Albany Jane's must-try cheap lunches

albany jane lunches composite

All cheap. All good.

By Albany Jane

When I picture lunch, I want something satisfying, but not over-the-top. It needs to be affordable, and obviously, flavor comes first.

Albany's got some great places to hit up for quick, cheap lunches.

In general, when someone asks me, "Albany Jane, where should I go for lunch in Albany?" -- these are the first places that immediately come to mind.

Hong Kong Bakery

Hong Kong Bakery
This cash-only bakery offers the usual baos, buns, cakes, and other baked goods, but they also do a great job on quickly prepared authentic Chinese dishes. Eat in or take out, the food they serve is miles above the generic cheap Chinese joint around the corner from your office. Make a meal out of some of their appetizer dishes, or get my favorite, an order of beef chow fun. For what it's worth, my Yeh-Yeh (Chinese for "Grandfather") swears up and down that this is one of the best beef chow fun dishes he's ever had. He lives in Flushing, the Chinatown in Queens you want to visit for some serious Chinese.


Aashiana Interior
They do a lunch buffet to end all lunch buffets. Aashiana is also very accommodating for groups and is very child friendly. Owner Saleem is one of the nicest restaurateurs I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and offers an affordable lunch buffet of Middle Eastern delights. There are some chicken dishes on the buffet, but vegetarians will also find a bevy of tasty options. One of the best parts of the lunch buffet is the never-ending fresh, buttery naan delivered table side. For $6.95 it's a bargain you'll find yourself going back for again and again.

If you're not into the lunch buffet thing, their wraps in naan are also quick and insanely tasty.

Capital Q
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Hello, Meat! If you have a hankering for a big ole' piece of something savory, get on over to Capital Q for lunch.

Capital Q Chicken Leg and Rib.jpg

Satisfying ribs, brisket sandwiches, burnt ends, pulled pork by the pound, and smoked chicken quarters are just some of the meaty-goodness that's sure to please. And don't forget at least one of the store-made pickles. If you're planning on sharing, get more than you'd think. Everything is so good you'd be surprised with just how much meat one person is able to tuck away.

Parking may be a bit of a trick sometimes, but if you circle once or twice you'll likely find a spot in the nearby streets.

Sushi Tei

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One of the best lunches in the area. Not only do they consistently offer up some of the freshest sushi I've had in the area, they also offer up boxed lunches from $5.95-$13.95, however most over in the $6-$10 range. Go earlier for lunch if you're in a rush, or call in for pick up. They fill up quickly, and lunch at 12:00 goes much quicker than lunch at 12:45.

I'm also a fan of their lunch roll combos, which allows customers to pick 2 or 3 rolls from a limited menu at a better value than ordering a la carte. I'm a big fan of their spicy tuna roll.

Via Fresca
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This is my "I need a sandwich" place. I'm not much of a sandwich person, but when the craving hits: I want one, and I want a good one.

Via Fresca's sandwiches never disappoint and are hearty and filling. They have perfectly constructed cold subs (great ratios of meat : bread : toppings), toothy hot subs that aren't skimpy on the fillings, and to-die-for panini, all topping out at around $8. I could go on about how perfect their breads are, but you'll just have to order it and try it for yourself. Just pop in, order at the front, and you're out of the door within a few minutes. The sandwiches are all 12" long. They've also got some salads, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't try one of their sandwiches. You'll likely have lunch for the next day from one unless you've got a huge appetite -- or a fridge thief.

The Hot Bar at the Asian Supermarket:
Asian Supermarket.jpg

This is an epically quick, cheap, and tasty lunch. Five dollars gets you a carb (rice/noodles) and three items from the steam table. Look at the food available, point at what you want, and you're all set.

Asian Supermarket Lunch Plate sm.jpg

Don't be scared off by the words "steam table." All of the food I've had from here has been fresh -- even the fried foods retain their heat and crispness without becoming soggy or oily.

This cash-only operation also has other available foods ranging from fluffy baos to crispy skinned pork by the pound.

Cheesecake Machismo

Dessert for lunch! Grab a slice of cheesecake and a drink for $5 at this funky shop on Hamilton. There is always something to please from the daily cheesecake selections, and who doesn't love a thoroughly indulgent lunch every now and then? I love all of the inventive flavors they have on offer. The hardest decision you'll have to make is deciding between everything to choose from.

Golden Choice
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Golden Choice has some stellar Caribbean food, with lunch specials like stew chicken starting at $5.50 per plate. Their food is full of warmth, love, and tantalizing spices. If the lunch specials aren't your thing, you'll find many more of their traditional offerings under $10 as well. I also really suggest their wings -- they aren't your traditional hot wings, and are an entity unto themselves -- in short, they are addictive.

So if you've got a $10 burning a hole in your pocket, you can check out any one of these fine establishments with money to spare. Dollar for dollar, these places are your best bets to head to -- you'll be happy you went in, without sacrificing quality for price.

Albany Jane writes about her many food adventures at Albany Eats!


Al Baraki on Lark!. Delicious and cheap Lebanese lunch specials.

Tandoori Palace has a small but cheap lunch buffet I use for takeout. It's only $7.50, and you can load up on so much stuff that you can have dinner too.

Also, Hot Dog Heaven on Lark has yummy and cheap brunch/lunch fare.

El Mariachi has an awesome lunch menu, with most options under $10.

I was under the impression that the Hot bar at Whole foods, opps, sorry, I mean Asian supermarket, was closed for remodeling?

It's a crying shame that Cardona's isn't on this list. They serve by far the best sandwiches in the capital region, and their a la carte is pretty amazing too. I recently got some salmon, asparagus, and a shells with tuna lunch along with a can of orange pelligrino there for under $10. Can't be beat.

Love it...great ideas! The Asian Supermarket hot bar was closed when I was in there last week (like Matt W said). That option always seems a little sketchy to me anyway. I need to be brave and give it a shot! Thanks for the ideas!

Sushi Tei is way more than sushi, which is fine. Go for the lunch specials. Last time I was there I had grilled mackerel. I don't now what half the stuff is, but why not try something new?

Wow! Great article. I'm hungry already!

This is an excellent post! I still have to try a bunch of these places.

Related: I propose a high speed rail line between the 'far end' of Wolf Road and the Lark/Central/Washington area where most of these restaurants are located, so it would be possible to get lunch on a work day without it taking an hour and a half :D

Bella Pranzo on Western Ave (across from University Plaza) has a really excellent grilled chicken salad--*real* chicken, nice mix of greens and veggies, and some excellent and addictive grilled bread triangles that come with. for $6.95 not bad at all!

The "food court" at the Asian Supermarket is really good. I had read some rave reviews and finally tried it when my partner brought some food home for me one afternoon. I loved it and I can't wait for them to re-open that section.

I'll second Al Baraki. The chicken shawarma is yummy and reasonably priced. I'm not sure if they've opened again since a fire in the building adjacent shut them down.

Excellent article, Albany Jane! Will keep it in mind for future reference. I'm thinking of trying Capital Q this weekend if the weather is nice since we have to drive a bit and there's only outdoor seating...

You know, it's my own fault for reading this at 1 a.m. when none of these glorious places are open. Where should I start with the Hong Kong Bakery when I show up when they open tomorrow? The menu is HUGE!

My favorite places: Head to Uncommon Grounds for their Potato Leek Soup and a monstrous toasted Everything Bagel on Western, Emperor's Palace's for Dim Sum on Wolf Road, and Ralph's for more pasta then you know what to do with over on the corner of Central and Fuller.

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