Deals on Meals 2011

The results of our second annual hunt for the tastiest ‘Cheap Eats’ in town.

5 High-End Cheap Eats

The $20.12 Lunch at Estiatorio Milos

We rate this as the city’s best deal, since a three-course lunch at Estiatorio Milos costs about one-sixth what an equivalent dinner would. You can feast on four Greek dips or an octopus salad starter before moving on to fresh seabass or grilled lamb chops for a main course. For dessert, finish with Greek yogurt with thyme honey and walnuts or karidopita, an amazing honey cake. In a word, fantastic! Starting at $20.11, in the Cosmopolitan, 698-7000.

Old School Sundays at Hank’s Fine Steaks & Martinis

In addition to one of the city’s best Caesar salads, this three-course dinner comes with a huge slab of prime rib, a baked potato with everything, steamed broccoli and warm flourless chocolate cake for dessert. $40, served Sunday night only, at Green Valley Ranch Resort, 617-7777.

All-You-Can-Eat at Sushi House of Goyemon

There are several all-you-can-eat sushi bars in town, but the new kid on the block, named for a Japanese folk hero, is the class of the field. There is also much more here than the usual suspects, including nigiri sushi topped with yellowtail, sea urchin or Spanish mackerel. And the price includes tempura, pork belly and other cooked treats. $21.95, 5255 S. Decatur Blvd. Ste 118, 331-0333.

Late Night Menu at Ruth’s Chris Steak House

This is your chance to eat surf and turf—a 4-ounce filet on the chain’s signature sizzling iron pan topped with butter, lobster and asparagus—all for a single Andrew Jackson. Potato skins seem pricey at $12 … until you realize they’re overloaded with bacon, cheese and sour cream. Menu starting at $6 and served 11 p.m.-2 a.m., 3900 Paradise Road, 791-7011.

Breakfast at the Wicked Spoon Buffet

This is the best breakfast buffet in town. We’re talking pulled-pork eggs Benedict, Guinness stout pancakes, chunky pastrami hash, lots of smoked fish, homemade pecan sticky buns and walnut cinnamon French toast with jugs of real maple syrup. This is one case where you get more than what you pay for. $22, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon-Fri, $29 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat-Sun, in the Cosmopolitan, 698-7000.

Anything at Lulu’s on the Move

Chris Herrin is cooking up a storm on this diverse truck, which delivers baked goods, breakfast items and specialties. Herrin cooked at Bouchon, and here—under the ownership of Metro Pizza—he has killer fare such as a porchetta sandwich ($5) and “dirtier” chips ($4) with pulled pork and jalapeño hollandaise on top. Call 327-8319 or follow on Twitter or Facebook.

Combination Kung Pao Lunch Special at China Tango

Even a big eater will cry “uncle” at the sight of this massive stir-fry of chicken, beef, shrimp, peanuts and the mouth-numbing red Szechuan pepper. Dishes at this new café may be Americanized, but who says Chinese-American food can’t taste good? Egg drop soup, chow mein noodles and steamed rice are included. $6.75, 2850 Bicentennial Parkway Suite 100, 565-6002.

Tonkotsu Ramen at Monta Noodle House

Monta is an Osaka-style noodle house that is always crowded. Tonkotsu ramen are wheat-based noodles in a milky-white broth intensely flavored by slow-roasted pork bones. It’s a little taste of Japan, without a passport. $7, 5030 Spring Mountain Road, 367-4600.

Sardine Bánh Mì at Lee’s Sandwiches

Toto, we’re not at Capriotti’s anymore. Banh mi means essentially “submarine sandwich” in Vietnamese, and yes, it’s tempting to be wary of the pork roll and mystery pâte that’s popular at this chain, now open here and in three Asian countries. But the sardine bành mí with tomato, onions and mayo is delicious. And the price is right. $3.77, 3989 Spring Mountain Road, 331-9999.

The Gambler’s Special at Mr. Lucky’s 24/7

This off-the-menu item has been around since the Hard Rock Hotel opened in 1995, so it hardly qualifies as a secret anymore. But that doesn’t make this $7.77 special any less special, or less of a bargain. The 8-ounce steak, three grilled shrimp, mashed potatoes and salad definitely hit the spot, especially after a long night rocking out at The Joint. You can call this item by a variety of names—such as the 777 special or the steak and shrimp special—and your server will know what you’re talking about. Hard Rock Hotel, 4455 Paradise Road, 693-5000.

Potato Pancake at Soyo

Now, instead of three small pancakes, you get one enormous one, along with a tableful of the side dishes known as pan’chan. The pancake is made from fresh grated potato, and on a recent visit, the side dishes included yellow bean sprouts, cut radish, cooked spinach and stewed beef in huge chunks. $9, 7775 S. Rainbow Blvd., 897-7696.

