Though the half-sandwiches are plenty huge, you can score a whole one if you’re willing to cross the $6 threshold and pay $6.50.
On the lighter side
I have a moderately hearty appetite, which means I’m seldom satisfied with smaller dishes. If you lack my size-obsessed nature, there are many terrific lighter options to be had in Bend.
Summit Saloon makes some of the best soups in town, and you can nab a cup for $4 or a bowl for $5. It’s served with a fresh rosemary roll and butter, and if you’re lucky enough to walk in on a day they’re serving Chesapeake Bay crab chowder, scrap your cheapskate tendencies and order ten gallons of it.
Barrio in downtown Bend is the new collaboration between two popular street vendors, Soupcon and El Sancho. Prices are a little steeper than they were in the food cart days, but the food is still excellent. You can score a bowl of soup to-go for $5, or two tacos for the same price. The menu changes daily, but is always guaranteed to be amazing.
I’m a huge fan of the edamame bowl at Café Yumm in the Old Mill District, but offer the recommendation with a caveat. The small sized Yumm Bowls technically meet the price criteria at $5.95, but I don’t find it large enough for a grown-up lunch. To achieve that, you’ll want the medium bowl, but its $6.95 price-tag technically disqualifies it from the list.
Another awesome option in the Old Mill District is Mio Sushi. On a light appetite sorta day, I can be satisfied with their scrumptious Philadelphia roll for $4.25 or the spicy tuna roll for $4.50. They also offer a couple terrific noodle bowls at a nice price point. The regular ramen with veggies comes with broccoli, carrot, onion, cabbage, bean sprout, red and green peppers with thin noodles in a clear soup for $5.50. You can also try the Mio ramen with veggies, which has the same veggies and Japanese noodles for $6.
So that completes my roundup of Bend’s best $6 lunches, but I’m sure I missed a few. Got any others to share? Please leave ‘em in the comments.
And bon appétit, my fellow cheapskates!