This post is written by Boston on Budget’s new contribution writer Matt. Welcome, Matt!
Over the past decade or so, Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood has been slowly swallowed by gentrification, with Chinese markets and corner restaurants giving way to luxury condos and slicker, boozier Asian-themed restaurants to cater to the new natives.
Meanwhile, cheap staples like Vietnamese banh mi and Chinese dim sum have become fashionable–and expensive–food items for the midday crowds. But fret not!
There are still a few lunch spots beyond Chinatown Gate that will satisfy your stomach without emptying your wallet!
New Saigon Sandwich, 696 Washington St.
This Vietnamese sandwich joint has long held the throne of Boston’s best banh mi, and is still half the price of the food truck variety in Dewey Square. Whether you go for the teriyaki chicken or shredded pork, these boss sandwiches will satisfy at an unreal $3.25 a pop. If you’re looking for something a bit more fork-friendly, their boxed-lunches are a mere 50 cents more, and vary in meats and grains (try the pork and noodles!).
For the vegetarian or vegan budgeter, don’t miss out on the tofu sandwich with extra sauce. Many eaters (author included) think this is the best sandwich in the place. Note: When they ask if you want “spicy,” they are asking if you want chopped jalapeno peppers. The answer is yes. It is always yes.
Chau Chow City, 83 Essex St.
Chau Chow is a classic dim sum establishment. Unlike the newer, more fashionable steamed bun stops on Washington Street, Chau Chow feels like you’ve fallen into a late 1970s Chinatown time warp. White tablecloths adorn every table in the restaurant’s two floors, and at lunchtime servers hawk whole trays of steamed and fried buns from table to table at a constant clip.
But don’t feel guilty chowing down on those absolutely unreal pork buns–a table of four can eat themselves into a coma for about ten bucks each. Just be prepared to have a late dinner, because you won’t be hungry for a while after this lunch.
Potluck Café, 7 Knapp St.
While most of their signage is in Chinese, you’ll know you’ve found the place by the huge “$6.50” in the window. Inside, you and a few dozen office drones, college kids, and local laborers will rapidly be served huge piles of lo mein, kung pao chicken, teriyaki, wings, fingers, or whatever other greasy Chinese joint staples you’re hankering for.
The mix-and-match value meal allows for three choices from the cafeteria-style array of options, and is served alongside rice and soup. Some of the regulars are upset that the price has gone up a dollar over the past few years, but I still defy you to find so much food for the price.
What do you think? Did we miss any dirt-cheap delicacies in Chinatown? What’s your go to?