Where can you get a good meal at an affordable price? It seems like a relatively straightforward question, but with so much to choose from, the final decision is a slow process of elimination.
Sure, you can grab a slice and a soda for next to nothing. Or a burger at the Brass Ring Pub in North Palm Beach (or one with all the toppings at Deerfield Beach's Charm City) for fairly cheap. You can even get a pile of tacos at Jalisco in Fort Lauderdale (throw in a horchata and roasted corn at Lake Worth's Tacos Al Carbon) for the change at the bottom of your cup holder.
But inexpensive eats aren't just pizza, burgers, and tacos.
Whether you're in the mood for fresh seafood by the water, have a craving for a hot dog with all the toppings, harbor a hankering for some ceviche, or want some spicy jerk chicken, we've got a few stops that will hit the spot.
Here is our list for the best meals for under $15 in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Have a different favorite? Leave a comment and tell us your top spots when dining for a deal.
10. Hot Dog Heaven
It seems like every big U.S. metropolis has its iteration of the hot dog: L.A. has the chili dog, New York the dirty water dog, and Chicago takes the prize with its eponymous creation. Fort Lauderdale hot-dog hot-spot Hot Dog Heaven does its own version that would make the people of Chicago proud. The restaurant uses only Vienna beef hot dogs plopped into a poppy-seed bun and loaded with all the usual suspects, from neon relish and sport peppers to diced onion, yellow mustard, and a gigantic pickle spear. It's finished with a final touch of celery salt for that taste-bud-tantalizing combination of sweet, spicy, tart, zesty, and savory. The line is thanks to affordable fare: Most meals, served with fries and a Coke, get you out the door for under $10.
It's not just a market, and it's not just a café. It's both, all in one. Not everyone wants to eat fast-style fare, fried food, or meat-heavy dishes come lunch or dinner. Which is why a spot like the Living Fresh Market makes our cut. The market sells organic vegetables and fruits, and the café offers a short menu of sandwiches and smoothies. And unlike other area juice and smoothie restaurants, you can get multiple items for less than $15 out the door. Yes, that means you can get a tasty sandwich like the Vegasmic -- made with gluten-free bread, portobello hummus, red onion, vegan Swiss cheese, cucumber, baby arugula, and lemon -- for $6.95. Then, pair it with a smoothie like the Living Green, a combination of kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, green apple, pear, lemon, ginger, and mint for $4.95.
The Southport Raw Bar is the place to go if you want to eat like a king but have a peasant's pocket. Here, you can stumble up to the docks almost any time of day and slurp down a platter of Gulf oysters -- and wash them down with ice-cold beer -- for less than $15. The clams, shrimp, and wings specials make Southport a popular happy-hour spot every day of the week and often well into the night. Daily specials include dolphin fingers for less than $10 and a gator burger for around $5. Of course, the menu includes much more, from steamed clams, chili dogs, miniburgers, and Philly cheesesteaks. And the waterside view -- often accompanied by a perfect sunset -- is totally free, by the way.
A mix of El Salvadoran and Honduran, Hollywood's El Tipico has some pretty amazing fare for so cheap that you can feed the entire family for $15. In fact, the seafood soup is the most expensive thing on the menu, ringing in at $13.99. But don't bust the bank on one dish. Instead, go for pollo a la plancha served with rice and a salad for just $5.99. We love the tamales and papusas -- hand-formed, made from scratch, then fried up on the griddle -- and stuffed with a flavor-packed chicharron.
Where can you find the best jerk chicken in town? At the Dutch Pot Jamaican, of course. The Dutch pot part is important: According to the restaurant's owners, it's a necessary part of Jamaican cuisine and culture and the only way to produce authentic Jamaican cooking. The pot heats up at an even temperature, meaning it's always consistent. And so is the food. Since 2000, this North Lauderdale restaurant has been feeding its fans some of the best Jamaican cooking in Broward County. What started as a single-burner oven in the backyard has morphed into one of the best -- and most inexpensive -- eateries around. Each location (there are three) offers lunch specials for less than $10. That includes a platter of spicy jerk chicken or pork served alongside a pile of rice, peas, and plantains. If jerk isn't your thing, there's also curry goat, ackee, catfish, liver and onions, and callaloo. Caribbean-style sides offer a taste of something different, from fritters and boiled bananas to "bammy" -- a traditional Jamaican cassava flatbread.
