October is the fourth-annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2010."
This past week I did something that made my bottom lip stick out in the most dramatic of pouts. There may have also been an audible whimper. Or two.
I cashed in my piggy bank's guts. All $24.98 of it.
Seeing as I'm still the punch line in the broke joke, I needed to stretch those $24 like Gumby in Bikram yoga. And I was a hungry, hungry hippo.
To say I love food with a capital "L" is an understatement of a ridiculous magnitude. I looooooove food. I love to cook it, I love to watch other people cook it, but most of all, I simply want it in mah belleah.
So what's a hungry hippo to do with a budget as scrawny as mine? I suppose I could hole up at home with some ramen noodles cooked in Ketel One with a side of sad. Or I could remember this is Milwaukee ... where frugal meets foodie.
That's right, folks. I'm back with my monetary woes and my pocketbook-pleasing whoas. Don't worry, taste buds. We got this.
Ladies and gents, allow me to present to you the Penny Pinching Piggy list.
The Gyros Stand
1110 E. Oklahoma Ave., (414) 747-1103
I have a problem with gyros. Always have and always will. It may have a bit to do with the trembling nightmares I have in the middle of the night of a cylindrical slab of meat spinning oh-so-slowly. Or something like that. However, I have heard they are delicious and wonderful and full of yum. Lucky for you, The Gyros Stand has just that: dreamy gyros. But lucky for me, they also about 5,292 additional items on the menu. And lucky for the financially challenged portion of us, most of those items are under 10 bucks and the portions will last you two meals at least. Oνειρική!
1241 N. Water St., (414) 221-9999
Too bad I'm not a squirrel. If I was, I could hang out at one of my favorite places, AJ Bombers, and never have to pay for food. You see, everyone at Bombers gets free peanuts by the flying bomb full. Then you chuck the shells on the floor and smile knowing you don't have to clean up the mess. Hmmm ... I'll have to ask Joe, the owner, what his policy is on squirrels. Anyhoo, for those of us without bushy tails, Bombers offers up some of the best burgers in the country. Which you would think is expensive, but nope! Their prices are so reasonable they're downright nutty! With prices such as $4.50 for a cheeseburger and $2 for a (super-sized) small portion of onion strings, you won't have to swipe any of those free peanuts to bury for a wintry day. Unless, you know, you're into that sort of thing.
Speed Queen BBQ
1130 W. Walnut St., (414) 265-2900
When your piggy bank is in rehab for an eating disorder, nothing warms your broke-ass soul like home cooking. It reminds you of the simpler days when your biggest worry was what oversized Adidas sweatshirt to pair with your new purple Chuck Taylor's and holographic snap bracelet. Adult You can now find mom's home cooking at a kitchen on Walnut street. Speed Queen BBQ offers up comfort food like pork shoulder, ribs, mac n' cheese, and turkey, and carries you back to simpler times. They even have budget meals, which include a sandwich and a side for under $5. It's like a hug from 1997 smothered in BBQ sauce!
1820 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 390-0570
Brokebutts like me aren't allowed to travel. I'm pretty sure the Penny Pinching Police would arrest me if I went anywhere near Travelocity.com. When I'm itching for a taste of the exotic to sooth my traveling itches, I turn to Chopstix. I place my order online, choosing from the zillion lunch and dinner specials which are all under 8 buck-a-roos (and include rice and a egg roll or crab rangoon!), and flip off the Penny Pinching Po-po from the privacy of my couch. Travel Channel has me covered until my curry chicken or sesame tofu are delivered right to my door. The portions are big enough that I can take another daydream vacation the next day.
714 E. Brady St., (414) 226-9999
I have worshipped at the temple of Zayna for years. In the church of Nom-nom-nom, Zayna is king. Zayna doesn't just preach the word of YUM, but also frugality. They have a perpetual coupon menu which can be found on their Web site. My favorite item off of that money-saving menu is the large supreme pizza for $15.99. It has everything a pizza needs to slip you into a Mmmmmmm, coma. I also can't place a call to Zayna's without ordering their wings (10 ginormous wings for $7.99). I get them plain with hot sauce and ranch on the side. Trust me on this one, wing lovahs. Hallelujah and amen.
