March 2004 Bambu
This former gas station has cleaned up well. The owners of nearby Chen's Gourmet took it over last year, painted the walls buttercream, and added slab stone floors and hanging rice-paper screens. With its cloth napkins and teak tables, Bambu hardly feels dirt-cheap, but there are bargains. Look for the $7 noodle and vegetarian dishes, from an excellent pad Thai to sweet-and-spicy egg noodles, which can easily serve two. Or make a meal out of small plates like duck rolls (at $5 they're a budget take on Peking duck), spring rolls ($3), and pumpkin and coconut soup ($2.50). Either way, the sexy setting makes you forget you're on a shoestring.