Bargain Bites for the Itty-Bitty Budget 

A cheap eats primer for the diner with no dough

Once upon a time, my pocketbook was stretched so thin it was nearly invisible in bright light. I fed my gas tank on found shrapnel, dumpster dive recoveries, and a hope and a prayer. I sputtered about on Ramen Noodles for week-long stretches, finally taking a job as a restaurant hostess in hopes of augmenting my sodium-based diet to include the occasional free shift meal.

These days my emaciated budget is free from the financial strain of post-secondary education, but it still hovers somewhere in the "where can I eat for under five bucks"-range. But aside from the fail-safe buck-o-burger value menus at every drive-thru in town, where can the financially-challenged hungry masses find affordable grinds? Do value vittles even exist beyond the realm of fast food chains? We found a few in our hunt around town we thought were worth sharing.

The south-of-the-border sandwich is cheap any way you cut it. Get three tacos for $3 anytime at Chilango's taco truck and on Tuesday nights, Del Taco sells three tacos for $1 from 6-9 p.m. Jalapeno's Grill 2 has a list of 10 tacos that are always a dollar and if you're of legal drinking age and prefer value beer over value food, Mike's Hillcrest Lounge offers free tacos during happy hour Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Because you've never met anyone who doesn't like pizza and neither have we, it's always important to know the cheapest pie fix around. Gone are the days when Guido's alone monopolized the by-the-slice market. Weighing in at just about $2 no matter where you go--Front Door (6th and Main), Guido's (5th and Idaho), The Loft (Capitol and Idaho) Pie Hole (8th and Idaho) and Tony's (Capitol and Main)--pizza by the slice will get 'er done on the cheap. On the even cheaper, Pizza Pipeline offers dollar slices Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For the economy diner who has an appetite that refuses to be quelled by a single slice, go big at Flying Pie on Tuesday. Pony up $6.75 and you can eat all the pie, salad and breadsticks you want. Kids ages 9 to 12 eat for $4.50, ages 5 to 8 eat for $2.50 and the wee l'il ones under age 5 eat eff-arr-ee-ee.

What cheap eats list would be complete without an equivalent alternative to the fast food buck burger? Bypass the drive-thru and settle in for lunch at Q's, where the adult happy meal is a burger, fry and a draft beer for $2.95. Both the burger special and Q's rotating daily special (also only $2.95) are only available Monday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. If a burger, fry and draft are your kind of thing but live, bikini-clad entertainment is worth an extra buck or two, check out Spearmint Rhino's $5 deal everyday of the week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Splurge an extra two bucks for a steak sand and fries with your beer, or go mega cheap on Sundays, when six quarters will get you a chili dog and fries all day long.

If, princess, you need more variety to choose from than any of the aforementioned sure fire deals, check out the lunch and daily specials at The Plank. Seven items at $4.95 Monday through Friday on the lunch menu (including burgers, wraps and sandwiches) or smokin' app deals during happy hour during the work week. Sockeye Grill and Brewery also has a pretty extensive cheap eats menu. Monday through Friday from 8 to 10 p.m. about a dozen items are $2, including a burger, nachos, chicken strips and salads.

And don't forget about dessert. Originally offering one buck scoops in celebration of its anniversary, Baskin Robbins opted to extend the special beyond its October deadline because we ice cream lovers were so appreciative of the discounted price. At the Fairview, State and Meridian locations, get $1 scoops on Tuesday nights from 6 to 10 p.m. I scream, you scream, we all scream for dollar ice cream.

We are fully aware, dear readers, that many cheap eats have been left off this glorious list of bargain bites. Have a favorite bargain food find you want to add to the list? E-mail Boise Weekly at food@boiseweekly.com and we'll add it to our Web site. For directions to one of the restaurants above, visit our dining listings at www.boiseweekly.com.

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