Budget Beat

Donna's Bakery & Café: Lunch $10 and Under

If you haven't checked out Donna's Bakery & Café in Tempe yet, you might have managed to stave off a few pounds in ethnic baked confections but you're really missing out. This is the motherlode of reasonably priced baked goods drawing influence from Asia, Europe, and America and made from scratch in the back kitchen. Not to mention the delicious breakfast and lunch menu where you can get your main course, a side, a drink AND dessert for less than $10.

The wide variety of Chinese-style buns -- including BBQ pork, pork sung, red bean and custard -- will set you back less than $2 each.

The daily lunch special (turkey, ham and cheese on the day we stopped in), and the house special, a BBQ pork sandwich, both come with chips and a drink for $3.99 each.

And if neither special grabs your attention, you can add chips and a drink to any other deli sandwich ($4.99 to 6.69) - bacon and ham, turkey avocado, black pepper beef, and walnut chicken salad are just some of the options - for just a buck. Not a bad deal in our book.

After you've settled on your sandwich, choose your canvas: white, wheat, bun or croissant. Seeing as it's a bakery, they're all made in house, which means you can't go wrong. And finally, load it up. Add veggies, condiments, cheese and even nuts to your sandwich.

The veggie sandwich is not on the menu, but it should be. On top of your standard lettuce, tomato and onion, this baby has avocado walnuts and wasabi mayo. They even offered to throw on some fresh fruit like mango or pineapple.

The wasabi mayo is definitely a good call. On anything. It's spicy yet smooth and adds a better zip than your run-of-the-mill Miracle Whip.

While waiting for our sandwich, we scoped out the baked goods. The more traditional fare was intriguing, but the red velvet cupcakes front and center just kept tempting us in their perky floral wrappers with their cream cheese frosting and deep red cake crumb sprinkles.

We caved ... and we're glad we did.

Donna's cupcakes are the deep mahogany color you've come to expect from red velvet, deliciously moist and topped with the creamiest of cream cheese frostings. Delish. (And entirely worth that extra hour on the treadmill.)

Adding to our sugar high: We came away unscathed by the outrageous prices of most premium cupcake joints, grabbing lunch AND dessert for what two cupcakes would cost us elsewhere.

If you're feeling extra hungry, you can grab any sandwich with soup, salad or a slice of mousse cake, and a beverage for $8.95 - still within the $10 mark.

Bonus: If you work in the neighborhood, you can an extra 10 percent off. Just let the cashier know.

Donna's Bakery & Cafe
710 W. Elliot Rd, Ste 101

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Hannah E Williams