There certainly isn't a shortage of cheap eats to find in this city, but when tasked to keep three meals on a very specific and very tight budget things can get a little tricky. I decided to not focus on one specific neighborhood, but three distinctive ones, Chinatown, Rice Village, and the Montrose. Discovering if it's in fact possible to eat well for only $10 a day, excluding tax and tip in our fair city of Houston.
CHINATOWN — I woke up early on Saturday morning and headed to Chinatown for breakfast. The drive took close to 30 minutes from my apartment in central Houston, and included a light fender bender that ended in pleasantries, and thankfully not the exchanging of insurance. Undeterred, I headed to Kamalan Bakery, in Dun Huang Plaza. Kamalan is a recent newcomer pitted against venerable spots like King's Bakery and Six Ping, but I had heard this Vietnamese bake shop was well worth the drive. Outside the round black and white sign marking Kamalan looks slightly Parisian, inside the aesthetic and products do have a blend of Vietnamese and French. Beautiful and artistic breads and pastries are placed on a large dark oak table in the middle of the shop and on metal stands lining the left wall. The selection varies upon each visit, but staples include the sesame red bean buns, egg tarts and savory buns. I knew the budget would be tight, but I justified two buns the size of small frisbees would be both breakfast and lunch. For $5 bucks I got the pumpkin bread mixed with matcha and fresh pumpkin puree baked in and the sesame red bean bun. The matcha blended perfectly with the pumpkin, but made me crave a decent latte to go with it, but it did last all day.
MONTROSE — I had the sesame bun from Kamalan, but knew I would need a pick me up. And weak coffee wasn't going to do it. I headed to Agora for an $1.85 cup of coffee, with my bun stashed in a bag. The Sesame Bun was sweet and savory, but I enjoyed the pumpkin choice more. At Agora, I hid away on the side patio with my Vietnamese and Greek feast laughing quietly to myself and muttering, "only $3.15 left!" I wanted a refill, but they aren't free anymore, so I needed to be on my way.
RICE VILLAGE — By the time dinner rolled around I was tired of breads. I had had two large loaves and began to wonder how quickly scurvy could set in. My mandatory coffee had cost me dearly. I eyed Coppa Osteria's pizza-by-the-slice window, but for $4.50 this would be too rich for my blood. I also hoped Yo Yo's Hot Dogs would be out, but I knew $4.00 was also out of my price range. Dejected, I headed to Torchy's Taco across from Mercantile in the Village. I don't dislike Torchy's, I just knew I'd only be able to afford one taco and I worried that wouldn't be enough, plus I'd have a hard time not ordering chile con queso. But my hunger drove me into the door. I ordered The Republican (grilled jalapeño sausage, shredded cheese, pico de gallo with poblano cream sauce) for $3.25 and a glass of water, which I
stole spiked with lemonade because of scurvy, of course.
I was a dime over my intended goal, making my three neighborhood $10 budget a failure by a mere 10 cents. The guilt could have led me on a free-for-all into Torchy's queso, but I went home and consoled myself with the remainder of my pumpkin bread. All in all, not bad for $10.10.