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Issue Date: May 2009

Silver Spoons: Cheap Eats

When you’re hungry enough, the West Side Market’s iconic clock tower resembles a tasty baguette reaching toward the sky. (Come on, work with us on this. We were famished.) If you don’t buy that, maybe you haven’t checked out the wealth of fresh breads on sale here, especially on Saturdays. You’ll find bakery stands filled with creations that would make even the most mundane turkey sandwich memorable.
Melt Bar and Grilled
On a strict $5 budget per person, you’re left with just a handful of choices. While the appetizers are reasonably priced ($5 will get you fried tofu), we needed a full meal. So we turned to Melt’s signature sandwiches. The simplest — a classic, grilled bread-and-cheese combo called The Kindergarten — is also the cheapest at $5. And that fiver goes a long way: havarti cheese, two slices of thick bread, a mound of french fries and a side of coleslaw. My friend had to take half the sandwich home in a doggy bag.A more figure-friendly, inexpensive option is a side salad for $3 and a cup of the soup of the day (stuffed pepper when we visited), which rings in at $2. It’s more filling than it sounds. The side salad was piled high with spring greens, julienned red peppers and a liberal sprinkling of blue cheese. The soup, served with Goldfish crackers, ate like a stew.

Got some extra change? There are plenty of waysone person can enjoy a grilled cheese specialty for under $10, with a variety of toppings from eggs and bacon to peanut butter and bananas.
Tommy’s Restaurant
You could go the easy low-dough route at Tommy’s with a plain burger or cheese sandwich, but this restaurant’s menu doesn’t deliver as much filler as you might hope. A first glance down the right side of the menu proves there are plenty of items under $5. But read the fine print and you’ll find that everything here comes a la carte. (Sorry, no free side of chips or sandwich platters here.) So my dining buddy and I opted to split two dishes in hopes of better filling our tummies. In a kitchen best known for a large offering of healthy vegetarian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, we figured a generously portioned spinach, onion and cheese pie for $5.69 would be big enough to split, and I knew from previous visits that a side order of fries for $3.39 is so large you’d be crazy not to share. The extra-cheesy pie proved large enough to divide, and the ample side of fries was perfectly crisped and not too greasy.

Got some extra change? Round off your meal with one of Tommy’s signature milkshakes. They cost nearly as much as the veggie pies, but they’re worth every penny.

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