30 November, 2022, 11:50

5 Fabulous Cheap Eats Under $8 in Tucson, Volume 1

You don't need a Hamilton to afford one of these meals.

Go a little too hard holiday shopping this year?

Here are five fabulous picks for affordable eats under $8. Prices are subject to change.

China Pasta House

430 N. Park Ave.
Shrimp Dumplings and Pork Steamed Buns at China Pasta House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Shrimp Dumplings and Pork Steamed Buns (soup dumplings) at China Pasta House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Not only do many of China Pasta House’s meals hover around $7.99, some don’t even break a dollar. You can even order a variety of appetizers à la carte without reaching $8.

Considering how much of the menu is house-made, including the noodles, China Pasta House just might be the best bang-for-your-buck in Tucson. Some of the dishes aren’t translated clearly, so here’s a little guidance for some of our favorites below.

Menu Highlights
  • A14 Tea-Stewed Egg ($0.50) – egg boiled in black tea and special seasonings
  • A1 Preserved Egg & Pork Gruel ($1.50) -minced salted preserved duck egg and roast pork in a rice porridge
  • A6 Sweetened Bean Paste Buns ($1.50) – house-made steam buns, also known as bao, stuffed with sweet bean paste.
  • A4 Pork Steamed Buns ($5.25) – 10 house-made pork and cabbage soup dumplings
  • D6 Tomato & Egg Noodles ($6.49) – house-made noodles in a tomato and egg broth
  • D12 Sauerkraut Shredded Pork Soup Noodles ($6.99) – house-made noodles in a pork broth, topped with pork and Chinese fermented cabbage
  • B5 Leek & Pork Dumplings ($7.50 for 15) – house-made dumplings stuffed with leek and pork
  • F2 Braised Pork Rice ($7.99) – cubes of pork braised in a star anise-spiced sweet soy sauce, served with white rice

For more information, call (520) 623-3334 or visit chinapastahousetucson.com.

Guilin Chinese Restaurant

4445 E. Broadway Blvd.
Mongolian Lunch special at Guilin Chinese Restaurant (Photo courtesy of Guilin Chinese Restaurant)

Mongolian Chicken special at Guilin Chinese Restaurant (Photo courtesy of Guilin Chinese Restaurant)

From open to 3 p.m. daily, Guilin offers a lunch special from $5.99 to $6.99 with a wider range of options than most Chinese restaurants in town. Not only is it actually good, but it also includes plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.

The specials include:

  • Hot & sour soup or egg drop soup (50¢ extra for take-out)
  • Egg roll or crab puffs
  • Fried rice, white rice, or brown rice
Lunch Special Menu Highlights
  • Garlic Chicken ($5.99)
  • Chicken with Black Bean Sauce ($5.99)
  • Twice Cooked Pork ($5.99)
  • Black Mushrooms with Snow Peas ($5.99)
  • Szechuan-Style Tofu ($5.99)
  • Kung Pao Shrimp ($6.99)
  • Curry Vegi. Chicken ($6.99)

For more information, call (520) 320-7768 or visit guilintucson.com.

El Sur

5602 E. 22nd St.

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Green enchiladas

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While tacos are hardly ever over $8 each, El Sur features a wide range of other hearty entrées under $8 with beans, rice, and tortillas.

Menu Highlights
  • Huevos Rancheros ($6.99)
  • 2 Chicken Enchiladas with Green Salsa ($6.99)
  • Bistec Ranchero ($6.99)
  • 3 Shrimp or Fish Soft Taquitos ($6.99)
  • Pork Chop ($6.99)
  • Chicken Mole ($6.99)
  • 2 Chiles Rellenos Topped with Enchilada Salsa ($7.99)
  • Chuck Steak (bone-in) ($7.99)

For more information, call (520) 748-1032 or visit elsurrestaurant.com.


600 N. Fourth Ave.
Bean and Rice Bowl at TallBoys (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Bean and Rice Bowl at TallBoys (Credit: Jackie Tran)

While most of TallBoys’ menu hovers around the $10 range, one item deserves a special shout-out.

The Bean and Rice Bowl ($7) features a generous portion of beans, rice, cheese, veggies, avocado, chipotle crema, pico, pickled onions, green onions, and cilantro.

For more information, call (520) 999-8269 or visit tallboysaf.com.

Vina Vietnamese Street Food

4230 N. Oracle Rd.
Banh Mi Sandwich at Vina Vietnamese Street Food (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Banh Mi Sandwich at Vina Vietnamese Street Food (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Vina lives up to the street food section of its name with a wide variety of menu options under $8. While the pho and chef’s specials are a barely over $8, the rest of the menu is under $8.

You can even build your own bowl in a Vietnamese fashion for $7.95; try it with rice vermicelli, lemongrass grilled chicken, and Vietnamese greens.

Menu Highlights
  • Shrimp Summer Roll ($4 for 2) – rice paper roll with shrimp, rice noodles, greens
  • Lemongrass Chicken Skewers ($4.95 for 3)
  • Spicy Fish Sauce Wings ($5.50 for 5)
  • Spicy Crispy Salad ($5.95) – crispy rolls, greens, rice noodles, nuoc cham
  • Classic Banh Mi ($6.50) – chicken pate, steamed red pork, Vietnamese ham, head cheese, cucumber, carrot, daikon, jalapeño

For more information, call (520) 270-7779 or visit vina-vietnamese-street-food.business.site.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com and his Instagram @jackie_tran_.