Eat Cheap, But Well
The Fruit Lady Cart The fruit lady is the opposite of Wawa. There’s no impersonal screen to touch, just her smiling face and the sweet smell of fresh-cut pineapple in the air. Smile back and say “Large” ($4) or “Small” ($3). But it’s worth saying, instead, “A large with no oranges or grapes and extra honeydew, please,” and she’ll make it up to-order for you right there — a mountain of impeccably fresh strawberries and melon (and more), topped off with a gratis banana. 18th and Chestnut streets.
Giwa Little, modern, and ripe for duplicating, this businessperson’s standby will happily pack up a hearty seafood pancake ($8.50) and a bottle of homemade hot sauce ($4.95) to take back to the office. Still, what you really ought to do is eat in, so you can dive into a stone bowl of dol sot bibimbap ($9.50 to $11.50 at lunchtime) — a sizzling, self-spiced salad wherein all the ingredients get crispy and the rice forms a lip-smackingly tasty crust. 1608 Sansom Street, 215-557-9830.
Mama’s Vegetarian The lunchtime lines at Mama’s are legendary. But they move fast, and it’s all worth it once you dig into Mama’s Platter — an oversize $8 helping of hummus and tahini, cucumbers, tomatoes and slaw, pita, and eight balls of the beloved falafel. Or our favorite, the special $6 avocado sandwich. (Get it “spicy.”) Add the BOP-winning fries and a soda for just $2.50 more. 18 South 20th Street, 215-751-0477, mamasvegetarian.com.
Mémé’s fried chicken Three, make that four, words: fried chicken, biscuit, beer. For $11. For lunch on Thursdays only. See you there. 2201 Spruce Street, 215-735-4900, memerestaurant.com.
Oyster House happy hours Shellfish rarely goes on sale (and do you even want it to?), but this seafood spot’s Monday-through-Friday buck-a-shuck happy hour ($1 select oysters, $3 select draft beer, from 5 to 7 p.m.) is a great way to get your mollusk fix. Even better: They offer the same deal on Saturday nights — the elusive weekend happy hour! — from 9 to 11 p.m. 1516 Sansom Street, 215-567-7683, oysterhousephilly.com.
Rachael’s Nosheri Less shiny than the competing Famous Fourth Street’s 19th Street outpost, this stalwart Rittenhouse deli has nonetheless maintained its following, thanks to snappy cafeteria-style service, cure-all chicken noodle soup ($3.50), a delightfully sloppy turkey Reuben ($7.50), and sweet Rachael herself, posted at the end of the counter to collect on your modest bill and remind you to help yourself to the free pickled tomatoes. 120 South 19th Street, 215-568-9565, rachaelsnosheri.com.
Snow White A fried egg sandwich for $1.50. A $2.70 Texas Tommy, just like Mom used to make. A shiny counter to sit at and watch while the busy cooks and busier waitresses dish up sammies: Taylor pork roll and cheese ($2.75), egg salad mashed up before your eyes ($2.75), a respectable cheesesteak ($3.35) accompanied by too-hot-to-eat, fresh-from-the-fryer fries ($1.60). Don’t miss the real, honest-to-goodness milkshakes ($3) poured from a silver shaker. 1901 Chestnut Street, 215-569-0909.
Su Xing House Vegetarian spot Su Xing is exactly like your favorite neighborhood Chinese joint (or maybe it is your neighborhood Chinese joint!), only here, your General Tso chicken is General Tso tofu. You don’t miss the meat — sauces are plenty rich and flavorful. Lunch specials offer Brobdingnagian portions of your choice of 38 entrées (kung pao tofu is delish), plus a pint of soup and a side dish, for $6.50 to $8.25. 1508 Sansom Street, 215-564-1419, suxinghouse.com.
Vic Sushi “Cheap” and “sushi” aren’t usually two words you want paired, but this tiny BYO is an exception. The friendly staff masterfully presents everything made-to-order, most notably the $10.95 three-roll special (think shrimp tempura, spicy salmon, Philly rolls). This spot only sits about eight people (and not comfortably) at one short bar counter, so get yours to go. 2035 Sansom Street, 215-564-4339, vic-sushi.com.