Best cheap sit-down restaurants in Berkeley / Oakland area
A friend asked about this, here's an off-the-top-of-my-head list:
Binh Minh Quan (Vietnamese)*
Champa Garden (Laotian / Thai / Vietnamese)
China Village (Sichuan)
Daimo (Hong Kong Chinese)*
El Huarache Azteca (Mexican)
Indus Village (Pakistani)
Jayakarta (Indonesian - not so great for Malaysian)
Vik's (Indian - chaat)
* some cheap dishes, some pricier
People always post links to the Chronicle's Bargain Bites list, but they're missing some of the best, and include some places that downright suck.
I've never thought of China Village as being cheap, though. I guess it's cheap as restaurants in general go and it's a good value, but it's not particularly cheap for a Chinese restaurant.
How about Shanghai (two locations, near Berkeley campus and Oakland Chinatown). Very cheap (love the 3 for $15 menu) and yummy (if you order correctly).
One of the best food bargains around is the weekend pozole special at Otaez in Alameda: a "small" runs $4.95 and comes in a generous sized bowl (last time my leftovers almost filled a 16-oz styrofoam cup), with side plate of two small bean "taquitos," plus all the chips and salsa you can eat. It usually makes two meals for me (of course that's because I'm a chips and salsa addict, who usually isn't hungry by the time her order comes)!
Lucky House Thai on University above Shattuck
Pho Hoa on Shattuck near Durant (yes, it's a chain, but it delivers good, cheap, authentic pho)
either Pasta Pomodoro or Filippo's for their gorgonzola pasta dish (the only thing I order a those places)
Ole's Waffle Shop (Alameda, I know) for the best waffle in the Bay Area
Pyung Chang Tofu House on Telegraph near 47th for soon tofu soups
At the risk of listing one of the Chomical's bargain bites, I'll second Lucky House Thai. Also on the cheap side are some good student hangouts like Cafe Intermezzo (Telegraph at Channing) and Steve's [Korean] BBQ in the Durant food court. I guess they don't really qualify as sit-down diner joints though.
How cheap is cheap?
My bar - $5 for lunch, $10 for dinner, with tax and tip.
I'll take Gordo's (Albany) regular carnitas burrito at about $4 (lunch or dinner). I prefer the regular to the super - you really taste the meat - and whole beans (pintos). Excellent carnitas.
La Pinata, in Alameda, has a large spicy chicken soup [I forget the menu name] for less than $10 which is two hearty meals (one for there, and a 32oz styrofoam to take home). They appear to include both breasts of a chicken, a potato, and several carrots, along with what appears to be nopales and other stuff. It's also very tasty, with a rich smoky broth from the chilis (chipotle?). For some reason the service there is slow (it's just soup!), so when I friend is sick I often call for a togo order and swoop in. Nothing better for a cold - chicken soup, veggies, chilis. One wouldn't normally order the soup for dinner at a mexican place, but this is the best on their menu and worth a trip.
I am not a fan of Vik's. It's good, it's fun, I like the bel puri, but my world is not rocked anymore. The main dishes don't sparkle. I often end up at Chaat Corner on University - which I would call reasonably priced (cheap compared to Rivoli, expensive compared to the smokehouse).
Khana Peena - I'm a fan. I prefer them to Ajanta across the street (although I liked the Ajanta chef back when he was above Fondue Fred's). Good spice mixture - and spicy too - very fast service, freshest nan around, decent prices, but not "cheap" on my metric.
Speaking of the smokehouse, they're a sentimental favorite. Lousy fries, industrial burgers, good char taste, and a cinderblock atmosphere lacking from most of berkeley. Couldn't really get out of there for $5 for lunch, though, which made them a tad overpriced.
Huzzah for Pyung Chang Tofu House. They've added other Korean, which I've tried, but for now I'd stick to the soup. Make mine the Kim Chee. Be aware that all but one of the tofu soups include pork and are thus not veggie - a mistake I made when bringing a veggie friend. Heh.
These are places we go when we want to spend under $20 for two. At Red Sea and 900 Grayson we spend maybe a little bit more.
Cam Huong (yes, you can sit down!)
Sushi House (Alameda)
La Cenaduría de Ana
Pho Ao Sen
Taqueria San Jose
re: Oakland Barb
Not that 900 Grayson isn't a good value given the quality, but $9-11 for a sandwich isn't what I'd call cheap lunch.
What do you like at LoCoCo's? I'll go back for the fresh ricotta pizza, but the non-pizza dishes I've had there were pretty sad, and the same goes for what I've seen on other tables.
Yep, it's the pizzas at LoCoCo's generally. I prefer the one with ground beef aka meatballs and green onions. Although sometimes I get a strange craving for the tortellini con pesto crema. There's no accounting for taste!
Although 900 Grayson isn't truly "cheap" it can come in at the $20 category and therefore fits the bill.
re: Oakland Barb
"We can keep it under $10 a head" is dangerous reasoning for somebody on a tight budget trying to stretch their dining dollars.
I can't count the times we've gone to Cafe Rouge planning a relatively cheap dinner of burgers and an inexpensive wine, which would be under $50 before tip, and ended up ordering three courses and fancy wines.
re: Robert Lauriston
werent *you* [RL] the one previously advocating cafe rouge
to sombody looking for a cheep night out?
i do agree some places on the chron list are
pretty hard to account for. i guess we can argue
about a place like la taqueria is worth it, but
a place like dosa simply is not cheep.