Cheap Eats 2009

159 places to chow for less

Bailouts, buyouts, bankruptcy. Americans are feeling flat broke. No better time, then, for us to launch our first-ever Cheap Eats guide, a directory of 104 places around the Inland Northwest where you can dine on a budget. 

Of course, there are a gazillion places to eat cheap around here, and we can only fit so many in one paper. To winnow our long list down, we dictated that restaurants had to provide lunch and/or breakfast for $8 or less — that is, that most items on their menus had to fit that bill. For dinner, the cut-off was $12. (Places like burger joints — where the menu's the same all day — were excused if their burger was over the limit at lunch but under at dinner.) We also left out national chains, while trying to offer geographical breadth and suggest a few places that maybe people hadn’t heard of.

Naturally, you’re going to find glaring omissions here. We’re OK with that. This is only our first Cheap Eats guide, and part of the point of this project was to stock the pantry at the new with restaurant information. In the coming weeks you’ll be able to find all this stuff in our searchable event application in the upper right-hand corner of each page on this site. For now, you can browse the listings alphabetically below, or by neighborhood, or by cuisine.

So if your favorite diner — or your own diner — doesn’t appear on our list this week, drop us an email with all the relevant info we’re providing here, and we’ll add it to our database.

In the meantime, bon appetit. Until the new president waves his magic wand and instantly heals the economy, we’ll be scrounging around our couch cushions looking for enough nickels and dimes for a Whammy at Dick’s. That’s change we can believe in.

— Joel Smith 




1724 N. Monroe St. • 327-4270 • Lunch, dinner daily (closes at 6 pm on weekends)
1220 W. Francis Ave. • 509-413-2029
The original on North Monroe is a classic hole-in-the-wall with one table, two chairs and a line out the door during lunch rush as loyal lovers of teriyaki queue for the daily infusion of meat, rice and sauce. The new place is easily twice as large and even has a drive-through, complete with espresso. The menu is simple: chicken or beef, mac salad or pea salad (Fridays), full plate or half (or rice bowls). Aloha also grills burgers and sandwiches, and the staff is frequently cheerful and chatty. (KT)
Try Kahlua pork, offered Wednesdays and Saturdays ($7.30/half plate)

7905 E. Trent Ave., Spokane Valley • 924-4304 • Lunch, dinner daily
Generic Mexican décor — bright walls in Southwestern hues, Corona Cinco de Mayo decorations year-round — and all the basic Tex-Mex staples. Everything comes with rice and beans (not just the combos) and most dishes come with choice of chicken, pork and shredded beef. Enchiladas and fajitas have vegetarian options. The place is cheaper than your average Mexican joint and has good gratis salsa, but lacks a lot of the extras (seriously, where’s the mole?) we’ve come to expect. (LB)
Try Fajitas ($10.25; veggie $9.25), chimichanga ($9.50), vegetarian enchilada ($8.50)

28 W. First St., Cheney • 235-6163 • Lunch, dinner Mon-Sat
Cheney’s center for Filipino cuisine is done up in cheery tropical colors (bright blue, lime green, sunflower yellow) with surprisingly urbane glass-and-metal tables. Specialties are the lumpia (Filipino eggrolls, $2.50) and pancit (stir-fried glass noodles with vegetables), but you can also get teriyaki, satay, potstickers and thoroughly American items like hamburgers. You can also get Asian-sensation Boba tea here. Most dinner entrées exceed our Cheap Eats limit, but lunch combos and appetizers fill the bill nicely. (AC)
Try Chicken teriyaki with noodles (pancit) and soda ($8 at lunch)

13032 W. 14th Ave. (Hwy. 2), Airway Heights • 244-3545 • Lunch, dinner daily
It’s easy to miss — or dismiss — Baek Chun along the Highway 2 strip, but that would be a mistake. Owner Charlie Yamamoto, who started in the sushi business back in the ’80s in Seattle, brings in top-notch seafood for his nigiri sushi, sashimi and sushi rolls. The Japanese bento dishes win for presentation and variety, while the Korean specialties (like bulgoki, the Korean barbecued meat) arrive still sizzling. The tempura, gyoza and seaweed salad all earn high marks. (AC)
Try Chicken teriyaki lunch combo ($7), pork bulgoki ($8 lunch/$11 dinner)

