With juicy meat sandwiches, Southeast Asian street food and absurd quantities of sushi, Vancouver has fast become one of North America's best spots for cheap eats. You can get an amazing meal in Van City for less than 10 U.S. dollars—here's how to do it.
Meat & Bread has taken the tradition of carved roast dinners at Dublin pubs and turned it into one of the universe's all-time greatest foods: a porchetta sandwich. Two pieces of chewy ciabatta hold more than their weight in porchetta, which has a satisfying crackling exterior after being cooked over high heat, and a mild salsa verde. Unlike other cheap sandwich shops, Meat & Bread is low-key cool, with Stumptown Coffee and minimalist branding by Glasfurd & Walker, a Vancouver graphic design firm.
A throwback to family style restaurants found in Manzanillo, Mexico, Sal y Limón is a laid-back Mexican spot in East Van best known for its tacos, burritos and homemade horchata (a cinnamon-spiked rice-and-coconut beverage). The popular tacos al pastor clock in at $2.03 ($2.34 with cheese) and the carne asada burrito con queso (grilled beef with cheese) at $7.07. It's a casual hot spot sure to please all—most of the menu can be made gluten free, vegetarian and vegan.
Cheap and sushi are generally two words that instantly raise suspicion. But at Sushi Itoga, you can, in fact, get affordable high-quality sushi without fear. The sushi bar is run by Kazuo Itoga, who was trained by his father, a master sushi chef from Tokyo with more than 40 years of experience. Itoga combines Edomae-style sushi with West Coast inspirations; during lunch, his popular Maki Combo 3 (California, tuna and salmon rolls) and Sushi Combo D (California roll, two pieces of tuna, salmon and ebi) clock in at $5.46 and $9.37, respectively. Sushi Itoga's signature Chirashi Bowl ($11.71) is an absolute must, even though it's a hair north of $10.
One of the many legacies left over from French colonization in Vietnam is the baguette, and Ba Le Deli & Bakery on Kingsway is the best game in town for crusty, fresh bánh mì (baguette) sandwiches. This place takes bread seriously—its baker even went to France to learn how to use the French-made baguette ovens that grace the shop today. Order the grilled pork bánh mì ($3.51) and balance out the spice with cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee, $2.73): The pair is pure bánh mì bliss.
Ten dollars goes a long way at this no-frills, cash-only Malaysian/Indonesian street food hole-in-the-wall. It's a good thing, too, because you'll want to sample a bunch of dishes: the mee goreng (spicy fried noodles), laksa (spicy noodle soup), vegetable fritters and roti with curry. Real pros also know to order the 9B, a well-known "secret" item found only on the printed menu (not on the one posted above the counter); it's fried kuey teow, a chicken curry dressed with noodles, eggs, fish cake, prawns, chicken and veggies.
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