Back in the day I worked a few temp jobs in downtown Portland. Kinkos, Bank of America, Wells Fargo; all the fun places. I learned (or should have) that office drone work really isn’t my forte. But one of my favorite things was that I got to eat lunch downtown everyday. I had a rotating list of places but my rule was that lunch had to be 5 dollars or less.
It’s well-documented that times have changed. Food prices haven’t quite skyrocketed like housing prices but these days 10 dollars is considered cheap; many food carts have prices this high. Now, objectively, 10 dollars is a lot of money–4.4 billion people live off that much or less per day. So it’s a bummer to spend that much on a sandwich or curry or whatever.
But fear not! Though many years have passed, I’ve made a list of 5 places you can still eat at for 5 dollars. They are all downtown or walking distance to it. Here in 2018 Portland! And while American portion sizes are such that you can share one portion and each spend around 5 bucks, this list is straight up solo traveler 5 dollar meals. You may, of course, indulge in any sharing shenanigans you see fit.
Los Gorditos The Rice & Bean Burrito $3.50 ($4.50 at the Pearl location) or Beans Rice & Avocado $4.75
It’s no secret that I love Los Gorditos the most. I go through cravings and withdrawals when I’m away for it from too long. It even won over my sister, who was initially hesitant. And it’s such a good deal. There’s even a vegan only cart way out on Halsey. If you spend more than 5, you can get tofu, soy curls, etc.
Food Front Co-op Half a Sandwich $4.99
Okay, with the 5 dollar limit you can only get half a sandwich, but you can load it up with baked tofu (spicy if you want) or marinated tempeh plus add hummus or vegenaise or pesto and tons of organic veggies, including pickles and avocados and roasted red peppers and more! A big part of the fun is entirely customizing your sandwich.
Blackbird or Sizzle Pie Vegan Slice of Pizza $>5 (prices vary depending on location and flavor selection.)
Blackbird has only one location (on Hawthorne) while Sizzle Pie has many (including the Rose Garden). Both serve awesome vegan pizzas by the slice. Sizzle Pie has pretty good salads as well and you can order breadsticks or whole pizzas at either place as well.
Thai (& Vietnamese) Food Carts – Pad Kee Mao, Bahn Mi, etc $5
At first I had a specific location listed, but you know what? Let’s open it up a little. There are a handful Thai (and some Vietnamese) food carts downtown where you can still eat for 5 dollars. Sure that would be a feast in Chiang Mai or Hoi An, but for Portland that much for a paltry stir-fry is pretty great. All places naturally have tofu, and if you say vegan they’ll know what you mean. A little reminder that you’re not down with fish sauce doesn’t hurt though.
Sweatpea Bakery – Bagels, Charlie Browns & More $1.75-4.5
Located in a vegan mini-mall this industrial looking institution has too much yum for just one visit.
The proper sandwiches are out of the 5 dollar range but plenty of options remain. I’m partial to the Charlie Brown (chocolate and peanut butter and oats) but my sister swears by the bagels with schmear. Personally I can’t think of a less appetizing word than schmear but those bagels are actually pretty grubbing and you can get earth balance or hummus or peanut butter etc if you don’t want the cream cheese substitute.
So even in modern Portland there are plenty of food options for those who want to go out but not spend a lot of cash. I don’t know a lot of the new restaurants either so I’m sure I missed a couple. Let me know some of your favorites in the comments.