1325 S. Grand Blvd. • 838-8424 • Lunch, dinner daily
1003 E. Trent Ave. • 325-8370

With faux-elephants on watch, the desire to gorge here is uninhibited. Check the lunch specials, first, and Thailand will open up to you for less than an afternoon matinee. Pick two dishes — from Gang Massaman (curry) to Tom Kha Kai (soup) to Pad Thai (noodles) — and your table will also be graced with jasmine rice and a vegetable spring roll, all for $7.50. It’s a meal fit for Phrabat Somdej Phra Chao Yu Hua… er, the king of Thailand. (ND)
Try Tom Kha Kai ($10), Pad Pak ($10)

337 E. Main St., Pullman • 509-334-7663 • Lunch, dinner Sun-Thu
Basilio’s Italian Café offers a wide selection of fresh Italian dishes in a casual, self-order atmosphere. Light menu items include soups, salads and sandwiches with creative Italian flavors. Heartier appetites can enjoy traditional meals smothered in marinara, cheese and meatballs. (JB)
Try Parmesan Club ($7), Old World Lasagna ($8)

1426 S. Lincoln St. • 455-7411 • Lunch, dinner daily
9025 N. Indian Trail Rd. • 466-2790
The perfect crust: not too thick and not too thin. With 20 different toppings to choose from, you can build your own or pick one of their fancy favorites. This little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint serves gourmet pizza in a classy little Italian diner setting. Get an order of beer buddies (fried chunks of pizza dough with a dipping sauce) as an appetizer or on their own. (TLM)
Try Beer Buddies and small mixed green salad ($7.05), small Boogie Fever pizza and side salad ($14.95)

10015 N. Government Way, Hayden • 208-772-8399 • Breakfast daily, lunch Mon-Fri
Meals at the Blue Plate deliver a most pleasant kind of sticker shock: “That’s all?” The prices are cheap, the food is good and delivered fast, and the walls are covered with tchotchkes. What’s not to like? Well, sometimes there’s a long line — but it moves quickly. Breakfast covers the basics, and lunch (weekdays only) brings burgers and other hot sandwiches to the fore, but with a good selection of salads, too. (AC)
Try The 2-2-2 (two pancakes, two eggs, two bacon or links, $5), or the bacon cheeseburger ($5)

501 S. Main St., Moscow • 208-882-6481 • Breakfast, lunch daily
Breakfast Club offers a huge selection of home-style breakfast and lunch dishes served all day long. The restaurant is casual, family friendly and works to provide local ingredients. Local favorites include chicken fried steak and stuffed huckleberry French toast. (JB)
Try Stuffed biscuits and gravy ($8), Monte Cristo sandwich ($8.25)

122 S. Monroe St. • 835-4177 • Lunch, dinner daily
If you like sandwiches (and who doesn’t), then you’ll love this deli. With fresh bread and meats and a variety of home-style soups, what’s not to love? The quality beats the chains, and although prices are a little more than chain prices, this little sandwich shop’s the place to go for a deli-style lunch. The bread’s delicious: French, hearty wheat and Bavarian rye are only half the varieties. (TLM)
Try Grilled cheese on sourdough with a cup of tomato-parmesan soup ($7.30), the Gobbler ($5, half; $8, whole)

10406 N. Division • 468-8518 • Lunch, dinner daily
5422 N. Division • 489-4828
2804 E. 29th Ave. • 533-0935
10521 E. Sprague • 924-9877
415 N. Sullivan Rd. • 928-4060
14700 E. Indiana Ave. • 242-1129
2501 N. 4th St., CdA • 208-769-7922
101 E. Seltice Way, Post Falls • 208-777-0858

Bruchi’s offers cheesesteaks and subs, with the North Division branch (one of eight in the area) featuring wall-hung Whitworth memorabilia to gaze at while you wait. The absolute least expensive ways to fill up? Two 6-inch submarine sandwiches at $4 each: the Cuban (ham, salami, two cheeses) and the Veggie (featuring broccoli and zucchini). Service is sometimes grumpy, sometimes slow — but you get to watch the grilling right there in front of you. (MB)
Try Chicken Supreme cheesesteak ($8), Hawaiian sub ($7.69)

