Dining Picks

12 Favorite Budget-Friendly Dishes Under $12

Inflation got you down? These are our go-tos for filling meals that won’t break the bank.

By Matthew Trueherz and Katherine Chew Hamilton August 5, 2022

As food prices continue to rise, we know it can be tough to balance your love of food while making ends meet. We’re spoiled with restaurants in Portland, but we also realize that, in this economy, Tuesday can’t always warrant a special occasion meal. And yet, there are simply dishes out there you haven’t yet eaten, and ones you just have to eat again and again and again. So, we’ve put together a list of our most budget-friendly favorites to help keep both your bank account and your stomach happy.  

Classic Jian Bing from Bing Mi: $8 

Northwest District 

Classic jian bing at Bing Mi

Image: Bing Mi 

If you need a landmark to wrap your head around what jian bing are, Taco Bell’s crunchwrap can get you part of the way there. They’re both wraps with crispy things stuffed inside, but that’s where the parallels end. Jian bing is a light and delicate savory Chinese crepe, filled with friable wonton crackers and scrambled egg; tangy and subtly spiced fermented bean paste, shredded mustard root, and a fresh hit of green onion and cilantro lighten the very walkable brunch, lunch or dinner to a level to which its leaden, nacho-cheese filled analogue can only aspire. There are gussied up—what you might call “supreme”—versions on the menu at Bing Mi, with extra fillings like Chinese sausage and shredded duck, but the classic is the classic for a reason. And at just $8, it’s one of the best lunch deals in town. 1845 NW 23rd Place —Matthew Trueherz 


Tavern Burger from Tulip Shop Tavern: $8 


Tulip Shop's tavern burger

The burger at the Tulip Shop contends with any in town; for some, it leads the pack. Burgers that inch closer to—and past—$20 have long been accepted in the market, but there are two distinct approaches to the emblem of Americana. There are fancy burgers and no-nonsense burgers: collages of luxury inclusions that make ostentatious towers of gluttony, and classics that put their spin on the canon of lettuce, tomato, and onion. Tulip Shop’s tavern burger scratches the itch for the latter. A lovingly smashed patty (they’ve been smashing since day one) is piled high with finely shredded lettuce, pickles, and special sauce and sits on a Dos Hermanos bun that delicately toes the line between soft and sturdy. At just $8, it makes you question why anyone tried to reinvent the wheel. 825 N Killingsworth St —MT 


Khao pyan sane at Rangoon Bistro: $9 


Rangoon Bistro's khao pyan sane, a large pork or vegetable dumpling wrapped in banana leaves.

Burmese farmer’s-market-stall-turned-full-on-restaurant Rangoon Bistro’s menu is pretty affordable across the board, but this pork- or vegetable-loaded rice noodle dumpling provides the most bang for your buck. It’s listed as an appetizer, but trust us when we say it’s enough for a full meal. The “dumpling” stretches the definition a bit, as it’s about the size of a burrito. Rice noodle sheets are wrapped around your choice of filling and steamed inside a banana leaf. The bundle eats a bit like a bowl of noodles: as you dig in, the filling mixes with sticky sweet chili sauce, turning it into a tangy ragu for the dumpling wrapper. Nine dollars goes far at this exciting new spot. 2311 SE 50th Ave —MT 

Chicken teriyaki plate at Du’s Grill: $11.75 

Rose City Park 

Chicken teriyaki at Du's Grill

Image: Du's Grill

This Sandy Boulevard teriyaki spot, open since 1995, is Aminé-approved—”Friends used to do pills and only eat at Du’s Grill,” he raps in “Turf.” The scent of grilled chicken wafts down the block, and the flavors live up to the olfactory hype. Though teriyaki originated in Japan, Du’s is a fine example of the Korean-style teriyaki prominent throughout the Pacific Northwest, and the bulgogi-style sweet soy marinade caramelizes beautifully on the charred chicken. The plate comes with hefty scoops of fluffy white rice and a classic, crunchy iceberg salad, complete with cravable poppyseed dressing. 5365 NE Sandy Blvd —Katherine Chew Hamilton 


Panuchos from Loncheria Los Mayas: $4.50 each 


Tacos and panuchos from Loncheria Los Mayas

Image: Mike Novak

You no longer have to book a flight to the Yucatán for excellent panuchos. Loncheria Los Mayas serves the regional staple out of this family-run cart, which stands alone in a parking lot off 42nd Ave. Two handmade tortillas are patted out of fresh, flavorful masa, then plunged into the deep fryer, stuffed with mashed black beans, and sealed. It comes topped with cochinita pibil, a slow-cooked pork in silky, lightly spicy achiote-orange marinade, plus avocado and cabbage; be sure to ask for habanero salsa. 4212 NE Prescott St —KCH 

