Cheap Thrills

The best cheap eats in Miami 2015

Some of Miami's hole-in-the-wall joints are still the best places to score a good meal under $10. A little bit of old school meets a little bit of modern at our favorite places to save up and eat well without burning a hole in your wallet. Here's where we get our cheap culinary thrills.

Spicy pork tenderloin noodle soup ($10) at Cake Thai Kitchen, MiMo

There's a reason this hole-in-the-wall Bangkok-street-food-style Thai take-out restaurant has become the recent talk of the town: Chef Phuket "Cake" Thongsodchareondee hails from Thailand, and in the midst of transferring between the kitchens of Bal Harbor's Makoto to Morimoto's new restaurant, he found his calling from an old abandoned take-out shop. For a dish that packs a punch full of the flavors of the streets of the exotic country, opt for the spicy pork tenderloin noodle soup, a hearty dish that is sure to cure all ailments and clear your sinuses.

Pabellón ($9) at La Latina, Midtown

Another hole-in-the-wall that has developed a bit of a cult following in the past couple of years is the small and colorful Venezuelan Midtown shop open till 5 a.m. on the weekends. Even though people usually rave about the empanadas, the best deal here is the traditional pabellón criollo dish ($9), which is served with your choice of shredded beef or chicken, garlicky white rice and sweet caraotas (black beans), as well as fried plantains and white cotija cheese. For the full meal in bite-size experience, go for the pabellón empanada ($3.75).

Beef pabellón at La Latina | Photo: La Latina

Smokers cold cut ($10) at Miami's Smokers Urban Smokehouse, West Little Havana

We were thrilled when our favorite pitmasters, Andres Barrientos and James Bowers, set up a permanent shop to serve their house-made charcuterie, fresh sausages and larger cuts from heritage-breed pork. Their meat-stuffed sandwiches are a delight, but the bounty here is in the soon-to-come Smokers cold cut: a baguette slathered with house-made beer mustard, spicy mayo and balsamic glaze, and stacked high with pickled onions tossed with heirloom tomatoes and frisée, as well as four assorted cuts topped with melted Swiss cheese.

Green pozole ($8) at gastroPod, Wynwood

It's no secret that chef Jeremiah Bullfrog is one of Miami's most important culinary trailblazers. A project that began five years ago as a gourmet food truck has evolved into what may become the next street food trend: a kitchen container. Now fans can rejoice in finding gastroPod permanently parked in Wynwood, and with that comes the satisfaction of savory, affordable bites. Even though he himself claims that "nothing is permanent" on the menu, our current favorite is his version of green pozole soup with braised pork, homemade tomatillo sauce made with charred poblano peppers and a topping of crunchy Fritos.

Tortellini Fabiano ($10) at Cafe Prima Pasta, North Beach

One wouldn't think of this 1990s Italian date-night staple in Mid Beach as an ideal option for cheap eats, but there is a little-known 50-percent-off discounted menu served daily from 5 to 6 p.m. (4 to 6 p.m. on Sundays). Nothing satisfies those carb cravings like a plate of tortellini Fabiano stuffed with cheese and prosciutto in a creamy carbonara sauce.

Carne asada ($8) at Pinolandia, multiple locations

True Miamians know that when it comes to a good home-cooked affordable meal, nothing beats Nicaraguan fritanga take-out chain Pinolandia. Besides the array of fried goodies and meat dishes, the one that has everyone returning for more is the succulent carne asada tray. The dish is so big, it could easily feed two people: Two strips of perfectly seasoned grilled beef steaks lay atop a generous heap of gallo pinto (red beans and rice), a hefty chunk of fried queso and maduros (sautéed sweet plantains).

Jerk pork or chicken ($7.50) at Jamaica Kitchen, Sunset

Mom-and-pop holes-in-the-wall usually have the best grub for the best prices, which is also the case with this Caribbean-Chinese supermarket and take-out counter tucked away in the suburbs of Sunset. For an affordable, hefty meal, look no further than a recipe passed down for generations—the jerk marinade used for the pork and chicken. Pick up a lunch order with a side of yellow rice for $7.50 or take a pint home for $8. Bonus: You'll still have enough change to get yourself one of the famous spicy beef patties ($2).

Corned beef hash and eggs ($8.95) at S&S Diner, Downtown

For more than 50 years, this classic diner in a not-so-welcoming part of town has been serving comforting dishes for close to pocket change. In fact, your $10 budget can easily cover a breakfast for two during the worker's special hours (Monday through Friday, 6 to 10 a.m.). Since it serves breakfast all day, we have to go for the hefty corned beef hash and eggs served with a side of the house-grilled potatoes or cheesy grits. It's cash only, so don't leave home without your Hamilton.