An investment of $7.50 buys one of our favorite feasts—a fried half chicken at Al Aseel Grill & Café. The juicy, sumac-dusted bird is moist inside and eminently crisp outside, but that’s just the beginning. It comes with earthy rice, tangy cucumber-tomato salad, freshly baked pita, piquant garlic sauce and spicy pepper dip. You might even have leftovers.
During the hot summer months, we like to mix and match the $5 cichetti freddi (cold little dishes) for dinner at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino. Vegetarians especially will find much to enjoy among the plates of garlicky ratatouille, pan-roasted mushrooms and artichokes, or the house-favorite roasted beets with Pure Luck Farm goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts.
There’s carbo-loading, and then there’s pupusa loading. Pupusa Buffet has two locations in Gulfton (7909 Hillcroft St., 713-272-6666; 5920 Bellaire Blvd., 713-218-6666), both of which allow guests to binge on six varieties of the filled Salvadoran corn cakes for a single price, $7.86. We’re especially fond of the stretchy cheese and soft strings of squash in the ayote version.
Entrées for two at old-school Tex-Mex joint Fajita Flats (2929 Fondren Rd., 713-789-3338; 11853 Wilcrest Dr., 281-498-6565) will easily feed three, whether you order the juicy pork chops ($9.49), baked shrimp stuffed with crabmeat ($13.49) or grilled quail ($12.95)—all served with ample portions of rice, beans and guacamole.