East Bay/SF cheap ethnic food
My boyfriend and I have a deal where we each pick a new restaurant every weekend to check out. The only two requirements are that it is in the East Bay and fairly inexpensive. We both like everything, but I would be interested in anything from various African cuisines to Argentinian to Mexican to Italian to Thai to Indian... Anything goes. Asian food recs are ok, but there is a lot of that around.
Just to mention a couple of rock bottom places in Oakland Chinatown (the kind that makes you ask "How can they afford to do that?") are Happy Cafe at 723 Webster and China Star at the corner of Franklin and Eighth. Happy Cafe has several $2.75 breakfast specials that include something like noodle soup, fried egg and bread, sausage and a hot drink. China Star is cheap fast food, starting out at 69 cents for a chicken drumstick (very nice crust) and entrees for around $2. They have a huge pile of drumsticks behind the counter, which makes you wonder what they did with the rest of the bird. This is reasonably good stuff, not the buck a plate type stuff you see in some inner city neighborhoods.
Try the Punjab Restaurant on the corner of Eddy and Mason in the City.
Yes, I know. It's on the edge of the Tenderloin, but they attract a solid downtown-core lunch trade. They have a good selection of delightful weekday luncheon specials under $7.
Everything is very fresh and they do an excellent job of balancing all the delicate spice combinations used in Punjabi and Pakistani cooking.
There are Pakistani cooks in the Indus Village kitchen, right alongside the "mexicans". Indus Village has a wider variety of dishes than Kabana does, and for that reason I tend to choose it over Kabana, plus the people behind the counter tend to be friendly and more welcoming when I come to pick up my food. I like them both, though. On the other hand, I ate dinner from Mugal last night, and the aloo gobhi was unforgiveably salty and they were out of raita--I think they are off the list, for now.
I can't remember the name, but there is a fantastic Tofu Hot Pot/Soup place on Telegraph and 47th. It's called "something" tofu house...anyone?
I love the beef and beef dumpling tofu pot, but even better are all the freebie munchies they bring (various pickled and sugared goodies) and the rice served in a hot clay pot so that it developes a delicious crunchy bottom.
Battambang (Cambodian), Oakland (Downtown)
Le Regal (Vietnamese - only get the bun with BBQ beef skewers), Berkeley (Downtown)
Tacubaya (Mexican), Berkeley (4th St.)
Vik's (Indian chaat), Berkeley (West Berkeley)
Priya (Indian buffet), Berkeley (West Berkeley)
Ruen Pair (Thai), Albany (San Pablo Ave.)
Cha Am (Thai - get Cha Am noodles and Tom Kha Gai), Berkeley (Gourmet Ghetto)
I like Taxi Brousse too.
I just tried the newly opened Taste of Africa on Shattuck.
Plantanos on University in Berkely has a sister restaurant in El Sorbrante that I like called Kaliente. The Chron recently did a nice review
Along the same lines is El Salvador in West Oakland or El Tazamul in San Pablo
There's also La Bamba in Richmond, but I prefer all of the above first
For ramen there is Ryowa
Cruise International Avenue in Oakland or 23rd St in San Pablo for Mexican. I like Oertez in Oakland a lot. El Tapatio on 23rd in San Pablo has good mocajetes and chavidas. Up a few blocks is Pepitos which has a SUPER outdoor garden. There's also Portumex on 23rd, but I like the other two joints better.
Indian ... my favorites are Indus Village or the newly opened Chaat & Curries. Vik's gets a lot of thumbs up, but haven't tried it yet.
Soul food ... Nellie's in Oakland
Chinese ... not my strong point in terms of knowledge .. but I like China Village on Solano in Albany. It gets thumbs up on the board too.
Binh Minh Quan - Vietnamese
Battambang - Cambodian
Cafe Colucci - Ethiopian
Champa Garden - Lao / Thai / Vietnamese
China Village - Sichuan
El Huarache Azteca - Mexican
Holy Land - Middle Eastern
Jayakarta - Indonesian
New Pagolac - Vietnamese
Ohgane - Korean
Udupi Palace - Indian
Vik's (closes early) - Indian
Lots of reports on all of these if you use the search.
I like Jerusalem Organic Kitchen for ME food--Solano at the Alameda in Berkeley. The chicken comes covered in sesame seeds and is very good as is the lamb schwerma. Everything's great.
Taxi Brousse on San Pablo near Marin has wonderful if limited menu Senegalese food. The beef turnovers are particularly succulent.
Vietnamese - Huong Tra, Barrett at San Pablo in Richmond, just off the freeway. This place is incredible, although not much to look at. My coworkers and I get take-out from here atleast once a week. Very clean, fresh, non-greasy food. The crispy ginger prawns are to die for!!
Mexican - My s.o. will probably be pissed that I'm putting this on the internet, but El Taco Zamorano on Foothill in Oakland (take the High Street exit). He happens to be Mexican and I can't convince him to go anywhere else.
Happy hunting! (And, let us know if you find anything good)