Budget Beat

Lunch Under $10 at YC's Mongolian Grill in Tempe

We know Mongolian grill joints aren't hip and new anymore, but when we're broke and looking for a boatload of grub, YC's is the place to go. The DIY stir-fry joint allows you to jam and pile as much food as you can into one small bowl, and they'll cook up whatever you manage to fit in it. This usually yields three meals for us, but maybe you can beat our record. Lines do tend to get long around lunchtime, so it's best to head over a little before noon or an hour after if you can.

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Now we've been going to YC's for quite some time, so we pride ourselves on being exceptional bowl stuffers -- piling veggies and meats and noodles so high that it takes a steady hand to deliver the whole shebang to the grill to be cooked. After all, if the food falls off the bowl pile, it won't get cooked. We are glad to see that they've given in and allowed sauce bowls at the end so that you can get your stir-fry extra saucy, without the splash and splatter of trying to pour it all over top of your noodle creation.

For $9.50, you can get a small lunch bowl, which can fill about two carryout boxes full of noodles when prepped right. Each carryout box is 50 cents, so if you're on a tight budget, bring your own Tupperware. If you're really on a tight budget (we were here several times in college), fill up on the soup, rice, and the crispy wonton chips offered with meals and save your entire stir fry for later -- it's not the classiest course of action, but great for penny pinchers.

It's kind of funny to review the flavors at YC's, though, because they all depend on what you put in your bowl. If you want a bowl of beef with garlic, you can totally do that. If you want some cabbage and noodles, you can do that too. Since you craft your own bowl from start to finish, you can't really blame anyone if you don't like your meal. Our favorite recipe involves a pile of noodles, all of the veggies, tofu, peanut and curry sauces, ginger, garlic and sesame oil, but you can try whatever you like.

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Heather Hoch is a music, food, and arts writer based in Tucson. She enjoys soup, scotch, Electric Light Orchestra, and walking her dog, Frodo.
Contact: Heather Hoch