Jason and I have vowed to save more money this year and since almost all of our money is spent on food, we have been seeking out good cheap eats places. A couple of weekends ago on a trip to visit my in-laws, we were lucky enough to go to two such places.

The first stop was for lunch with a taste of the south at Eli’s BBQ!

This outdoor food stop is only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am-6 pm and the smokehouse – behind the converted ice-cream stand where orders are taken – is manned by Eli (Crawford) himself.


Jason and I went up to the smokehouse for a peek and he quickly invited us in to take a look at all the goodies on the grill.

Eli takes great pride in the food he serves which was obvious through his list of homemade foods. These include but are not limited to the sausage that he stuffs and smokes, cole slaw and baked beans that come with each meal, and both a mild and hot BBQ sauce. There are only a small number of offerings at Eli’s which is fine by me because we tried everything on the menu and it was all excellent.

There were 6 of us that day and we each ordered a separate meal with the tab coming out to a little under $40 dollars. I got the ribs and showed enough restraint to take a picture before digging in.

I feel confident in saying that they were some of the best smoked ribs I’ve ever had. The meat was slow smoked to the point of falling off the bone but still tender. The meat on top was crispy from the grill and contrasted beautifully with the juicy meat underneath. It was a perfect combination with the tangy, not overly sweet, BBQ sauce served on the side.

The other star in my opinion was the smoked chicken, which my mother in law chose. She ordered the ¼ chicken with white meat and it was some of the juiciest white meat I have ever had. We were all pleasantly surprised considering it didn’t look as though it would be moist. When we go back on our next trip, I think we’ll have to order the whole chicken and all share it. 🙂

The other cheap eats place we went to was Le Cabana del Tio, which as you guessed it, is a Mexican joint. We didn’t think we’d have time to give del Tio a try on this last weekend trip but as luck would have it, my father in law’s favorite boat supply shop is one block away and we had to go there to pick up some things.

The setup of this place is similar to a takeout Chinese restaurant where there are 2 tables, a counter, and an open kitchen where you see corn tortillas rolled out and grilled fresh in front of your eyes. The menu is above the counter and is almost entirely in Spanish. I must add that they had Chuck Norris playing on a TV mounted above the counter. And yes, it was dubbed. I have to include a picture of Jason and his dad being goofy while we wait for our food. Yes, he is his father’s son.

They serve only the basics here: tacos, gorditas, quesadillas, tortas, and some specials. No burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, or anything else you’d find at Taco Bell. I can’t be sure but I’m almost positive Mexican Pizza was nowhere to be found on the menu.

For about $20, we got 2 tacos (bistek, or beef, and pastor, or pork), an order of beef quesadilla, and one of the daily specials which I have wanted to try, menudo. Yes, I’m Chinese and my mother’s daughter.

According to Jason, everything we had was similar to the food he had in Monterrey in 2004 and while I’m glad it was authentic, more importantly, everything tasted great!

The tacos were simply made with corn tortillas wrapped around a bit of seasoned meat, garnished with fresh chopped cilantro, and served with a side of lime and smoky salsa. The quesadilla was a corn tortilla encasing a bit of melted cheese and steak, served with crema fresca and an avocado puree, not fancy guacamole.

The menudo was fierce and definitely not for the faint of heart. It was full of heat as you can see in the picture and had deep beef flavor from all of the offal. It was served a small stack of their fresh corn tortillas for dipping along witha lime wedge and raw onions to be added at my discretion. I could’ve eaten the whole bowl if not for the fact that half way through, I inhaled through my mouth and burned the back of my throat. After hacking for about 2 minutes, I knew my throat was done with menudo for the day.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with our two finds and can’t wait for our next trip back to Florida to see my in-laws as well as visit Eli and the friendly tortilla-making ladies 🙂