Cheap Eats

Let’s make this simple. What state can compare to New Jersey when it comes to culinary variety? How many choices are we given when that lunch whistle blows and the executive assistants, factory workers and police officers stream into cafes and diners and hot dog wagons for those few precious minutes of afternoon nourishment? And we’re doing it all on a budget. New Jerseyans are just as conscious of their finances as the rest of the nation, even if we do get to save a few bucks here and there because we have the lowest gas prices in the entire United States! So where do we go? How much do we spend? Well folks, how do you like these apples…?

Bread Board Plus
32 sandwiches and subs. Half a dozen daily soups. And two words – Tater Tots.
All between $4.20 and $9.95.

Church’s Kitchen
Owners Leroy and Judy Church fry every piece of chicken to order and serve them up with soulful sides of collards, black-eyed peas, string beans and mac and cheese.
Good ribs too. All under $10.

Red Sky Café
Select fillings for your burrito, taco or quesadilla ($7.97) from four proteins, nine grains, beans, veggies and various toppings. At dinner, feast on fat enchiladas and chimichangas with rice, black beans, chili sauce, cheese, guacamole and sour cream for $14.95

West Side Gravy
Alex Capasso, who has cooked at James Beard House in New York, charges $7 for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But what a sandwich. He makes his own peanut-and-cashew butter, spreads it on warm brioche with mixed-berry jam and serves it with a side of dried cranberry, gorgonzola and walnut salad. I’m all in.

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ
Opened in October, this first NJ outpost of a New York City mini-chain offers an $18.50 sampler: 1/4-barbecued chicken, three smoked ribs, two sides, cornbread and pickles. Drinks are served in 16-ounce Mason jars. You should have no problem bellying up to the bar. It’s 45 feet long.

Arthur’s Tavern
The dangling plastic liquor bottles and the red-striped awning over the bar give off garish cheer; so does the happy crowd. Settle in with the ever-reliable $5.99 burger—add American, Swiss, cheddar or mozzarella for 75 cents, pepper jack or bleu for 95 cents—top with a $1.99 side of sautéed onions, and the hubbub becomes background.

Rocky Hill Inn
Chef/owner Evan Blomgren delivers a meal masquerading as a burger—a mix of strip steak, short rib and pancetta topped with cheddar, grilled onions, applewood-smoked bacon and a sunnyside-up egg on a brioche bun. At $9, his decadent mac and cheese with the same bacon plus Maytag blue cheese defines bang-for-the-buck. All that, plus 17 beers on tap.

And last but not at all least…


Hot Dog Tommy’s
Tom Snyder is the funny guy in the hot-dog hat. His wife, Mary, makes the frisky fixins, like the chili for the Chili Cheese Dog with shredded cheddar ($3.75) and the cranberry cole slaw for the Jersey Slaw Dog ($3.40). Those prices are for the BAD puppy—the Black Angus Dog, all-beef and larger than their beef/pork weiner.

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