The $10 Challenge: Vietnam Kitchen

I’m a food rebel.

Since I’m a grown up, I have adopted eating habits that would make my mother shake like the top of her pressure cooker.

I eat cereal for dinner. I don’t always clean my plate. My voracious appetite leads to lots of crumbs around my mouth and stains on my pants.

And for this week’s $10 Challenge, I ate dessert first.

I spent a rainy evening soaking up authentic Asian cuisine at Vietnam Kitchen in the south end of Louisville. I had missed an opportunity to eat here when my buddy Keith came in town, and he suggested it as a subject for blog. I happily took the opportunity to further my exploration of this area of town, which is rich with diverse cultures and, therefore, food.

Patrons filled these seats about five minutes later.

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The $10 Challenge: Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant

I love a success story.

But for this week’s $10 Challenge, I was determined to fail.

I have operated under the notion that $10 should be enough to receive a decent meal at a local restaurant. But what if you throw in a couple of extra bucks? Will the more-expensive meal be worth blowing off the $10 budget I have imposed upon myself for the last few weeks?

I decided to test this theory at Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant, a local chain with three locations in Louisville and the surrounding area.

Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant on Main Street in Louisville, Ky.

Los Aztecas has been the go-to Mexican place for my buddies and I for years. In high school, I visited the restaurant’s Main Street location about once a week because it was the only eatery open for lunch during my Sunday afternoon shift at the Louisville Science Center. I didn’t fully appreciate the variety Los Aztecas offered back then. Instead, I ordered a chicken quesadilla (the starter entree for anyone new to Mexican food) each time I brought something back to the museum for lunch.

A few years have passed, and I have since been fortunate enough to further explore Los Aztecas’s extensive food and tequila selection. But I’ve gotten into a rut during my last few visits. I have been ordering the quesadilla fajita grande with chicken or the burrito fajita grande with chicken with the reassurance that each of the similar dishes will always come out tasting great.

On my most recent dinner visit, I wanted to flip to a new page in the Los Aztecas menu and try a different entree.

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Guacamole success, or, the last time I’ll write about avocados for a while

Let’s just call Saturday Ocho de Mayo, because that’s when my Mexican heritage celebration finally took place.

I bought three avocados Wednesday that were on sale to make guacamole for Cinco de Mayo. Unfortunately, it took until Saturday for them to finally ripen.

So here is my recipe, adapted from this blog. And I promise I’ll post more recipes that aren’t Mexican-inspired, though I do love some good Mexican food.

Guacamole (ingredients purchased at Kroger and Aldi)*

It looks messy, but that's how I like it.The Numbers:

  • Three avocados (69 cents each, $2.07 total)
  • 1/2 red onion ($1.13 each, 57 cents for half)
  • 1/2 green pepper (83 cents each, 42 cents for half)
  • 1 clove garlic**
  • 1/2 tomato ($1.78 per pound, ~59 cents)
  • Juice from 1 lime (49 cents each)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Frank’s hot sauce, to taste

Total cost: $4.14

Cost per serving (about 6 servings of 1/2 cup each): 69 cents

The Action:

  1. Dice red onion, green pepper, garlic and tomato. Combine in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Hull and chop avocados. In another bowl, smash avocados with a fork. Squeeze lime over the smashed avocados.
  3. Mix avocados in the large bowl with red onion, green pepper, garlic and tomato.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

The Extras:

This is a great dip with some tortilla chips, but it’s also good if you smear it on a burrito. I paired it with some grilled tilapia, salsa and tortilla chips.

A very festive plate.

*I didn’t have the receipt for some of these purchases, so I got the prices from the USDA.

**I couldn’t find the price of garlic, but it’s pretty cheap.