Lunch Buffet at the Mint Indian Bistro

Our favorite Indian buffet in town is a bountiful spread with such all-star items as bone-in goat curry and chili chicken, a dish from Nepal. Don’t miss the chau chau noodles, a terrific vegetarian bean soup called kwati or the rice pudding. $11, 730 E. Flamingo Road, 894-9334.

Medium Pho Dac Biet at Pho 87 Vietnamese Bistro

Ignore the grouchy woman server who tells you that the soup isn’t to be shared. It comes in a Bunyan-esque bowl that is easily enough for two—and that isn’t even the large. The yield is a mountain of wispy rice noodles in broth, three cuts of beef and a condiment plate stocked with fresh herbs. $10, 3620 Jones Blvd., 233-8787.

Happy Hour Appetizers at American Fish

You can’t go wrong with these incredible appetizers from master chef Michael Mina; just a few include a lobster corn dog, shrimp and grits, truffled mac and cheese, and a great salmon BLT. It’s a chance to enjoy great cooking at bargain-basement prices. $5, served 5-7 p.m. Sun-Fri, in Aria, 590-7111.

Fried Chicken at Albertsons

This fried chicken beat the competition from several large national chains at a tasting conducted in the Los Angeles Times’ test kitchen. It’s extraordinarily crisp, juicy and flavorful inside, and six bucks buys you eight large assorted pieces, far less than what you’d pay for an equivalent amount of bird at KFC or Popeyes. $6, multiple locations.

Hot Dogs at Cheffinis

Sure, there are cheaper dogs out there, but in this case, you really do get what you pay for, and that’s still only $3. At the Cheffinis hot dog cart outside The Beat Coffeehouse downtown, you get a Hebrew National kosher dog your way—relish, ketchup, your choice of mustards. You could also try it Tony Hsieh’s way: The CEO reportedly likes his Cheffinis “underdog” style—that is, the condiments all go under the hot dog, thus insuring they stay around for the duration of the dog. Or, for a real change, try The Cheffini, the owners’ specialty, which includes crushed potato chips, jalapeños and pineapple sauce. Don’t ask questions, just go with it. Outside 520 E. Fremont St., 10:30 p.m. till late Mon-Sat.

Happy Hour at Herbs & Rye

The rack rate at Nectaly Mendoza’s speakeasy-esque den of mixology and Italian comfort food is a great deal as is. But if time is on your side, aim for 5-8 p.m. or midnight-3 a.m. Then take 50 percent off six items that go well beyond bar snacks: Tuck into a 9-ounce filet mignon for just $17, a bone-in 12-ounce Kansas City strip steak for $14.50 or linguine and clams for $12.50. Steaks come with your choice of a generous side dish. But the deals don’t stop with the food: $3 draft beer, $5 well drinks and buy-one-get-one-half-off bottles of wine secures the $10 spicy mussels (with extra garlic bread!) as one of the best deals in town. 3713 W. Sahara Road, 982-8036,

Pupusas at San Salvador

Pupusas are little pockets of grilled masa, handmade and stuffed with delicious fillings such as loroco, a dried, herbal tasting flower bud, and revueltas, gooey melted cheese and pork rinds. The quintessential San Salvador snack, they are eaten with curtido, which are Central American pickles. $1.75, 6651 Smoke Ranch Road, 638-1509.

Secret Pizza at the Cosmopolitan

Find a hidden corridor on the third floor by the east elevators to eat real New York-style pizzas, taken out of the ovens hot and sold by the slice or whole. The corridor is lined with ’50s album covers, mostly by Italian idols, and the base price is $4.50 for a slice of tomato and cheese. You’ll pay a little extra for toppings. If you can find cheaper grub on the Strip, let us know. 11 a.m.- 4 a.m. daily, till 5 a.m Fri-Sat, 698-7000.

Gyros at the Great Greek Grill

The Goumroian family, formerly of the Fat Greek, now runs this fast-food joint in a quiet suburb, and the food is as good as ever. Son Jerry makes the best gyro in town, crisp-edged, thin-sliced, funky with the combined tastes of beef and lamb. The family’s tzatziki sauce smeared on the pita is alone worth a detour. $7.55, 1275 W. Warm Springs Road, Henderson, 547-2377.

Bacon Cheeseburger and Cajun Fries at Five Guys

President Obama’s patronage helped this chain become a national obsession; this is the first Vegas location. If you like burgers well-done, you’re in the right place. A big thumbs-up for the aggressively seasoned Cajun fries cooked in pure peanut oil. $11, 10271 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson, 405-9555.

Taco de Adobada at Tacos El Gordo

The best taco in Vegas is found at this Tijuana, Mexico-based chain, a red and white barn-like space dominated by a huge twirling spit. Your taco is all fatty meat, burnished spice and crackling skin; yellow chilies and roasted green onion comes on the side. Ten dollars buys a family-size platter of the stuff, on a mountain of french fries. $2.15, 1724 E. Charleston Blvd.

