Those of you who remember something called the blue-plate special may have noticed that it’s kind of a vanishing breed. The term—used to describe a low-cost meal, usually changing daily, in places that are, ahem, a little scruffy—isn’t used too often anymore. But that doesn’t mean the tradition has died. This month’s Dollar-Wise search turned up quite a few local restaurants serving daily lunch specials that fit the profile: budget-friendly comfort food served in places that could be on TV’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Here’s a handful. (Note: Because these are specials, they’re subject to change.)
The Place: Market Club (2630 Fifth St.) (above)
The Lowdown: Gritty warehouse setting and hard to find. But it’s got a loyal throng of regulars.
The Special: Meatloaf and mashed potatoes (Friday’s special), smothered with gravy; minestrone-type soup and roll
Taste-Test:Huge slab of meatloaf, nicely crisped on edges and robust with flavor; super-creamy potatoes; fantastic soup
Price Tag: $7
Also Noted: Lunch specials change daily. Have heard raves about the fried chicken (Wednesday’s special).
The Place: Cricket’s Country Kitchen (4745 Auburn Blvd.)
The Lowdown: The quintessential country diner, with kitschy knickknacks and an old-school vibe
The Special: There were a number of specials here, but I went for the blue-plate, which on a Friday was grilled tuna melt on sourdough and a cup of clam chowder
Taste-Test: Cheesy, gooey goodness, though the tuna was a little onion-heavy; chowder was just OK
Price Tag: $7.59
Also Noted: Gotta love it: My meal actually was served on a blue plate.
The Place: Roxie Deli & Grocery (3340 C St; roxiedeli.com)
The Lowdown: Mostly a takeout place (though there are tables outdoors) offering a changing array of daily barbecue sandwich specials
The Special: Hot beef brisket on a French roll (Thursday’s special)
Taste-Test: Big and fat, bursting with tender brisket in a mildly sweet barbecue sauce; super-fresh roll
Price Tag: $6.95
Also Noted: This was the “junior” size—plenty big for two. (No wonder the line was nearly out the door!)
The Place: Sammy’s Restaurant (2021 Del Paso Blvd.)
The Lowdown: A Sacramento staple since World War II, Sammy’s is as retro as it gets, with an aqua- and-pink motif and down-home diner grub
The Special: Turkey melt with choice of side (I had potato salad) and sliced dill pickle
Taste-Test: Simple, clean flavors, with a decent amount of turkey (though it was not fresh-carved, as I had hoped) and ample cheese; the potato salad had a fun tang and wasn’t saturated with mayo
Price Tag: $6.95
Also Noted: Some regulars say the breakfasts are the bomb.
The Place: de Vere’s Irish Pub (1521 L St.; deverespub.com)
The Lowdown: This is not a grubby pub, so it doesn’t fit our parameters exactly. But it offers some decent deals, and the food is comfort-y.
The Special: Half-sandwich combo (tuna, pastrami, chicken or Reuben) with soup, chips or crisps (11 a.m.–4 p.m. weekdays)
Taste-Test: Delicious, not-too-fatty hot pastrami, oozing with fontina cheese; creamy broccoli soup was tasty, too
Price Tag: $8.99
Also Noted: State workers (with ID) get a 15 percent discount on weekday lunches. Another bargain: A yummy Irish stew with brown bread is just $7.99.