Living on alt-weekly staffers’ budgets, we’ve mastered the art of dining out on the cheap in a city full of high-priced tourist restaurants and sandwich shops that charge $8 for a turkey on wheat. Sure, you can hit the fast food joints or scarf down lots of pizza, burgers, and ramen, but that’s where the Freshman 15 comes in. We prefer to keep it lean and mean, fighting the obesity epidemic one hungry and broke college student at a time.
To make it on our cheap and healthy list, the items had to be around $5 and come piled high with veggies and maybe include a lean protein too. We avoided fatty fried items and red meat. You could call it chick food, but we know plenty of guys who like to eat smart and look good too.
Bento Box Lunch Special at Wasabi
61 State St. (843) 577-5222
Sushi ain’t cheap. Even a California roll at the Teet will run you $6, which makes this deal a particularly attractive one. At lunchtime, from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays, Wasabi (located a block off the Market) has a great price on a bento box lunch. You get a California roll, miso soup, and house salad (with that yummy ginger dressing). You also get to choose from the following options: sushi, sashimi, katsu chicken, shrimp or vegetable tempura, chicken or beef teriyaki or hibachi, and yasai itame (stir-fried vegetables). For an extra $2, you can pick two items from that list. Not too shabby and pretty damn healthy, particularly if you avoid the tempura and go for the sautéed veggies.
Spicy Garden Burger at Five Loaves Café
43 Cannon St. (843) 937-4303
A half-portion of the spicy garden burger at Five Loaves Café might not seem like enough food at first glance. But the hearty patty, scattered with hunks of veggies and topped with a cucumber yogurt sauce, thickly sliced cucumber, and melted cheddar, serves as a filling lunch. The menu has plenty of other veggie-friendly options too, like the eggplant wrap and the portobello goat cheese burger. For a little bit extra, you can pair your half sandwich with a half portion of salad for an even bigger infusion of nutritious greens.
Avocado Hoagie at Mellow Mushroom
309 King St. (843) 723-7374
The Mellow has plenty of hoagies to choose from, many of which cost between $4.50 and $5.50 for a half. Our favorite has long been the avocado, a sultry combination of ripe avocado sprinkled with lemon juice and topped with melted provolone, onions, and sprouts. Get it on whole wheat bread for added nutritional value and you’ve got a satisfying sandwich. We recommend pairing it with a cold mug of locally brewed COAST Hop Art IPA. It may be a splurge, but if you’re going to drink beer, you might as well drink the good stuff.
Veggie and Rice Bowl at Dell’z Deli
1A Cannon St. (843) 224-7566
Dell’z Deli has become notorious for its hungry late-night crowds, but they also serve up a super-healthy selection of lunch and dinner items. At $4.50, their monstrous rice and bean bowl is the best value. Black beans and brown rice are topped with cheese, salsa, tomatoes, avocado, and chips for a filling meal with enough to share. It’s become a go-to lunch around our office.
Fresh Garden Pita at Eat-A-Pita
370 1/12 King St. (843) 789-4233
Fresh greens, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and sweet peppers get covered in tangy feta crumbles and drizzled with your choice of tzatziki sauce or ranchera. Fold it up in a fresh, fluffy pita and you’ve got a substantial meal that comes with pepperoncini and potato chips. If you’ve got the will power, forego the chips for an extra helping of healthy. For an extra 50 cents, you can upgrade to the veggie wrap, which we highly recommend. It’s basically the same combo as above, just wrapped up in a flour tortilla. Somehow the tight wrap enhances the flavors. Go figure.
Topsail Tuna at Queen Street Grocery
133 Queen St. (843) 723-4121
From crepes stuffed with gorgonzola, walnuts, and spinach to made-to-order guacamole, the menu at Harleston Village’s Queen Street Grocery has plenty of healthy choices, and most range between $7-$9. But tucked down on the bottom of the menu are some budget-minded gems, including the Topsail Tuna, which is basically a tuna melt. The tuna gets layered with fresh garlic, lime, dill pickles, cilantro, and sharp cheddar cheese and then pressed until it’s all hot and gooey.