Let's be honest. Nothing says cheap eating like pizza, Chinese food, or - specifically to the South Sound - a burger at Frisko Freeze.
For those new to the area, here are a few of the Weekly Volcano's favorite local places in no particular order. You can find much more on our website at weeklyvolcano.com/dish.
Serving pizza pies, calzones, pasta, bagels and breakfast, this joint is a favorite of students at the art high school and University of Washington Tacoma. 1946 Pacific Ave., 253.779.0769.
OLD SCHOOL PIZZERIA
Old School Pizzeria is where you'd take Grandma - if she were a punk rocker. Old School is Olympia in a nutshell: loud music, eclectic décor, bitchy staff - but in a good way. The pizza is New York thin and delivers the crust just right so you can fold the thing in half and slide it into your mouth. 108 Franklin St., Olympia, 360.786.9640.
Pizza Casa is a Lakewood icon that transcends all peoples. The menu is full of favorites such as ravioli, chicken, and manicotti. Still, most people order the pizza, and for good reason. 12924 Pacific Highway S.W., Lakewood, 253.588.8135.
PUGET SOUND PIZZA
This joint is like everyone's memory of their favorite college pizza hangout. Puget Sound Pizza has that college, no-frills feel with plenty of art event posters on the walls, large tables, big windows, not to mention cool retro barstools and those '70s red, orange and yellow chain lamps we sat under while watching the "Partridge Family" on prime time. It's the place to find a quick and large breakfast at a reasonable price 7-10:30 a.m. seven days a week, plus pizza that rocks your world (amazing red sauce). 317 South Seventh, Tacoma, 253.383.4777.
Aggressively hip joint favored by college students and those who like loud music - and that's a good thing. Vic's serves delicious hand-tossed, New York style, thin crust and slightly greasy pizza - whole or by the slice. Toppings include pine nuts, tofu, capers, cashews among traditional items. White and whole wheat crust options (chose whole wheat). Vic's is also vegan friendly with yellow and white sauces made with yeast, tahini, soy milk, soy butter and a vegan calzone option. 233 Division St. N.W., Olympia, 360.943.8044.
HAPPY AT THE BAY TERIYAKI
While teriyaki is the mainstay, this restaurant devotes a fair portion of its menu to Chinese selections - more so than other teriyaki restaurants. The Mongolian beef was surprisingly fresh, sweet and scrumptious. Portion size was huge and the service friendly. 4040 S. Orchard, Fircrest, 253.564.4707.
Emperor's Palace is everything you'd want a stereotypical Chinese restaurant to be. The Kung Pao chicken is tasty. 7321 Martin Way S.E., Lacey, 360.923.2323.
Skip the family meals and head straight for the authentic Mandarin/Szechwan dishes such as roast duck Cantonese and orange peel beef, order a powerful potion from the bar, and then work off the fine Chinese food in front of the karaoke machine. 3810 Bridgeport Way W., University Place, 253.564.7170.
A downtown Tacoma Chinese restaurant that's under new management, the Shanghai House is known for specializing in large portions. Rich spices fill the air. The house specialty - steamed dumplings - are super soft, steamy goodness arriving in a metal bowl on shredded white cabbage. These hot little balls are filled with seasoned ground pork and minced veggies and then dunked in soy/vinegar sauce. We also recommend the The Sizzling Triple Delight - a sizzling dish of chicken, beef and prawns joined by mushrooms, red bell pepper, snow peas, and broccoli. 1126 Commerce St., Tacoma, 253.627.1859.
Folks, this is as real as it gets around here. Chinese (Sichuan) with a huge menu, well over a hundred options, and the portions are big and the flavors fresh. Their idea of a starter soup is more trough-like than cup. Crispy pork & tofu with hot tomato sauce, hot pepper fried shredded potato, eggplant in hot garlic sauce - they excel in hot and spicy. 9601 South Tacoma Way, No. 102, Lakewood, 253.581.0102.
A Tacoma icon with juicy burgers, fries, great onion rings, and shakes without a high priced bill and silly "welcome to such and such" sayings. 1201 Division, Tacoma, 253.272.6843.
ALFRED'S CAFÉ & BUBBLE ROOM
Alfred's Café & Bubble Room's menu is extensive. In fact, sometimes it's near impossible to decide what to chow on with more than 10 appetizers, five salads, 12 types of hand-thrown pizza, six entrees and 10 sandwiches. 402 Puyallup Ave. E., Tacoma by the Tacoma Dome, 253.627.5491.
Infinite Soups serves 20 to 30 different kinds of soups daily off a rotating list of around 60 soups, by the quart, bowl or cup, all under $7. Owner Wendy Clapp offers soup and bread for take-out only, although Malarkey's will let you bring her soup inside their pool joint next door. 445 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, 253.274.0232.
A great local bar with a good reputation for exemplary beer, friendly patrons, and great food including fish 'n' chips. Early Sunday night blues is a Tacoma tradition. 2121 North 30th, Old Town Tacoma, 253.627.8215.