Harrisonburg offers a wide range of cheap food options. In a city with two college campuses, restaurants understand they need to cater to the broke college student. I spent the day looking at three places for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with the intention of not spending more than $10 on any meal.
For breakfast, I started off at Mr. J’s Bagels which is located in the shopping center on Virginia Avenue with Food Lion and Dairy Queen. It is a small, no frills bagel shop where the highest priced item for breakfast is $6. There is little wait in the mornings and I am always impressed with the way the employees treat the customers.
They offer about 14 different varieties of bagels ranging from just regular to jalapeno cornbread. If spreads are your thing, they have eight different cream cheeses as well. On my trip, I picked up a cinnamon raisin bagel with cinnamon cream cheese and a fountain drink for under $5.
I allowed that to settle and then went downtown to check out Jess’ Quick Lunch. It has a small diner feel and once again, I was seated immediately and was treated very well. Jess’ offers a lot of classic food. Hotdogs, hamburgers, and ham and cheese sandwiches are some of the options on the menu.
I went with two chili cheese hotdogs and made sure I left room for dessert. Jess’ has some incredible pies that they make in-store. I could not pass that up so I capped off lunch with chocolate silk pie and a bill of $7.50.
At this point, I was feeling pretty good about myself for getting two meals that were not more than $13 combined. When I go to Burger King I usually spend eight dollars just get- ting a midnight snack. While my wallet was feeling good, I still had one more meal to conquer and I was starting to get hungry again, which meant it was dinner time.
For dinner, I pushed the budget a little bit and went to El Charro, a Mexican Restaurant on East Market Street, just before you get to the Valley Mall. It was dinner time on a Saturday night and I was with five other people so I expected a little bit of a wait but, when we walked in, we were seated and taken care of.
The decor was a bit tacky; there were random things painted on the walls that did not fit or had no purpose, but it was not enough to distract me from the delicious food. This option is a little pricier, but most dinners were still $7.99.
I was so proud of being frugal earlier that I decided to splurge on dinner and got a grilled chicken breast dinner that was more like $11. It was worth it.
The portion sizes were enough to fill you up and the food was flavorful. The chicken was topped with tomatillo sauce, had been marinated in lime juice, and was served alongside Spanish rice and re-fried beans. I left full and happy, as did my friends.
In the name of science, and finding places that college students could afford to eat at, I had treated myself to three great meals. For the entire day, I spent just under $26 and came out to an average of $8.50 a meal. Each place contained cheaper and more expensive options than what I chose.
I came out of this gorging experience extremely pleased with the three choices of restaurants I made and my wallet thanked me as well.
-Adam Posey, Staff Writer
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