Cheap eats

How to deal with an empty wallet on an empty stomach.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Fries from the Food Truck. — Lily Cowper

There’s a weird class war on the Island, and most of us are losing. In terms of food, we budget busters take a hit. Our options are limited, because our options are expensive. You know this.

Most people advise, “Just don’t eat out.” Never tried it, but that seems like a boring way to live. Don’t eat out? So I can eat the one thing I know how to make over and over again until its taste is dull in my mouth? No, thanks. Plus, I have people to see, and I like to take drives around the Island. We don’t just go for the food, we like the interaction involved with going out to eat. There’s no way I’m missing out on all that just because of one thing — my black hole of a wallet.

So from the cheapskate know-it-alls to the hungry know-nothings, here’s the lowdown on low-cost eats.

We all have that one special morning place. Or mourning place, where all our money goes to die. The real question is: Is it your kitchen, or someone else’s? For me, if I’m skipping the Frosted Flakes, I’m going to the Black Dog Bakery. There, I grab a Woofer on a croissant for $6. A Woofer is normally $5, but they’ll serve it on rye bread. I spend the extra $1 for a sandwich devoid of crust. If I bring my own mug, a coffee refill is a dollar. And, if I was an early riser, I’d go to the Black Dog Cafe on State Road, because a Woofer is only $3.15 from 6 to 8 am. Another good breakfast option is at Scottish Bakehouse, which offers breakfast sandwiches served with your choice of meat, egg, cheese, “the works” (spinach, tomato, onion) if you want it, at no extra cost, on an English muffin, and they have refills on coffee for the same great deal.

The Net Result just closed its takeout business for the season. All summer I would scoop up their $5 bowls of lobster bisque in one second when they had them. They would only offer the special price on rainy days, when we bisque lovers are at our most vulnerable. I now associate the bisque with the smell of wet dog (what I smell like after walking in the pouring rain), and being uncomfortable in wet denim. Even still, it’s my favorite type of soup, and the Net Result does it best.

Until next summer, you can still buy a $12 bag of lobster bisque there that will feed you for the next two weeks. If that’s not cheap enough for you, just take a second to think of the time and effort that goes into making lobster bisque. First you have to cook the lobsters, which involves the traditional cracking of the shells, and the picking of the meat. Then, after all that emotional and physical strain, you have to boil the shells in water, buy all the ingredients, measure them out, pour them in. Honestly, who here actually knows how to make lobster bisque? How’s that $12 price tag looking now?

Cumby’s iced coffee. Are they still doing free coffee Fridays? When I came to the Island, this was my first inside tip from an Islander. Get a huge cup for a couple cents. Drink it black, with cream, with maple syrup, who cares. Every time I drink anything, I remember my family once joking about all the gross booze and coffee they have to suffer through. At this point, I was still in my OJ days. I had thought, “Poor grownups!” Now, as I ponder spending $7 on a latte, I hear their voices in my head: “We drink it for the buzz, not the taste.” And back to Cumby’s I go.

While the Food Truck can be expensive, it is also notoriously delicious, and has just reopened its homebase at the Home Port parking lot in Menemsha. This is an up-Island favorite that has one menu item that won’t break the bank — its Rosemary and Sea Salt French Fries. For $2.50, they will toss you a huge bag of the most amazing fries you will ever eat. Enough to share with a friend, if your friend is really nice.

La Choza. This is my favorite lunch stop, and you should get what I get. A Portobello Bowl comes with rice, grilled mushrooms, perfectly cooked black beans. Then I add a mild local hot sauce and their lemon-cilantro sauce. It comes out to around $8 for a sizable, high-quality meal. My order is cheap, because I skimp on toppings. I wonder if the sweet guys over there will ever notice. “Is that all?” they always ask me. Yes, that’s all! I’m on a budget!

A Sausage, Onion, and Red Pepper Slice from Rocco’s Pizzeria. — Lily Cowper

Every day, Rocco’s Pizzeria has a huge specialty slice you could probably split three ways for $4.50, with alternating flavors that are always interesting and satisfying. Ocean View still has buy-one-get-one-free burgers on Mondays. Treat your friend by treating yourself. R&B’s Eatery and Woodland Grill are two local favorites, both which serve modest fare at a fair price. Oh, and there’s always the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital cafeteria, which serves lunch from 11 am to 2 pm. This is probably the cheapest meal on the Island, and I hear it’s not bad. You can get a decent slice of pizza there for $1.50. Of course, anything that cheap will go down easy. Take my advice, try these tempting choices that won’t break the bank. You’ll thank me for it.