13735 Highway 53, Rathdrum • 208-687-5882 • Breakfast, lunch, dinner Tue-Sun
Vintage arcade games greet you at Burger Heaven, and the overhead menu has a bewildering array of choices — who knew there were so many ways to order a burger and fries? Single burgers, double burgers, triple burgers; burgers with cheese or grilled onions or bacon, burgers on bread, burgers in buns — wow. Nonconformists will find non-burger offerings as well, but it’s clearly all about the meat. And the add-ons, like shakes, malts, fries and onion rings. Ah, sweet, crispy onion rings! (AC)
Try Sourdough burger ($6), double bacon cheeseburger ($7)

522 W. Riverside Ave. • 455-6750 • Lunch, Mon-Fri (Dinner during summer hours)
You walk up to the counter, you order your quarter-pound hot dog with horseradish, mustard and sauerkraut ($3.50), and it’s a little slice of Brooklyn. (You’d hail a cab, if Spokane had any cabs.) At Cap’n Juicy’s. you got your Nathan’s Polish ($3), your Meatsa Pizza Dog ($3.50 for four kinds of meat), your New York Coney (with chili, cheddar and onions for $3.50). So whatsamatta with youse? Buy a bratwurst, take a load off, then move along. We got customers heah, ya know. (MB)
Try Salsa dog ($3.50), passion fruit smoothie ($3.30)

315 N. Ross Point Rd., Post Falls • 208-457-8020 • Lunch, dinner daily
751 N. 4th St., CdA • 208-676-1718
The Post Falls edition has risen from the ashes of last year’s arson fire with a brand-new space and plenty of sports memorabilia — much of it dedicated to Tom Capone’s favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. Breads (including pizza dough), soups, salad dressings and desserts (cheesecake!) are all made from scratch. You’ll find burgers, pizzas, hot sandwiches, and surprising appetizers like the swoon-worthy artichoke-garlic-cheese spread ($7). If Tom’s family-recipe lasagna is the daily special, don’t hesitate. (AC)
Try Half-pound burger ($7.50), or lasagna ($12)

1611 N. Mullan Rd., Spokane Valley • 921-2122 • Lunch, dinner daily
2820 E. 29th Ave. • 532-8266
4111 N. Division • 489-3630
This little chain plugs right into the paradigm of American-style Mexican restaurants heavy on combo platters and sauce-drowned enchiladas. And, if you are a gringo, you automatically get flour tortillas even when you ask for corn. Ask again, it’s worth it. Casa de Oro’s staff is genuinely friendly, and the place has cute touches. Your salsa arrives in a mini carafe, for instance. The menu is pushing it to be a cheap eat, with entrées around $8 for lunch, $11 to $14 dinner. (KT)
Try Pollo en Mole. It breaks over the cheap eat standard at $9.50 lunch, $14 dinner. And it’s Dona Maria from a jar. :-(  But it’s still densely flavorful.

2918 S. Grand Blvd. • 747-6474 • Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily
The interior here hasn’t changed in many years, but that just makes it comfortable and familiar for the many long-time regulars. The all-day breakfast choices are extensive, including corned beef hash, German sausage, chicken-fried steak, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy, and even eggs benedict. Sandwiches, burgers and soups fill in for lunch, and dinners will remind you of home, including turkey roasted in-house. Prices top out at $8.39 for a steak dinner. (AC)
Try Bacon omelet ($6.89), Alpine burger ($6.79), or the roast turkey dinner ($8)

513 First St., Cheney • 235-8943 • Breakfast, lunch, dinner Mon-Sat
Located along the main stretch in downtown Cheney, Cheney Delights is a family-owned business famous for its ice cream and slow-cooked meals. Kids and college students will especially enjoy playing Wii there, as well as the delicious comfort food. (AW)
Try Pulled pork sandwich ($6), Cotton Candy Gelato ($2.50)

1106 First St., Cheney • 235-6926 • Dinner, Tue-Sun
What would a college town be without some delicious, great-priced Chinese food? Chinese Gardens offers a large menu of different types of Chinese cuisine available for sit-down, take-out, or delivery. The ambience is made complete with classic red Chinese lanterns. (AW)
Try Chicken Lo Mein ($8.75), Lemon chicken ($8.40)

