Five Ridiculously Awesome St. Louis Lunch Values
Banh Mi Dac Biet at Phuc Loi ($3.50)
To hell with the $5 Footlong. Phuc Loi's banh mi dac biet is the best sandwich deal in town: a crusty baguette stuffed with ham, grilled pork, head cheese, cilantro, raw jalapeño, carrot and a whole egg. The only way to get more flavor for your buck in St. Louis? Shoplift.
3723 Gravois Avenue; 314-772-7742
Three-Piece Fried Chicken (Spicy) at Porter's Fried Chicken ($4.99)
The best lunch box since the sweet Star Wars number that you had in elementary school is the flimsy white cardboard box in which Porter's serves its fried chicken. Five bucks scores you three perfectly fried pieces of chicken -- crisp batter, moist meat, lip-tingling spice -- plus slaw, mashed potatoes and a roll. The non-spicy chicken is also a great value, but I'll think less of you for ordering it.
Porter's Fried Chicken
3628 South Big Bend Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-781-2097
Two Pupusas at Tres Banderas ($5.98)
The pupusa is not quite a quesadilla, not quite a tamale. The Salvadoran dish is a fat corn tortilla stuffed with cheese and/or meat and then topped with salsa and the cabbage slaw called curtido. At Tres Banderas, a pupusa costs $2.98. I find that two of them makes for a satisfying cheap lunch.
15939 Manchester Road, Ellisville; 636-527-19
"7th Street Sicilian" Po' Boy at Blues City Deli ($6.25)
Blues City Deli just celebrated its birthday, but its sandwiches are an everyday gift to the rest of us: delicious and affordable. My favorite is the "7th Street Sicilian" po' boy, a fat stack of Italian cold cuts and Provel -- yes, Provel -- with vegetables, vinegar and oil. This is served on a terrific baguette: chewy, crusty and flavorful.
Blues City Deli
2438 McNair Avenue; 314-773-8825
Hot Salami (Salam de Testa) at Gioia's Deli ($7)
This is -- or should be, at least -- the iconic sandwich of St. Louis, unlike anything else here or elsewhere. The meat (made from beef and pig snout) has a unique flavor, earthy and spicy, and a texture closer to pâté than traditional lunchmeat. It needs nothing more than cheese, lettuce and tomato and at $7 for a generous serving is a steal.
1934 Macklind Avenue; 314-776-9410