Free lunch? No such thing. $5 lunch? We have just the thing. From burgers to bratwurst, there’s a nearby eatery that keeps both your wallet and stomach full.
1. Taqueria El Si Hay
$3 » Two tacos
The vibe: This taco stand has cheap eats and fast takeout.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: The tacos on the menu — chicken, beef, steak, pastor and more — are $1.50 each, and two are plenty filling.
For a few dollars more: El Si Hay has really good horchata (cinnamon rice milk) for $1.50.
Tip: This place always has a line. Even though it usually moves fast, arriving at noon could take most of the lunch hour, so try for 11:30 a.m. or 1 p.m.
Davis & Llewellyn
2. Metro Diner
$3.60 » Grilled cheese with fries, tater tots or a cup of soup
The vibe: The ultimate greasy spoon, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 24 hours a day, plus a jukebox with Tammy Wynette and Journey.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Come on: it’s a full meal for less than $4.
For a few dollars more: Metro Diner serves one of the best burgers in town for less than $6.
Tip: This is a great place to people-watch at all hours of the day or night, plus it’s fun to chat up the old-timers who are regulars.
Davis & Hampton or Beckley & I-30
$4 » A pupusa and a tamal
The vibe: This original Gloria’s is the smallest of the Salvadoran restaurant’s 11 locations — last year, Gloria’s expanded to Austin. Does that mean Austin is the new Oak Cliff? Nah, our Gloria’s is cooler.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Pupusas, thick pockets of corn masa, are stuffed with spicy pork and cheese. Handmade tamales have chicken, potatoes and bell peppers. And you’ll receive all the chips, salsa and creamy black bean dip you can eat.
For a few dollars more: A small chicken soup, $4.99, makes a good lunch on its own.
Tip: Return during Gloria’s happy hour, Sunday-Thursday all day and Friday 3-6 p.m., for $5 mango margaritas.
Davis & Llewellyn
4. El Tizoncito
$4.50 » Three tacos al pastor
The vibe: Possibly the best tacos outside Mexico City. The space is bright and clean, and everything is cooked in an open kitchen with simple ingredients.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: The tacos al pastor are served with salsa and pineapple, and orders come with a ramekin of black-bean soup. Take away a $3 pint of soup for a light and inexpensive lunch. Nothing on the menu is over $7.
For a few dollars more: Tamarind margaritas are $5.
Tip: Just have a seat, and someone will wait on you.
Illinois & Westmoreland
5. Jack’s Backyard
$4.75 » Caesar salad and mac and cheese
The vibe: Chic yet casual, Jack’s has live music, fun bartenders and a cool outdoor space.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Jack’s is a great place to escape from your workday, even if it’s only for an hour. Another $5 combo: a cheese quesadilla ($3) with borracho beans ($2). A grilled cheese sandwich with fries or potato chips is $5.
For a few dollars more: A BLT with avocado on wheat is $6.50 and comes with fries or chips.
Tip: Jack’s is closed on Monday.
Pittman & Fort Worth Avenue
6. La Carreta Argentina
$4 » Two empanadas
The vibe: The former Don Panza restaurant has classy new digs on Beckley with lots of indoor and outdoor seating, and new menu items including burgers and steak.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: These handmade Argentine empanadas are like no other. They come stuffed with beef; chicken; ham and cheese; ham and bleu cheese; or spinach, egg and ricotta.
For a few dollars more: Bring a friend and split one of several Argentine-style pizzas, $10-$12 each.
Tip: Order the empanadas baked or fried.
Beckley & Zang
$3.95 » Turkey cheeseburger
The vibe: It rocks that this ’50s diner-style burger joint took over the old Gennie’s Bishop Grill space.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Most of the burgers on Hunky’s menu are under $5. If you’re not in the mood for that, order a corn dog ($2.15) with cheddar tots ($2.15) or a veggie Swiss burger ($4.25).
For a few dollars more: Sweet potato fries are $1.40, and onion rings are $1.95.
Tip: This is one of the least expensive places to eat in the Bishop Arts District, so it becomes pretty slammed sometimes, but the line moves fast.
Bishop & Eighth
8. Pollo Fiesta
$4.66 » California quesadilla
The vibe: It’s a chicken party for everybody. This grilled chicken fast-food joint cooks its birds in an open kitchen.
Why it’s a bang for your buck: Tasty grilled chicken, cheese and pico de gallo make the California quesadilla a cheap and quick lunch. The chicken and cheese burrito is also $4.66.
For a few dollars more: Two pieces of chicken with rice and charro beans are $5.47. Or try a chicken taco plate for $5.82.
Tip: Plates are served with half a dozen corn or flour tortillas and salsa.
S. Hampton & Burlington