Vancouver Weekend: We’re thinking… cheap eats

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      Need something to do this weekend? Here are five spots where you can find the best food that won’t hurt your wallet. 

      Brenda K /

      Lian Hong Chinese Bakery, 6400 Fraser St, Vancouver

      A $10 bill doesn’t get you very far, or full, these days. But it’s all you need for a sizable meal at Lian Hong Chinese Bakery at Fraser and 48th. And need it you will, because this is one of those ever-enduring Chinese food spots that simply refuses to pay the credit card companies’ service fees, instead insisting on cold, hard cash.

      At $9.95 for a serving of three items on fried rice or chow mein (and believe me when I say that they load that styrofoam container UP), it doesn’t matter that the women behind the counter seem to have zero patience for those perusing the menu, or that there isn’t a single solitary seat in the entire place (blame COVID for that one) because the food is filling, cheap, and delicious in an even-better-as-leftovers kind of way.

      Which you’ll have a lot of because, again, those portion sizes are something to write in the Straight about. Plus, you can just chow down at the public picnic tables across the street like a true Vancouverite—wet backside be damned. -Chandler Walter

      @budgiesburritos / Instagram

      Budgie’s Burritos, 44 Kingsway, Vancouver

      Nothing beats waiting outside The Fox in the rain, huddled under an overhang, scarfing down a piping hot Blair Stanley from Budgie’s around the corner. Chipotle-roasted tofu, rice, sour cream, a smear of refried beans, crunchy green cabbage and fruity habanero salsa warms up any soul.

      A 10-inch burrito is $11, but the real trick is to bring a friend and split a 12-inch. For only a dollar more, you go from a 78-square-inch area to 113-square-inch area—resulting in a ‘rito that’s both longer and girthier, with extra room to pack in those punchy flavours, for only $6 each. (This is my girlfriend’s favourite cheap date pick.)

      If, for whatever reason, you don’t feel like trying to unhinge your jaw to devour a foot-long burrito, the tacos are smaller yet messier. They’re absolutely enormous for the $4.25 price tag, making two an economic lunch. Grab an MJB (garlic and lime potatoes) and RIP (rice and tofurkey sausage) with salsa verde, or shell out $2.25 to stack one with a veritable mountain of guacamole. -V. S. Wells

      Stephen Smysnuik / The Georgia Straight

      Taco Luis, 5300 Number 3 Road, Richmond

      Last week, I had, for one reason or another, an all-consuming craving for Taco Luis, that staple of my Richmond upbringing, housed in the backwater of the Lansdowne Centre Food Court. And while the store fronts of that weird mall seem to change hands every few years, Taco Luis remains consistent, a bedrock of shapeshifting Richmond, something that keeps me tethered to my past. Oh, sweet nostalgia!

      But nostalgia’s not really what fed my craving. Was it because there’s really nothing quite like the sweetly seasoned chicken, couched in a bed of fresh veggies when delivered in its burrito form? Or is it the sweetened salsa that comes with your double-deep-fried tater tots any time you order a meal? Or could it be that these items come at the low, low cost of $10.95—with a soda, mind you—which, in this season of unrelenting inflation, feels like a steal?

      Or was it because yours truly had more wine than necessary on a school night and was struggling through its after-effects, from which only a cost-effective, fresh-veg burrito could provide relief?

      No one knows. -Stephen Smysnuik

      I Am Van Foodie /

      Aomori Sushi, 13767 72 Avenue #12, Surrey

      Sushi is always a go-to option if you're looking for a cheap meal, but no one does it better than Aomori Sushi in Surrey. Back in high school, my friends and I would book it to make sure we made it in time for the lunch special, which ended at 4pm—a little under 30 minutes after classes got out. We'd sprint from the bus stop just to make sure we got there on time.

      For $9.50 you can choose four different meals. Maybe you felt like a chicken donburi or maybe a BBQ BC roll with gyozas. During the very brief period I thought I could be vegetarian I would get the number 4 with a yam roll and mini spring rolls.

      But nothing beats the number 1, your plain old California and dynamite roll. Plus, did I mention all these combos also come with your choice of miso soup or pop? Just like current-day Marco (who is broke), 15-year-old Marco (who was also broke) was in heaven. -Marco Ovies

      Le Pho, 2503 East Hastings

      Here’s a quick cheap-eats tip for when you’re low on funds: look for a place that’s lined up with high-school students at lunch. Because if there’s anyone who knows how to eat on a budget, it’s teens who are spending most of their disposable income on Comatose Quackers edibles, Mango Ice Allo Disposable Vape pens, and Travis Scott PlayStation x Nike Dunk running shoes.

      Located in the East Village (aka Hastings-Sunrise to the rest of us), Le Pho is a veritable magnet for the kids of nearby Templeton Secondary, the big attraction being not only hyper-fresh banh mis and fresh basil-loaded noodle soups, but also the uber-cheap prices. How cheap? Start with $4.75 for char-grilled pork, beef, or chicken Vietnamese sub on warm French bread with cilantro, shredded carrot, and shaved cucumber slices. Two traditional spring rolls will run you $5.20, with the house special BBQ Duck with Rice Noodle soup or the Grilled Lemongrass Pork with Vermicelli both coming in at $9.50.

      The only downside? You’re going to be standing in a line when it’s lunchtime at Temp. Consider that a green light to chill out, order a caffeine-bombed Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk ($3.80), and then ponder such questions as “Who the hell spends $11,000 on Jordan 3 Retro DJ Khaled Father of Asahd running shoes when you can get a perfectly good pair of Vans for $40 at the outlet mall?” The answer being, of course, kids who know enough to stretch their money at Le Pho. -Mike Usinger



      Running every Thursday, Vancouver Weekend spotlights five Straight-approved places around the city worth discovering.