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Best cheap sit-down restaurants in Berkeley / Oakland area

A friend asked about this, here's an off-the-top-of-my-head list:

Battambang (Cambodian)
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)
Ohgane (Korean)*
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.

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  1. I haven't been to most of these, but I can vouch with confidence for China Village, which has rocked my world on two occasions now.

    1 Reply
    1. re: a_and_w

      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)!

    2. Khana Peena indian lunch buffet 11-3pm

      Nice place with $10 all you can eat buffet.

      Great bang for your buck.

      (Be careful of the $8 beers)

      Gets pretty pricey for dinner

      Khana Peena Indian Cuisine, 5316 College Ave, Oakland,near Broadway.

      1. Rivoli on the east end of Solano Ave. in Berkeley. Great little spot, unpretentious, reliable, consistently good food.

        2 Replies
        1. re: oldhat

          Rivoli's great, but there few restaurants in the area that are more expensive. $9-12.50 appetizers, $16.50-24 entrees, $7-10 desserts, that's about the same as Chez Panisse Cafe.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Oh wow, I didn't remember the menu being that pricey! I'm from Los Angeles and I try to go to Rivoli for an early dinner whenever I'm in town. Well, the food is really good but I guess if you want an inexpensive place, it looks like it isn't the greatest.

        2. 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

          2 Replies
          1. re: peterme

            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.

            1. re: Civil Bear

              Lucky House isn't on the Chron's list, not this year anyway.

          2. 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.

            1. 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
              Red Sea*
              Indus Village
              Pho Ao Sen
              Taqueria San Jose
              900 Grayson*
              Viks Chaat
              Lanesplitter

              1. 900 Grayson gets my crossover vote both as best cheap restaurant and best new restaurant of the year!
                Two more-
                LoCoCo's on Piedmont
                Tacubaya at 4th Street

                1 Reply
                1. 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.

                2. Cactus Taqueria on College and Solano (though I'm most familiar with the College location). I agree that while I like 900 Grayson, I'd never call it cheap.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: JasmineG

                    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.

                    1. 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.

                      1. 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.

                        1. re: psb

                          Actually, that was me. I mentioned that the Rouge burger is good for a cheap dinner out. Robert disagreed, stating basically the same thing he just posted.

                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                            maybe we have our threads crossed:
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/328050

                            as a friend used to say "dont cross me".

                            1. re: psb

                              Hehe. Here's the thread I was referring to:

                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                  2. Of course, you're absolutely correct.
                    In your original post, however, you didn't say that the meal was to be had on a tight budget, only looking for a cheap meal.
                    I consider them two different things.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Oakland Barb

                      Actually I said cheap sit-down restaurants.

                      Maybe people think of 900 Grayson as cheap because they're comparing its lunch prices with other places' dinner prices. There are very few lunch places in the East Bay were some items aren't under $10.

                    2. Cafe Sophia on Solano is cheap and good.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Glencora

                        I like Holy Land better for that kind of food, I'm surprised I forgot to include it on my list. Both are definitely cheap.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I tend to have lunch at places within walking distance of my house, so I've never been to Holy Land. I like the falafel sandwich at Sophia. What about Zand? (or is it Zands?) How does that compare? I think it costs more and may not count as a cheap lunch, anyhow.

                          1. re: Glencora

                            Zand is great and cheap. Persian, different style though there's some overlap. Not really a restaurant, it's a deli / store with a few cafe tables. Closes before my dinnertime.

                            http://www.zandpastry.com

                      2. Skip Ohgane. People like it because it is brightly lit and clean and new looking. They overlook that it isn't very good, authentic, or particuarly cheap.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: offalgood

                          I like Ohgane because it's the best Korean food I've had around here. Can you still not suggest anyplace better?

                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/343646

                        2. I just had a great lunch at Ninna in Piedmont. Most of their lunch dishes are about $6-9. I hear it is quite crowded most of the time, though...