My Top 8 Cheap Eats in the USA

That's breakfast in theory.

That’s breakfast in theory.

The other day I was asked by TheBesty.com to offer my favorite places to eat around the country for listing in their “Celebrity Chefs” section.  I know, I know… Neither celebrity nor chef.  But hey, flattery will get them everywhere. 🙂

If you’d like to see what I gave them, it’s at http://www.thebesty.com/philjohnson

However their site needs a little work.  The navigation is a bit strange.  And if you look at the first part of my page it looks like I named Brunch Box like 9 times.

So I thought I might post my picks here too.  I spend a lot of time on the road and my favorite thing to do is find awesome cheap places to eat.

I have a 2-step process to find killer cheap eats:
1. Ask the locals – Either in person or on Twitter usually.
2. On Yelp, hit “$” and “Open Now” and try something on the first page.

If that doesn’t yield something interesting I might try Urban Spoon or Trip Advisor.

I can almost always find killer food for a decent price that way.  Every so often I’ll run across a town that really needs help in the culinary department. I’m looking at your Fort Wayne, IN.  But for the most part, there’s some good cheap food to be had most places.

Healthy?  No, of course not.  I’ve yet to find a place that does “healthy” and “awesome”.  You may think you have, but you’re fooling yourself.  Good for you.  You’ll live longer.

So without further ado… Unless you’d prefer some more ado.  A second helping of ado possibly?  Oh no, I couldn’t possibly.  I’ve had far too much ado already thank you.

The Waffle Hut and Eatery in Klamath Falls, OR – It took a long time to find a decent place to eat in Klamath Falls, but this is worth the search.  They make Liege waffles that have sugar crystals mixed into the batter.  Then they add all sorts of crazy toppings.  Not the least bit healthy, but your mouth will explode with happiness.  That picture at the top is one of their breakfast(?) creations.

Luigi’s Italian Sandwiches in Medford, OR – Gooey, greasy, sloppy, heavenly.  This tiny little Italian sandwich place has almost no seating, so get it to go.  And don’t where good clothes, because you will make a mess of them.  The Garbage Grinder will make your gym trainer choke on his whey protein, but there isn’t a better sandwich on the west coast.

The Lost Cuban in Cedar Rapids, IA – Cuban food in Iowa? I was as confused as anyone.  But the owner is actually from Cuba and does a Cuban sandwich that will make your tongue dance the Cha Cha.

The Griddle in Los Angeles, CA – Never go to the Griddle alone unless you want leftovers for days.  Humongous pancakes with a dizzying array of flavors and ingredients and a perfectly moist texture.  I usually go with a couple friends and order one omelet and one order of pancackes.  Plenty of food for 3-4 people.  IHOP should commit hari kari for even existing in the same world as The Griddle.

Taqueria Las Vegas in Milpitas, CA – This is my hometown taqueria and, luck me, it’s the best I’ve found anywhere.  And I will gravitate towards taquerias just about anywhere.  Which is ill-advised in many states.  Las Vegas does killer burritos, huge tortas, and giant tacos.  All reasonably priced.  The meat is diced and grilled, but the flavor and moisture is great.  Never overcooked.

Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR – Do donuts count as a restaurant?  Because to me they count as a food group.  I will drive far out of my way if I’m anywhere near Portland to wait in line for a maple bacon, a Voodoo Doll, a Portland Cream, or anything with cereal on top.  Two is pushing it.  Three is a full on sugar high.  Seriously, you probably shouldn’t operate heavy machinery under the influence of these donuts.

Portillo’s in Chicago, IL – I’m not usually one for chain restaurants, but Portillo’s with their 33 locations is crazy good.  Being a west coast boy, I had no idea what I was in for.  First I had to get my vocabulary right… like “gravy” and “pop” instead of “au jus” and “soda”.  The I ordered an Italian beef sandwich and figured I’d chase it with a hot dog.  Both were obscenely large and chock full of good spicy, juicy things.  And I didn’t eat anything else for pretty much a full 24 hours.  Then I went right back to Portillo’s for another round.

Brunch Box in Portland, OR – My girlfriend and I tried this little gem after at least a dozen people recommended it.  Immense, juicy burgers with traditional, but high quality and well picked toppings.  Plus you can exchange your bun for two grilled cheese sandwiches.  Don’t plan on doing anything too active after one of these babies.

Those are my Top 8 in the 26 states I’ve visited so far.  I know I have much more to discover.  I haven’t done a lot of gigs in the southern part of the US for instance.  And I know there’s loads of life-shortening goodness down there.

By the way, a good way to keep track of your favorite restaurants is the Evernote Food app. Whenever I find an awesome place, I just pop it in there.  Otherwise I’d never remember.  I lament the amazing Mexican place I found in some Midwestern state that I can’t remember now.  As implausible as that last sentence sounds, you can find some real gems if you look hard enough. 🙂

Got a favorite place in your town I need to eat at when I’m there?  Leave it in the comments below.

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