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New tastes for 2007: Budget dining for discriminating hounds

The other day while we had lunch at Lahore Karahi, my better half mentioned that it had been a while since we "discovered" a fabulous, affordable restaurant to work into our list of regulars. Since moving here in 2005, we've dined at least once a month at:

Lahore Karahi
Tajine (soon to re-open on Polk)
Yummy Yummy
Turtle Tower
Canteen (for breakfast)
Il Pollaio
Little Star

What's consistent among them? Generally, we can get a meal for two for ~$25, and they do what they do very, very well. Recently we've had exciting meals at some higher-end places (La Ciccia, for instance), but nothing that we can afford to work into our roster of regular visits.

What new places have you visited that delight the palate and are easy on the wallet? I am based in the city of SF, but if you have a find in a neighboring locale, I'm sure there are hounds who would love to be in the know.

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  1. You can certainly do worse than use the SF Chronicle's listing of "Bargain Bites" as a reference -

    http://www.sfgate.com/food/bargains/

    Several of the places on your list (Lahore Karahi, Tajine, Turtle Tower, etc.) are listed there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DavidT

      The Chronicle's list includes some not-great places and excludes some of the best values for arbitrary reasons. Best to get a reality check by comparing reports here.

    2. You have to try El Delfin on 24th St (see my review). Also Rosamunde, Axum Cafe, Sheba Lounge, Truly Mediterranean... and a lot more I can't think of right now!

      9 Replies
      1. re: Maya

        Maya,

        where is your review of El Delfin? I don't remember reading it and would really like to!

        Dave MP

        1. re: Dave MP

          It's in this thread:

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/34496...

          I've since tried the mole and achoite - both awesome. They are so friendly there! It's a great spot.

          1. re: Maya

            Haha, I guess I had read it (seeing as how I replied to it)....thanks for the link anyway :)

            Dave MP

              1. re: Mick Ruthven

                I can't say for sure, but I don't think there's a full bar. But there is beer (and wine?)

                1. re: Mick Ruthven

                  It is beer and wine only....but I do recommend it for bargain eats.

                  For OP: check out Thai Express. and for breakfast, Pastores on Mission and Cortland.

              2. re: Dave MP

                Agree with Dave MP. Don't just name the restaurant. Pls add what menu items you liked , why you liked them, prices or even a detailed report if you have more time..:)

              3. re: Maya

                You were right--the answer is El Delfin. I plan to visit a couple of more times before I post a full report.

              4. Here's a very recent topic on this subject, wasn't able to find it yesterday due to the broken search:

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/359937

                1. Try Pomelo on Judah and 6th or on Church and 30th. Great noodles and grains from around the world for cheap but very authentic.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: dglove

                      I'm not sure what "authentic" means when applied to such original dishes.

                      http://www.pomelosf.com

                    2. The Alembic- upper Haight
                      Abacus- 0n Hayes @ Cole might be over $25.00 but great quality and taste for the price
                      Weird Fish- Mission @ 16th
                      Kezar- On Cole, this is our neighborhood spot but the food is very good if you are in the area. I love the Tri-tip soft tacos and pot pie. My bf loves the skirt steak.
                      Pauline's Pizza- On Valencia

                      There are a quit a few more that all for now.
                      pane I like everything on your list!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Lori SF

                        Thank you! My boyfriend lives in Inner Sunset, so Pomelo, Kezar and Abacus are all great recommendations. I look forward to trying them and reporting back.

                        I should have guessed the SF Chronicle's bargain bites section would be cited. There are some good choices in there, but a lot of mediocre options, too. I'm really looking for food that makes me stand up and take notice--whether it's really creative, particularly well-executed, or a cuisine I haven't explored much.

                        Il Pollaio, for instance, is some pretty standard stuff--roast chicken. But it's exceptionally well-prepared roast chicken and I love the weird non-touristy atmosphere within the touristville central.

                        1. re: Lori SF

                          I'm not sure Alembic or Pauline's fit into the "bargain bites" query on this post.

                          1. re: Maya

                            Pane did not use the phrase "Bargin Bites", budget dining would be different.

                            Pauline's you can get a med-pizza for 17.80 or so and large for 21.00 or so, if they like wine Pauline offers their own winery wines that are pretty inexpensive.

                            Alembic- I have been there about four times now and it depends on how and what you order, their dishes range from 6.00 to 15.00.

                            1. re: Lori SF

                              Their dishes are "small plates" though - you can't exactly fill up on one. Don't get me wrong, I actually think Alembic is fantastic (though their drinks are too small for the prices, IMO).