McDonald's CBO Angus Burger (and Free French Fries!)

Categories: $7, Fast Times

Photos by Christina Uticone
After writing Fast Times for about a year now, I remain amazed at the frequency with which my fast-food orders are screwed up. If I were (more) OCD, I would probably be keeping a spreadsheet, but it's definitely hovering around two-thirds of the time. I have actually played a game, now and again, where I order what I don't want, just to see if I receive what I actually want by mistake. Example: a chicken sandwich version of a promotion, when I really want the burger. It hasn't worked yet, but it's still a fun game.

So this week I stopped by McDonald's to check out the CBO Angus Burger, where CBO=Cheese, Bacon, Onion. As I pulled up to the window to claim my food, the employee confirmed, "Just the burger, right?" and I answered in the affirmative. Four kind of long minutes later, I took my take-out bag and drove away, only noticing once I hit the next stoplight that I was gifted with a meal -- fries included. My waistline does not say thanks.

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$7 or Less: Smashburger Tempts with New Dishes

Phaedra Cook
This Mushroom Swiss Smashburger with a side of fried pickles ended up being my favorite. Sometimes simple is best.
Just in time for the throes of August, Smashburger is rolling out some new items that just might help finish out the summer with a bang. Best of all, the base price of everything on the menu is $6.99 or less. (Of course, there are plenty of add-ons, so feel free to create that $10 burger if you want.)

Chains often get a bad rap, and often that's simply because what they serve is mediocre and cheap. I've always liked Smashburger, though. No, they can't do any bragging about using locally sourced meats, and I don't think it would win any burger competitions. Still, Smashburger is among my top three fast-food joints, right alongside Chipotle and Whataburger. There's an emphasis on fresh vegetables, and it is entirely possible to make healthy choices here. You can also choose to forget healthy and treat yourself to a ton of tasty calories. Your choice. May I recommend the Oreo Malt?

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$7 at Poison Girl: The Tamale Lady

Categories: $7

Where: Poison Girl, 1641 Westheimer, 713-527-9929, and various other locations

What $7 gets you: A dozen of the best tamales that money can freaking buy.
You all have seen the Montrose tamale lady. She shows up between 10 and midnight with a bin full of warm tamales, magically right about the time you and your friends are good and drunk and ready to skate to a 24 hour restaurant or taqueria for some munchies.

Skeptics beware, if all you have had is frozen tamales from the grocery, you have no idea what you are missing. These tamales are buttery-smooth without being mushy, and their fillings are flavorful without being dry or soggy, with just the perfect amount of grease to satisfy the rowdiest of drunks.

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$7 at IKEA

Categories: $7, Breakfast

IKEA Breakfast.jpg
Hi, I'd like a Boren, a Barnslig, a Fixa, and French toast sticks. Where else on earth, besides IKEA, could you utter a sentence as beautiful as that and not be hauled off to the loony bin?

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$7 at Chicago Pizza

Categories: $7

Chicago pizza.jpg
Where? Chicago Pizza, 1777 Airline, 713-862-2828.

What $7 gets you: There are two sandwiches that will run you about $7: an Italian deli meat option and an Eggplant Parmesan. The price includes a hearty helping of your choice of side: fries, soup or salad. I selected the eggplant sandwich with a side salad.

Though it has the name "pizza" in its title, Chicago Pizza (1777 Airline) actually serves up way more than your typical pizzeria. They have waffles and eggs for breakfast and tons of pastas, and sandwiches. The menu is so extensive, in fact, that it took nearly ten minutes to navigate my way through the whole thing and settle on an option.

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$7 at Istanbul Grill and Deli

Categories: $7

Where? Istanbul Grill and Deli (5613 Morningside, 713-526-2800)

What $7 gets you: A gorgeous sandwich and a glass of water.

I stopped by Istanbul Grill and Deli in the Rice Village for lunch with family. It was a scorching day, and Istanbul's cool interior was refreshing. Istanbul has a small interior, only about a dozen tables. After a few minutes of browsing the menu, I picked the adana sandwich ($5.49). The sandwich was large, with lamb patties stuffed in amazingly warm, soft, and hearty homemade pita bread with onions, tomatoes and cabbage. The meat was spicy and sweet, with a texture similar to a hamburger, only about 20 times as tasty as your run-of-the-mill burger. The red cabbage was actually a pickled cabbage and incredibly tart. It was a great contrast to the lamb and balanced the sandwich nicely.

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$7 at Ziggy's

Categories: $7

Ziggys chickpea burger.jpg
Where? Ziggy's Bar and Grill (302 Fairview, 832-519-0476)

What $13 gets you: A chickpea burger and four "Ziggy snacks."

I stopped by Ziggy's Bar and Grill (302 Fairview, 832-519-0476) seeking a filling, cheap, vegetarian meal. I'm addicted to their huge chickpea burgers ($5.50) which are made in house from a mixture of chickpeas, carrots, pecans and secret spices. Since I don't even really like chickpeas, I'm always amazed how good this burger is. It's definitely not going to fool you into thinking you're eating beef, but the tender patty is very flavorful with a delightful surprise of crunch thanks to the pecans. They put it on a big, fresh, toasted bun and dress it with lots of lettuce, thickly sliced white onion, juicy tomato and pickles. I added a slice of mild, creamy Monterrey Jack cheese for a mere 50 cents more.

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$7 at Dacapo's Pastry Café

Categories: $7

Where: Dacapo's Pastry Café, 1141 E. 11th Street, 713-869-9141

What $7 gets you: A gorgeous ALT sandwich on fresh-baked honey wheat bread with a small side of carrot soufflé and a pickle, all served in a cute-as-pie café in the heart of the Heights.

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$7 at Harry's

Categories: $7


Where: Harry's Restaurant and Café, 318 Tuam, 713-528-0198

What $7 gets you: The Perfect Combo, $6.99 before tax. This actually isn't the perfect combo, but it suffices. We had a classic case of diner's remorse, since we kept wishing we'd ordered something Greek.

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$7 at Little Bitty Burger Barn

Categories: $7

Where: Little Bitty Burger Barn, 5503 Pinemont Drive, 713-683-6700

What $7 gets you: Four pocket-sized sliders, topped with grilled onions, and a bed of thick-cut French fries will set you back $5.95. Put that leftover dollar towards a thick 'n dreamy chocolate malt.

Recommended: Meh, if you're in the neighborhood.

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