18203 E. Appleway Ave., Greenacres • 926-8422 • Lunch, dinner daily
It’s hard to imagine a more incongruous exterior for a Chinese restaurant than the red-barn façade that greets visitors here, but inside it’s all fresh, MSG-free Chinese favorites. The Garden lo mein is a savory blend of stir-fried vegetables and noodles, and the pan-fried wontons are addictive in their piquant sauce. The beef with broccoli features exquisitely tender beef slices with deep green broccoli florets and julienne carrots. And the fried tofu will convince even a tofu skeptic. (AC)
Try The garden lo mein lunch combo ($7.25), or vegetables with fried tofu ($9.50)

11808 E. Sprague, Spokane Valley • 921-0107 • Lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat
414 1/2 W. Sprague • 838-5071
Bob Hemphill’s got sauce, and he’s not afraid to use it. That is, family-recipe barbecue sauce slathered on half a roasted chicken or coating some tender marinated ribs. This Southern-style cook originates from Texas and serves daily a down-home grill with all the fixins including crispy chicken, pulled pork, breaded catfish and collard greens. Finish this giant meal with a your own personal sweet potato pie. Also downtown, at the original Chicken-n-More on Sprague. (TLM)
Try Beef brisket sandwich ($6.49)

823 Main St., Sandpoint • 208-263-0178 • Breakfast, lunch, dinner Mon-Fri
You can’t get much more down-to-earth than this place. The food is organic and fresh, some of it grown out back in the garden. With its adjacent bookstore, rotating art displays, and mellow vibe, Common Knowledge feeds body, mind and soul with breakfast and lunch mostly under $7, chock-full of veggies with many lactose- and wheat-free options. They also have lots of esoteric teas, Doma organic espressos, and healthful elixirs and juices. (CS)
Try Breakfast taco grande with bean blend and other veggies on brown rice tortilla ($7), esto veggie pizza on pita ($5.75)

215 E. Main St., Pullman • 509-332-2244 • Lunch Tue-Sat, dinner Thu-Sat
Cooky’s European Deli makes its entire selection of traditional European recipes from scratch. The quaint deli prides itself on high-quality food, serving hormone-free deli meat with homegrown or farmer’s market vegetables and fruits. The lunch and dinner menu changes monthly and seasonally. (JB)
Try Schnitzel Sandwich ($8, lunch only), Pierogi Platter ($11.50)

1810 Second St., Cheney • 559-5422 • Lunch, dinner daily; no take-out Sun
Corona Village is ideal for EWU college students or for those who are just constantly on the go. They let you eat in or get take-out and serve authentic Mexican food for great prices, grilling it up right before your eyes and offering a nice complement of hot sauces. (AW)
Try Mango enchiladas ($7.25), Tortilla soup ($4.25)

6902 E. Appleway Blvd., Spokane Valley • 928-8888 • Breakfast, lunch daily
If various incarnations of eggs and pastries aren’t what you’re looking for, even for breakfast, a full lunch menu is served alongside their many breakfast dishes. Everything on the menu is fresh and made from scratch, including the Cottage’s New England clam chowder (served only on Fridays). (MCP)
Try Two biscuits with sausage gravy ($6), Classic Cheese Burger with cottage fries ($8)

760 N. Grand Ave., Pullman • 509-332-7829 • Lunch, dinner daily
Cougar Country is Pullman’s favorite local burger joint, offering homemade burgers, French fries and ice cream. If a burger’s not what you’re looking for, try their fish and chips, chicken or sandwiches. The dessert menu is the largest in town, featuring hand-dipped ice cream cones, malts and shakes. (JB)
Try Cougar Special ($5.50), Cougar Super Basket ($7)

1625 N. Division • 323-7130 • Lunch, dinner daily
River Park Square • 624-1495
Spokane’s version of In and Out Burger features a menu consisting of burgers, fries, daily soups, a couple of sandwiches, milkshakes and sodas. What more do you need anyway? This was the first place I went to after a decade of vegetarianism, and I never looked back. They also have a location in River Park Square. (TLM)
Try D-Lish Double Meal ($7.01), burger, fries, milkshake ($7.50)

