You can spend plenty of dough dining. But if you’re on a budget and don’t want to compromise quality, we’ve got a list for you. Here are 10 meals under $10 that are sure to please your tastebuds and your wallet.
MR. BOO’S SPICY HOT CHICKEN
Hot chicken recipes can’t be bought for love or money, but it only takes a little of the latter to enjoy the results of these priceless and magical concoctions of fried fowl and sizzling spice. A heated contest rages among the half-dozen purveyors in this town and their cadres of loyal fans, but Mr. Boo’s delivers the best whole package of breast and accessories. The store owes its name and unique flavor to the Bouglea pepper, grown in a secret location in Louisiana, but like its colleagues, it is delivered in classic fashion: on white bread, with pickles, in varying degrees of intensity. Mr. Boo’s side dishes are exemplary, particularly the spicy fries, potato salad, dirty rice and fried crispy corn on a stick. Pick two for the breast quarter plate, just $6.50. Hit the jackpot with their sweet pickled green tomatoes and sassafras tea. 511 Donelson Pike, 391-9100.
Many Japanese restaurants offer traditional lunch specials where your food arrives neatly compartmentalized in lacquered boxes. Koreana’s lunch box is no different. What you do get (for $5.50-$7.50) in addition to your artfully arranged meal, however, are assorted bowls of kimchee, Korea’s not-so-subtle reminder that you can spice up, pickle and ferment almost anything. From cabbage to radish with varying degrees of heat, Koreana’s servers will graciously refill your condiment bowls until you cry uncle. 1107 Gallatin Road, 868-9393.
How do you build a meal deal? Start with a hubcap-sized tortilla (white, wheat, spinach or sun-dried tomato), then pile on a mound of rice; a ladle of black or pinto beans; marinated, grilled chicken, steak or veggies; add the freebies: tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, black olives, lettuce, cilantro, green onion, cucumbers and a choice of salsa; guacamole, peppers and onions, mushrooms or sour cream (priced from 25 to 75 cents each). Roll it up, and heave it onto a plate. For $1.50, add tortilla chips and a beverage, and you have a muy grande mission style burrito for less than 10 bucks. Ay carumba! 722 Thompson Lane, 383-2252.
CHEROKEE MARINA AND STEAKHOUSE
With the proliferation of high-end steakhouses in town (most of them chains), Nashvillians occasionally yearn for the classic, family-run steakhouse/supper club that dominated cities across America in the ’50s and ’60s. About a half-hour east of town, on the shores of Old Hickory Lake (and nestled between Reba’s estate and a trailer park), the Cherokee dock claims in print that you can’t beat their meat. On Thursdays, we’re inclined to agree. For $9.95 you get a petit filet with potato and a salad. Raid your own wine cellar and they’ll only charge you 30 cents per wine glass for that bottle of Caymus that you bring. 450 Cherokee Dock Road, Lebanon, 444-2783.
If you’re pinching pennies but not carbohydrates, Mellow Mushroom is the place to dive into some dough (without spending a lot of it). The springwater crust on the pizzas, calzones and soft pretzels is dense, chewy and crustya substantial base for the fresh toppings and ingredients that is this college-town chain’s claim to fame. A 10-inch cheese pizza starts at $6.25; add four ingredients and the tally is still under 10 bucks, and big fat calzones top out at $8.95. Monumental hoagies (as they truthfully tout them) come 15 ways, but are all under $7 for the whole danged deal. Get a half, and you’ll have change to spare for one of 22 beers on tap. 212 21st Ave. S., 342-0044.
Sometimes you get in the mood for a big gyro plate, but there’s always the nagging question about how they actually form that lamb meat into a rotating log. Some things are best left to taste and enjoy, so when you want some diversionary atmosphere beyond the little, corner gyro hole, step upstairs to Mediterranean Cuisine. Besides being a pleasant place with warm décor and generous portions, on most Saturday evenings there’s bellydancing. Nothing says atmosphere like hips and midriffs. And the gyro plate is under $8. 400 21st Ave. S., 321-8960.
HOUSE OF KABOB
A small, immaculately clean Persian restaurant in a strip center, House of Kabob lures diners inside with the tantalizing scent of exotic herbs, spices and grilled meats, and welcomes them with a warm smile and attentive service. This ain’t your backyard barbecue shish kabobs chock-full of fillerpineapple chunk-cherry tomato-mushroom cap-onion-beef cube on a stick. These kabobs, from top to bottom, are all chicken, beef, lamb or salmon that are marinated and broiled, then served off the skewer on a bed of rice. Hearty stews are specialties of the house and priced at just $6.99 each. A special lunch menu is served until 4 p.m. Thanks to its proximity to a church, there is no beer, wine or liquor, but the seductive alternative is doogh, a creamy yogurt drink with fresh mint. 216 Thompson Lane, 333-3711.
ED’S FISH AND PIZZA HOUSE
When it’s late and you need to eat something that’s not small and square, you need to pay a visit to Ed’s for his fried fish sandwhich. You need irregular edges. You need to struggle to keep those tender fried filets between the bread as you drive, because you can’t stand to have that sandwich just sitting there next to you in the paper sack. Few places serve up this late-night staple as well as Ed’s, and his longevity is proof. Plus the cost ($3.65 for a sandwich, $3.90 with cheese) beats McDonald’s in taste and price. 1801 D.B. Todd Blvd., 255-4362.
John Stevenson, the new chef at Fido’s, has added some bark to the bite of what was previously a rather placid menu at the otherwise buzzing Hillsboro Village coffee shop/cafe/hangout. Late-rising students and musicians can get breakfastburritos, eggs, hash browns, ham, bacon, sausage and of course, cheese gritsfor lunch or dinner. From 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., the menu expands to include hearty, healthy sandwiches, soups and salads and a trio of hot meals that cover the bases: veggie, poultry, beef. Pedigreed food at mutt prices. 1812 21st Ave. S., 777-3436.
Patty Myint, the doyenne of Thai cooking in Nashville, brought her homeland’s cuisine to Belmont Boulevard almost 30 years ago. Many people know of the steam table set up in back of her International Market and its affordable array, but even some regulars aren’t aware of the “other” menu. Posted inconspicuously on a side wall is a list of authentic Thai dishes you can have made to order. The beauty of these is that in any other Thai restaurant, these dishes will set you back 30 to 50 percent more. For $5.50 you can get Pad Thai, curry dishes, or Pad-See-Ew noodles, served in broth and loaded with fresh vegetables and/or meat. 2010 Belmont Blvd., 297-4453.