Great food doesn’t have to come with a great big price tag. Think of the humble burrito. Properly constructed, it’s every bit as complex and thrilling as elegant presentations at white-tablecloth establishments, offering a perfect balance of flavors and textures: rich, fatty meat, a chewy tortilla, earthy beans, pungent onions, floral cilantro, bright lime, gooey cheese, starchy rice and blistering chilies. Or consider the lowly ramen noodle, the staple of cash-strapped college kids. When made by hand, simmered with pork in broth and seasoned with roasted seaweed, chili oil and other Asian ingredients, it becomes a bright star in a brilliant galaxy of flavors.

We set out to find restaurants that specialize in such standout dishes, from sandwiches and pizza to burgers and Korean bibimbap, all for $15 or less. We scoured mom-and-pop eateries, diners, bodegas, strip malls, ethnic outposts, street corners, flea markets and more. Yes, we ate our way through some heartbreaking (and heartburn-inducing) disappointments, but we found plenty of places where satisfying and even supreme dishes draw in diners of every age and income level. Here are the 25 restaurants from Venice to Bradenton that made the final cut.

In This Feature:

Meal Steals: All-American Eateries

At these Sarasota eateries, you'll find standout burgers, hot dogs and more.

05/31/2016 By Cooper Levey-Baker

Meal Steals: Sensational Sandwiches

You'll find immensely satisfying sandwiches at these 5 local spots.

05/31/2016 By Cooper Levey-Baker

Meal Steals: Latin American Specialties

From amazing tacos to fresh-made empanadas, here are our picks for the best local deals on Latin American favorites.

05/31/2016 By Cooper Levey-Baker

Meal Steals: Asian Cuisine

There's an impressive number of Asian restaurants in Sarasota, with many serving outstanding--and well-priced--food. Here are our favorites.

05/31/2016 By Cooper Levey-Baker

Meal Steals: Mediterranean Hot Spots

From pizza to gyros, here are our favorite places to score Mediterranean meal deals in Sarasota-Manatee.

05/31/2016 By Cooper Levey-Baker

Why Do Publix Subs Taste So Good?

Neuroscientist Stefan Crynen on what makes Publix subs sublime.

05/31/2016 By Cooper Levey-Baker

Our 8 Favorite Tacos in Sarasota-Manatee

Here are our reigning favorites.

05/31/2016 By Cooper Levey-Baker

The Coffee Carousel: Main Street's Most Affordable Eatery

The Coffee Carousel has barely changed since the restaurant opened in the 1960s.

05/31/2016 By Cooper Levey-Baker

New York Post Theater Columnist Michael Riedel on "Cheap Eats" at a Famous New York Bistro

For a struggling young writer, the meal was always free at a tony New York City bistro.

05/31/2016 By Michael Riedel