Need something to do this weekend? Here are five places where you can stuff your face for cheap.
The Dime Roadhouse, 1565 Commercial Drive
If you find yourself wandering down Commercial with a rumble in your belly and nothing more than a couple of coins in your pocket, the Dime’s everything-for-$4.95 menu has got you covered. These cheap eats go far beyond greasy appetizers: the selection at this cozy East Side spot includes everything from the classic Dime burger and a butternut-squash risotto with goat cheese to our personal favourite, the Roo Tang Salad complete with chow-mein noodles, mixed greens, avocado, and mandarin-orange wedges. Unlike similar $5 food spots in the city, vegetarians, vegans, and the gluten-intolerant needn’t worry: flavourful choices like the quinoa, avocado, and green apple salad and the veggie burger mean there’s literally something for everyone—unless you have an aversion to nickel-and-diming it.
Fujiya, 912 Clark Drive, 112–1050 West Pender Street, and 113–3086 St. Edwards Drive, Richmond
This local institution’s huge selection of ready-to-eat food is served at a long, busy counter that looks like it’s straight out of Tokyo's Shinjuku district. And there’s a reason this no-frills Japanese outpost, which goes back to the 1970s, is lined up—with office workers, artists, construction workers, Japanese students—at every lunch hour. Where else in town are you going to find takeout sushi this fresh and delicious at this price? The big seller is the eight-piece California roll, with buttery avocado, imitation crab, and a sprinkling of crispy sesame seeds on the rice for only $3.75. The chopped scallop roll, which works in tobiko (flying fish roe) and spicy mayo, comes in at $5. Prices too steep for you? Go vegetarian with a cool cucumber kappa maki ($2.50) or a sweet-salty egg tamago maki ($2.95). A stellar miso soup also comes in at under two bucks. There are tons of other options for those who think raw fish belongs in the ocean: gyoza, karaage, donburi, salad... Grab a bottle of soy sauce or a little container of extra pickled ginger at the store's massive Japanese grocery section on your way out.
The Famous Warehouse, 989 Granville Street
It’s not called “famous” for nothing—every dish on the menu is $4.95. This Granville-strip eatery is a well-known hangout spot that features rustic décor, sports on TV, and typical pub food. What’s not typical is that you can get burgers, tortillas, salads, and more, all for less than a postwork cocktail. Try their popular Works Burger ($4.95), made with premium Alberta beef, maple bacon, cheddar, crispy onion strings, macho sauce, shredded lettuce, and tomato on a toasted brioche bun. It also comes with a daily soup and your choice of peppered fries or local greens. Maybe come for an early lunch, because this place is always packed with other people hoping to grab cheap but good eats.
Viet Sub, 520 Robson Street
Most of the time the idea of paying someone to make a sandwich is as stupid as it is crazy. Why blow $7 on a takeout tuna on rye when you can pick up the fixings for about $1.32 at the local grocery store? It says something about the magnificence of Viet Sub that we not only regularly pony up for one of their seven speciality sandwiches, but make the trek downtown just to do so. Boasting a single table and a counter that seats five people if everyone squishes together, the Robson Street shop is tiny. But, good God, great things come from small spaces. Those on a budget can opt for the chicken, cold-cut, or Vietnamese-ham subs, all at $4.50. But screw penny pinching—spend that extra quarter for the $4.75 B.B.Q. sub (B7 on the menu), which includes meatballs, Vietnamese ham, and cold cuts. All subs come with pickled daikon, shredded carrots, sliced cukes, onion, and fresh cilantro, everything nestled in a toasted and split mini French baguette. For those of the opinion that everything tastes better with sauce on it, top with hoisin and spicy sriracha mayo, both of which are set out on the counter in squeeze bottles.
IKEA, 3320 Jacombs Road, Richmond
Admit it, you hate going to IKEA, but you’re secretly stoked about chowing down once you’ve followed that annoying yellow line to the cafeteria. Provided you don’t spend it on a lamp that’ll break about a week later, your $5 budget is gonna get you a plate of fish and chips with a glass of red wine, at least, all of it preassembled. More seasoned visitors might pass over the lox sandwiches, heavily decorated crossaints, pasta primavera, or distressingly tasty mac-and-cheese and just go for bulk. God only knows how many 50-cent hot dogs a $5 bill will get you, but it’s probably dozens, with change still left over for the efficiently designed Swedish version of frozen yogurt.