Sometimes you have nothing left for lunch after filling little Asheleighanne’s bento box with turkey pinwheels and bite-sized fruit skewers. Nothing but a value-sized jar of peanut butter and shame. Okay that part is actually just us, but you too deserve better — without spending half your weekly grocery budget on one meal. Here are our picks, all under $15.
1. Vietnamese Pho Bo. Beef soup for your soul. Our taste tester was too busy chopsticking it into her face to care which part of the cow it came from. There will be some assembly required after takeout, so you can add as much or as little lime juice and spicy chili sauce (included) as you want. Get it for $12 at The Block, the place that can also sell you chicken nuggets or a Hawaiian pizza, in Southern Pines.
2. Le Popeye. Did you skip breakfast and now it’s 1:30? This is the answer to all of your problems. Feel weekday fancy eating your bacon and eggs with mushrooms and spinach all wrapped up in a delicate crepe and topped off with the perfect amount of creamy garlic sauce. You’ll never want another drive-through biscuit again. Get it for $9 at Betsy’s Crepes in downtown Southern Pines.
3. The Wally. We prefer to call it an inside-out veggie pizza. Meaty portabella mushrooms, melty Provolone cheese, tomatoes, onions and pesto sauce ensconced between pizza crusts. Said crusts even come in low-carb and gluten-free varieties. This is definitely not your typical gas station sandwich. Trust us. Find it for $8.25 at Wedgie’s next to Pinecrest Plaza.
4. BLT with Avocado. How can anything so self-explanatory be so right? This sandwich elevates the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato with spring mix — not a leaf of iceberg in sight — and avocado. It comes with just a touch of mayonnaise on lightly toasted sourdough. And at just $7, it’s not like it’s going to cut into your 295th student loan payment. Find it at Buggy Town Coffee in Carthage.
5. The Fajita Burrito might have an identity crisis, but … same, honestly. At least this dish makes people happy. Your choice of steak or chicken with fajita vegetables, wrapped in a giant tortilla. They left the “enchilada” step out of the name but they sneakily smother it in brown sauce and cheese and we’re so glad. Get it for $8.99 with rice or beans and pico de gallo at Mazatlan in Aberdeen.
6. The Cuban Sampler would more accurately be named “The State Fair in a Box,” but it has a definite Cuban flair. It packs two creamy chicken croquettes (fried) and a papa relleno, which as far as we can tell is a mashed potato (also fried). The rest is a surprise. Our order included a small spinach and cheese empanada and a cream cheese pastry. Get it for $6.49 at Lynette’s Bakery and Cafe in Aberdeen.