Casual and reasonably priced, this West Palm Beach restaurant offers fresh, hearty, South American-style soul food. Here, our favorite is the traditional Colombian dish bandeja paisa -- probably the most popular selection for its reasonable price and hefty portions. Traditionally, the meal is a platter of rice, red beans, chicharrón, carne en polvo, chorizo, fried egg, sweet plantain, avocado, and corn cake (or arepa). If that doesn't satisfy your appetite, end it all with a drink at the Girafa's Sports Bar inside the restaurant.
When was the last time you had a wicked good clam chowder? Or said the word "wicked" in a sentence, really? Let's put it this way: You don't know a good bowl of chowder or bisque until you've had it New England-style, direct from Boston. At least that's the sentiment of Chowder Heads founder Ed Wells, a native New Englander who opened his authentic Northeast seafood house in Jupiter -- what he says is the only South Florida restaurant that delivers "real deal" New England seafood dishes, from Maine lobster rolls and bisque to authentic New England clam chowder, crab cakes, and whole-belly fried clams. His second location in West Palm Beach recently celebrated its grand opening, and the new expanded menu offers a number of new dishes -- all seafoodcentric, of course. Try the Coolie's Awesome Mussels -- PEI mussels steamed with Pinot Grigio, spinach, onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and lemon -- go for just $12. A 12-ounce bowl of lobster bisque goes for $8, and Maryland-style crab cakes cost $13. Of course, you might want to go for a roll. While the lobster is market price, everything from the clam and scallop to shrimp and blue crab rolls goes for $15 or less.
3. Doña Arepa
This Greenacres restaurant is a diamond in the rough -- if your idea of a rare jewel is in the shape of an arepa, that is. The menu offers a number of authentic Venezuelan eats, platters of food served with sides and drinks for less than $15 a plate. The arepas and cachapas -- a thicker, sweeter, pancake-style corn cake -- offer the best deal priced at under $10 each. Both are served plain or stuffed with a variety of meats, from a tender chicken to a savory beef. Look for the sandwiches with cheese, especially the salty-sweet Venezuelan guayanés or equally tasty white queso de mano. While you're there, don't miss the chicha: a thick and creamy rice-based drink that's like liquid rice pudding (or horchata on steroids).
2. Best Ceviche Ever
Just six months old, this new Peruvian establishment off Boynton Beach Boulevard in Boynton Beach is a quick-stop lunch and dinner spot offering some pretty amazing food. Inside, it looks like your average fast-casual concept: just a few tables and chairs, a pay counter, and not much else. But sit down and dig in and you'll find the ceviche is exceptionally fresh and prepared in the authentic Peruvian manner served with soft-boiled sweet potato, the Andean choclo corn, and slices of red onion. The Ceviche de Mariscos a Los Tres Ajies is prepared with a mixture of seafood in a rich cream sauce and, like most of the offerings, is priced around $15. The cup of roasted corn kernels, a traditional Peruvian snack, is complimentary.
It's always an interesting mission to search out good Vietnamese fare -- especially a good bowl of pho -- in South Florida. This Lake Park restaurant has it down, though. Everything on the menu is traditional preparation, from the goi cuon summer rolls and bank xeo (Vietnamese pancakes) to the chicken wings and curry "puffs." Most menu items are priced under $15 and offer a variety of noodle soups and rice dishes. But the pho is where it's at. Pho & Hot Pot offers a total of eight styles. That includes the dac biet, a meat-lover's dream, with steak, tripe, brisket, tendon, and beef meatballs. The pho ga offers chicken and rice noodles, and the pho chay is vegetarian with tofu and a vegetable-based broth. See? Something for everyone, and priced just right.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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