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Gyros, tacos, burgers, pizza, salads and more that taste great and won't bust your budget

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I've been eating lunch in downtown Detroit several times a week for decades, and I can attest that the options have never been better or more diverse than they are today. 

It's also becoming easier and easier to drop a 20 spot at lunch, and unless your office is at the top of one of Detroit's skyscrapers, that's likely not a sustainable habit. Fortunately, with so many new places joining old favorites, businesses are jockeying for diners' dollars at lunchtime and that often means deals and reasonable price points. 

Here are my picks for downtown Detroit's best values for a quality midday meal that will get you out the door for $11 or less, many times including a drink and a modest tip. 

A few self-imposed guidelines: I didn't include any national chain restaurants or food trucks, many of which offer great deals and can be found 11 a.m.-2 a.m. at Campus Martius, Woodward Spirit Plaza and Beacon Park through Oct. 13. Places picked didn't need to have a dine-in space, but did have to be walkable from Campus Martius. 

1. Green Room Salad Bar: Downtown Detroit's soup and build-your-own-salad spot is back and better than ever. After getting booted from the Ford Building in 2018, the Green Room re-emerged this year inside the Guardian Building. Now, not only is the soup menu easier to read (and updated digitally), but there's a place to sit and eat inside the historic building's retail promenade, which is awash with art deco glory. Grab food from the Green Room or neighboring Crazy Gringo taco stand (there's also a market that has food and a coffee shop) and take a seat in one of downtown's most gorgeous public spaces. My favorite soups at Green Room the velvety chicken enchilada, the spinach and feta and chicken Thai curry. Soups are eight, 12 or 16 ounces and cost $4-$6. Depending on the weight, I can usually get out the door with a small salad and medium soup for $9. 500 Griswold. Order online at greenroomsalads.com.

2. Mr. Kabob Xpress: Since the switch from CK Mediterranean Grille & Catering to Mr. Kabob, this Monroe street restaurant has become more streamlined and seems to have upped the quality of food, too. Order a bowl or pita wrap and customize it in an assembly-line style adding fresh veggies, cheese, sauce and your choice of meat or falafel. The bowls can get over $10 easily, but the wraps — which are absolutely huge and pressed on a grill to make them easier to eat — stay under the $8 mark. Sign up for their in-house rewards system for discounts. 119 Monroe. mrkabob.com. Order online or through the Ritual app. 

3. Jose's Tacos: Order ahead and pick up or eat inside the tiny dining room. Either way this is a quick way to get your taco fix at lunch. Lunch combos are $7.99 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and tacos a la carte are $2.50. The cuisine here is just as good as anything you'd order in Southwest Detroit, and it's my pick for the best tacos in downtown Detroit. 218 E. Grand River, Detroit. (313) 965-9992 or order via the Ritual app. 

More: Jose's Tacos to open second location in Eastern Market

More: Feta, olives, pita, beets: Detroit loves a Greek salad

4. Golden Fleece Restaurant: This longstanding family-owned Greek restaurant has the best gyro meat in Detroit (trust me, I'm a gyro-holic who has done the research). Their classic gyro pita with onion, tomato and tzatziki sauce is just $8. 525 Monroe. (313) 962-7093 or order ahead via the Ritual app. See also: Golden Fleece may have the best lamb, but Athens Souvlaki in the Penobscot Building has the best pita bread. Get their gyro with fries for less than $10.

5. Orchid Thai Restaurant: A go-to for lunch downtown for around 15 years, this restaurant has many fried rice, noodle and curry dishes priced below $9 during lunch. 115 Monroe. (313) 962-0225 or orchidthaidetroit.com. See also: Go! Sy Thai in Capitol Park (there's also a Midtown location) has good portions and offers delivery. Most items stay under the $10 mark. 

6. Mootz Pizza: This New York-style pizzeria and bar has a carryout kiosk next door called "Side Hustle" that serves slices all day long. Get a huge, greasy, floppy wedge of classic cheese and curly pepperoni for $4, or go gourmet or vegetarian for $5. Cans of pop are around $2. Take it with you, or wolf it down at a small counter inside. 1230 Library. (313) 243-1230 or mootzpizzeria.com. See also: Slices Pizza at 1043 Woodward has super big slices, too, and they're usually ready-to-go for just $2.75. 

7. Lover's Only: During lunchtime this twee burger shop serves its 6-ounce, grass-fed and grain-finished Michigan beef burger with American cheese, mayo, mustard and onion plus an order of hand-cut fries and a fountain drink for $10 weekdays 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The burger alone anytime is $7.50. 34 E. Grand River. (313) 986-1174. See also: Across the street from Lover's Only is French pastry shop Cannelle where you can get a half-sandwich on a baguette and a coffee for around $10 out the door, but good luck leaving without a couple of their colorful macarons or buttery croissants. 

8. Checker Bar: There aren't many dive bars downtown that have gone relatively unchanged for years. This burger haven is one of them. Besides a variety of smaller burgers and loaded hot dogs for a low price, Checker Bar also has a crispy chicken sandwich for under $7. There's a full bar and plentiful seating, too. 124 Cadillac Square, Detroit. (313) 961-9249.

9. Woodward Coney: If you want a coney dog to go American or Lafeyette, but Woodward Coney has a larger menu of non-dog grub. Diner culture is alive here, with casual waitstaff that calls you "hun" and old school tile work inside and out. A large Greek salad, soft drink and a 20 percent tip is under $12. The pitas, burgers, sandwiches and array of hot dogs are even cheaper. 616 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 961-9900. 

10. The Coneys: I don't need to tell you that American and Lafayette Coney Islands are a good deal considering their renown. Each serves coney dogs for around $3 each. 114 and 118 W. Lafayette. See also: Hot dog cart Mr. Hot Dog, usually found on Gratiot near Library in front of the Skillman Detroit Public Library, sells flattop-grilled beef dogs with ketchup, mustard and fragrant, super-grilled onions for just $3. 

More deals in Midtown and New Center: HopCat Detroit (4265 Woodward) has a menu of nine items that are priced $9 or less, including a California club sandwich, pork tostadas and chicken or roasted cauliflower tacos. Shield's at Woodward and Warren has an express lunch menu: slice of pizza and generously sized salad for $8. Further north, YumVillage (6500 Woodward) has combo meals for $10. I love the jerk chicken with ginger curry chickpeas. 

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens

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