Great food doesn't have to be expensive. We know this. So, why do big portions, low prices and Zagat-level quality restaurants seem so elusive? Take heart. We've culled through surveyor ratings from the 2014 Boston Restaurants Survey, and highlighted the "Best Buys" ($25 and under) in a number of different neighborhoods. Take a read, then grab dinner. Order a little extra: you can afford it.
South End: Picco
Pizza and ice cream: the dinner of childhood dreams! But this South End spot, while inexpensive, is no kiddie pizza parlor. We're talking housemade gourmet pizzas, fab pasta plates and desserts that lure even discriminating South End foodies. The fact that it offers up such modest prices for a frou-frou 'hood doesn't hurt. Nor does the patio. Did we mention: pizza and ice cream?
513 Tremont St.; 617-927-0066
Fenway: Pho Basil
Save the hot dogs for the ball park. Surveyors say this Vietnamese spot is the best bet for inexpensive bites around Fenway. The quick service and big portions are certainly a big bonus, and delivery service is nice for when you don't feel like leaving your couch. Because, you know, there's a big game on.
177 Massachusetts Ave.; 617-262-5377
Harvard Square: Mr. Bartley's
Ah, Harvard Square, an epicenter of the learned. Also, a place to sample some of the best burgers around. No, seriously: besides its leading the "Best Buys" around this neighborhood, Mr. Bartley's was also ranked by surveyors as the top spot for patties city-wide. No wonder. They're sloppy, creative and never skimp on flavor. Learn up, wannabes.
1246 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-354-6559
South Boston: Paramount
It may have a sister location among the expensive brownstones of Beacon Hill, but the Southie location of Paramount tops the spot for "Best Buys" in its 'hood. Yeah, it gets busy. And the cafeteria-style ordering process isn't for everyone, but boy is it worth it when you plunge your fork into a beautiful brunch that looks (and tastes) like it's worth twice the price.
667 East Broadway; 617-269-9999
Jamaica Plain: El Oriental de Cuba
JP locals know there's a reason why this corner restaurant's always crowded. The Cuban cuisine here is fab, the portions big and the prices not-so-much. The service is strong, too: friendly and familiar, which more than makes up for the occasional wait for tables. (Then again, the empanadas alone are worth the wait too.)
416 Centre St.; 617-354-6559
North End: Galleria Umberto
Gee, a pizza joint in the North End? Color us surprised. No, we're serious. It's shocking that Galleria Umberto manages to fly under the radars of many, but its cheap Sicilian slices helped it score the top spot for "Best Buys" in the Italian neighborhood. The lunch-only spot is very bare bones, but then again, you don't go here to linger. You go here to scarf down a mid-afternoon pie, split and repeat tomorrow.
289 Hanover St.; 617-227-5709
Escape to the Caribbean via Roxbury. Merengue serves up fine but inexpensive Dominican cuisine in a warm, familiar atmosphere with live music on weekends. The island-like ambience is uplifting, with bright colors and tropical accents, and it's hard to not fall in love with Merengue's permanent display of paintings by renowned Dominican Artists like Alberto Ulloa and Jol Diaz. No wonder it's a neighborhood favorite.
160 Blue Hill Ave.; 617-445-5403