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Eat cheap

My first post in this blog was “Cooking for the apocalypse.” I was talking about climate change, but an equally…

By Kate Allen , in The Masticator , on February 6, 2009

Save On Meats' burger
Save On Meats' burger

My first post in this blog was “Cooking for the apocalypse.” I was talking about climate change, but an equally terrifying and much more present doomsday is the economic meltdown.

What kind of food blogger would I be if I couldn’t help you dine out well in tough economic times?

Here’s my official party line: the healthiest way to cook is the cheapest, and there is nothing more wholesome or less bank-draining than fresh vegetables. Go buy some celeriac.

And here’s my unofficial advice: what every cook knows, and none wants to admit, is that some foods are both cheaper and better cooked by street vendors. Pizza for a twoonie? A minor miracle. The four dollar falafel? A gift from heaven.

I have no idea how they do it, and I bet it’s by some mechanism I wholly disapprove of. But as of yet, no one has disillusioned me. And this Saturday, I think I may have found the best deal in the city: four dollar burgers at Save On Meats on East Hastings.

The only reason I can possibly construe for Save On Meats’ gastronomic obscurity is the location. The shopfront is undeniably surrounded by destitute folks hawking shady goods. But if that’s going to stop you from great food in a great neighbourhood, then stick to chain Thai food.

To get to Save On Meats’ burgers, you have to find Save On Coffee, the deli in the back of the butcher. This doesn’t prove difficult; all you have to do is get past the unreasonably low priced racks of ribs and the discounted Portuguese buns in the front without spending all your money. The hard part is deciding what burger to order. They all come with two homemade patties. The question is whether you need cheese, mushrooms, bacon, or onions, for an extra fifty cents to a dollar.

Difficult, I know. I opted for the cheeseburger and fries. Twenty minutes later, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to eat for the next two weeks. And folks, we’re not talking about the Big Mac full here. This is a satisfied full, not a hate yourself full.

I’ve also heard a rumour that you can buy any cut of meat you like up front and they’ll cook it for you in the back. Incredible.

If you have only four dollars left to your name, I recommend you spend it on Save On Meats’ burger. At least you’ll die happy.