Steak Bomb at East Coast Eats

Two guys from Boston’s North Shore (pronounce it “nawth shaw”) do pizzas, subs and pastas just as they might in the Bay State. The steak bomb is a huge, moist gut bomb, an animal-size, cooked-to-order sub stuffed with onions, peppers, mushrooms, American cheese and enough griddled, thinly sliced steak to gag a hyena. (See full restaurant review.) $8.99, 50 N. Valle Verde Drive, Henderson, 834-4444.

Fire-Grilled Chicken Breast Salad at Café Rio Mexican Grill

Line up cafeteria-style to order your salad, a veritable mountain of food composed before your very eyes. Shredded succulent chicken, plus rice, beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and tortilla strips add up to a salad that’s hard to finish, no matter how irresistible it is. $8.25, 9595 S. Eastern Ave., 953-2500, and other locations.

Sunday Turkey Dinner at Tiffany’s Café

This isn’t turkey roll, but rather meat, your choice of white, dark or mixed, with all the Thanksgiving Day fixings: stuffing made on premises, thick gravy, mashed potatoes, the veggie du jour and a roll and butter. It’ll take you back, and it tastes like home. $9.95, in White Cross Drugs, 1700 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 444-4459.

Breakfast at Shucks Tavern

Shucks, a roomy tavern studded with seafaring decor specializing in oysters (quick word: $1 a pop on Thursday), might not be the first place to think of for good affordable breakfasts, but if you’ve learned anything from this guide it’s that we’re unpredictable. Aside from the traditional bacon and eggs, French toast or pancakes, they have a veggie omelet (spinach, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, Swiss cheese) and a spinach and egg-white burrito (with tomatoes and salsa wrapped in a spinach tortilla). And given the price, it makes more sense to drop those few bucks here than in the glut of fast-food options along the way. $3.95, 9338 W. Flamingo Road (255-4890) and 7155 N. Durango Road (651-6227).

Lunch Specials at Moretti’s Eatery

Some top specials are lurking at this dependable eatery that makes ’em good, fast and damned affordable. Two smart $5 lunch specials that are prompt and satisfying include terrific burgers (try them on sourdough bread) with fries and a drink, or two badass slices of pizza with one topping (we like the meatballs) plus a drink. Also noteworthy is the 6-inch breakfast sub for $4, which is much fresher and tastier than an Egg McMuffin. 8490 W. Desert Inn Road, 304-1900.

Steak Special at Ellis Island Casino & Brewery

This locals hangout, a favorite for more than 40 years, may be more known for its karaoke, but the real gem is the steak special. You get a solid dinner salad, choice of potato (go with the mashed with brown gravy), green beans, a delicious 10-ounce top sirloin (unlike other cheap steak specials around town, we’ve not had a bad one in 30 or so visits) and a choice of five home-brewed beers or made-from-scratch root beer—all for just $8. Fill out the free-play portion of the place mat and you’ll actually be up two bucks on your trip. 4178 Koval Lane (behind Bally’s), open 24/7, 733-8901.

Tacos at Tacos Mexico

As small, self-effacing chains go, this one is tough to beat for 24/7, dirt-cheap tacos that come in a variety of ways. At just 99 cents a pop (60 cents on Wednesdays), you get your taco choice of carnitas, chorizo, lengua or barbacoa—and they don’t skimp on the contents. You won’t be disappointed by the atmosphere at any of these places (save for Latin dance tracks with a starling falsetto playing on a boom box); it’s pure East L.A. Yes, that’s a compliment. 1205 E. Charleston Blvd., 1800 Las Vegas Blvd. South and 3820 W. Sahara Ave (444-1171).

Happy Hour at Naked Fish’s Sushi & Grill

A terrific spot with such an easy, relaxing vibe and nurturing service that we’re surprised they don’t have a masseur on the premises. Minus the rubdown, this is still a place that offers killer happy-hour specials in the late afternoon and hovering before and after the midnight hour. We recommend the 911 (essentially, spicy tuna with avocado and “911” sauce). If you’ve got an extra buck in your pocket, go for the Philly, shrimp tempura or Japanese lasagna (it tastes better than it sounds). $5.80, 3945 S. Durango Drive, Suite A-6, 228-8856.

Suggested Next Read

The Mayor of Downtown

The Mayor of Downtown

By Greg Blake Miller

A dozen years ago, when he was a rookie Las Vegas mayoral candidate, the mob lawyer Oscar Goodman—who had once flicked away FBI agents and federal prosecutors like lint from a smoking jacket—decided that he wanted to be loved. So the first thing he did was tell the city how much he loved it. The 1990s perception that Sin City had sinned enough, he said, was all wrong: He went the Gospels one better and told us that he loved both the sinner and the sin. He was elected by a landslide.