12124 E. Sprague, Spokane Valley • 926-9640 • Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily
This place isn’t fancified: wood-panel walls, big TVs, old diner chairs in a nondescript building that’s easy to miss. And the service, well, it’s direct and to the point. But food is good, portions are large and prices are dirt cheap ($8.99 for 8-oz. steak, fries and salad). It’s also conveniently located next to Peace of Mind tobacco shop. (JF)
Try Bacon cheeseburger ($6.49), French dip ($7.49)

829 E. Boone Ave. • 483-7460 • Lunch, dinner daily
Now that’s a deal. Slices anytime of day, priced well below three bones. But then, between 2 pm and 5 pm, cheese slices drop to just $1.50. Now that’s a deal. But wait! All day, for just $2.50, you can mow on a slice of cheese and guzzle a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Now that’s a deal. Don’t be stupid. Go to David’s. Eat ‘za. And if you’re in a party, stuff your pie holes with an entire pizza and split the damage. (ND)
Try Cheese-PBR special ($2.50), Pesto a la David ($18, big enough for more than one of ya)

102 E. Francis Ave. • 483-3033 • Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily
825 W. Riverside Ave. • 747-2085
This is where the revolution started, where Spokane was dragged away from cheese-smothered whatevers, stood up and shot full of all the nuance and seasoning of proper Mexican food. It’s a grocery where you can buy piñatas and produce. It’s a tortilla factory, a bakery, a meat counter with menudo! And then the deli: Mmmm. Just like the new one downtown, it carries an array of seasoned meats simmering in sauces to fill tacos, enchiladas, burritos. The pork chile verde with cactus bits you will try again and again. (KT)
Try Aguas frescas. The juiced cantelope (melon) or watermelon (sandia) are refreshing ($3 large).

10 E. Third Ave. • 747-2481 • Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily
Dick’s is justly famous for its simple, cheap, delicious burgers, but too little attention is paid to the rest of the stuff on those elegant, retro menu board. Maybe that’s because the glaring lights beneath the eaves blind nighttime visitors, but diners should take note: Dick’s isn’t just Whammys. It’s hot pies and personal pizza, fish and chips, ice cream sandwiches and golden-fried chicken. (The 20-piece pail is their most expensive item, at $20.65.) All available for cold hard cash. (JS) 
Try Whammy burger ($1.69), and then everything else

1332 N. Liberty Lake Rd., Liberty Lake • 921-1901 • Lunch, dinner daily
It’s located in a strip mall, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s clean, colorfully decorated and well lit. And the menu spans most of Asia from Chinese, Korean and Thai to Japanese selections (including sushi). The staff is helpful and is more than willing to recommend wine pairings for your meal. Think casual but classy. The only drawback during our visit was Michael Bolton playing in the background. (JF)
Try Chicken pad Thai ($6.50, lunch), Kung Pao chicken ($9.95)

2152 N. Hamilton St. • 487-9003 • Breakfast, lunch Mon-Fri
You know their heavenly maple bars and crusty old-fashioned cake donuts, but did you know you can get lunch here, too? There’s always chili and soup ($1.25/$2), plus hot dogs ($1.25) and ham or turkey sandwiches ($2.75). You can get a loaded chili dog with coffee and a donut, and still get change back from your $5 bill. Sit at the counter with the flannel-clad regulars, or watch the action from a window booth. Eventually, all of Spokane passes through the Donut Parade. (AC)
Try Chili dog with onions and cheese ($2.15)

212 Cedar St., Sandpoint • 208-263-4005 • Lunch, dinner daily
Pub grub can sometimes be a crapshoot but at Eichardt’s Pub & Grill, food is as much a reason to plunk yourself down at the old wooden bar as Thursday night’s $1 pints or Friday live-music jams. There’s plenty to look at — pictures of old Sandpoint, keg handles hanging like stalactites from the ceiling, the batch of Pez dispensers behind the bar — while you wait for your burgers, focaccia pizza, or appetizers like garlic and herb fries ($4.50). And plenty to do — darts, pool, table-top shuffleboard — while you’re enjoying one of several dozen microbrews. (CS)
Try Smoked salmon penne ($12), Oriental stir-fry ($8)

