Looking for a meal deal?

Everybody's trying to save a few bucks these days, so, with that in mind, we're suggesting some dishes that offer reasonable prices - and delicious taste.


Mi Casa, Golden Street,
New London

You want a good deal? How about three stuffed tacos for $7.95. And that includes guacamole, which most places charge extra for. I picked chicken to go along with the guac, green onions, cactus and pico de gallo nestled into corn tortillas. I ate two and took one home. Now that's a deal.



A supermarket near you

There is little in life more comforting than roast chicken, especially when the succulent flesh falls freely from the bone. To roast a chicken to this degree of perfection is not an easy thing to do. And it takes time - at least an hour for a small bird. So for my money - around $6.99 - being able to walk away with a steaming hot, fully cooked chicken is a mighty good deal. But let's do some math. At McQuade's Marketplace this week, roasting chickens are on sale for $1.29 per pound, but the on-sale birds are in 7-to-8-pound packages. That's a lot of chicken. If you could buy at that sale price a 2-pound bird, about the size of your average rotisserie chicken, it would cost you $2.58. Then you'd have to set aside an hour or two for prep and roasting. I'm much more likely to pick up a rotisseried bird, a baguette and some salad in a bag, and voila. Dinner for two for less than 20 bucks.



Sal's Pizza and Pasta,
Old Saybrook

For a mere $5.45, you, too, can sample a regional delicacy. Bruschetta employs the simplest of ingredients, but at Sal's, they merge into what should be sold as a tonic for what ails just about anybody. Listed under the menu's Specialty Breads, this ample portion feeds two of us for dinner, quite regularly. It's tough to determine what we love most about it - topping or base? The bread is crisp on the outside, soft within, rendered even more delicious by all that olive oil and tomato juice and the roasty flavor from a dusting of sesame seeds. As for the tomatoes, we have no idea where Sal's gets them, but they are spectacular year round and the targets of fork fights when all the bread is all gone; must be all that superb olive oil, herbs and garlic, garlic, garlic. It is a savory symphony, and a bargain to boot.



Mr. G's, New London

I'm a huge fan of Mr. G's for all the right reasons: cuisine, comfort, camaraderie and cost, but I do have a bone to pick with the genial hosts, Pete and George Gianakos. Why ... WHY?! ... isn't the pot roast sandwich on the regular menu?! It's an occasional feature on the daily specials board, and pops up not near enough. The construct is simple enough: two home-foundation-sized planks of lean, gorgeously lean and tender pot roast - sorry, Mom, yours isn't this good - on a sesame seed bun, with melted cheddar and brown gravy (it also comes with onions but I prefer without). With a fine helping of crinkle-cut fries and some dill pickle slices, this is a tremendous bargain at $7.95. Ask for a small container of the gravy and dip your fries in it. A masterpiece of simplicity and greatness!



Neon Chicken, Howard Street, New London

When you think of Neon Chicken, you probably recall sliding your tray down the line, choosing between a breast or a leg, mashed potatoes or rice, green beans or squash. But every once in a while I drop in for lunch with a sandwich on my mind. No problem. Earlier this week, I ordered the breast of chicken on a six-inch French roll with lettuce, tomato and mayo. The sliced breast meat was tender, as you'd expect from a rotisserie chicken, and the roll was crunchy on the outside and soft inside. You can also get chicken salad, barbecue chicken or pulled pork for the same price of $7.25. For an additional $2.99, you can add a soda and a side, which I did, going healthy with the carrots. Lunch under $10 these days is a good bargain, and at $10.24 plus tax, this is close enough.



I know what you're thinking. This girl is crazy. But don't be afraid. It's OK. I'm here to tell you that supermaket sushi is a safe, delicious option when you're looking for cheap eats. I, too, took some convincing, but unbelievably enough, it was my husband - my chips-and-cheesburger-loving husband - who served as my supermarket sushi scout. His advice is to buy it when the sushi-master is in the house. If you see him behind the counter, go forth. The great thing about supermarket sushi is that it's cheap - around $5.99 for 10 pieces - and it's clearly labeled, so you know exactly what you're getting. Start slowly, with a vegetarian or California roll, and work your way up to the spicy tuna and the salmon. At its best, supermarket sushi is cold and chewy, and with a dab of wasabi, a paper-thin slice of pickled ginger and a quick dip in soy sauce, it's a flavorful, satisfying meal.



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