As Portlanders, we've all heard the story of magical hippies who gather fallen chestnuts from roadside trees, wresting the nourishing nutmeat from their spiny purses like patchouli-dipped squirrels. Some locals say they've witnessed this strange fall occurrence firsthand. Others say it's all a buncha' hooey. Fact or fable, let's heed the lesson of these resourceful, bleary-eyed creatures and sniff out value of our own... the prized four-buck lunch!

Canon's Rib Express
5410 NE 33rd, 288-3836

If you shop at New Seasons, try the laid back rib joint across the street. Their "chop pork" sandwich ($3.50) is a good scoop of chopped, barbecued pork coated in their tangy sauce. It sits on a roll... basically, a sponge for the sauce. The covered patio offers plenty of outside seating, and the 'cue smell is free.

3119 SE 12th, 238-4411

This German deli a block from the Aladdin has nearly unmatched lunch deals, including $3.75 for a sandwich (like Black Forest turkey and cheese), and $3.90 for their lunch special: sausage, deli salad, and a roll. A smoked brat or dinner frank (with that natural casing "snap") on a French roll with cheese is a steal at $3.30. Assortment of mustards on the tables. Beat that. I dare ya.

Hoda's Middle Eastern Cuisine
3401 SE Belmont, 236-8325

The sandwiches at Hoda's are a true find, and just enough to fill you. Try the Chicken Mousahab sandwich, with strips of grilled chicken covered in garlicky sauce ($3.95). It's the same price for the Kafta Kabob, or Chicken Shawarma. The Super Falafel is a mere $3.75, and the waitress will deliver some complimentary hot pita to your table, as well. The lunch crowd is light, so you can chow down in a flash.

Mr. Moto
413 NW 21st, 221-3045

Don't forget about tiny Mr. Moto, an unassuming pit stop for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. The chicken or tofu Teriyaki Delight, pot sticker bowl (yummy chicken dumplings on rice), and the meatless rice & veggies combo are each only $4. They make their own awesome teriyaki sauce, too, and no MSG, bee-yotch!

Good Dog/Bad Dog
708 SW Alder, 222-3410

The sausage is king at this off-Broadway spot, but if you must stay under the $4 ceiling, a large chili, at $3, won't break the bank. Top with shredded cheddar for 50 cents, and you're still sittin' pretty. If you have a fiver that's burning a hole in your pocket, all sausages (garlic, hot, polish) are within reach. If not, the all-beef dog is three bucks.

Super Burrito
10506 SE 42nd, Milwaukie, 786-9370

This no-frills cathedral of Mexican food won't wow you with ambience (it makes In 'n' Out Burger look like TGI Friday's), but the food is reason enough to go to Milwaukie. The carne asada taco ($1.45) is tender, and topped with salsa and guacamole. The bean, rice, and cheese burrito ($2.60) bangs for your buck, size-wise. Is it tasty? Darn tootin'. Er, no pun intended.

Heathman Bistro
1001 SW Broadway, 790-7752

If your overpaid boss asks you to take a late lunch, smile and whisper "Sure, jackass." Then, head over to the Heathman (between 4-6 pm) and treat yourself to the bistro menu. It's a great way to sample their creations at half the usual price. Recommended is the Croquant Normand, a crispy crepe with Camembert, bacon, and arugula ($3.95). The Bistro Burger ($3.95), and Manila clams & chorizo ($3.25) also rock.

Tao of Tea
3430 SE Belmont, 736-0119

This calming SE Belmont teahouse has amazing entrées, like miso flat bread, so go back when you have extra dough. In the meantime, a cup of their dahl (AKA lentil soup) and a cup of rice are only $4 total, or get a bowl of dahl for $4. The inspired Green Tea Tofu Supreme ($4) is slices of tofu covered with green tea powder (macha), lime juice, and cayenne. It's as good as it sounds, but more of a snack than lunch.