3207 E. Sprague • 534-3112 • Lunch, dinner Mon-Sat
El Gallo Giro has upgraded from its old location in a gas station across from Fred Meyer on Thor. Not necessarily in terms of its newish East Sprague location, but in its spacious dining room, with a full bar and big-screen TV (for UFC fights). The menu’s filled out a little, too, with burritos, enchiladas, seafood, meat and a ton of combo meals — almost everything (beef dishes are borderline) under $12. All the while, it’s kept the warm Martinez family hospitality that made it such a pleasure to visit before. (JS)
Try Mole burrito ($9.95)

20 Simpson Pkwy., Cheney •  235-9988 • Lunch, dinner daily
El Sol de Mexico is perfect for those who love giant plates of authentic Mexican food. There’s a great atmosphere, lots of seating, and some of the best and friendliest service you can find. Take-out is available for those who don’t have time to sit; warm chips and salsa are available for those who do. (AW)
Try Flautas ($7.50), banana margarita ($5)

1931 W. Pacific Ave. • 363-1973

11618 E. Sprague, Spokane Valley • 922-5052 • Lunch, dinner daily
It’s all about chicken wings and beer — not a bad combination. The place is decked out with chrome, firefighting gear and beer taps, giving it the feel of some very manly playhouse. The wings are tasty; start with Code 3 spice level or lower before considering Code Red (“the widow maker”). (JF)
Try 6 Pack ($5.69), Smokey BBQ burger ($8.89)

1902 W. Francis Ave. • 326-5758 • Lunch, dinner Mon-Fri
It’s said that the word “go-go” comes from the French “à gogo,” meaning “in abundance.” That’s fitting for this Five Mile California-style joint, where the burritos (including specialities like the Thai, teriyaki and Tijuana) burst from the weight of their delicious innards. Fitting, too, in that “go-go” recalls go-go dancers, and this place seems to be staffed entirely by attractive young women, a fact surely not overlooked by those picking up their hefty meals at the drive-thru window. Go (go) see for yourself. (JS) 
Try The Big Mack Daddy ($9)

14683 W. Hwy 53, Rathdrum • 208-255-3759 • Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily
This family diner’s a great place to take a break from the road. Traveling through to get to some hidden lake and go fishing — or, better yet, going to Silverwood — Granny’s Pantry offers a wide variety of home-style dishes that bring you back to home, even when far away. The omelets are fluffed to perfection, and the hefty selection of burgers and sandwiches will satisfy everyone from the meat-loving Mikes to the persnickety Prudences. (TLM)
Try Reuben ($6.75), Monte Cristo ($8.95)

2530 E. 29th Ave. • 535-1146 • Breakfast, lunch daily
Great bread is one key to a great sandwich. At Great Harvest, you can get deli sandwiches on your choice of bread ($5, half; $7, whole), signature sandwiches like the California Club (turkey, bacon, cream cheese and avocado) and the Firecracker Philly (roast beef, melted cheddar with horseradish sauce), and a variety of quiches and soups. They also offer a different hot panini and a featured sandwich daily. And cookies start at $1.25. Also in Liberty Lake. (AC)
Try Bacon-cheddar-chive quiche with a honey-wheat roll ($4.50), or the chicken salad croissant special ($7)

2911 E. 57th Ave. • 448-5707 • Lunch, dinner daily
Hangar 57 is an aviation-themed sports bar with an enormous martini selection on the deep South Hill. It’s a weird combo, but it works. It’s definitely sporty — with beer pong and a big screen for big games — but everywhere there are upscale, gourmet touches. Of particular interest to the cheap eater should be the Hangar’s personal pizzas (El Taco, Philly Cheese Steak, Zucchini and Prosciutto) and stripped-down, Chicago-style grinders (“It’s meat, it’s cheese, it&r

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About The Authors

Joel Smith

Joel Smith is the media editor for The Inlander. In that position, he manages and directs and edits all copy for the website, the newspaper and all other special publications. A former staff writer, he has reported on local and state politics, the environment, urban development and culture, Spokane's...