ON DISPLAY KENNY & ZUKE’S towering Ken’s Special is an artful meal for two, combining house-made pastrami with coleslaw, chopped chicken liver, and rye bread.

25 Meals for Under $25

STOP. DROP THAT SLICE of greasy pizza or that grizzled taco you’re about to bite into. Take a deep breath. Think for a moment. Is this really what you want to eat? Really?

But, you say, times are hard. And that $600 tax rebate check doesn’t mean you can just sit around frivolously dining on foie gras bonbons for the rest of your life.

We know. But there are tacos, and there are tacos. There’s pizza, and then there’s pizza. We’re talking masterpieces. We’re talking works of culinary art that inspire and transport us—cheap, good food that makes our recessionary lives seem far from hopeless.

After all, if chef Oswaldo Bibiano of the Northeast Portland Mexican restaurant Autentica cares enough to make his $3 taco the work of art that it undeniably is, we should care enough to bike all the way across town (you know, to save on gas money) just for the privilege of savoring it. This appreciation, of course, might have something to do with the care that Bibiano brings to the creation of every taco: for instance, the way he places a homemade corn tortilla on top of the meat while it’s sizzling in the pan, so that as the meat’s fragrant juices evaporate, they subtly season the tortilla. In our book, that’s a taco. And that’s just one of many reasons Bibiano’s masterwork is superior to most other tacos in town. (For other reasons, see to p. 8)

Fortunately, there are plenty of other well-studied chefs in town who’ve managed to make dining on a budget as tantalizing as it is to fork over $100 to feast on a meal for two at Le Pigeon. And it’s these chefs—these men and women who know that a good meal cannot be judged by price alone—who have inspired our list of 25 meals for under $25. We know $25 is no small price to pay for two entrées and an appetizer (and yes, that’s without alcohol), but in this day and age, it’s a darn good deal.

So, no matter how slim your wallet, follow our guide to the best—nay, most sublime—cheap eats in Portland. We guarantee that after your meal, you’ll feel nary a hint of buyer’s remorse. —Camas Davis

ITALIAN

Bar Dué

1230 NW Hoyt St
503-241-8800
Mon-Sun 4:30PM-midnight; Fri-Sun 4:30PM-1AM
fratellicucina.com

Sure, it has “bar” in its name, but think of it more as an incredibly civilized restaurant, albeit one that sports rather tall tables and stools. A less expensive annex to the Pearl District’s Fratelli restaurant, Bar Dué’s hallway-sized interior is graced by dark, sage-green walls; high-backed leather banquettes; and a curving, rough-hewn wood bar. The Italian menu is equally classy, not to mention impressively affordable. Each of the six pizzas—we like the smoked corn, pulled duck, and roasted garlic cream combination—costs only $12, and they’re enough for two people. But eating well here means ordering a couple of small plates ($7 apiece) to fill you up: for instance, a bowl of thick and creamy polenta topped with melted mozzarella and prosciutto, or a panini of braised beef, spiced pickle, and onion marmalade. Also note that these so-called “small plates” aren’t all that small, and if you order two, you’ll still have plenty of change to dedicate to a few crostini or bruschetta, or a plate of salami and cheese, plus a glass of wine or two. Not too shabby for a “bar.” —CD