Veggie momos or chili chicken from Momo House: $10-$12 

Rose City Park 


Momo House makes the best momos I’ve ever tried, and though you could also choose from beef, pork, or chicken, the veggie version stands out. The key: the fluffy, impossibly buttery mashed potatoes that bind together the lightly cooked veggies inside, from peas to carrots to onions. Whether you choose from steamed or pay an extra dollar to have them pan-fried, they’re instant doughy comfort, especially dipped into the gingery tomato chutney. The house special chili chicken is another knockout, a Tibetan-Indo-Chinese dish with lightly breaded chicken, caramelized onion, and bell peppers stir-fried in a gingery, spicy sauce with a side of veggie fried rice. 5235 NE Sandy Blvd —KCH 


Ta’amiya (falafel) sandwich from Egyptian Bros: $10 


The ta-amiya (falafel) sandwich at Egyptian Bros.

You’ve tried chickpea falafel, but what about the fava bean falafel called ta’amiya found in Egypt, thought to be the birthplace of the delightful legume fritters? Try it at this food cart, where a ta’amiya sandwich comes wrapped in foil and a paper plate, served in a handheld cone, like a massive savory ice cream. The ta’amiya are crisp with a distinctly vegetal fava flavor, and they’re layered atop slices of oil-marinated tender eggplant. Get it spicy for best results. 113 SE 28th Ave —KCH 


KJG Dog from Kim Jong Grillin: $8 


The KJG dog

Image: Mike Novak

The bibimbox might get all the shine at this classic cart’s menu, but the KJG dog is a creative work of culinary perfection. Take a crackly banh mi loaf from Binh Minh Bakery—our pick for top Vietnamese sandwich maker in town—and load it with a locally made Zenner’s hot dog. Tart-sweet slices of pickled mango, crunchy kimchi, and a generous amount of kimchi mayo take this dog over the top. 4606 SE Division St —KCH 

Döner Kebab from PDX Dönerland: $11  


Berlin’s favorite post-clubbing sandwich with Turkish roots comes to Portland at this Piedmont Station cart, where one of the owners is from Germany. The bread is housemade and fluffy like a giant, thin English muffin, split apart and stuffed with a generous quarter pound of lamb and beef (or chicken) shaved straight from the spit. Equally impressive are the toppings: pickled pepperoncini, tomato, red onion, lettuce, pickled red cabbage, and yogurt. Let the party begin. 625 NE Killingsworth St —KCH 

Assorted goods from Bui Tofu: under $12  


Bui's Tofu storefront 

Where else can you get top-tier salad rolls, enough dessert for two, and tofu for tonight’s dinner for around $12? Tofu rolls don’t get much better than these, loaded with housemade fried tofu, thick vermicelli, lettuce, and herbs in a super-fresh rice paper roll with a side of the best peanut sauce we’ve ever tried. Dessert picks range from a chewy layered green and yellow pandan and mung bean cake to silken tofu pudding with ginger sauce to banana cake with coconut cream. Take home a package of onion tofu or meat-stuffed fried tofu pockets for the centerpiece of your dinner—stews, noodle soups, or salads—or grab a container of refreshing, lightly sweetened soymilk for breakfast. Almost everything in this takeout shop comes in at under $5. 520 NE 76th Ave —KCH 

Fried chicken sandwich from Basilisk: $11  


Move over, Popeye’s: some of Portland’s best chicken sandwiches live here in the Zipper, and until 10 p.m. every night at that (yes, even Mondays). These impressive sandwiches are taller than they are wide, with fluffy honey-brioche buns, massive super-juicy, crisp chicken thighs, cabbage slaw, buttermilk-mayo dressing, and homemade pickles. Classic, yet endlessly cravable, especially with a drink from Paydirt next door. 820 NE 27th Ave —KCH 

Fataya (meat pies) from Kabba’s Kitchen: $8.95 for three


Kabba's fataya 

The Spanish have empanadas, Russians have piroshki, Americans have Hot Pockets, and the Senegalese have fataya. Kabba’s menu brims with hard-to-find West African dishes like yassa, a dish of veggies and mustard and, in this case, a whole fried tilapia, and the tomato peanut and beef stew called mafe yapp. But if you’re not in the mood to get into a whole fish, try the fataya (three per order). The hand-pies stuffed with a mixture of beef and chicken (vegetarian option available) are wrapped in a bracingly crisp thin shell and served with a warm, intensely savory tomato dip. They elevate what you thought was a convenient, on-the-go snack into a substantial but somehow delicate and crunchy handheld meal. 4631 N Albina Ave —MT 

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