Bel Air Cantina
1935 N. Water St., (414)226-2245
In the Brew City thesaurus, when one looks up "cheap Mexican food," there is a picture of Jose Conejito next to it. And that's muy bien. However, there's a new kid in town, he's from California by way of Brady Street and he's muy impresionante. For your belly and your wallet, Bel Air Cantina is here to say "hola." Offering up everything from drunken pinto beans (for $1.50 ... whuuuuut???) to pollo Yucatan taco (for $2.57 each ... order three and they'll toss in rice and beans for free), this new kid is pretty darn cool. Did I mention the burritos the size of a Chihuahua? Yup, there's also that.
Jake's Big Dog
2597 N. Downer Ave., (414) 810-0331
Speaking of dogs, here's a hot one. Jake's Big Dog is all about its bite. Featuring hot dogs drowning in Thousand Island dressing, cheese, and shredded lettuce and cozied up with guacamole and fresh cilantro, this is not your every-day hot dog stand. This dog's got some swagger! Jake's proves you can teach an old (hot) dog new tricks and your wallet will also be wagging its tail. With each dog priced at under $4 and a whole slew of ice cream treats for under $5.50, there's no need to beg. Or chew on the furniture.
2308 W. Wisconsin Ave., (414) 345-5015
Hello. My name is Sara and I am a brunchaholic. That's right. Nothing will get between this girl and a good brunch. NOTHING. Not rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor lack of funds. Thank goodness I discovered Envoy at the Ambassador Hotel. The shakes and sweats from the brunchy withdrawal were getting a little embarrassing. Envoy is not only the cure to what ails me, it's my new vice. For $13.95 (kidlets are only $8.95) you can eat 'til your belly says "uncle" as you can order unlimited selections from their small plate brunch menu. Yes. I said "unlimited." High five!
Dave & Busters
2201 N. Mayfair Rd., (414) 454-0100
The other day I was watching re-runs of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians," wondering what sort of horrible thing I must have done in a former life to not have been born a Kardashian sister, when a commercial came on, distracting me from this deepest of thoughts. It was for Dave & Busters and not only was it advertising lots of fun and games, but yums as well. For practically free. Perhaps I wasn't a total 'yatch in a former life after all! Dave & Busters is offering an "Eat & Play" combo where for $15.99 you get your choice of delicious dinners and a $10 game card (available Sunday-Thursday, open to close; Friday and Saturday until 5 p.m.). Like totally awesome! Now where's the driver of my Rolls-Royce Phantom to take me to my laser hair removal? Oh. Yeah. Dang.
Let's face it. Sometimes I still want to roll like a Kardashian on my itty-bitty Conrad budget. Some days I just don't feel like discounting it down or hot-dogging it up. On those days, I pull on my fanciest of jeans (from, ahem, Tar-jay), tie up my cleanest pair of Chuck's and log into Restaurant.com. There I can find all my favorite haunts offering up amazing "gift certificates" for mere Monopoly moolah. It's where dreams come true ... in foodie fantasyland. For an even more magical experience Google around the interwebs for Restaurant.com coupon codes first. You'll be hair flipping and eyelash waving in no time.
To say Sara is a woman of many hats would be like saying sour gummy worms are delicious: an epic understatement. Besides blogging, vlogging, tweeting and designing, she is a gal about town. Hopping, skipping and jumping all over this fair city to seek out the latest and greatest.
Since moving to Milwaukee right after high school, Sara's ADD has led her to reside in nearly every ZIP code Milwaukee has to offer. She recently moved from the Third Ward to Shorewood, and though the quieter scene isn't sucking, she vows to prove the burbs' swagger is right up there with the city's.
The Milwaukee area is one of many hats. And Sara's determined to try on each and every one of 'em.