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Minneapolis Chefs Share Their Favorite Cheap Eats

Where the chefs dine on their days off.

Where does Sameh Wadi go to eat on the cheap?
Where does Sameh Wadi go to eat on the cheap?
Matt Lien

Despite the way they're portrayed on food TV these days, few chefs are living high on the hog (that's why they make us such tasty charcuterie.) These taste-makers not only serve us well (and often at bargain prices themselves,) they enjoy sharing the secrets of where they eat out when they don't want to splurge a whole paycheck.

Sameh Wadi is the successful chef and owner of Saffron and World Street Kitchen, which is both a restaurant and a food truck, plus he's the author of The New Mediterranean Table. He manages to make his way all over the Twin Cities and was happy to share his favorite haunts for a quick plate of something cheap.

  • Pho 79 for a fantastic bowl of broth, noodles and well done brisket. for less than $8. I'm there at least once a week in the summer and twice in the winter.
  • On's Kitchen for Nam Khao, crispy Lao rice salad with lots of aromatics and herbs. Ten dollar happiness is what it should be called.
  • Holyland Deli for wood-fired rotisserie chicken dinner. A whole chicken with rice, salad, hummus, bread, sauces for $20. It feeds your whole squad.
Photo courtesy Brasa's Facebook page

Photo courtesy Brasa's Facebook page

Brendan McDonald rose through the ranks at chef at the Butcher and the Boar and is also now serving as executive chef for the soon-to-open 4Bells (also known as the old Joe's Garage.)

  • Brasa is a staple for lunch or dinner, I enjoy the Grand Avenue location.
  • Burch Steak for a late night burger and oysters.
  • Eli's downtown is also a great spot for a burger or patty melt.
  • Hammer & Sickle has Eastern European comfort food and an extensive vodka selection.
  • The Butcher and the Boar. You cant beat a beer, brat & shot for $12.

Two tipping bowls of towering fried chicken, one in blaze orange hot sauce Joy Summers/Eater Twin Cities

The Tennesee Hot at Revival. Photo by Joy Summers

Christina Nguyen, is the chef and co-owner at Hola Arepa, the wildly popular Nicollet Avenue eatery with the fluffy corn cakes and killer drink menu. She gave us her favorites in order of the cheapest to slightly less cheap.

  • Manana Restaurant & Pupuseria for the bean & cheese pupusa with curtido slaw and tomato salsa.
  • iPho's Banh Mi Xiu Mai. It's a Vietnamese meatball sandwich with all the usual banh mi fixins.
  • La Loma's Oaxacan tamale with pork.
  • Salty Tart's twice backed ham and cheese croissant.
  • Quang's #111 Nem Nuong Cuon - a spring roll with grilled sausage, crispy spring roll wrapper, special sauce. "It's much better than normal spring rolls if you've never tried this one," she raves.
  • Los Ocampo's Gordita Al Pastor with extra hot salsa.
  • Revival's Tennessee Hot Fried Chicken.
  • The World Street Kitchen Lemongrass meatball lettuce wraps w/cucumber pickle.

Manny Gonzalez co-owner of Manny's Tortas's has cracked the code for the perfect sandwich inside his restaurants in Mercado Central and Midtown Global Market.

  • The Rabbit Hole's shrimp tempura roll.
  • Los Ocampo for tacos al pastor.
  • Stella's Fish Cafe's peel and eat shrimp.
  • Masu's sushi.
Hola Arepa's Wecking Ball. Photo by Joy Summers

Hola Arepa's Wecking Ball. Photo by Joy Summers

Thomas Boemer is settling back into his usual routine as chef and co-owner at both Corner Table and Revival after winning the national pork competition Cochon. He even has a crown and everything.
  • Hola Arepa's Wecking Ball and the fried chicken they serve at brunch. Boemer says, "As a person who eats all day, some of my favorite cheap eats are in liquid form."
  • Patisserie 46 for coffee and bockstock (the almond flecked pastry).
  • Marla's Caribbean for jerk roti.
  • Zen Box Izakaya for their ramen special and a beer.
  • Pizzeria Lola has a barbecue short rib pizza that he loves to dine on.
  • Szechuan Spice is the go-to Chinese spot for cumin lamb and dan dan noodles.