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Amid the pandemic, life can be very difficult. College students with limited budgets often find it difficult to find good places to eat that aren’t going to hurt their bank accounts. However, Houston can be a pocket-friendly area if you know where to go. UH students can find themselves overwhelmed by hundreds of options, from food trucks to restroom-equipped bistros. Many easily end up being at a fast-food’s drive-through. This is where Cooglife’s guide to dining on a budget comes into play, featuring easy take-out and a comfortable dining experience. 

*staff-tested

**cash-only

El Rey Del Tacorriendo * **

2509 Oakcliff Street, Houston, TX 77023

This orange-painted truck located across from Queen of Peace Church, a five-minute drive from the university to Gulf Freeway, is a hidden gem. For an affordable $1.25 per taco, a plethora of made-to-order tacos will satisfy a roaring stomach. Barbacoa and beef fajita are must-tries. They come with grilled onion, lime, jalapeño and salsa. Another good thing about this place is that they open very late on the weekend, so the night owls now have a place to tuck into.

Other recommended locations: Taqueria Los Mexicanos on Delmar or Tacos Tierra Caliente on West Alabama)

Banh Mi Bon *

10555 Westheimer Road G, Houston, TX 77042

No one comes across the cheap-eat landscape without admitting that bánh mì is one of the most filling and tasty options for those running low on cash. The combination of vegetables and protein sandwiched between a crispy French baguette with a dash of soy sauce would make a great lunch. If the sandwich alone isn’t enough, add a sunny-side-up egg. Banh Mi Bon is definitely a student favorite under $10. 

Other recommended locations: Thien An sandwiches on San Jacinto, Pho Saigon on Milam)

Photo by Long T.

Star Snow Ice and Teriyaki *

9889 Bellaire Boulevard Suite 113, Houston, TX 77036

In Bellaire Chinatown’s busiest strip, this place has been a favorite Taiwanese restaurant for ages. People love this place for its fast service, huge portions and cheap drinks. With a rice combo of nearly 20 choices of delicious toppings and 20 types of hot noodle bowls – all of which are under $10, you are guaranteed to have a tasty meal without feeling broke.

Other recommended spots: Teacup Cafe on Beechnut next to Viet Hoa market.

Taqueria Cancun

2227 Gessner Road, Houston, TX 77080

One of the best Mexican restaurants in Spring Branch that isn’t overpriced. The staff is extremely friendly and attentive. Throughout the years, Taqueria Cancun has established itself as a favorite eatery for its consistent quality of food. You should definitely try their fajitas and shrimp tacos if you’re in the area. Besides the enchilada and quesadillas, they also have an al pastor super burrito for $10.95 that is popular with customers. 

New York Deli And Coffee Shop

9720 Hillcroft Street Houston, TX 77096 

This family-owned shop has been making and serving fresh New York-style bagels to its customers since 1981. The residents of the Houston area who regularly eat bagels at NY Deli claim that there is no difference in taste between the bagels that are produced in their store and the ones that are produced by the stores in the northeast. The establishment offers a breakfast special serving Monday through Friday for under $10, which draws a lot of people to the establishment. 

Frank’s Pizza

417 Travis Street, Houston, TX 77002

Since 1980, Frank’s has been offering hand-tossed pizzas that won’t disappoint your taste buds. It’s one of the must-go places for anyone new to Houston as well as a favorite pizzeria for many locals. Among the best pizzerias in Downtown Houston, this establishment stands out for its high-quality products served at a reasonable price, making it one of the top pizzerias in the city. The price per slice is only $3.50. If you’re wandering downtown and craving some American pizza, Frank’s is the place for you. 

Photo by Oh My Gogi

Oh my Gogi *

2504 Amherst Street, Houston, TX 77005

If you are thinking about trying Korean Mexican fusion cuisine in the Rice Village area, this food truck is an excellent choice. It was a common sight for people to queue up in throngs before the outbreak of the pandemic to taste their OMG fries or tacos. There is no doubt that the funky and creative combination will define its new eaters. “Korean taco,” or “kimchi quesadilla?” Do those names register with your energy? If yes, then give it a try. They may not be the best tacos in town, but they are a good choice when it comes to grab-and-go and hanging out with your friends that won’t put you on a financial guilt trip. 

Oishii *

3764 Richmond Avenue, Houston, TX 77046

During the happy hours – Monday through Friday, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (with the exception of Saturday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) you are eligible for buy-one-get-one-free promotion on their select appetizers, including a variety of sushi rolls. There is a price range of $1 to $2.5 per piece of fresh sashimi (raw fish on rice) and sushi available for those who enjoy those dishes. Although Oishii is perfect when it comes to food, there is one downside to it; it often gets crowded during lunch and it can be difficult to find parking spaces. 

Other recommended places: Hokkaido on Bellaire. 

Gyro Hut (Old Spanish Trail) *

2807 Old Spanish Trail, Houston, TX 77054

There’s nothing like a lamb gyro or falafel sandwich at Gyro Hut. Fresh ingredients and affordable prices are what set this place apart. Right here in Houston, you can get a whole platter of Mediterranean food for $8.99. While it’s not comparable to other full-service restaurants, this counter-serve shop checks all the boxes for hungry diners: tasty, affordable, and filling. 

Recommendation(s) for similar criteria: Ekko’s Greek American Deli on Richmond Avenue.

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