Santa Claus may have demanded a chunk of your savings (apparently, the elves got a raise this year?), but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a dinner out with the family over the holidays. Here are some recommended places that will feed your brood for cheap ($15 and under per person) and satisfy the palates of both grandparents and younger ones.
(189 Keefer Place; closed December 24 and 25, and January 1)
If your kids are already bored with their Christmas loot, Pizzeria Ludica had, at last count, 624 board and card games (there’s everything from more obscure geeky options to old standbys like Scrabble) to keep them occupied while you dine. “Board games are something that can make them [the kids] put the iPhone away and spend time with their parents,” says co-owner Darryl Boone by phone. In between game strategizing, the family can dig into thin-crust pizzas like the Montreal, with pepperoni, mushrooms, green pepper, and mozzarella ($13). For $7.50, diners under 12 get juice or milk, pasta or an eight-inch pizza, and a choice of gelato or sorbetto.
Dinesty Dumpling House
Watching the cooks in the glassed-in kitchen work their dumpling magic will have you instantly dying for xiaolongbao (soup dumplings, $5.95 for six). These elegant, modern rooms are devoted to topnotch Shanghainese and Taiwanese fare at prices that will keep your wallet plump. Other dim sum items include pan-fried Chinese dumplings ($3.95), shredded duck in deep-fried tofu wrap ($4.95), and pan-fried pork buns ($3.95). The extensive menu features dishes like shrimp and squid on vegetables and crispy rice ($12.95), stir-fried spicy shredded pork ($11.95), fried rice with veggies and salted pork ($9.50), and stir-fried rice cakes with pork or chicken ($8.95).
1795 Pendrell Street; 1615 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver)
The subtle but flavourful spicing of Zeitoon’s Persian offerings will please everyone in the family. Order two ground-beef skewers ($11.95) or grilled boneless chicken breast ($13.95) with saffron rice for the younger diners, while the adults enjoy slow-cooked lamb shank with baghali polo (basmati rice with dill weed and lima beans, $12.95). A couple of you can share a bowl of saffron-flavoured ice cream topped with pistachios ($6.95) for an aromatic finish.
Bob Likes Thai Food
(3755 Main Street; 1521 West Broadway; closed December 24 and 25)
“Come and have spicy food so you don’t have to light the fireplace,” jokes owner Tai Keattivanichvily during a phone chat. Décor is nothing fancy but suits the no-fuss but well-executed Thai classics that the kitchen lovingly produces. For a family of four, Keattivanichvily suggests veggie spring rolls the kiddies are bound to love ($5), a refreshing shredded green papaya salad with green beans and tomato ($7), Thai-style fish and “chips”, served with fried rice balls ($12) in place of the usual French fries, pad Thai ($13), and roast duck red curry in a fragrant tamarind and coconut milk broth ($14).
(various locations; closed December 25)
C’mon—who doesn’t love noodles? And they can be darn cheap. Noodle pick number one is Peaceful for its oh-so-slurp-worthy handmade-noodle dishes that range from spicy cumin lamb stir-fried noodles ($12.95) to stir-fried “cat ears” (like gnocchi) with pork and veg ($13.95) to dan dan noodles with spicy peanut sauce, minced pork, and spinach ($7.95). Get there early to avoid the crowds.
(4598 Main Street, closed for dinner December 24 and 31; 2076 West 41st Avenue, closed December 25 and January 1, and for dinner December 24 and 31)
For more quick and cheap noodle fun, head to a perennial favourite pho destination where $8 will get you a large bowl of rich beef broth, rice noodles, and a meat of your choice. While kiddies might want to stick to the plain rice noodle soup or just beef balls with rice noodles (small for $7), grownups can go for versions with rare beef, beef brisket, tendon, and tripe. Add an order of spring rolls ($6), and the family will be well fed.
House of Dosas
Take the family out for southern Indian dosas—basically, large rice and lentil crepes (the crispy edges are the best part) with your choice of filling. At the restaurant, manager Gavaskar Ethiraj points out a few menu highlights, like the cheese and spinach dosa ($10.99) and the beef, chicken, or lamb vindaloo dosa ($10.99), as well as the chicken biryani ($12.99), the deep-fried paneer ($9.99), and the medu vada—savoury doughnuts ($4.99). Go on Monday, when dosas are only $5.99. It’ll be so inexpensive and delicious that you may just want to dine out with the family multiple times this holiday season.