From the food editor: Three local meals for less than $10

Marinated Corn, Tomato and Halloumi Salad
Marinated Corn, Tomato and Halloumi Salad
Published Sept. 6, 2016

I've had it up to here with the $12 cocktail.

As someone who appreciates food, and a local restaurant scene that seems to get bigger and better every year, I have been known to fork over good money for a good meal. I prioritize eating out. It's one of my hobbies.

But enough is enough.

In a casual survey of popular restaurants within walking distance from my office, five had cocktail lists without a single-digit price on them. Even if the cost of these drinks is justified — most of the time, they do claim to rely on fresh ingredients or house-made liquors or juices — I would like another option every so often.

It's the same with food. When did sandwiches begin to cost $14? How small can a small plate be when it's more than ten bucks? If you want to have an interesting, quality meal at a local restaurant, do you have to spend $30?

Not quite. You have to get creative, but there are meals to be had for less. Specifically, $10 or less. Here are some of my favorite deals. If you have any gems to share, send them my way, for the sake of all our wallets.

Central Melt: This new hole-in-the-wall (685 Central Ave., St. Petersburg) specializing in grilled cheeses is serving up crispy, gooey sandwiches with a perfect cheese-to-bread-to-other-ingredients ratio. All of them are less than $10 (the most expensive is the very good Roast Beef on Fleek, $7.95), which means you can add on a house-made tomato soup dipper for 95 cents and not feel bad about it.

On Swann: This one may come as a surprise, but don't ever let a restaurant's most expensive item stop you from eating there. Yes, On Swann (1501 W Swann Ave., Tampa) has entrees into the $30 range, but they also have multiple small plates for less than $10. Go with a friend, order the Kale Salad (a huge mound of kale and other goodies on a normal-sized plate) and the Hot Chicken (you get at least four tenders), and split it: $8 each, before tip. If you are willing to increase your budget to $15, stop at Bar Taco right across the street before dinner, and get one of their happy hour cocktails (weekdays 5 to 6:30 p.m.) for $5 and $6.

Il Ritorno: The modern Italian restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg (449 Central Ave., No. 101) is currently offering half-price pastas on Thursdays, which means you can order their signature Short Rib Mezzaluna, the Mushroom Buccatini or the Seasonal Vegetable Campanelle (all made in-house) for a crisp Alexander Hamilton.

Contact Michelle Stark at or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.