I'm always up for a challenge, as long as I think there's a good chance I can win. This week, I put my mettle to the test and hit the pavement trying to find an unheralded dining bargain in Westport. Certainly every town has its hidden gems, I reasoned. There has to be some place in town that is A) inexpensive; B) tasty and C) not already overrun with the masses yearning to be fed.

Turns out my quest proved to be more difficult than I thought. I think I might've had an easier time doing a Survivor-style knot-untying challenge than trying to find some chow under $10.

Westport certainly has its share of great restaurants, but what people are saying is true. There just isn't that much new happening in the Westport food scene. Not, at least, compared with other towns that seem to be booming with new kitchens and bargain wine nights. I so desperately wanted to find something funky or different, some place that offered an entrée other than seared tuna or roasted duck with white truffle oil mashed potatoes. Don't get me wrong -- I love all that stuff, but sometimes you just want a $4 burrito or a cup of good soup and a sandwich.

After much legwork, I found that the best bargains to be had were lunches at Asian restaurants. (Ironic, considering that dinner at most Japanese places will set you back enough that you'll have to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of the week.)

More Information

THE SCOOP • Tengda: Asian Fusion bargains include the Japanese Lunch Boxes, Two Roll Specials and Thai and Chinese options. 1330 Post Road East, Westport; 203-255-6115; www.tengdaasianbistro.com. • Tiger Bowl: Small but cozy Chinese restaurant offering lunch specials. 1872 Post Road East, Westport; 203-255-1799; www.tigerbowlwestport.com. • Calise’s: Check out the daily hot specials for a bargain meal. 734 Post Road East, Westport; 203-227-3257; www.calises.com. • DaPietro’s: Tiny, upscale institution. 36 Riverside Ave., Westport; 203-454-1213; www.dapietros.com.

My first stop for a bargain lunch was Tengda.

For $8.50, I ordered the chicken teriyaki lunch box. With the chicken came a big bowl of miso soup, a ginger salad, three pieces of California roll, two pot stickers and a pyramid of brown rice. The other option I was looking at was the two roll special with miso soup or ginger salad for $9. That's a lot of food for a single Alexander Hamilton.

An equally impressive bargain is the luncheon special at Tiger Bowl. For $5.95, you can get a big plate of broccoli in garlic sauce, along with your choice of soup (won ton, egg drop or hot and sour), roast pork fried rice and a spring roll. Or, if you're looking to impress your date, go for the Crispy General Tso's Chicken for $6.95. Of course, dessert (a fortune cookie) and hot tea, is always included.

If Asian fare isn't what you're hankering for (and let's face it, you've got to be in the mood), Calise's Delicatessen has some pretty wallet-friendly lunch options. For $4.25, you can get a BLT or grilled cheese with fries. If you're feeling slightly more peckish, try one of the five daily hot entrees that come with rice or mashed potatoes for $7.50.

Perhaps Westport's best bargain, however, is the prix fixe lunch at DaPietro's. The restaurant, which has garnered accolades from Zagat, Wine Spectator and the New York Times, offers a deal that's apparently unrivaled by other restaurants of such high caliber. For $12, you can get two courses, or add another $3 for a third course. At dinner, Monday through Thursday, the prix fixe special is $33.

It's worth it to compare Westport's best bargains with what we usually consider a cheap lunch. A quarter pounder value meal from McDonald's averages about $6. A foot-long sub at Subway is $5; add a drink and chips and you're up to $7.

I'm convinced that there must be other great bargains out and about in Westport that I just haven't stumbled upon yet. Hidden gems, after all, like to stay hidden.

Email Patti Woods at eatdrinkshopcook@gmail.com.

THE SCOOP

"¢ Tengda: Asian Fusion bargains include the Japanese Lunch Boxes, Two Roll Specials and Thai and Chinese options. 1330 Post Road East, Westport; 203-255-6115; www.tengdaasianbistro.com.

"¢ Tiger Bowl: Small but cozy Chinese restaurant offering lunch specials. 1872 Post Road East, Westport; 203-255-1799; www.tigerbowlwestport.com.

"¢ Calise's: Check out the daily hot specials for a bargain meal. 734 Post Road East, Westport; 203-227-3257; www.calises.com.

"¢ DaPietro's: Tiny, upscale institution. 36 Riverside Ave., Westport; 203-454-1213; www.dapietros.com.