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Cheap Eats

Hungy and all you have is a fistful of change?

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While on-campus dining is cheap and convenient, it is plagued by a mysterious surplus of macaroni salad, skin-on soup and casserole a la yesterday's menu. The undergrad palate gets antsy for change and recognizable meats (chicken "parts" not being one of them), and for these desperate gourmands, we've compiled a list of local places that cater to tight budgets as well as taste buds.

First is Flying Pie, Boise's original, original pizza parlor known for being "very open" and serving up 18 specialty pies seven days a week (not to mention inventing "Talk like a Pirate Day," September 19 for you virgin revelers). The best deal by far is Tuesday--Gourmet Night. From 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., unlimited pizza slices, salad and breadsticks are available for only $6 with free refills on drinks. The selection rotates weekly and always includes five vegetarian options, seven meat pies and a dessert feature that is one of the strangest, most satisfying treats (next to Hostess Snoballs).

Next is the Westside Drive-In, renown for its pink trim and classy fast food. The regular menu is already reasonable, but lighter appetites should try the children's version. It includes burgers, chicken strips, corn dogs, grilled cheese and spaghetti for under $2. And for $3.79, you can add fries, tater tots or a small salad with a drink and a toy surprise! There are also "Pasta Buckets" available in five flavors with garlic bread and salad for $17.99--not dirt cheap, but they feed four hungry people, breaking down to less than $5 per person for dinner.

There is always an old faithful, and BSU students agree that downtown's Pita Pit is it. Open everyday till 3 or 4 in the morning, this tiny joint makes killer falafel and gyro-style wraps with almost any filler imaginable (including something a drunk patron once referred to as "magic sauce.") Most cost less than $5 and more than fill two fists with quick, healthy grub. Plus, they deliver.

Just around the corner is a well-loved bakery called Zeppole that usually has a line out the door for gorgeous sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, delicate salads, hearty soups and goodies that make you want to skip lunch altogether. Items range from $2.50 to about $6 for a sampling of everything with the option of "endless bread" and unlimited homemade condiments and dressings. The servers are some of the most charming women around, and the atmosphere is that of a street-side bistro with patio seating. And if you want to try before you buy, there are always free samples scattered around, and the gals usually pretend not to see you taking seconds.

If you want to spend a few more bones but still satisfy your inner-cheapskate, check out Los Mariachis on Fairview. Not only is the staff the most friendly and enthusiastically bilingual around (you'll know what we mean when you walk in), they also make a dynamite fajita platter for four that is just shy of being grotesquely huge. It comes on two enormous platters covered with steaming chicken, steak, red and green peppers, onions and mushrooms with two baskets of unlimited corn and flour tortillas and separate plates for cheesy refried beans, Mexican rice, and extra guacamole, salsa, sour cream and shredded lettuce. Considering that this is on top of free chips, dips and mini Coronas (on holidays), the $31.95 price tag looks pretty sweet. And if you still need convincing, the giant Margarita (32 ounces for $6.95) can easily quench the thirsts of all four diners (provided they don't fear cooties).

Diners suffering from a similar Mexi-jones after an evening of elbow-bending have only one downtown option--the almighty taco truck at Sixth and Grove. Both the meek and the daring will find treats custom suited to their pocket books, by way of dollar tacos, cheap tostadas and of course the twin "T's": tongue and tripe. Don't knock them until you have sucked down a few yourself.

And if none of these suffice, there's always Mom's house or the WinCo Deli ...

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