Dion Lim anchors the 5pm and 11pm newscasts for WCNC/NBC Charlotte. As the station’s resident money-saver, for years, she’s produced the wildly popular daily segment called Dion’s Daily Deals, featuring freebies, deal and steals on the web and in the community. When Dion’s not on TV, you can find her giving motivational speeches at schools around the Charlotte area, traveling, and indulging in her passion for food. You can “like” her Facebook fan page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dion-Lim/146674682074805 I love Dion’s Daily Deals and I know that she has a taste for great food, so for the next edition of “Charlotte Top Five” I asked her to share her take on the top five places for unique cheap eats. I know I’ll be trying some of these soon.
Who needs a $5 footlong when you can get a giant Vietnamese sandwich called a bahn mi filled with grilled meats and veggies for $3? When I lived in Boston, there were tons of these little hole-in-the-wall shops lining the streets of Chinatown. (Bahn mi is usually street food in Asia.) The sandwiches are influenced by the French, so they come on a toasty, fresh baguette. Ingredients can include meats like grilled pork and chicken, then get topped with veggies like carrot, onion, and tons of cilantro. Sure, Le’s isn’t in the best neighborhood, but if you ever have a hankering for something crispy, chewy, savory and cheap that’ll fill you up, Le’s is where it’s at.
4520 North Tryon Street Charlotte, NC 28213
Papi Queso Grilled Cheese Truck
This is NOT your elementary school white bread and orange square of American cheese. Papi Queso dishes up the most gourmet, mouth watering sandwiches that make you wish you had another as soon as you finish the first one. One of the owners is a longtime chef, and was the GM of Harvest Moon Grill uptown. He brought with him some of their staff to cook and work the truck, so you know the quality’s going to be spot on. Menu offerings include the Pig Mac, mac and cheese and pulled pork and bourbon onions. The Green Muenster features wasabi horseradish, spinach, avocado and muenster cheese. Sandwiches are between 5 and 7 bucks, and you can get sides like tomato soup and truffled kettle chips and griddled bread pudding. Yum!
Locations vary, check @PapiQueso on Twitter
Musashi Lunch Set
Musashi is the best kept Japanese food secret in Charlotte. It’s a tiny spot on Johnston Road, tucked into a plaza next to a sub shop and pizza place. It’s not fancy, but always clean and run by friendly Japanese folks. Lunch special A and B is set out every day at the front of the restaurant. This is typical of how restaurants in Japan set up (except sometimes in Japan the food displays are fake and made of plastic!) One will always be a traditional bento box, featuring a salad, a special roll, nigiri, a Japanese mayo-based salad and sometimes an additional treat. The other is a special traditional dish of the day, like a mini bowl of udon and gyudon beef, or my favorite Japanese comfort food, their version of curry katsu pork. A gooey thick brown savory sauce, poured over white rice and a deep fried pork cutlet! They just went through a price increase not too long ago, but still at $8.50, you won’t go hungry.
10110 Johnston Road #15 Charlotte, NC 28210
Pizza Peel Lunch Buffet
This pizza buffet puts that other pizza buffet chain restaurant to shame. First off, the Peel delivers some mighty tasty fresh made pizza with classic toppings, like pepperoni and mushrooms, or more adventurous add-ons like Thai chicken. For $7.50 you’ll not only get your choice of rotating pizza slices (which are constantly brought out it’s so popular) you’ll also get a salad and a drink included! For the rest of the week, there are special nights,like $1.50 half pints of beer, and magicians and live music.
4422 Colwick Road, Charlotte, NC 28211
Pinky’s Westside Grill
It’s fun and funky, and a major step up from your run-of-the-mill diner. Think: KISS pinball machine, dinosaur statue in the front, meets retro-cool Hawaiian print and photo booth. Here you can score things like crab hush puppies which are fried to perfection and come with a creamy sauce, veggie corn dogs (the only one in Charlotte as they claim!) , and juicy burgers that cost about $4. You can easily have a meal for less than $10 in a casual, unique setting.
1600 W Morehead Street, Charlotte, NC 28208
Other Charlotte Top Five lists: