Budget Friendly Lunch Spots
Kairos: Kairos was one of my favorite restaurant openings of 2017 and I would say in my lunch rotation at least once a week (it doesn’t hurt that it’s located in the same shopping center as Nordstrom Rack). Kairo’s is similar in concept to Chipotle allowing the diner to build their own bowl, salad or pita. Their protein options include chicken, lamb, meatballs and falafel. Their topping offerings are pretty extensive with a ton of vegetable options, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, and a plethora or spreads like hummus, harissa, tzatziki and dressings. With so many options, you can literally have a different meal every day. My personal ‘go to’ order is a bowl with half spinach and rice, chicken, every vegetable available (annoying I know), fat-free yogurt and Greek dressing with a side of harissa and red pepper feta. All of the options are under ten dollars, with the exception of the lamb being around 11. Despite having gone a million times, I only recently discovered an obsession with their fries. They’re cut really thin, so they really crisp up and are fried to order so they are never soggy. I usually get them with just sea salt, but there is also the option to add feta and Greek vinaigrette. The fry portion is HUGE (easily shareable) and only 2 dollars (3 with feta and Greek vinaigrette).
D’Allesandros: D’Al’s Pizza is right around the corner from our office so it is definitely a favorite for a quick and low priced lunch. Their pizzas come in three sizes, 10”, 12” and 16” with almost all of their 10” pizzas being 10 dollars or less and their 16” being in the range of 17-23 dollars. During lunch, they also have some great lunch combo options. Despite being super affordable it’s easy to tell the ingredients they use are really high quality and they do NOT skimp on toppings. They also have some really unique specialty pizza options such as the Beetnick with goat cheese, beets, bacon and rosemary and quite a few vegetarian and even a vegan options (which is very rare for pizza joints). I am also a huge fan of their calzones (from 7 dollars up depending on the number of fillings) and always get two meals out of them.
Bon Banh Mi: Banh Mi’s are Vietnamese sub sandwiches, made on French baguette-like bread, traditionally filled with a ton of herbs, pickled vegetables and variety of meats. They’re one of my favorite types of sandwiches, so I was really excited when I moved back to Charleston to discover a place called Bon Bahn Mi. BBM takes the traditional Banh Mi and allows the diner to have it in the form of a sandwich, salad or even tacos, which I think is a fun twist. The original location downtown has five fillings options their signature filling, Five Spice Pork, Ginger Lemongrass Chicken, Red Curry Beef, Five Spiced Tofu, Egg and Canadian Bacon, and traditional Banh Mi filling Pate and Vietnamese Ham. Their recently opened Mt. Pleasant location also has the option of Tamarind Shrimp as a filling (available as a special on Wednesday Downtown). I have tried almost all the options and find them all to be extremely flavorful and cooked to perfection. My favorite is their signature Five Spice Pork just because I think pork really lends itself to the flavor combinations of Banh Mi’s. The bread is really the most crucial part of this sandwich, and I have to say that they do an excellent job because it is the perfect bread to filling ratio. All sandwiches and salads are under 10 dollars (with the exception of the Tamarind Shrimp at $10.50) and tacos are around 4 dollars, making this an extremely affordable meal. They also have a number of options of sides for 2 dollars or less, including pickles on their own (which I love). When I order their lunch combos, 1 sandwich/salad + 1 side + 1 beverage (I love their Vietnamese coffee) I can have lunch and coffee for under $15 dollars and usually have some leftovers because their portion sizes are quite large.
Ichiban: Ichiban is located in the Whole Food’s plaza and another go to spot for a budget friendly and a quick lunch option. The restaurant does hibachi style entrees, without the show, so you can fill yourself on fried rice and white sauce for much less than a traditional hibachi restaurant. Their menu is pretty standard with protein options like teriyaki chicken, steak, scallops and shrimp (or combinations of these) with a side of fried rice and vegetables. They also have a spicy teriyaki chicken which is my go to order because it tones down the sweetness of the teriyaki sauce. I actually really like their vegetable mix because they add shredded cabbage which gives it a nice crunch, I also really appreciate that they allow you to choose to add extra vegetables for less rice (or in place of rice all together) for no extra cost. Their spicy chicken entrée comes with chicken, rice, vegetables plus a salad for only 9 dollars. As with the other choices on this list, affordable does not mean low quality, Ichiban clearly takes great care with their food, their ginger salad dressing is one of my favorites in town and they’re gyoza (dumpling) appetizers are made in house and extra crispy (aka delicious) because they are cooked on the grill top.
I can’t wait to visit Mozzo Deli’s new location downtown and can tell it will quickly be another frequented lunch spot. I did not want to write a full post on it because I have only eaten there once, so I cannot say much about their menu, but I have never heard a bad thing about the deli and a quick glance at the menu shows that nothing is over 10 dollars.